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Carl Schurz


Article by Miss Marcella Killian of the Watertown Historical Society

Article notes some interesting facts which are little known to most persons.


WDTimes, 04 28 1952


Arrived at 23


Carl Schurz was 23 years of age and his wife 18 when they landed in New. York on Sept. 17, 1852.


They spent a short time there and then went to Philadelphia because of the presence there of German friends.  Among these was Adolph Strodmann who had helped him in his first exile in Switzerland.  About six months were spent in Philadelphia and about a year in Bethlehem where Schurz found the climate more adaptable to his wife's health.  It was at this time that Schurz began the study of English by means of newspapers and a dictionary.  After this he went on to the writings of Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, Maculay and Blackstone.


Historians have searched diligently to find clues to the way Schurz maintained himself for a period of about three years in America.  He may have been able to have saved something from his teaching, lectures and writings in England, but Easum, in his “Americanization of Carl Schurz,” writes, ‘“Surely writing and lecturing in German could not be very remunerative."  His pride and egoism which seemed to have dominated his life must also be taken into consideration.  The most probable assumption, although there is no absolute proof even in his own writings, is that his brother-in-law, Adolph Meyer, a member of a successful commercial family in Hamburg, may have grown sympathetic when his wife’s health required her return to England for treatment and turned over a portion of her share in their own inheritance.


Uncle Established Here


By 1852 we find an uncle of Carl Schurz, Jacob Jussen, already here with a prosperous business in the form of a “new liquor store.”  By March of 1856 this business was sold and Jussen bought the Bermania house which later became known as the Buena Vista house.  During Carl Schurz’s three trips to the West he spent some time with his uncle and also arranged for his parents permanent location in Watertown.  It is said that he later bought a small place for his parents, Christian and Marianne Schurz and two sisters on the banks of Rock river for which he paid $1,000.  During his first summer in Watertown and while planning his own house he lived with his parents.


The years from 1855 to 1856 show Miss Antonie Schurz and sister conducting a high-class millinery and dress making establishment here.  The advertisement concerning the Schurz sisters conveyed to the public that they had been trained in the best houses in Europe and had two years experience in Philadelphia.  Later Miss Antonie Schurz married her cousin Edmund Jussen and, in the summer of 1856, moved to Columbus.


First Venture


The first land or business venture of Carl Schurz was launched in 1855, when he purchased an 89-acre farm from John Jackson paying $100 an acre.  He gave at the same time a mortgage of $8,500 on the farm and had it surveyed for building lots.  Karrs-Huegel it was called and the site is now marked by the residence of the W. H. Fergusons.  These were boom days for Watertown, with an ever-increasing population and with the possibility of it becoming a railroad center as Schurz thought.  However the financial panic of 1857 brought a crisis to the real estate business and Schurz lost through foreclosure as did the lawyers and others who had invested with him.


Schurz however, was a man of integrity and although he was not legally obliged to do so was according to his own writings paying back notes and loans as late as 1860.  T. C. Palme was his partner in this land office and they also sold insurance and were commissioned as notaries.


Carl Schurz might have been happier and more successful had he maintained a professorship in some college and followed the lyceum platform but about 1860 he joined the radical wing of the Republican party and from then on entered on a political career.


He had been Fifth ward alderman in Watertown and his tempestuous outbursts with Chappell who was then senator from here has been made the substance of several interesting accounts.


Law Partnership


On Jan. 1, 1859, Schurz entered the law partnership with Halbert E. Paine in Milwaukee.  He had passed the bar examination previously.  However, it must be said that his law business “never filled his ardent expectations.”  It never had a chance.  In 1860 this office became his political headquarters when he ran for lieutenant governor and in 1861 both men went off to national service.  Paine encouraged Schurz to follow his fortune in lyceum work and in politics.


Later Schurz wrote about the first years of his life here as follows:  


“I lived in America for several years in quiet retirement in the happiest family circle; I wish you knew my wife.  She is much better than I and we have two precious children.  Margarethe and the children are busy in a kindergarten which she has started here and her home and flower garden occupy the rest of her time.  I studied, observed and learned much during these, the first years of our happy home life.”


Schurz’ career also included the role of lecturer and editor.  He was editor of the New York Post.  President Abraham Lincoln appointed him minister to Spain, but he resigned soon after to enter the army, receiving a commission as brigadier general.  He distinguished himself at the Second Battle of Bull Run. and was promoted to the rank of major general.  He died in New York on May 16, 1906 and is buried there.  A statue of him has been erected on Morningside drive at 116th Street, New York City.  Several cities have named high schools after him, but Watertown, where he spent his early years in this country did nothing to memorialize him.  His wife, however, established the first kindergarten in America in 1856.






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