GEHRMANN, CHARLES A., is now living retired from active life in his pleasant home at 1021 North Third Street, Springfield, Ill., where he has about three acres of ground, laid out in a beautiful park. The place is adorned with ornamental trees, flowering shrubs, choice fruit trees, and with giant forest trees rising with ancient grandeur. Evergreens, some sixty feet high, spread their dark green branches over the extensive lawn, and benches underneath invite one to repose, while admiring the beautiful prospect. The house contains many original paintings, some from Mr. Gehrmann's own brush and some executed by his children. The home contains a large library and there are various musical instruments which show evidence of daily use. It is a model home, with every comfort and many luxuries.
Mr. Gehrmann is a native of Nordhausen, Germany, born August 1, 1835, son of Frederick August and Christiana (Klemm) Gehrmann. His father was born in Nordhausen and his mother in Haynrode, Germany, he August 24, 1804, and she January 6, 1811. They owned a farm at Nordhausen and were parents of four children, of whom but two are living: Charles A., of this sketch, and Theodore A., who has two sons, Dr. Adolph G. and Felix G. Dr. Adolph G. Gehrmann is connected with the Columbia Laboratory, of Chicago, and Felix G. is a large buyer in the stock yards in that city. Frederick A. Gehrmann and his wife died in Germany.
The boyhood and early youth of Charles A. Gehrmann were spent in his native country, where he received an excellent education and a thorough training for business, becoming a clerk in one of the leading dry goods stores of Potsdam, and later being employed by Herman Gerson, of Berlin, where his knowledge of the English and French languages brought him into contact with the foreign customers, especially the trade of Russia. On one occasion he became the recipient of a fine gold watch from the Empress of Russia in acknowledgment of services rendered. Having a desire to see the world, he made arrangements to enter the employ of a London house, but on reaching Hamburg altered his plans and, contrary to the wishes of his parents, came to America. He tried to buy a ticket on the ill-fated "Austria", but finding them all sold, he and a friend came over in another vessel, the trip consuming six weeks. The first news he heard on his arrival in New York was the burning of the "Austria" in mid-ocean, but ten persons being saved of about one thousand on board. Mr. Gehrmann spent some months very pleasantly, traveling through the northern part of the country and going as far as the source of the Mississippi, where he found excellent hunting ground, and visiting the larger cities of the region. He finally located in Springfield in 1858. The primitive conditions he found in that place, as compared with some of the larger cities he had visited, aroused his interest and convinced him it would be a good location for a business. He did not believe in spending his life as a clerk, and to those who later worked under him he would say, "Save one thousand dollars; accomplish this and we will talk about your future." Many who followed his advice are today rich and prosperous merchants, either in Springfield or elsewhere. He believes a clerk should have an ambition to become proprietor of some business of his own, and has helped many to realize such an ambition.
By close attention to the needs of his business, hard work and liberal dealing, mr. Gehrmann, built up an extensive dry goods trade, at Nol. 113 on the west side of The Square. In 1882 he bought out the old John Williams dry goods store, at No. 507 on the north side of The Square, which he occupied until the purchase of his place on the west side. He was able to retire from active business life January 1, 1906, having at that time many warm friends, who gave him their entire respect and esteem. He left the business world with the good will of all. In 1876 he became a prominent member of the Merchants' and Shippers' Association, of Springfield, which was largely instrumental in securing an Interstate Railroad Commission. He was for eighteen years a member of the Springfield Board of Education, and was the originator of the idea of a training school for manual labor in the schools of the city, which has been so successfully and thoroughly installed there. It began with four pupils, and now has about one hundred thirty-five, some of its graduates having won distinction in industrial discoveries and projects. He believes in the necessity of manufacturing goods at home and strongly advises the training of home talent into industrial and productive work, thus doing away with the necessity of "buying brains" from outside. He is a Mason, being affiliated with Elwood Commandery No. 6, K. T., and also belongs to Capital Lodge No. 14, Knights of Pythias. In 1875 Mr. Gehrmann was made an honorary member of the Governor's Guard, which had been founded the previous year. W. D. Richardson was President and E. S. Johnson Commander of same.
April 12, 1862, Mr. Gehrmann married Miss Minnie Jahnke, a resident of Springfield, who was born in Berlin, Germany, June 23, 1844. She accompanied her parents to the United States when she was quite young. She departed this life October 31, 1886, leaving five children, namely: Charles A., a professor of chemistry and a mining engineer, owns several mines in Colorado and Nevada; Clara M. married F. W. Sutton, of Kenilworth, Ill.; Ella G., Adele and Paul M. The family are members of the German Lutheran Church and highly esteemed in social circles. Mrs. Gehrmann was much beloved by all who knew her, being of a kind and loving disposition and one of those faithful women whose chief pleasure in life consists in making the home a place of comfort and peace for husband and children, and who have always a kind word for the unfortunate and a smile for those who are struggling against adverse circumstances. Mr. Gehrmann has a brother, Theodore A., who is a retired business man of Chicago; a cousin, Charles G., of Montclair, N.J.; and another cousin, C. W. Klemm, of Bloomington, Ill.
Mr. Gehrmann is now over seventy-six years old, but has never abused his body by the use of liquor or by other bad habits, and is in complete possession of all his mental and physical faculties. He greatly enjoys watching boys at their fishing and likes to care for his garden, in which he takes great pride. He has great love for his native country and takes much comfort in his linguistic knowledge, through which, to use his own words, "The whole world lies before me, and it is satisfactory to answer the old question "Why?" quickly and correctly." He is fond of nature and natural scenery and has written several poems along this line for local German papers, many of which have been translated into English. One of these, "Bob White," which he considers one of his best, was suggested by scenes in Sangamon County. His wise, temperate manner of living was instilled into his mind by his grandfather, who reared him carefully and strictly, and there is no period of his life upon which he looks back with regret or with the feeling that he would have done well to act or speak in a manner other than he did.