In 1871, one year before Eau Claire formally became a city, Herman and Augusta Schlegelmilch built a new house in downtown Eau Claire. The home was built of brick in the hopes of surviving the numerous fires that ravaged the "sawdust city" in that time. This was especially important to them since Herman's hardware store had recently been destroyed by fire. Their idea was sound.
Today the Schlegelmilch House is preserved by the Chippewa Valley Museum as an example of a middle-class, turn-of-the-century home. It is filled with furnishings from the earliest days of its long history, including some items belonging to the Schlegelmilch family.
As little more than a lad, Herman Schlegelmilch learned gun-making at the famous rifle factory in his hometown of Suhl, Germany. At 17 he left home and took off across the country, working in Bromberg, Hamburg, Mageburg, and Luebeck, before leaving for the United States in 1853.
Meanwhile, Augusta Krueger had boarded the first steamboat ever to sail from Hamburg to America with her half-brother Adolfold and his wife, Nannie. She and Herman were on the waters of the Atlantic at the same time, although they didn't know each other.Augusta, Adolfold, and Nannie settled in Watertown. Later, she wanted to support herself, so she worked at light housekeeping and plain sewing in Milwaukee. But, in the late 1850s she was keeping house for her brother Ferdinand in Beaver Dam.After Herman reached these shores, he persued his trade in New York, Bethlehem, Pa., and Chicago. Then he moved to Beaver Dam and started his own business. Herman and Augusta met in Beaver Dam. They married in March 1858.After a short stint in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, they moved to Eau Claire in October 1860 Herman built a gun shop and hardware store at 217 South Barstow.The first year they lived in Eau Claire, Herman's gross income was $360. He spent $60 out of this for materials and the family saved $60. He often opened his store at 6 a.m. and stayed open until 10 or 11 at night. Much of his trade was with farmers from out-oftown who would travel all day by wagon to Eau Claire. If they spent the night, they would often leave their purchases with Herman for safekeeping, and he would open the store at 4 a.m. so they could pick up their goods and be on their ways. He had a reputation for unimpeachable honesty and integrity.
Herman's brick store proved instrumental in stopping a disasterous fire that raged through downtown Eau Claire in May 1869. Their house was not so lucky. It burned and they nearly lost their baby, Herman Frederick. (Altogether, Augusta had seven children.) After they rebuilt, at 517 South Farwell Herman added a brick wing on the Farwell Street side. Daughter Louise added the other brick wing in 1906. Life had taught the Schlegelmilch family: Build with brick.
Bio courtesy of: http://www.cvmuseum.com/hermanaugusta.html
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