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WlLLIAM CHRISTIAN FREDERICK ZIMMERMAN

 
The name of Zimmerman is inextricably interwoven in the fabric of southern Johnson county history. If the question were asked, what. is the most unique enterprise in Johnson county, or for that matter in the state of Iowa, the answer would be, "Zimmerman." If the further question were asked, what is the particular object most famous in the prairie region of eastern Iowa, the answer would be, "the Lone Tree on the Zimmerman farm." If the biographer should ask, what family is most remarkable as an example of industrial cooperation and parental loyalty in Johnson county, the answer, we believe, would be, "the Zimmerman." Remarkable facts are involved in the affirmative answers to these questions, but the Zimmerman family is a remarkable family, its history a remarkable history, and its accompaniments are of a remarkable order.

      The student of domestic relationships would be attracted at once by the evidences of affection, unity, and confidence involved in the social and business affairs of this family. Seeking for a reason, he would not have far to go. The wholesome German principle of respect for parental authority, inculcated under the law of love, provides the solution. William C. F. Zimmerman is a father to his children, but he is more than that, he is their friend, their most beloved companion, their most trusted advisor, and their faithful co-worker. The ingredients of his character most active in his conduct towards his family came by the law of heredity and example direct from the German ancestry, with whom kindness seasoned with the grace of firmness was an invariable ride of action. It will, of course, be inferred, and rightly, that in the social life of this family there is the gentle spirit of motherhood which has wrought a mighty work in weaving the strands of affection that bind so firmly these sons and their father in manhood's estate. It would be hard to estimate the force of this factor in the general destiny of families, but in the Zimmerman household we have a concrete and striking example of its results at their best.

      Johan Zimmerman, father of William C. F., was one of ten sons, and he stated many times with great pride and tenderness that his father had never touched one of his children except in kindness. This rule he observed with his own family of three daughters and two sons, and the same rule by inevitable momentum and habit governed his youngest son, William C. F. Thus the cohesiveness of the Zimmerman family fabric is explained. It is a subject worthy of an essay in itself, but we must pass it to consider the homelier facts of the family history.

      The founder of this branch of the Zimmermans in the United States was Johan, born in Germany in 1800. The date of his birth was contemporary with the stirring events of the First Empire, and necessarily young Zimmerman was to some extent involved in the opposition to Bonaparte which finally became militant and decisive under Blucher. An example of his prowess and strategy is shown by the fact that a number of Napoleon's soldiers one day came to the Zimmerman home and ordered young Johan to hitch up a team and convey them to a given point. Reluctantly, but with discretion, the young man complied with their demands; hut, after he had conveyed them to the cover of a neighboring wood, he suddenly attacked them unawares and overcame them, putting them to flight. He then returned home, warned the and the entire household hid themselves until the invaders had left that part of the country.

      Johan Zimmerman and his nine brothers, being faithful adherents of the Lutheran faith, invariably began each day by saying their prayers before breakfast. This was one of the requirements of Ludwig Zimmerman, their father, who, practising the rule of kindness in all things, believed that due acknowledgement should be regularly made to the Creator. The introspective value of this habit may not be doubted.

      In 1835 Johan Zimmerman married Louise Bornholtz, a native of Hamburg, born May 7, 1804. The marriage took place in Klein Grabo, where the couple resided until 1865, the husband being engaged for many years as time-keeper and steward for a crew of day workers in that city. Louise Bornholtz's father was a cattle drover by occupation, and was accustomed to collect large sums of money from the sales of stock. Frequently he carried on his person in a belt as much as $10,000 at a time, and his daughter remembers that sometimes he would toss gold coins to his children for playthings in the home. Of course, the habits of the wealthy drover became known, and on one of his journeys, after having collected a considerable sum, he was murdered and robbed. The perpetrators were never discovered. Louise was a small child when this tragedy occurred, and her mother having remarried to a man named Treuman, she became a ward of Emperor William I., with whom she was a great favorite. Her abilities as a cook brought her especially to the attention of the Emperor and many times he made special request that "my little ward shall prepare me something nice to eat." Her mother died in Berlin in 1830.

      On Thanksgiving day, 1865, Johan Zimmerman, accompanied by his wife and three children, took voyage in an old-fashioned sailing vessel, the Humboldt, from Hamburg for New York. A daughter, Mary, wife of Fred Jahnke, of Iowa City, preceded the family to America several years, and one son, John, remained in Germany in the army service until 1869, the end of his five-year term, when he came also, being now a resident of Lone Tree, Iowa. Of the three children who came on the Humboldt, Minnie, wife of Fred Lemke, of Lone Tree, died in 1905, Sophia, wife of John Joens, now resides near Lone Tree, Iowa, and William C. F., with his family, is a resident of Lone Tree. The date of the latter's birth was September 9, 1849, and his birthplace was Staat Bellin, Mecklenburg, Germany. Being just past fifteen years of age at the time of the departure from Hamburg, William C. F. well remembers the incidents of the voyage, which was tempestous and long delayed. In the early part of its journey the vessel was wrecked in the North Sea and was taken to Plymouth, England, for repairs; the result of this accident was not only a long delay but much loss of baggage on account of careless lighterage. The further voyage was characterized by severe storms and high winds. The vessel's masts were blown away in sight of New York harbor, causing a delay of seventeen days. The entire journey consumed six months.

      The storm-tossed family reached New York city May 17, 1866, and proceeded direct to Davenport, Iowa, by rail, where they resided for three years, thereafter removing to Johnson county, near Lone Tree. There Johan Zimmerman was a respected citizen until his death.

      He was noted for his quiet, retiring, peaceable disposition. A member of the Lutheran church, he aimed to practice his religion without ostentation. His children remember to have heard him say, "If a man insults you, do not resent it, and the next time he meets you he will be ashamed." Mother Zimmerman died May 21, 1901, and the remains of herself and her devoted husband are interred in Lone Tree cemetery.

      William C. F. Zimmerman removed from Davenport to Johnson county with his father's family in 1869. The family first rented 240 acres on which they engaged in general farming for two years. They then bought 480 acres of Dr. Tillotson, which they farmed for about ten years. In 1880 William C. F. came to Lone Tree town, where he engaged in business for four years. Catching the western fever, in the spring of 1884 he went to Washington territory with his wife and two small sons. He reached Spokane shortly after the great fire which had devastated the city, and now relates with a smile how he was at that time offered property for a few hundred dollars which today is worth millions. But, having the spirit of investigation upon him, he pressed on from Spokane to Cheney, and from that point made a complete circuit of the Big Bend country, the Coeur d'Alene mines, and other points. While in Cheney his third son, .John Ernest, was horn June 19, 1884. This lusty infant established a record for early and arduous traveling, making the journey from Cheney, Washington, to Baker City, Oregon, when two weeks old. The major part of the trip, from Umatilla to Baker was made by stage. The family remained in Baker City until February, 1885 — again facing the possibilities of a great fortune, for that city has become a large and wealthy community. At that time, however, the desire to return to Iowa being strong in their hearts and the health of Mrs. Zimmerman being poor, they made the backward trip to Lone Tree. About two years were spent on the farm, after which the family removed to Lone Tree, where Mr. Zimmerman engaged in the hardware, implement, and lumber business for about four years. In the fall of 1890 he bought the celebrated Lone Tree Farm, consisting of 113 acres in the edge of the town of Lone Tree, on which, within fifty feet of the present Zimmerman residence, stands the famous "lone tree," known to every Indian and emigrant of early days in this section of eastern Iowa. This tree, an elm, was the only tree or shrub of any description visible in early days in that part of the state, and served as a landmark for Indians, emigrants, and surveyors. The prairie fires of those days swept the country clean for many miles, and the preservation of the "lone tree" is only accounted for on the hypothesis that the cattle and horses of the Indians, using it for shade, kept the grass around it trampled down to such an extent that the fires could not take effect. This tree is an object of curiosity to old settlers and strangers alike. The reader will have a correct idea of its present appearance from the engraving published on another page. The entire Lone Tree Farm is embraced within the city limits of Lone Tree, and a small part of it has been laid out into lots for city residences. On this farm William C. F. Zimmerman has resided continuously from March, 1891, to the present time, a period of over twenty years. General farming has been the program, and the place is now in a thorough state of cultivation under the active management of Herman Walter Zimmerman, a young man (unmarried) twenty-two years of age, who is also a director in the Zimmerman Steel Company.

      William C. F. Zimmerman constantly felt the desire for a business or manufacturing life, and so, in 1893, he yielded to this impulse and began the manufacture of windmills and tanks under the firm name of Zimmerman Bennett, continuing until 1894, when the firm was incorporated under the name of the Jewel Manufacturing Company. In 1895 this company erected a factory on the site of the present Zimmerman Steel Company. A full description of the latter, its origin, progress, and present prosperity, will be found in the first volume of this work. It is enough for the purpose of this biography to say that in this enterprise the family of William C. F. Zimmerman have found opportunity for the expression of their remarkable individual talents and for the demonstration of those traits of cooperation which have brought them into prominence and distinction both at home and abroad. The Zimmerman Steel Company is unique in its personnel, being not a corporation but a firm composed entirely of members of the Zimmerman family, with one exception, Mr. H. V. McCluskey, and he is a son-in-law, having married Bertha, the oldest daughter; hence the reader is able to understand the following remarkable roster of officers: 'William C. F. Zimmerman, president and secretary; H. L. Zimmerman, vice president and treasurer; F. W. Zimmerman, J. E. Zimmerman, H. W. Zimmerman, and William C. F. Zimmerman, Jr., directors and managers; and H. V. McCluskey, correspondent and sales manager. And the growth and present business standing of this company are as remarkable as its personnel, a fact which the reader will recognize after reading the historical sketch before referred to.

      The marriage of William C. F. Zimmerman to Rosa Amanda Fredericka Kranel (nee Nagel) took place at Lone Tree, Iowa, November 15, 1882. The parents of Mrs. Zimmerman were Thies Nagel and Wepka Katherine Haas, both natives of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. The daughter was born January 9, 1863, in Fredericks county, Schleswig-Holstein, and came with her parents to America in 1869. The family settled at Davenport, Iowa, thence removing to Rock Creek Mills, and thence to Nichols, Iowa, in 1880. The Nagels were flour millers by trade.

      To William C. F. Zimmerman and Rosa Nagel were born the following children : Henry Ludolph, at Davenport, Iowa, July 25, 1879; Frederick William, at Lone Tree, April 23, 1883; John Ernest, at Cheney, Washington, June 19, 1884; Bertha Louise, at Lone Tree (on Tillotson farm), November 30, 1885; Herman Walter, at Lone Tree, July 6, 1889; Lillian, at Lone Tree, April 9, 1897; William C. F., Jr., at Lone Tree, November 12, 1899.

      A brief reference to each member of the family may not be amiss.

      Henry Ludolph, the eldest son, remained in the parental home until his marriage, May 22, 1907, to Isabella Williamson, of Mt. Vernon, Georgia, after which he took up his residence in the town of Lone Tree, where he now resides. Three children have been born into his family, two dying in infancy and one, Teresa Louise, dying at the age of fourteen months. As vice-president and treasurer of the Zimmerman Steel Company, Henry L. has displayed marked ability and aptitude. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church of Lone Tree; past master of the local A. F. & A. M. lodge and past patron of the Lone Tree Eastern Star. He was a member of Lone Tree city council for six years.

      Frederick William resides on the home farm, is unmarried, a member of the Reformed church, assistant chief of the Lone Tree fire department, and manager of the foundry of the Zimmerman Steel Company. He is senior warden of the Lone Tree A. F. A. M., and a member of the local I. O. O. F. and of the K. of P.

      John Ernest was married October 1, 1908, to Miss Alma May Kallous, of Lone Tree. He is a member of the board of directors of the Zimmerman Steel Company, and is a designing engineer of the company. He took a special course in chemistry at Iowa State University to fit himself for technical work at the steel plant.

      Bertha Louise graduated from the Irish Business College at Iowa City at the age of thirteen, and was the first stenographer and typewriter for the Monarch Grubber Company, the predecessor of the Zimmerman Steel Company. On her marriage, June 29, 1910, to H. V. McCluskey, she retired from active connection with the company.

      Herman Walter, unmarried, though a director in the steel company, devotes his attention to the management of the Lone Tree farm, where he resides.

      Lillian, fourteen years of age, resides on the home farm and attends public school at Lone Tree. Her talents for instrumental music are being developed under careful training.

      William C. F., Jr., thirteen years old, is a student of the Lone Tree public schools. Although of tender years, he has an aptitude for business and enters seriously upon the discharge of his duties as a director of the steel company. He is an enthusiastic automobilist, and manages the big family touring car with the ease of an accomplished chaffeur.

      Every male member of the Zimmerman family, with the exception of William C. F., Jr., is a 32d degree Mason, and all are Shriners except Herman Walter — members of Kaaba Temple, Davenport. William C. F., Sr., is a member of Iowa City Commandery, Knights Templar. He has been secretary of Lone Tree lodge No. 535, A. F. & A. M., since the first election after organization, and was the first candidate initiated by the lodge, August 14, 1894. He and his sons are members of Zarephath Consistory, Davenport. Mr. Zimmerman and his eldest sons are members of the I. O. O. F. of Lone Tree, and all are members of the local order of the Eastern Star, including Mother Zimmerman and the wives of Henry, John, and H. V. McCluskey.

      Following in the footsteps of their father, who was educated in the high school of Germany, the adult children of William C. F. Zimmerman have obtained their educations in the public schools. Two only have taken supplementary courses, Bertha, at Irish Business College, and John Ernest, at Iowa State University.

      Some of the incidents in the life of Mr. Zimmerman illustrate the rapid shaping of events even in the lifetime of a man of sixty-two. For instance, he bought and operated the first traction steam engine ever used in Iowa; he introduced the first wire binder into Johnson county; also the first twine binder.

      Mr. Zimmerman is a democrat in politics, and without question time and time again could have had the choice of any office within the gift of his fellow citizens of Lone Tree. The only political positions he has consented to fill, however, were: 1st, school director of Lone Tree, a position he has held for about fourteen years, being recognized as the father of the local public school system; and, 2d, city councilman of Lone Tree for two years, 1896-97. Mr. Zimmerman's religious affiliations are German Lutheran, and every member of the family has been confirmed in that church.

      The business of the Zimmerman Steel Company extends to all parts of the United States and to many sections of South America, Europe, and Asia. Its output is under the direct management of the family, aided, of course, by a corps of competent workmen. The details given in our general history volume will tell of the technical responsibilities resting upon each active member of the family in the affairs of the Zimmerman Steel Company. We submit that the situation is unique in industrial annals. Acid to this fact the perfect family harmony of the partners and the universal esteem in which they are held by their neighbors of many years, and the case becomes astonishing. It is an example of remarkable success growing out of proper home relationships and training, perfect personal confidence, marked aptitude for the work in hand, and business ability of a high order. It is with some degree of pride that the publishers of this history invite the attention of their readers to the Zimmerman family, of Lone Tree, Iowa.

Source: Leading Events in Johnson County, Iowa, History (1913); Volume: 2;
Aurner, Clarence Ray; Cedar Rapids, IA: Western Historical Press