FREITAG, CHARLES H. - Springfield has its full share of veterans of the Civil War, and is proud of them and of the fact that they have selected their Capital City as a place of residence during their declining years, as well as during those of their business activity. One of the men who have been of importance in peace as well as war, is Charles H. Freitag, now retired from active life, but who for years conducted a thriving transfer and coal business, being prepared to do the heaviest kind of moving. He was born in Prussia, Germany, near Berlin, April 26, 1837, a son of Fred and Fredericka (Yeates) Freitag. The mother died in her native land but the father came to the United States in 1850, bringing with him his four children. They came to New York, from Hamburg, on a sailing vessel named the "Carolina," and spent seven weeks on the ocean. From New York, they went to Newark, N.J., spending a year there together but at the close of that time Charles H. Freitag, upon the advice of a friend who had two sons in what is now the city of Champaign, Ill., came west. When he reached Chicago, Mr. Freitag found no one who seemed to know anything about a place called Urbana, as Champaign was then named. After many inquires, however, he found that there was such a spot, on which a town was to be built. This location was the terminus of the division of the Illinois Central Railroad, and at that time two tents and two sheds constituted the town. The first building in the place was a warehouse, and in the point of its roof was a hotel dining room, so low that the waiters had to stoop in serving the guests.
The first house at Urbana was erected by Adolph Maker and Mr. Freitag assisted in its construction, boarding there when the family moved in. Upon the completion of this house the German citizens there proposed celebrating the event, and as they thought they could not do this properly without beer, Mr. Freitag was delegated to go to Chicago and get a barrel of this liquor. Three dances were then given, the music being supplied by an accordion, and although the temperance people of the place tried though the temperance people of the place tried to break up the jollification, the participants drove them off and completed their celebration.
As soon as the Illinois Central Railroad Company had work at Urbana, Mr. Freitag entered its employ there, as assistant to a blacksmith, and saving his earnings with German frugality, he was soon able to take advantage of the opportunity to buy cheap land, purchasing eighty acres from the Illinois Central Railroad Company. Although he knew nothing about farming, this young German was not daunted, but assuming that he understood the work, hired out, and being quick to learn, was soon able to break prairie land with anyone. The work was done with an ox team. However, as he was not an agriculturist, mr. Freitag sold his farm, going to Galveston, Texas. While he was working there, the yellow fever broke out in his vicinity and he decided that he did not care to remain in a place where such an epidemic was imminent at any time. For some time he lived in the country, then returned to Galveston, where he learned that a manager was wanted for a hotel at Colombus, Colorado County, Texas, and immediately upon hearing of this fact mr. Freitag went there, secured the position and filled it satisfactorily until the outbreak of the Civil war. He then enlisted in Company I, Twenty-fourth Texas Rangers, and was taken prisoner and confined at Fort Hineman, being later taken to Camp Butler. He tells some entertaining stories of prison life, as well as of the privations endured by the soldiers of the Confederacy. At one time their only food was cornmeal, and the whole grain parched served as coffee. Quinine was in demand to help break the fever that wasted them, and cream of tartar was also valued to raise their bread. Mr. Freitag remembers the dire consequences of mixing the two and trying to make light bread with the entire supply of quinine.
After coming to Camp Butler, Mr. Freitag became acquainted with Springfield, and liked the city so well that it has been his home for forty-eight years. He worked as teamster for Dennis & Beam, architects, and then for five years was custodian at Reservoir Park, being the first to hold that position. He was next chosen as driver of the Jefferson Street fire engine. Following this, he formed a partnership with Godley & Reevely, who secured a co-operative coal shaft. Later, Mr. Freitag bought a team and sold coal all over the city, and this was the beginning of his business success. Little by little, he increased his business, adding team after team, and taking up moving and transfer business, until he had the best equipped line in the city. In January, 1910, he retired from active life, being well satisfied with what he had accomplished.
In 1864 mr. Freitag was married, in Springfield, to Margaret Beierlein, a daughter of Michael and Katherine (Keil) Beierlein. Five children were born to them, of whom the two now surviving are henry, of Springfield, and Lizzie, Mrs. John McGavin, also of Springfield. Mr. Freitag is a Republican. Genial kind hearted, fond of his fellow men, Mr. Freitag has a host of friends, and is welcome wherever he goes. In his life he demonstrates what a man can accomplish if he be ambitious and willing to work.