ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


           Cross Reference: Chapter on Schempf Bros. store






Family tree chart


George S. Schempf  bro of  George F     1855 Founded store

   George S. Schempf was married to Wilhelmina "Minna" Koenig.

Uncle of Leonard and John Sr,


Father of Ada J. Schempf 


George F. Schempf, bro of George S.

    George F. Schempf was married to Johanna Borkenhagen.



John Schempf Sr. (Bertha Speer) 1844-1920, son of George F. Schempf, nephew of George S. Schempf

Married Bertha L. Speer of Watertown, May 8, 1870.



                Leonard, son of John Schempf Sr.



                John Sr., son of John Schempf Sr.  1874-1931



In 1875 Mr. Schempf formed a partnership with his uncle, George S. Schempf, and brother, the late Leonard Schempf, under the firm name of George S. Schempf & Co., which continued until the retirement of George Schempf, the business being conducted by the brothers under the name of Schempf Bros. Co., of which Mr. Schempf was president at the time of his death.






The last of the family to run the store were Max Kusel, who had married Amanda Schempf, and Edward L. Schempf, a gifted singer who often appeared as soloist in choral concerts. 


         The Schempf store was taken over in 1936.











Schempf Family



George S. Schempf

1828 - 1903

1903       DEATH OF GEORGE S. SCHEMPF, 1828-1903

02 06       Shortly after 7 o’clock on Saturday evening, January 31, 1903, George S. Schempf passed from earth at this home in [on] Second Street.  Mr. Schempf had not enjoyed very good health of late, and for about two weeks previous to his death he had complained considerably of his condition, but on Saturday it was thought his health was improving, when a sudden change set in and his death came unexpectedly.


He had been a sufferer with Bright’s disease for some time, and finally heart failure set in.  His death was heard of with surprise and regret by all our people.


Deceased was a native of Hessen, near Darmstadt, Germany, where he was born May 23, 1828, hence was in his 75th year.  When quite a boy he came to America and located at Cleveland, Ohio; from there he went to Milwaukee, and in 1846 located in this city and engaged in the general merchandise business.  In 1849 he went to California, where he stayed for nearly two years, and again located in Watertown and opened a general store with his brother at the site of where Schempf Bros. Co. now conduct their business, the firm’s name being G. & F. Schempf.


The firm dissolved partnership after a short time, and the former [George] continued in the business until about seventeen years ago, when he retired on a well-earned competency and has since led a retired life.


September 22, 1857, he was married, his wife surviving him, and three daughters, being Mrs. D. H. Beurhaus of Tacoma, Wash.; Mrs. Henry Schorndorfer of Cleveland, Ohio;, and Mrs. Lance Pierionet of Wheaton, Ills.  John and Lawrence Schempf, of Schempf Bros. Co., are his nephews. 


Mrs. D. H. Beurhaus of Tacoma, Wash


By the death of Mr. Schempf Watertown has lost one of its most honorable and most highly esteemed citizens.  As a businessman he always commanded the respect and confidence of the general public, and socially he was genial and companionable, and was ever ready at all times to lend a helping hand to any worthy object for the betterment of his city or fellow man, either in a business or charitable way.  His death is sincerely mourned by all our people.


Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock his funeral took place from his late home.  Rev. H. Stertz of the Evangelical Protestant Church being the officiating clergyman, and his remains were laid at rest in Oak Hill Cemetery.   WG



      403 S. Second Street



John Schempf

1844 - 1920



John Schempf and wife nee Bertha Speer celebrated their silver wedding anniversary.  To this joyous gathering came a large circle of relatives and friends of the family from here and elsewhere.  Everybody enjoyed themselves immensely.  A number of well-known traveling men were also present, among them Nickelsen from Chicago, Schroeter, Wettstein, Mueller, Schulz and Kleinbeil from Milwaukee.  Some of the members were great humorists and had much social disposition which helped to make the festival very pleasant & interesting.  While the festivities were in full swing and all necessary liquid paraphernalia on the tables, which help to make life a bit enjoyable and made you forget the wrinkles in your face, the sonorous voices of a chorus of singers were heard, which was afterwards ascertained to be members of the Musical Society Concordia, who came to serenade the worthy couple.  The evening will not be forgotten by those who took part in the celebration and the wish of all was that Mr. and Mrs. Schempf would live to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary; and this wish was realized in 1920.    Reminiscences of Early Days in Watertown” pg 41, from series of articles printed in the WDTimes in 1924, reprinted WDT- 4-19-1985.




John W. Schempf has purchased a drug store at Fort Atkinson and he and his family will soon make that city their home.  Mr. Schempf conducted a drug store in this city for number of years but recently disposed of his business here, since which time he has been visiting at the home of his father-in-law in Reedsburg.  His many friends here wish him success in his new home.   WG



John W. Schempf, who some months ago sold out his drug store here and recently purchased the Eighmy Bros, drug store at Ft. Atkinson, is seriously ill with nervous troubles and his drug business at Ft. Atkinson has been dispose of and he will take treatment in a sanitarium for a time and then take a much needed rest.  He has been extremely nervous of late and became somewhat deranged last week, but hopes are now entertained that he will, with proper treatment, be all right in a few months.   WG


1920       DEATH OF JOHN SCHEMPF, 1844-1920




One of Watertown’s Foremost Business Men

and Worthy Citizens

Succumbs at Home this morning


click to enlarge

WHS 006 965                       Undated

John Schempf, b. 1844 , d. 1920

John Schempf, son of George F. Schempf, nephew of George S. Schempf


In 1875 Mr. Schempf formed a partnership with his uncle, George S. Schempf, and

brother, the late Leonard Schempf, under the firm name of George S. Schempf & Co.,

which continued until the retirement of George Schempf, the business

being conducted by the brothers under the name of Schempf Bros. Co.,

of which Mr. Schempf was president at the time of his death.


John Schempf, pioneer resident and one of the most widely known business men in this section of Wisconsin, answered the call of death in the family home, 803 Clyman Street, this morning after a brief illness.  He was confined to his home since December 7 with heart trouble which was complicated later with pneumonia.  While his condition was known to be serious, relatives and friends alike hoped for a recovery to prolong his useful life, but medical aid, care and attention proved of no avail and he passed to his reward at an early hour this morning.


John Schempf was a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. George F. Schempf and was born in Milwaukee March 22, 1844.  When a child he removed to this section with his parents, where they engaged in farming in the town of Emmet.  After leaving school he entered the employ of Gorham P. Jones as an apprentice clerk, completing his apprenticeship with his uncle, George S. Schempf, and in 1867 when 23 years of age, he embarked in mercantile pursuits with his father, the late George F. Schempf, establishing a general merchandise business which was destined later to become one of the largest and best known business concerns in the state with a patronage extending over the greater part of southeastern Wisconsin.  In 1875 Mr. Schempf formed a partnership with his uncle, George S. Schempf, and brother, the late Leonard Schempf, under the firm name of George S. Schempf & Co., which continued until the retirement of George Schempf, the business being conducted by the brothers under the name of Schempf Bros. Co., of which Mr. Schempf was president at the time of his death.


The keen aptitude and rare business judgment of Mr. Schempf was shown in the rapid development of a business which has grown to immense proportions and spread all over this section of the country, the firm name becoming a household word in thousands of homes where the impress of honest dealing and worth was stamped upon it by the marked personality and character of its founder and head, a fitting legacy to those who come after him.


On May 8, 1870, Mr. Schempf was united in wedlock with Bertha L. Speer of this city, and in 1895 celebrated his silver wedding and on May 8 of the present year observed the fiftieth anniversary of his marriage.


Long Business Career


Mr. Schempf began his long and honorable business life more than 60 years ago and during that time his name was a synonym for honesty and integrity.  He was a type of the forceful, self-reliant man of the kind who have left their mark on the upbuilding of the community.  He was primarily the keen man of business, but with the liberal tastes so well known.  Of a genial and happy disposition he shed the radiance of good cheer wherever he went and was always a favorite in the social world of which he was a part.  His nature was of the quality which makes and keeps friends.  Democratic by nature, he gathered about him warm friendships which endured during life.  He never aspired to public life, taking interest, however, in all that meant the better welfare of the city, a generous giver to every worth cause without ostentation, and the community will deplore the loss of an active and widely popular business man and citizen.


Mr. Schempf is survived by his widow and four children: 


Edward L. Schempf,

Miss Elza Schempf, Watertown,

Mrs. O. Weber, Stevens Point,

John W. Schempf, Milwaukee. 

Seven grandchildren also survive.




Miss Elza Schempf, daughter of John Schempf Sr (Bertha), 1844-1920 


       Mrs. John Schempf and daughter Elza, 1936


    1901:  John W. Schempf Jr, 1874-1931.  

Son of John Schempf Sr (Bertha), 1844-1920 


The funeral will take place on Monday afternoon.  Services will be conducted in the home by the Rev. Julius Kingmann of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church at 2 o’clock. 


The burial will be in Oak Hill cemetery [Schempf, John, b. 1844, d. 1920, Sec 25, Oak Hill Cemetery].  Friends are kindly requested to omit flowers. 


The Mayor’s Tribute


Mr. Schempf’s death is deeply mourned all over the city, especially by the older residents who were closely associated with him in a social and business way for many years.


In speaking of the life and character of the deceased, Mayor Herman Wertheimer said:  “John Schempf was a most exemplary citizen and was always loyal to Watertown, its people, institutions and enterprises.  I knew him as a friend and business man for over fifty years, and can truly say of him that in his quiet and natural way, he all the time endeavored to promote the best interest of the community, and his assistance was always substantial and effective.”


“A thorough business man from the time of his youth, he was well prepared to develop the mercantile business of which he had a perfect understanding.  His integrity was of the highest order and the people all over this section reposed in him the fullest of confidence.  Mr. Schempf was truly a man of honor, possessing a genial, kindly disposition, and as such he was beloved and esteemed by all our people.”


An Appreciation


Charles E. Frey, president of the Merchants National Bank, of which the deceased was a founder and director said:  “Watertown can point to no finer character man than that of Mr. Schempf.  For over a half a century he was numbered among the leading business men of this city and none stood higher in the public estimation.  He was a business man in the true sense and meaning of the term, and devoted himself energetically to the advancement of his enterprise.”


“His main business principle was honesty and he believed in applying in detail all true business methods.  His high integrity, which brought him the unqualified confidence of the people, coupled with a ready judgment and great energies, secured for him a notable and successful business career.”


“He was a man of generous impulses, who took a kindly interest in his fellow men.”


John Schempf Home

click to enlarge


Edward L. Schempf


Edward L. Schempf and Miss Pauline Grace Pooler

Prominent Society People Married at St. Paul's Episcopal Church


WG 09 25 1903


A notable event in society circles in Watertown took place at noon on Saturday, September 19, 1903, when Miss Pauline Grace Pooler and Edward L. Schempf were happily married at St. Paul's Episcopal church by the pastor, Rev. T. C. Eglin.  Relatives and a few intimate friends only witnessed the interesting ceremony.


The decorations at the church were very pretty, being in white and green.  Several arches of greenery were arranged in the center aisles, under which the bridal party passed to the altar rail.  Mrs. Elizabeth Green played Lohengrin's wedding march on the organ, to the strains of which the bridal party .entered the church shortly after 12 o'clock in the following order: 


John W. Schempf and William Sproesser, ushers;


Mildred Doty, of Janesville, and Ethel Bates, of this city, ribbon bearers, attired in white;


Master Jack Racek, dressed in white duck, carrying the bride's ring on a pretty little tray;


Mrs. J. Lanee Perionett, of Wheaton, Ill., the matron of honor, wearing Flemish lace over white satin, and carrying a bouquet of white roses;


then followed the bride, handsomely gowned in embroidered chiffon over white taffeta, trimmed with point de brush, and wearing a most beautiful veil of tulle, and carrying a shower bouquet of lilies of the valley.


The groom and his best man, Alfred Wettstein, of Milwaukee, and Col. Daniel Jones and George Pooler, uncle and father of the bride, awaited the bride at the altar rail.  She was given away in marriage by Mr. Jones.


       Miss Pauline Grace Pooler


The wedding party and ceremony were beautiful and impressive, being pronounced one of the most inspiring affairs of a like nature that has ever taken place in Watertown.  At the conclusion of the church services a wedding feast was served and a reception was held at the home of Col. Daniel Jones on Washington Street, at which only relatives and a few intimate friends were present, invitations outside the immediate relatives being confined to club member friends of the bride and groom.  The wedding feast was a delicious one, and was served by Milwaukee caterers.


The house decorations were very beautiful, and the interior of Mr. Jones’ home having been just completely remodeled and redecorated, the effect produced on this occasion was charmingly beautiful.  He spared nothing in preparing for the wedding of his niece, and the result was that his home was a perfect model of beauty on this happy occasion.


The dining room decorations were in white, the library in red and the parlor in white, cut flowers and greenery adding to the prettiness of the scene.  Five pieces of the Apollo Orchestra furnished music at the wedding feast, and a harp orchestra of six pieces was stationed in the lawn fronting the house, the music of the orchestras adding greatly to the enchantment of the occasion.


The groom and his bride left on the evening train for the east on a short wedding tour.  After November 1st they will be at home to their friends at 120 Washington Street.


The parties to this marriage are two of Watertown's best known society young people, the bride being a daughter of George Pooler, of Minneapolis, her mother having died when she was only a few hours old.  Since she was 7 years of age she has made her home in this city with Mr. Jones.  She is a graduate of the Watertown High School, and is a member of the High School Alumni Association.  She is accomplished and amiable, and possesses a happy, frank and cheerful disposition, always viewing life from its brightest side, and casting a ray of mirth and good cheer into the society in which she moves, hence on entering married life her many friends bespeak for her all the happiness that her fondest hopes of matrimonial bliss may anticipate.


The groom is the oldest son of John Schempf and wife, this city, and has lived here all his life.  He is a member of Schempf Bros. Co., who conduct one of the largest general stores in the interior of the state.  Aside from being a progressive and energetic young business man, in a social way he is popular, genial and entertaining, and possesses none of the shortcomings of the average 19th century young man.  He is a most excellent person in every particular, and certainly merits a married life of happiness and prosperity, and that the future may have in store for himself and bride God's choicest blessings, is the sincere wish of their large acquaintance, in which expression of good will The Gazette most heartily enters.


Those from out of town at the wedding were: J. H. Smelzer and wife, Aberdeen, S. D.; Mrs. Joseph Lappin, Mildred Doty, Janesville; George W. Pooler and Guy Pooler, Minneapolis; Miss Rose Wettstein and Alfred Wettstein, Milwaukee; Miss Jessie Stoppenbach, Jefferson; Mrs. Claire Foster, Green Bay; Guy F. Minnick, Madison; O. L. Weber and wife. Iron Mountain, Mich.; Mrs. J. Lance Perionett, Wheaton, Ill.


Leonard Schempf




Another of Watertown's oldest and best-known business men has passed to his reward in the person of Leonard Schempf, who died Tuesday afternoon, June 10, 1913, at his home, 718 Market Street.  Mr. Schempf had been in poor health several months and was confined to his home several weeks before he died, hence his death was not unexpected. 


Deceased was born in Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany, September 13, 1839, and when five years of age came to this country with his parents and the family resided about two years in Cleveland, Ohio; from there the family moved to Milwaukee, and from that city to Watertown in 1848, and settled on a farm north of this city in the town of Emmet. 


When quite a young man Mr. Schempf secured a position in the Peterson Yankee notion store in this city and later with the dry goods firm of Stein & Lueder.  In 1860 he engaged in the dry goods business with his uncle George S. Schempf, under the firm name of George S. & Leonard Schempf, the present firm of Schempf Bros. Co. being its successsor, of which he was the senior member and president up to six years ago, when he retired. 


 All through life he was active in various lines of business here, helping to organize the Merchants National Bank, and also the Farmers and Citizens Bank, and was president of the latter bank at the time of his death.  He was treasurer of the Lutheran Cemetery Association and of the Lutheran Unterstuetzung Verein, and a trustee of Oak Hill Cemetery Association, and served as director of the Lutheran Home for Feeble-Minded Children. 


His wife, two daughters, Mrs. Byron Kabet of Menominee, Wis., Mrs. Max G. Kusel of Watertown, and  an adopted son, Edward W. Schempf of Iowa, survive him; also six  grandchildren. 


Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock his funeral will take place from his late home to St. John's Lutheran Church.  The interment will be in Oak Hill Cemetery.


In the death of Mr. Schempf Watertown has Iost one of her very best citizens – he was a man who made friends and invited confidence without intrusively seeking either – a modest, winning, earnest man of real worth.  You were drawn to him intuitively.  By nature a thorough gentleman, he always met his fellow citizens courteously and with a friendly spirit of accommodation, which all learned to appreciate and respect.  His going is a loss to the city in a material way as well, as in that he was an example of those things that are best and worthy of emulation.      Watertown Gazette, 06 12 1913



      On account of the death of Mr. Leonard Schempf

Saturday evening the 50 employees of Schempf Bros. Co. left the store and assembled at the home of John Schempf, on Clyman Street, and had possession of his home upon his arrival, to his great surprise.  They met there to congratulate Mr. Schempf on his 70th birthday anniversary and in honor of the event presented him with a handsome loving cup, on which was inscribed:  “A token of highest esteem presented to Mr. John Schempf by his employees on his 70th birthday, March 22, 1914.”


A fine supper was served all present and the guests tarried till after 12 o’clock midnight to make the affair a real birthday greeting.  Mr. Schempf is president of the Schempf Bros. Co. and has been in active business here for over 50 years.     Watertown Gazette, 06 12 1913




The memory of 38 departed members of the Watertown Lodge of Elks will be honored at the annual memorial service of the order . . . .  The Watertown Elks chorus, under the direction of Edward L. Schempf, will sing and Frank Bramer, violinist, and Mrs. Bramer, pianist, will render two selections.  The ritual will be in charge of the officers of the lodge, headed by F. W. Koenig, exalted ruler.  Mr. Bramer will offer the "Andantino” by Lully-Brown, and “An Old Air" by Haesche as his part of the program. 







Cross references:

07 26 1905: The infant son of Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Schempf was added to the Army of the Cross by receiving the sacrament of baptism Sunday afternoon after vespers at St. Paul’s Episcopal church.    WR





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           Cross Reference: Chapter on Schempf Bros. store




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin