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Schack, Frederick Christian Charles


Posted By: BCGS
Date: 1/11/2010 at 10:25:17

In taking up the personal history of Frederick Christian Charles Schack we present to our readers the life record of one of the most valued and highly esteemed citizens of Waverly and the county. Difficulties and obstacles innumerable fell to his lot in early life, but he was never vanquished by them. On the contrary, he has always been the victor in the strife. His energy and perseverance have enabled him to overcome obstacles and difficulties which would have utterly discouraged many a man of less resolute spirit, but his strength of character has carried him forward and his has been an honorable, upright manhood, productive of good results not only in the business world, but for moral development and civic betterment as well. He was born July 19, 1828, in Wiedenbruch, in the province of Wesphalia, Germany, a son of Christian Gottlieb and Johanne (Hocker) Schack. The father was court treasurer. He was wounded in the French-German war of 1812 and was afterward appointed to the government position of court treasurer. He died at a comparatively early age, four months before the birth of his son, Frederick, and the mother afterward removed with her four children to Burgholzhausen, in Westphalia. The family were in comparatively poor circumstances, as the pension which was allowed Mrs. Schack by the government was quite small. There Frederick Schack attended public school until fourteen years of age. At his birth he was baptized by a Catholic priest, as there was no Lutheran minister in the town, but at the age of fourteen he was confirmed in the Lutheran church. Under private instruction he studied French, Latin, history, geography and mathematics and afterward entered the third class of the gymnasium at Bielefeld and in four years had won promotion to the first class. As his intention was to become an architect, he took instruction in civil engineering for one year in Herford and then passed his examination as such with the provincial government in Minden, receiving the civil engineer's diploma in 1848. He was disappointed in a hope which he had entertained of assistance that would enable him to continue his studies as an architect in Berlin University. The German revolution had made affairs uncertain and he was unable to secure a position. He, therefore, resolved to go to America and on the 10th of March, 1849, he sailed in a bark from Bremen to New York. While en route smallpox broke out among the four hundred steerage passengers. After forty days New York was reached. Failing to find employment as a civil engineer on the Erie Railroad, which was then being built, hundreds of German refugees having applied for work before him, Mr. Schack attempted to secure other employment in that vicinity for about three months but was unsuccessful and requested his mother to send him money to return to Germany. She refused, however, saying that she had done all she could for her son and that he must thereafter depend upon his own resources. The days seemed very dark and there was no promising outlook before him. He almost despaired, when one of the firm of a large importing house, the R.A. & G.H. Whithouse Company, who had heard of him, called on him and offered him a position at six dollars a week if he were willing to begin at the bottom and learn the business. He eagerly accepted, starting in the packing and shipping room and by diligence and determination working his way upward. Subsequently he was advanced to the sales department, where he had charge of sending yarn and silk to the dyeing houses. His firm imported large quantities of raw silk and wool yarn, which they sold to manufacturers and wholesale dealers in this country. Finally Mr. Schack became salesman for the ladies' trimming department and also traveled to some extent upon the road representing the house, his salary being advanced to eight hundred dollars per year. In 1852 he was sent to Europe as the buyer for his house and something of the responsibility that devolved upon him may be imagined when we know that in those days buyers had to select their goods not from samples but from drawings and large quantities must be bought at one time. He purchased gimps, laces, fringes and velvet ribbons. He traveled through England, France and Germany and made many trips abroad for the house. A few years later, in 1855, a capitalist offered him twenty-five thousand dollars if he would arrange to engage in business on his own account, which he did in connection with a fellow employe under the firm name of Schack & Holtop in New York. They were to engage in the importation of dry goods, especially ladies' dress trimmings and materials for shoe manufacturers. The first year netted them about twenty thousand dollars and they successfully weathered the panic of 1857-58. Business continued to prosper year by year until 1870, when Mr. Schack, on account of impaired health, was obliged to withdraw from the firm and sold his interest to his partner. He then went abroad again in order to benefit his health, using the baths of Kissingen, Bavaria and Marienbad in Bohemia. He also spent some time in a sanitarium in Thal, Thuringia, in Klampenborg, Denmark, and visited Switzerland, Austria, Lake Maggiore, Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, Vesuvius, Messina and Sicily. After about two years' travel he returned to New York greatly improved in health. During his active career he had made twenty-nine trips to Europe and he still retains a complete record of each trip, which record tells of the name of the boat on which he sailed and the number of miles covered each day.

In 1857 Mr. Schack was united in marriage to a relative, who was a widow with one daughter about three years of age. She died in 1862 and Mr. Schack has remained a widower since the age of thirty-four.

His identification with Iowa began in 1879, when he visited Eldorado, Fayette county. Pleased with the fine country, he purchased a farm of about one hundred and thirty-five acres at twenty-eight dollars per acre, and in 1880, took up his abode upon that place. He afterward purchased several adjoining farms, in all about three hundred acres, the highest price paid being about forty dollars. He then began farming and he had upon his land four farmers with their families and one boy, who assisted Mr. Schack in doing the work. He greatly enjoyed the life of an agriculturist, considering it the happiest period in his life. The stomach and nervous trouble with which he was afflicted left him almost entirely, but at length the weight of years was felt and when he had reached the age of about three score and ten he sold his farm for fifty-five dollars per acre and in 1900, removed to Waverly, where he has now resided for more than thirteen years.

Mr. Schack has always been deeply interested in religious work. In New York he was elected president of the German Society and as such was commissioner of emigration of the state of New York. He was also one of the directors of the Emigrant House in State street and a director of the Lutheran Old Peoples Home in East New York, a trustee of St. Matthew's Lutheran church and was often a delegate to the general council synod of that church. He was likewise a member of the Legal Aid Society and was one of the directors of the council of political reform. He was a member of the committee of seventy elected in mass meeting by the citizens of New York to bring Boss Tweed, the Tammany ruler, to terms. After coming to Iowa his interest in church and benevolent work continued. He was elected general treasurer of the Iowa synod of the Lutheran church and occupied that position for about twelve years. He also aided in establishing the Wartburg Publishing House and other institutions. When in Eldorado he became one of the first directors of the Iowa Mutual Storm & Tornado Insurance Company of West Union, now of Des Moines, which carries now an insurance of about one hundred and eighty millions of dollars. It will thus be seen that his life has, indeed, been a very active and useful one, reaching out along many lines for the benefit of his fellowmen. He gave a park of four acres to Waverly and there Wartburg Hall is now built. He has ever been a loyal citizen of his adopted land, interested in its welfare and active in supporting every movement tending to its progress and improvement. Not only has he traveled all over Europe but has also visited Cuba and nearly every state in the United States and Canada. He is now eighty-five years of age and he is accorded the veneration and respect which should ever be given a man of his years whose life has been honorably spent. His, indeed, constitutes an example well worthy of emulation and should inspire and encourage others. It proves not only that success can be gained when one has no capital with which to start life but it also proves that prosperity and an honorable name may be worn simultaneously.

History of Bremer County, Iowa Vol. II 1914


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