The Multi-Faceted Life Of Fred Eckebrecht 1848-1920 My Grandfather
By John G. Leies October 1995
This is the story of my great great grandfather, Fritz Eckebrecht, told in the words of Uncle John.
Polls say that for many Americans, if they had to rescue something from a fire, the first thing would be the family album of pictures.
We have very very few photos of Grandpa. In fact, I know of only one, and in that one, we cannot identify several persons, and we have no date on which the photo was taken.
In recent weeks, I have received additional details of the life of my maternal grandfather, Grandpa Eckebrecht. I would like to add these details to the ones we know, and blend them into one account.
Grandpa Eckebrecht had kept a rather complete diary unfortunately after making a summary of it, then destroyed the original. I got hold of the summary from my Aunt Lottie, and translated it from the German. This was in 1953. I had circulated this summary to some of the members of our family.
Recently I received from Dr. Josephine Schulte, of our University faculty, the shipping lists of the year 1866 with Eckebrecht family mentioned in the list. Other details come from the recollections of M. Kinzig, my sister and A. Ferraro, also my sister. Other persons have contributed precious details.
I will double space the details which I have received from family members as also my own recollections.
For surmises, conjectures, etc. I will mark an underline under these contributions.
Grandpa Eckebrecht was born in Thuringia, Germany (Central Germany) on January 18, 1848. No other details do I know except for the fact that he was baptized in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The shipping lists the steamboat JENNY gives these names:
Quirinus Eckebrecht Age 49 Baker
Louisa Eckebrecht Age 48
Auguste Eckebrecht female, age 20
Fritz Eckebrecht male, age 17
Wilhelm Eckebrecht male, age 15
Heinrich Eckebrecht male, age 9
Eduard Eckebrecht male, age 7
Let’s compare this list with the one which I have received for our “family tree”. The list comes from mother, relatives, etc.
SHIPS LIST Family Records
Charles (listed as the oldest of the children)
I cannot account for the fact that Charles is not listed on the shipping list. The family record states that Charles, William, Henry, Fred, Edward and Augusta were later on, married.
The JENNY lists all of the ones on the list as destined for Ohio.
The Eckebrecht family cross the ocean on the “JENNY” arriving in New York on May 23, 1866. Grandpa in his diary says that the voyage took 87 days. So subtracting 87 from May 23, we have February 4, 1866 as the date of leaving Bremen for New York.
On June 29, 1866 Fred arrived in Chicago. He got a job as a carpenter for $2.00 a day and ten hours of work a day.
Did he leave the family in Ohio? Or go to Chicago all alone? He is a 17 year old, showing in subsequent events that he knew how to get around show proper independence.
LIFE IN THE SOUTH:
In 1868, Fred left Chicago for work on a farm in Mississippi and got work planting cotton, corn, sweet potatoes, watermelons, and oats.
The next year, on October 16th he went to a farm in Walden, Mississippi, then left for New Orleans, where he stayed for two days and then left for Galveston, Texas. And then moved to Houston.
Near Houston, Fred was captured by Indians and stayed with them until May 30, 1870.
Were these Comanches? Judging from several details it would seem very possible that they were; the Comanches did reach East Texas.
In any case, these roving Indians did need a butcher, and this lively young German suited the bill.
I would surmise that this “captivity” was benign; after all, he got permission to visit a nearby farmer, and to have Sunday dinner with the German-speaking man.
Soon after his “captivity”, Fred managed to escape. He visited the German-speaking farmer for several Sundays escorted by the Indians (on horseback.) While he visited and ate dinner with the farmer, the Indians waited near their horses. One Sunday, with a pre-arranged plan, Fred walked through the house, mounted a horse that was waiting for him, and rode off to freedom. The Indians found out only later that Fred had escaped. I just hope that they did not wait hours and hours.
Grandpa did learn some Comanche words and used them at least on
one occasion. It seems that on one occasion (a civil suit) where as it
proceeded, Grandpa said something to the German-speaking judge.
A rather brash young lawyer broke into the conversations and said:
“Why don’t you speak real American?” Grandpa said some Comanche
Words, and as the young lawyer asked “What was that?” Grandpa simply
stated “That was real American, from the people who were here before
THE CHICAGO FIRE
Grandpa after his “escape”, wandered around for some time, until October 2, 1871, when he heard about the great fire in Chicago.
He left for Chicago immediately knowing that carpenters would be needed after the fire, to build and rebuild. As a carpenter he wanted to save as much money as possible.
Grandpa was a good butcher….and a master carpenter (all of this before he was 23 years old.)
Grandpa stated that he arrived three days after the fire. Did he means after the fire burned itself out, or three calendar days?
He told me that they traveled in those days in “third class”, that is in open “gondolas”, the railroad cars which haul gravel, coal, and similar goods. One prayed for good weather…tried to brave out the rains and cold, and sitting on the floor of the car, trying to take care of health needs and sanitation. The train trip took some 70-80 hours.
1871-1876: Grandpa married to Katharina (Katy) Schuttler in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
1876: my mother (Caroline) was born.
Now comes a good bit of surmise: It seems that after some altercation and perhaps some physical abuse, Katy left him for several years. Someone surmised this was true because the next child was born after four years. But subsequent births of the next children was in two instances 6 years apart.
The Leies family has nine children, and always two or three years between children; never more than three; never less than two.
After 1876, Grandpa moved around quite a bit. Was he a restless young adult? Restless at age 25? Were his skill as butcher and master carpenter so honed that he could find work anywhere?
1876: Grandpa started a butcher shop in Mattison, Illinois (Cook County.)
1878: as a butcher he sold sausage (and processed hides, pigs, and calves.)
1881: he sold the business “family affairs demanded his attention” is the entry in his summary diary.
Here we may surmise that his wife wanted some arrangement of living in Chicago and so he moved back to the city.
1881: Exercising his good skills as a butcher and carpenter, he went into partnership with Gust Resthof on North Avenue fronting Market Street. This partnership lasted two years.
1883: he started a butcher shop alone in Clyborn, south of Sheffield Avenue. He made so much money that he bought a lot on Willow Street, east of Sheffield.
1883: with the help of his brothers, Grandpa started to build a house on the lot on Willow Street.
1884: the house was completed November 1. He started a butcher shop which lasted until 1892. He then started a butcher shop on Western Avenue and Belle Plaines. Times were hard.
1892: Grandpa started a butcher shop on Roscoe and North Lincoln. It lasted till 1895.
1895: he sold the business to a brewery, and had to vacate quickly. He found a furnished house. Times were still hard. The boom after the fire (building and furnishing) was over.
In summary, from 1876 till 1895, Grandpa had moved again and again. Times were hard, and because he had exhausted the thousand and more dollars he had saved. So he went to work and “up-to-date”, worded as a carpenter. I know very little apart from the above last-mentioned item, what his history was.
Grandpa died September 19, 1920. I have no recollection of his funeral, although I was 11 years old at the time.
Previously, (1916 to 1920) Cousin Harold and I played in the attic of 930 Willow Street. The attic was spacious and with a pair of cowboy chaps, we raced around, playing cowboy. And both of us had vivid imaginations.
Grandpa had five children: Caroline, my mother; Lottie who married Mr. Bransford and had one child Thelma. Fred who married Mamie Meyer, George who married Aunt Annie and Frank who married Emily.
Grandpa Eckebrecht was baptized in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. He married Katharina Schuttler in the same church. As much as I know, the other children (my cousins) were raised in the Lutheran church.
The one exception was Caroline (my mother) who was baptized in the Catholic Church prior to her marriage to my father in Ohio. The wedding was in Canton, Ohio and the baptism in Wooster. My uncle Frank, brother of my mother told me several times: “Lena (her name among the family members) sure practiced her religion, to a fine point; but she never pushed her religion on the others in the family. (Frank’s son, Frank Jr. became a Catholic a few years ago after years of praying and assisting at Catholic services with his wife, Jackie.)
SUMMARIES AND IMPRESSION
Writing this history of my Grandfather Eckebrecht has been a real pleasure and challenge. It gave me memories and also surprises.
I had always pictured Grandpa as coming alone to this country alone and aged about 25 or so. And going straight to Chicago.
The Jenny shipping list tells us that he came with his family: parents and siblings. He landed in New York and I presume he went with the family to Ohio. But he is in Chicago within 36 days.
The difference between the Jenny list and the family tree which had puzzled me. Where did Charles come from? And one or more siblings are mentioned only once in the summary-diary.
The activities of Grandpa at the early age of seventeen surprised me. Perhaps we tend to read only into early accounts our present situation where college youth find it hard at the age of 22 to select a major in their studies. I saw Grandpa at 940 Willow Street as quiet, reserved, calm and content to live a life of quiet.
What surprised me also is the fact that Grandpa ventures into the South so soon after the end of the Civil War. But away he went for monotonous work and adventures.
Grandpa’s experiences with the Comanches can so easily be expanded into a rather romantic episode. I surmise that the Comanches needed a butcher and Grandpa came into their lives and they “captured him”. The very fact that they allowed him to visit the nearby German-speaking farmer depicts a mild form of captivity.
The next part is hard for me to write. Interpretation is difficult. But the other evening my sister told me that Grandpa left the family for five years. He started a business in Mattison (Cook County) and then returned to Chicago. It seems Grandpa “raised his hand” to Katharina and she left him, taking along Caroline, my mother. Caroline was only a year old, at most. Note that Grandpa says in his summary – diary: “family affairs demanded my attention.” So he sold the Mattison shop and returned to Chicago. What was the “raised the hand to Katy?” A mere gesture or some physical harm? I write this in the wake of the Simpson verdict and consequent turmoil in the ranks of some women, that physical abuse would not be a strong argument in the courts of law. Katy was a strong woman, coming from a strong family. She would not accept rough treatment without some strong response. And going off and leaving her husband was the answer.
One more “surprise.” I have the accounts of the years up to 1890 or so. What did Grandpa do from 1895 or so until his death in 1920? He was old in the terms of the times but after three decades of moving about, starting new businesses, he was ready to rest.
Katy died before Grandpa did, and we do not have the date of her death at hand. I had heard years back that she died of a massive and sudden heart attack. The long diary would have had some details of the character of Katy showing her stamina and moral strength.
I feel that deep down, Grandpa was a sincere and loving Christian, and had a strong belief in a future life. Persons of his social level often joined “lodges” so that proper burial would be taken care of.
And so we say: “Eternal rest for you, Grandpa, and may your memory flourish. And we will meet in heaven where I will have some pertinent questions to ask of you.”
p.s. You will find some errors in typing the preceding pages. I am in the mid-eighties and taking rather strong cardiac medicine.
THE SUMMARY DIARY EXCERPTS
The following was inserted in Uncle John’s 1995 Grandfather’s biography and also included in Frank Eckebrecht’s family research on their ancestor Fritz:
1961 – About the time of my mother’s funeral, and shortly thereafter, I received some material from Uncle Frank and Aunt Lottie about mother’s parents. I thought that you would appreciate seeing a copy of this material before I return it to Uncle Frank and Aunt Lottie.
Frederick Eckebrecht born January 18, 1848 in Saxon, Germany; passed away September 19, 1920.
Data from the writings (diary) of Mr. Eckebrecht, mother’s father:
“On the 29th of June 1866, after a trip of 87 days on the ocean, I arrived in Chicago on Friday; Monday, I carried brick at Michigan and Clark Street, and did this for two weeks.
Then I got a job as a carpenter for two dollars for ten hours a day. I worked at this until 1868. On the 27th of December, I went to Mississippi; here I worked on a farm planting cotton, brown corn, sweet potatoes, watermelon and oats. At this I worked until the 16th of October 1869.
From Warden Mississippi (Carroll County) I went to New Orleans, and stayed there two days; from New Orleans, I went to Galveston, Texas. I could not get work. From Galveston, I went to Houston, Texas.
From there I was taken along by Indians; I stayed with the Indians till May 28, 1870. I secretly made my escape from the Indians, and came again to Galveston; from there, to New Orleans; from there to Mississippi, and up to Vicksburg. There I worked for four days, on the docks. Then I went by boat to Water Valley, Mississippi.
There I worked for about two days, but could not find any work. I wandered about until October 2, 1871. On the 9th of October 1871, the big Chicago fire took place. I came to Chicago, as three days after the fire, work started and the carpenters all had the work they could do; there was work day and night, and as much money saved as possible, until March 1872.
Upon the request of my father, my brothers and I started to build a house on North Avenue, fronting Orchard Street. As soon as the house was finished, I worked again as much as I could find to do, and worked until Christmas, 1872. Then I got a job in a butcher shop to make sausage, until 1873. Then I worked again as carpenter until fall.
Then the job in the butcher shop was again open for me, making sausage, until March 1874. In April I got the job of selling meat and other articles in the same place. And I stayed there during the next months; I was married on June 13, 1875 to Katy Schuttler, German-American, born in Chicago. I was in the same business until 1877 in January.
Then I started a butcher shop until April 1878. But the butcher business was no good; I could not make any profit from it. Then I again worked at the butcher’s, making sausage, until March 1879.
In April 1879, I started a butcher shop in Matteson, Illinois, and also bought up cows, pigs and calves and hides, as there was not enough to do in the butcher shop.
On account of family affairs, I sold the business and came back to Chicago, in May 1881, and started a partnership with Gust Resthof on North Avenue fronting Market Street, for two years.
In April 1883, I started a butcher shop alone on Clyburn Avenue, south of Sheffield, and I made in a short time so much that I bought a lot on Willow Street, east of Sheffield Avenue.
I started to build a house on this lot. The lot was completed on November 1, 1884. I started a butcher shop in this house, until 1892. Then I started a butcher shop on Roscoe and North Lincoln until 1895.
Then I sold the house so quickly to a brewery that I had to move within ten days. I looked around and found a completed house on North Western Avenue and Belle Plaine Avenue and here I started a butcher shop and grocery. But times were hard and there was no work.
I had a thousand to twelve hundred dollars cash but it was not long and my money was gone, and as I did not want to borrow some customer’s money, and all was gone, from that time I went to work and up to date, have worked as a carpenter.”-End of diary insert.
Unbeknownst to Uncle John there is one more surviving photo of his grandfather. It was the first photo shown. That was of the entire Eckebrecht family a few years after their arrival and after Fritz’s adventures in the Post-War South.
*Uncle John mentions that the Eckebrechts went to Ohio before they got to Chicago. On the Jenny manifest it was clearly stated as Chicago. Frank Eckebrecht researched the family for years with Uncle John. I believe they collaborated on some details. In the lengthy report Uncle John wrote on his other immigrant grandfather there are a few more details of Katy and Fritz’s life together which will be transcribed and shared here at a later date.