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By Joseph Wallace, M. A.
of the Springfield Bar
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL


JOHN SCHOENEMANN. - So creditable was the life record of John Schoenemann, so honorable his business relations, and so upright his career that the history of Springfield would be incomplete without mention of him. His was in many respects an eventful career, embracing residence in Sangamon county in its pioneer days, in Kansas during the troublous times that preceded the Civil war, and in California following the discovery of gold upon the Pacific coast. Many years were also spent in the quiet pursuit of business here, with the result that success attended his energy and enterprise. Men who knew him learned to respect and honor him and no better indication of an upright life can be given than the fact that those who knew him longest were his warmest friends.

Mr. Schoenemann was a native of Wurtemberg, Germany, born in Berning, on the 8th of February, 1830. His parents were Andrew and Margaret (Fischter) Schoenemann, who in the year 1846 came to the new world, accompanied by their family. The mother was not long permitted to enjoy her new home, for her death occurred the following year. The father, however, became a resident of Sangamon county, where he engaged in gardening until his death in 1878. In their family were five children, of whom two daughters are yet living, namely, Mrs. Katherine Schlicht, who resides near Farmingdale, and Mrs. H. Walters, of Assumption, Illinois. Andrew, formerly of St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, is deceased.

John Schoenemann was a youth of sixteen years when he accompanied his parents to the United States. He had attended school in the fatherland, and after arriving in this country, he assisted in labor that contributed to the family support. When the news of the discovery of gold in California aroused the country and many men flocked from all parts of the Union to the mining regions of the west Mr. Schoenemann was among those who made the long and difficult journey in hope of rapidly acquiring a fortune in that distant Eldorado. After spending some time there he returned to the family home in Sangamon county. In the year 1856 he and his father went to Kansas. The interest of the entire nation was then centered upon that portion of the country, where was being waged a struggle that led to the common use of the expression "Bleeding Kansas." The southern states had sent their colonists into the district in hope of adding Kansas to the slave territory. The question was to be settled by the election which would make it a "slave or a free" state, and the north, aroused by the speeches of Stephen A. Douglas, began sending the advocates of freedom. The contest was bitterly waged and in the midst of it all lived Mr. Schoenemann until 1860, when he joined a party of fourteen men from Missouri and started for the rich mining districts of Montana. They stopped at the head waters of the Missouri river, near Helena, where they arrived in 1862, and Mr. Schoenemann continued his labors there until 1866, at which time only four of the original party were still there. At that date Montana was a territory and up to 1860 hd been overrun by hostile Indians. While our subject was there not a single permanent settlement had been established in the state, its population being merely miners, who were there prospecting. No crops were raised, save potatoes, which were produced with the assistance of irrigation, and there was little promise of the rapid development of that portion of the country.

In 1866, with the three remaining companions of the original party with which he had started to the northwest, Mr. Schoenemann made his way to New York, where he remained for two months, and then again came to Springfield, where he made his home up to the time of his demise - one of the worthy and highly respected citizens of Sangamon county. Not long afterward he erected the Western Hotel, which he conducted successfully for a number of years, his entertainment of guests being of a character that won for the hostelry a desirable and profitable patronage. At different times he made investment in property and became the owner of some valuable realty, which returned to him a good annual income, enabling him to spend a decade or more of the latter part of his life in retirement from further labor. He was a director in the German-American Building Association of Springfield and had other investments, which made him well known in business circles.

On the 9th of June, 1870, Mr. Schoenemann was united in marriage to Miss Helena Hoechster, a native of Sangamon county and a daughter of Waltauser and Mary Ann (Eck) Hoechster, both of whom were natives of Germany and came to Sangamon county about 1840, settling in Woodside township, where the father carried on farming until his death. Mrs. Schoenemann is an estimable lady who has made friends in Springfield. She is a member of the Catholic church here and occupies a beautiful residence at No. 1109 South Fifth street, where she is surrounded by the comforts and many of the luxuries of life. She also owns much valuable property in different parts of the city, returning to her a good income annually. Hers is a benevolent and kindly spirit and her donations to church and charitable work have been generous.

Mr. Schoenemann held membership with the German Lutheran church here and he lived true to its teachings and principles. He witnessed the wonderful development of Springfield, for when he arrived in the city it was but a mere village, with unpaved streets, small houses and few business enterprises, making no pretensions to greatness. He always took a keen delight in the substantial progress of the city and co-operated in many measures of improvement. He completed the Psalmist's span of three score years and ten and was called to the home beyond October 30, 1900. The funeral services were held in St. John's Lutheran church and were simple but impressive. The Germanic Maennerchor rendered beautiful musical selections, and many friends gathered to pay their last tribute of respect to one whom they had known and honored, while a large number expressed their sympathy to the bereaved widow through the gift of lovely floral offerings. A friend, too, wrote in his memory the following poem:

Close the eyelids, press them gently,
Whisper low, for he's asleep;
But 'tis the sleep which knows no quickening,
Friends are saddened, loved ones weep.

Flowers fair, and flowers fragrant
Stand around his mournful bier,
Showing sympathy and sorrow
For the loss of one so dear.

Kind and loving every action,
True his every walk in life;
Oh! We'll long for thee and miss thee,
Brothers, sisters, friends and wife.

He has gone, has left us ever,
nevermore his face we'll see-
Nevermore his voice will cheer us,
On life's stormy, rugged sea.

Mother Earth received thy body
In a chamber dark and small,
Song birds now will chant thy vespers,
Nature form thy funeral pall.

Oh! 'Tis sad. Oh! Can we bear it?
Can we leave you here along
In a home so deep and lonely,
In this bed of clay and stone?

Human nature in its weakness
Could not overcome this fate,
But the Christian faith in glory
Soars beyond this worldly state.

It beholds celestial mansions
Where our loved one's spirit dwells,
Where there is no parting sorrow,
Where there are no funeral knells.

There we'll meet thee when our journey
On this dreary earth's complete;
Oh, the thought of that dear meeting
Turns our cup of bitter sweet.

Sleep then gently, we will cherish
Thy sweet memory. It shall live
Long, long after all these flowers
No more fragrance take or give.

Sleep then sweetly, till the Master
Gives to thee from death release;
Till we meet thee, till we greet thee,
Slumber softly - rest in peace.

During his long residence in Springfield Mr. Schoenemann had become very widely known and to the city he left the heritage of a loyal citizenship; to his friends the memory of hours of pleasant companionship. His kindly ways, honest purpose and sterling worth are cherished in the hearts of those who knew him, but most of all in the heart of her who for thirty years was his closest companion in the journey of life.

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