Schmidt Saloon – Rothschild, Wisconsin

A little after the turn of the century my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt opened a saloon on the outskirts of Weston, Wisconsin.  [In 1917 the part of the town where the Schmidts lived was incorporated and became the village of Rothschild, Wisconsin.]  The saloon was located on what is today Highway 51, and was was then called Grand Avenue.  It was the only place to drink between the Rothschild Paper Mill and Wausau, where most of the workers lived, and it was right along the highway that led from the mill to town.  It did big business with the mill’s thirsty workers whenever each shift ended.

The saloon underwent several name changes.  It was known at various points as the “William Schmidt Rothschild’s Saloon”, the “Five Mile Saloon” [so-named because it was five miles from Wausau], and the “Schmidt and Throm Saloon”.  From what I’ve been able to determine from land records, the saloon was located near the present site of “PJ’s Log Jam” just outside of Rothschild.

Saloon location shown on modern-day map

Saloon location shown on modern-day map

The saloon apparently opened sometime between 1900 and 1905 since Wilhelm was listed as a “farmer” on the 1900 US census for Weston, Wisconsin, then was listed as a “Saloon Keeper” on the 1905 state census.

This photo was taken right about 1905 outside William and Ottelia Schmidt’s “Rothschild’s Saloon”.

Rothchild's Saloon, 1905

Rothchild’s Saloon, 1905

The photo is from the book “Wisconsin Heartland: The Story of Wausau and Marathon County” by Michael Kronenwetter. The caption reads

“From left to right: Dogs “Lody” and “Rover”, E.F. Schmidt, Loui [Louis] Schmidt on horse “Katie”, William Schmidt and Grandma [Ottelia] Schmidt, William Schmidt Jr., and “Muxie”, Fred Altenburg of Merrill with “Fredie” and “Maude” (horses that helped build the [Marathon Paper Company] dam), and Albert A Schmidt with his pet “Lambie” standing in front of the Wm. Schmidt Rothschild Saloon.”

Fred Altenberg is listed as a farm hand living with the Schmidt family in the 1905 census.  I find the caption somewhat humorous because Ottelia would not become a grandmother until 1912 when the Schmidt’s first child, Mabel, was born.

Apparently the bar could be a fairly rough-and-tumble place.  The experience of working in the saloon lead Wilhelm’s son Albert to become a teetotaler, according to his son Russ Schmidt.

This next photo, likely taken a couple of years later, shows another angle of the Saloon with a bevy of locals drinking and celebrating.  The man in the doorway seems to be my great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt.

Patrons outside the Schmidt Saloon

Patrons outside the Schmidt Saloon

Photo courtesy of Jayne Schmidt Robinson.

This photo shows the saloon during its “Five Mile Saloon” phase.  Seemingly not much was changed except the name.

Five Mile Saloon

Five Mile Saloon

Photo courtesy of Norma Wendorf Bandock.

This next photo, taken on Labor Day, 1908, shows my grandfather, the proud owner, behind his bar.  If you have some time, download the photo and really go over it in detail.  There’s so much to see behind the bar!

Wilhelm Schmidt in his Saloon, Labor Day, 1908

Wilhelm Schmidt in his Saloon, Labor Day, 1908

Photo courtesy of Norma Wendorf Bandock.

This next photo shows the “back room” of the Saloon (you can see that the wallpaper is the same).  There is an elaborate pot-bellied stove in the center of the room, a scale and packaging paper on the left, and a display selling cigars, cigarettes, and chocolates on the right.  There is also a smaller room for employees visible in the back with a beautifully-carved dresser.  A barely-visible calendar on the wall shows the year: 1909.

Schmidt Saloon Backroom

Schmidt Saloon Backroom

Photo from the archives of Norma Schmidt Krueger.

Wilhelm apparently ran the bar with help from his wife, Ottelia Zierke Schmidt, and his son Edwin Schmidt Sr., my great-grandfather.  Edwin Schmidt’s WWI Draft Registration Card from 5 Jun 1917 lists his occupation as “Bartender in mother’s Saloon, Rothschild”.  It was listed as his mother’s bar because Wilhelm was in Waupun Prison at the time.

Edwin Schmidt WWI Draft Card

Edwin Schmidt WWI Draft Card

The last photo I have was part of a photo album owned by Wilhelm’s son Billy Schmidt.  It shows a somewhat remodeled Schmidt Saloon in 1915, a few years before Prohibition took effect in 1919 shutting down most Wisconsin taverns.  There are, however, family rumors that the Schmidt saloon kept operating with illicit liquor “coming in the back door” even during prohibition.

Schmidt Saloon, 1915

Schmidt Saloon, 1915

Photo courtesy of Norma Wendorf Bandock.

This photo seems to show the view from the doorway of the Saloon looking out onto Grand Avenue, showing a passing Model T truck.  It was probably taken about 1915 also.

Saloon View, c1915

Saloon View, c1915

Photo from the archives of Norma Schmidt Krueger.

Wilhelm’s son Billy eventually opened his own bar called “Schmidty’s” at or near the same location.  This is a flyer for that incarnation of the bar, which shows the exterior of the bar as well as a map with its location on the back (courtesy of Norma Wendorf Bandock):

Billy Schmidt Bar Flyer (front)

Billy Schmidt Bar Flyer (front)

Billy Schmidt Bar Flyer (back)

Billy Schmidt Bar Flyer (back)

Finally, a photo of Billy Schmidt’s tavern showing the interior of the bar c1938.

Billy Schmidt Tavern, 1938

Billy Schmidt Tavern, 1938

Photo courtesy of Norma Wendorf Bandock

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About cthomas1967

Seeking to bring my ancestors out of the shadows of history and into the light. I have always been interested in history, and at a few different times I tried to do a family tree, but wasn't able to do it with the technology that was available then. On a business trip I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO and it was a very impressive establishment. While I was there I remember thinking, "Didn't my great-grandfather father fight in World War I? And wasn't his brother killed alongside him in some famous battle? I wonder if I can find out where he died." That's what started it all. View all posts by cthomas1967

2 responses to “Schmidt Saloon – Rothschild, Wisconsin

  • Dave

    I’m curious to know why it changed names so much. Is it an advertising gimmick or tied to some financial reason? It’s great that you collected so many relevant photos.

    I mentioned Liz and I reading a book called “Wisconsin Folklore” – this may be a newer version of it: http://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/0493.htm
    Taverns serving logging men were quite rough and tumble. She has some family stories about them too (from the Green Bay area), wild places and some known for prostitution.

    • cthomas1967

      My guess is that after my grandfather went to prison in 1914 for 2nd degree murder, it was probably a good idea to move away from using his name on the saloon, so they probably changed it to “Five Mile Saloon” around that time.

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