Russell Albert Schmidt – (1920-2015)

Russell Albert Schmidt was my 1st cousin twice removed, the son of my great-grand Uncle Albert August Schmidt (1893-1983) and his first wife, Louisa Ann Margaret Bandy (1897-1995).

Russ Schmidt

Russ Schmidt

Until his passing on 19 Jun 2015, Russ was the eldest member of the Schmidt clan, and probably the only remaining living person who had known my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt.  He was born and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin, and moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the age of 25.  This post is just going to be a collection of his own words that he sent me by email, or dictated to me on the phone in the course of our correspondence over the years.  Despite frequent claims of his “dotage”, Russ was an eloquent writer and had a lot of interesting stories to tell about the older generations of his family.

Let me introduce myself to my extended family.  I’m Russell Schmidt (Bud), Albert’s son, and possibly the only surviving grandchild of Wilhelm “William” Schmidt and Ottelia Zierke.  I have lived in Oak Ridge, TN since 1945, where I was in the Manhattan Project, working on the design and construction of K-25 (the original gaseous diffusion plant).

Aunt Olga was our best source for Schmidt family history, but I was not into genealogy when I had that opportunity.  I’m learning much more since Charles is leading that search.  My Dad, Albert, seemed to avoid discussions about his family (I suspected an aversion toward his [Prussian] heritage).

William was a pioneer in what became Rothschild and had several land holdings.  Dad spoke of Grandpa and his sons cutting acres of virgin white pine for lumber when he was in his teens.  I have a very early memory from 1925 of walking with my grandfather William and my dad across a plowed field, trying to step into the footprints they had left behind, stretching my legs as far as I could.  I also recall riding in the front seat of William’s open touring car, watching a spinning instrument on the dashboard.  He impressed me as being a friendly, soft spoken man.  He and Dad seemed to have a close relationship.  My parents never spoke about him.  I suspect that my Dad had a leading role in his legal defense when he was charged with murder in 1913.

When my father was a boy I believe the family lived in the house near what became the southern boundary of the village.  I have the impression that may have become the house and farm that Louis and Martha inherited.  I believe that house was later torn down for a subdivision.  I suspect that Grandpa then built the house on the east side of Grand Avenue where he and Grandma live until she died in 1945.  It later became her daughter Margaret Schmidt’s house.  Grandpa must have owned the land between Grand Avenue and the railroad from Schofield to where Grand Avenue and the tracks cross.

Ed and Olga’s home was on the northern boundary.  Later, Mable’s house was built between her parents’ and Grandma’s.  After WW II, the southern part of the strip was subdivided and Uncle Bill and Gertrude built homes.  Dad said that the Wilhelm Schmidt saloon was sometimes referred to as the “halfway house” by loggers traveling the river.  My grandfather Wilhelm owned the saloon when my father Albert was in his early teens.   My father grew up in that atmosphere and didn’t like seeing drunken people and seeing the results of the drinking.  He was practically a teetotaler.  Olga was the same, from what I understand, in terms of not approving of drinking.  I recall Dad telling about cutting ice from the Wisconsin River and storing it in a log structure, covered with sawdust, for keeping beer kegs refrigerated for the saloon.  He also told about driving the team to the brewery in Wausau to get kegs of beer.  From the exterior photo of the building, I would guess it was taken between 1900 and 1905.   The sign [Ritter and Deutsch] on the saloon advertised a major furniture store on Third Street in Wausau.  That store remained there until well after 1930.

Five Mile Saloon

Five Mile Saloon

I believe that William and Ottelia were Evangelical Lutherans.  My parents were married in the Evangelical Lutheran church in Schofield.  Despite that, grandmother Ottelia was a healer.  I personally saw her heal someone years ago.  If I recall correctly, they called it “blowing”.  One time my father was sick in bed and apparently delirious,  Grandma put her hands on him and said words I couldn’t understand.  I would guess I was a little over 10 years old.  I understood that she also did this with a woman from Schofield called Grandma Achterberg.  I don’t recall any more than this episode.  I wonder how Dad might have reacted if he was aware of this activity (being “of the devil”).  My grandmother Ottelia was quite an outspoken character.  We visited her on many occasions.  She lived in Rothschild and the other sons were all living there except for my dad.  Grandma “Mutie” Schmidt seemed to be matriarch of the family.  When I visited with my wife and son when he was very young, my son was crying.  Grandma told my wife, “Give him titty!”  She didn’t mince words.

My father, Albert, had a close relationship with William (who died when I was five years old).  I picture Dad as a maverick in the family, the only son who went to high school in the family  (I believe with William’s blessing).  The other brothers either farmed or went into business.  My uncle Ed Schmidt worked at the Marathon Paper as long as I can remember.  Dad didn’t seem to be as close to his mother, although he respected her.  Dad was tight-lipped about his family and avoided my questions concerning his family life. Ed and Olga’s family were  closest to our family.  Dad and Uncle Bill shared an interest in local sporting events, and were extremely vocal at high school basketball games  (to the point of embarrassment to Mom and Aunt Emma).

My mother Louisa Ann Margaret Bandy grew up on a farm before they built a dam at the paper mill at Rothschild.  Her family had a farm in the bottom land of the Wisconsin River.  When they built the dam they moved to a new farm just south of Rib Mountain.  They called it Rib Hill.  I might mention that after they built the dam it was quite common for people to walk across the dam to cross the river.  Mother’s family the Bandys, and Aunt Olga’s family, the Hansons, had farms that were very close to each other on the south side of Rib Hill.  The road is now County Trunk N… the Bandy family lived on the north side of the road and the Hansons lived on the south side of the road about a mile away.  Perhaps that’s how Ed and Albert courted women in that area.  I guess that Ed had to cross the ice to visit the Hanson farm.  Later, after it was built, Dad could walk over the dam to meet Margaret.

Grandpa Frederick James Bandy was raised in upstate NY near the city of Lisbon.  He was actually born in Wausau, then moved to Lisbon by the age of 9.   I’m not sure how he happened to travel west, but my grandmother Bandy grew up on a farm near Marathon City, it was along the same highway, Cty. Trunk N.  Her family name was Hinze (Hin-zee).  They were married in the catholic church.  I recall hearing that.  My son has my grandmother’s family bible (Dewey Bible) which has some records in there.  I haven’t seen it in some time now, but he does have grandma Bandy’s Dewey bible.  He also has a couple other family bibles.  There was one that was, I guess it came apart and the bookstore that rebound it didn’t put it back in order, and he does have that bible.  I don’t know when it was published.  He also has a German bible that my Uncle Elmer got from one of his fore-bearers came from the area around Austria.  I’m not sure where.  [Elmer’s grandmother Josephine Frenta was born in Austria.]  My son has this bible that was given to Elmer, my mother’s brother.  There was some inscription in it, I don’t recall what it said.

My father courted my mother.  As I said, he would walk across the dam to visit her on the farm where she lived.  I don’t know how they met.  Possibly through his brother Ed visiting Olga and her family, who were neighbors of the Bandys.  Dad wanted to be in the veneer business making hardwood veneers.  He was in NC and he was buying a veneer mill and he had a disastrous fire that destroyed the plant and dad had to find work elsewhere after that.  He had practically all his lifetime savings wiped out when the mill burned.   He was an excellent person for manufacturing hardwood veneers… rotary-cut veneers.  My mother and father lived together in North Carolina.  But about that time they separated.  Mother had friends in NC, she lived in Lumberton, North Carolina with a woman named Mrs. Skinner.  The Skinners were local people… many generations lived there.  They also had a cottage on one of the islands off the NC coast.  When we first went there you had to take a ferry boat to the cottage, but later they built a bridge.  I don’t recall the name of the town where they had their cottage.  So mother lived with Mrs. Skinner at the time.  After the separation she did spend a lot of time living with us in Tennessee.

We saw my mother quite frequently.  She stayed with us and she lived with my sister.  My sister had married and her husband died shortly after they married.  My sister remained a widow and worked at the insurance company.  It was originally called Employer’s Mutual.  Then the Wausau Insurance Company.  Then after her husband died she moved back to Wausau and worked until retirement at the Insurance company and my mother lived with her.  We saw her a couple times a year.  When we went to WI or when she came to stay with us.  She helped us take care of our children and helping around the house.  She was an excellent cook and took an interest in civic affairs in Wausau.    Mother and Olga were close.  They grew up very near each other, so that was natural.

In the earlier years before dad went into the veneer mill business he suffered a nervous breakdown while he was living with us in Oakridge, TN.  He recovered and went into business.  He worked for the Underwood Veneer Company in Wausau and became an officer who managed the operation of the plant.  I don’t really know what caused his breakdown.  He very much wanted to operate his own mill.  Perhaps the stress of that, I’m not sure.

I worked at the paper mill during the summer of 1941 and I recall visiting Uncle Ed[win] in the beater room [where wood was turned into pulp for paper-making].  I found a job where I could during Summer, and that was where I worked.  Ed was a jovial, good-natured fella.  In more recent years Uncle Ed toured the South, visiting his brother Al[bert] in South Carolina, riding with me from there, over the Smokey Mountains to Tennessee, visiting us, and then to visit Edwin [Jr, his son] in Louisiana.  My dad at that time was living on the border of North and South Carolina… in North Carolina.  He went into business several times and had difficulty there.  But Uncle Ed came to visit my dad and I remember, we lived in Tennessee.  I drove over there when Dad and Uncle Ed were together, and I brought Uncle Ed back to Oak Ridge when his visit ended.  But Dad and Uncle Ed did a lot of sightseeing.  I remember driving with dad.  He always had a heavy foot on the pedal, and at his age it kind of scared me.  But this was after my parents were divorced.  We visited the Smokey Mountains and Uncle Ed visited with us for a while before leaving.

My Dad had little contact with his brothers.  Ed[win] and Olga [Hanson Schmidt],  Margaret [Schmidt Voght], and  Norma [Schmidt Krueger] were closest to our family.  We had little contact with Uncle Bill and Uncle Louis.  I believe that the published picture of the family saloon was provided by Bill.

Wilhelm Schmidt in his Saloon, Labor Day, 1908

Wilhelm Schmidt in his Saloon, Labor Day, 1908

I have no recollection of any pictures that their families might have.  Otillia gave each son a large framed portrait of my grandfather, but my parent’s copy was lost during their several moves after Dad retired.  Possibly Uncle Ed’s family still has it.

Wilhelm Schmidt Portrait c1908

Wilhelm Schmidt Portrait c1908

At some time in the later 1900’s, Olga went to Norway to visit family members.  If I remember correctly, they lived near the North Sea Coast or a small island nearby.    I had a copy of her write-up of the trip (and a National Geographic map) that I was going to send to you, but I can’t locate it.  You may have a copy from one of her heirs.  The last time I saw Olga was in a nursing home in Wausau, where my mother also a patient in the 1990’s.  Her father was a lumberjack when she was born.

The Hanson farm was near the Fred Bandy farm and the children went to a little brick country schoolhouse near the county trunk highway south of Rib Mountain (then known as Rib Hill).  I recall attending a reunion at the school in 1937 with my parents.  I haven’t seen the area where the Hanson Farm was for over 10 years.  My mother’s family (Fred Bandy) lived on County Highway N just north of there.

My Uncle Bill did have a gas station on what became US 51.  I don’t recall the one in your picture, but he built one of concrete block that had gas pumps and a lubrication service bay in the early 1930s.  One of the gas pumps sold Red Crown, which I think at that time was distributed by the Wadhams Co.  My Dad who was a bookkeeper, went to this station each year to prepare Bill’s income tax.  Bill also did the lube jobs on our cars.  He named the station “Laughing Gas Service Station”.  The railroad tracks across the road from Bill were CMSP&P (The Milwaukee Road).  The streetcar tracks were closer to the paper mill where the line terminated.  Bill later sold the station to Norman Seipp, and opened a bar north of the gas station.  Bill was also a racing fan, driving to the Indy 500 more than once.

Dad’s brother Louis Schmidt married his parents’ hired girl, Martha Radtke.

Louis Schmidt & Martha Radtke, Wedding Day, 1911

Louis Schmidt & Martha Radtke, Wedding Day, 1911

Helen is the only daughter from that line I’m familiar with.  In addition to Gilbert and Leonard, there was a son Erwin, who died shortly after his birth, and is buried in the family plot.  I also knew Uncle Louis’s son, Gilbert Schmidt.  I didn’t know his wife or children, but was aware of them.  They lived in Rothschild.  Gilbert attended my mother’s 90th birthday party.  His wife was Arlette Hilmerhausen Schmidt.  Gilbert died in 1987 and is buried Pine Grove cemetery in Wausau.

I hope that this note may contribute to the family history.

Russ A Schmidt

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

One response to “Russell Albert Schmidt – (1920-2015)

  • Gloria Johnson

    Hi Charles. This was great! I remember meeting him many years ago when he visited grandma. I’m sure you already caught the error in names – Should be Mabel Schmidt Johnson. And Margaret Schmidt Voght. We’re in Wisconsin and will be checking into the Marriott Res Inn in Brookfield early July. I have grandma Schmidt’s hand written notes with me so let’s try to set up a time when your mom, you and I can meet up. It’ll be great for you to get those scanned and included into your documents. Looking forward to hooking up. Gloria

    Sent from Gloria’s iPad.


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