The First American Ferraro Ancestor John Schuttler and Wife Louisa Gerbing

The First American Ferraro Ancestor John Schuttler and Wife Louisa Gerbing

Schuttler Wagon

Johann Schuttler was born in Wachenheim, Hessen-Darmstadt (Germany) on September 26, 1829. Wachenheim is a quaint little town in Western Germany that is known for its wines and today is a stop on the Rheinpfalz Palatinate wine tour. In 1849 at the height of the Gold Rush, John came to America to live with work for his uncle, Peter Schuttler, in his growing wagon company. If you are a Ferraro descendant with ancestors that didn’t come to American soil until later, John Schuttler was the first here, first to have children here, and the first to become a citizen. John Schuttler registered to vote in 1888, when Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland, and he produced proof that he naturalized in 1856, the court record of which was lost in the Chicago Fire of 1871.

John’s uncle Peter Schuttler was known as the “Great Chicago Wagon King” and was himself the epitome of the American dream. Peter was also born in Wachenheim, arriving on American soil in his 20s, working as a wainwright in Ohio before he started his own business in Chicago. John Schuttler worked as his company foreman. Pioneers, 49ers, and Brigham Young’s Mormon trek to Utah in 1855 used Schuttler Wagons, but contrary to family lore, there is no proof that Schuttler wagons were used by the Union in the Civil War.   In 1863 Peter Schuttler was one of the 3 richest men in Chicago and his family would buy clothes for the children of John Schuttler, their poorer relation, according to correspondence Grandmother Ferraro had in her possession when she passed away. There is a website dedicated to “wheels that won the West” of which Schuttler Wagons are included. Because of copyrights, I am not permitted to link the site here. They also sell Schuttler Wagon t-shirts. Schuttler wagons are still sought out by collectors today. The Wagon King’s sons and grandsons went on to hold numerous public offices in and around Chicago in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

John married another German born immigrant in St. Paul’s Lutheran in Chicago in 1853, Louisa Gerbing, daughter of Friedrick and Marta. Their wedding record was gloriously saved during the Great Chicago Fire by the church’s Reverend Wunder who ran into the burning building to retrieve important parish documents.


St. Paul’s Lutheran Vital Records on Microfilm, Newberry Public Library, Chicago

They had four children before Louisa died in the Chicago cholera outbreak of 1864:

Christine Katharina – married Fritz (Fred) Eckebrecht – 5 children

Charles Schuttler (a grocer) – married Delia Bolter – 1 daughter

Louise (Elizabeth) Schuttler – married Edward Fuller (teamster) – 5 children

Loretta – born in 1863

Louisa and John’s 1 year old daughter Loretta died two days before Louisa on September 9, 1864. Loretta was not buried in the Schuttler plot in Historic Graceland Cemetery and is presumed to have been cremated.

The first Ferraro ancestor to be born on American soil was great great grandmother Christine Katharina Eckebrecht in 1854. Uncle John says that when her mother died she went to live with Peter Schuttler for a spell. Unfortunately we don’t know if she lived with Peter Schuttler her father’s uncle, or his son, Peter Schuttler II. They were both very well off. Wagon King Peter Schuttler died in January 1865 from a blood infection he contracted by stepping on a rusty nail while he was examining the completed work on the building of his elaborate mansion. Katharina was said to have beautiful red hair and she did not like living with all of the proper rules and manners demanded in Peter Schuttler’s home and would get in trouble for not having the napkin on her lap or for picking her nose… According to Uncle John she couldn’t wait to get home.

Uncle John said she may have been ten when she lived with them. That works out with her birthday. John Schuttler married again 5 months after he buried Louisa, while Katharina may have been away. The name of his second wife was Caroline Lehman and she too was a German immigrant. In April 1865, a son was born to Caroline Lehman….7 months after Louisa passed away.  Frank William married Augusta Becker and had a daughter named Caroline. The last child of John Schuttler was named Caroline (Lena) and she too was born to Caroline Lehman and would have been half-sister to Katharina Schuttler Eckebrecht. Caroline married Charles Haase and George Furnkas.

We do not have a photo of John Schuttler. Please send me a copy if you can. John’s rich uncle had a passport to travel back and forth from Germany with his daughter in 1864 and the physical description of the passport on record at the National Archives is:

Height: 5 feet 8 inches

Eyes: Brown

Nose: Long

Mouth: Common

Chin: Round

Hair: Black

Complexion: Dark

Face: Oval

Maybe John Schuttler too was dark like Peter. Maybe Katharina resembled the Gerbing side of the family since she had red hair…

Louisa and Her Family the Gerbings

Louisa or Louise Gerbing was from Vieselbach, Sachsen-Weimar (Germany). Vieselbach is today a suburb of Erfurt in Central Germany. Louisa’s father Friedrick was a maurer or bricklayer in Germany. Louisa sailed from Hamburg with her parents and four siblings in May of 1852. They landed in Quebec City because the passage to Canada was cheaper and travel on the St. Lawrence Seaway was only possible during the warm months. The 5 children that travelled to Chicago from Vieselbach with Friedrick and Marta: Franz (a Chicago police sergeant), Christian (a wagon-maker at Peters Schuttler wagons and godfather to Katharina), Louisa, Dorothea (m. John Scheiferstien), and Mary (m. Louis Weick).

Louisa’s brothers combined had 15 children. Her oldest brother Franz was in the paper numerous times for making important arrests, solving crimes, and departmental issues with the Chicago chief of police. Franz’s wife was Elizabeth Schuettler. Her last name is spelled differently. It is not likely she is related to John, if at all, because she was not born in the same town as John and Peter Schuttler. Franz Gerbing’s grandson Francis J. Knauss was a Colorado Supreme Court Justice in the early 1960s.   To the writer, his relation is a second cousin three times removed. Not very close. He was named after his grandfather Franz.

The death records of Freidrick and Marta were destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871 with records pertaining to John Schuttler’s early years in America. Because of that fire the Chicagoans are fanatical about record-keeping for genealogical purposes. Maybe they will find something with John Schuttler’s name on it. Grandmother Ferraro’s mother would tell her that her mother Katharina knew of the lady that started the fire and that she was crazy and shouldn’t have kept that cow where she kept it and should not have been milking it at that time of the night …

The fire also burned down Peter Schuttler Wagons. It was re-built immediately, possibly by our very own Fritz Eckebrecht, that married Katharina Schuttler, who was a carpenter right after the fire. When it was re-built, John Schuttler was still the Foreman of Peter Schuttler Wagon Company.


For my sisters and cousins of the daughters of Grandma Leies Ferraro:

Our Mothers

before her

Grandmother Leies Ferraro, Chicago

before her

Caroline Eckebrecht Leies, Chicago

before her

Christine Katharina Schuttler Eckebrecht, Chicago

before her

Louisa Gerbing Schuttler, Vieselbach, Sachsen Weimar

before her

Marta __________   Gerbing – Vieselbach, Sachsen Weimar, born 1807

before her

?               1700s

“How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves, we must know our mothers’ names.”

-Alice Walker


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