Lee County Biography

Matthias Schick
09 November 1813 - 07 October 1888

Matthias Schick was born in the little village of Hergersweiler, near the market town of Lindau, Bavaria, early in November, 1813. The family consisting of a son Mathias and a daughter Esther, were in humble circumstances. There is no record of his father's first name, family or occupation [note: see below]. The mother's maiden name was Trout (or Trouth). Her brother was the father of John and Englehard Trout.

Matthias' parents kept a sort of traveler's rest where pedestrians or travelers walking from place to place (there were no other means of conveyance in those days among the poorer classes) were in the habit of stopping at the humble wayside cottage and indulging in a glass of wine and a cake, and a short rest before proceeding on their way.

The boy was sent to school, or the village school master, as the custom was in those days. At an early age he was apprenticed to the village blacksmith to learn the trade, with little or no compensation. Here he found no pathway of roses, as it seems the wife of his master also made use of his services in various ways. One incident I often heard him mention, that was very amusing, and he often laughed heartily when relating it. The mistress sent him and her young son to a distant village to get some milk crocks for her. The boys carried the heavy crocks back home, and were rewarded with a tongue lashing because the crocks were not the same shape and style she wanted to match hers. Young Matthias repaid her the cost of the crocks from his own slender purse, and calling her son, John, they gathered up their crocks and went out near a large grindstone that stood in the yard. Taking up a crock he let it fly at the grindstone. "Now, John, you try one," and so turn about the boys demolished the lot. The woman looked on in amazement, but was told that it was their own property to be disposed of as they saw fit. She was silenced as she saw the force of the argument.

After completing his term of service, he traveled about and worked at his trade as a journeyman for a time, until he realized that the time was approaching when he would be called upon for military service. Not relishing this thought, with two of his companions, he obtained permission to go into France. So crossing the Rhine over to Strasburg where they saw the sights of the city, and visited the Grand Cathedral with the wonderful clock, ascended the tower inside as far as possible and then on the outside to the top, where they had a fine view of the country and the distant homeland they had left behind. An irresistible longing seized them to retrace their steps and have one more glass of their beloved Bavarian beer. The authorities picked them up, but as they had their permits to go into France they were only detained until the following day, when they again set out and did not stop until they reached the French seaport of Havre, where they embarked and sailed for America. This was in 1830. When the authorities learned that he had left the country to avoid military service, his share of the little homestead was sold and the proceeds placed in the village treasury.

After he, Matthias, left home, his father was taken ill one night and died the following day, and as a neighbor had also been killed in a clay pit, the two bodies were buried in one common grave.

Of the father's ancestors, nothing is known, not even their names. One however, was a sort of commissary agent who bought grain and sold it to the French army, and had many vouchers signed by Napoleon, in the saddle. But because of the fact that he was selling supplies to the French Army, his family had the idea that he was sympathizing with the enemy and would have nothing to do with him. He was taken ill and died among strangers, who got the vouchers and drew the money, and the family was thus rewarded for their prejudice. Two uncles also left home and were supposed to have gone to America, but who they were or what their names were, there is no record, but it is very possible that their descendants may be scattered about this country. His sister married Jacob Hey in Germany (a brother of Henry Hey) who was a well-to-do stock raiser, in 1850, at the solicitation of his brother (who had preceded him) he came to America with his family and located at Syracuse, New York. The widowed mother came with them. The Hey family consists of six girls and one boy. The oldest girl married Christian Cook; the next, Henry Kuhn; the next F. Wolf; the next John Rector; the fifth, to John McClure; the sixth and the only son died unmarried. Owing to the perfidy of his brothers, Jacob lost his all, and died at the age of seventy-eight. His widow followed him after the deaths of the son and unmarried daughter. At this writing all have passed away except Mrs. Henry Kuhn (a widow), and Mrs. John Rector who still live in Syracuse with their families. Jacob Hey, the son John, and the mother rest in the Cook family plot in beautiful Oakwood, while Grandmother Schick and the unmarried daughter rest in the Kuhn lot in the same cemetery.

We will now return to our three young men who set sail from Havre. After a long tedious voyage, in a sailing vessel, of several weeks, the party landed at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, almost penniless and strangers in a strange land, unable to speak the language. In the year 1832 they divided their slender means for their mutual benefit after working at whatever they could find to do. Matthias at length got employment at his trade, but being unable to attend school, he tried in every way to learn the language of his adopted country. While standing at the forge, and bellows, he studied his book as it lay before him. Also, he secured board in an English speaking family and as he was brought up in the faith of the Lutheran Church, he attended English services and thus, in every way, tried to gain a knowledge of the English language. After a time he entered into partnership with a Mr. Pickering, and so set up in business for themselves, continuing for some time in this way until finally he bought his partner's interest and carried on the business alone. Owing to the absence of dates, I can only estimate that soon after this he formed the acquaintance of Elizabeth O'Brist, the daughter of a Swiss carver and toy maker, whom he afterwards married. (She had been employed in a cigar factory and had learned the trade.) As time passed, three children were born to them, two sons and a daughter--Mathias A, the oldest, then John William, who died in infancy, and later Anna Elizabeth.

Owing to the fact that some of the older O'Brist children were married and located in Illinois (in those days considered away beyond nowhere) this little family was induced to emigrate also, to the unknown land and seek a new home there. So in the fall of 1842 they left Philadelphia with Father and Mother O'Brist accompanying them. The only railroad was from Philadelphia to New York City, from there they sailed up the Hudson to Albany, then on the Erie Canal across New York state to Buffalo and by lake boat to Chicago, (a mud hole), thence about one hundred miles overland by wagon to Sugar Grove, Lee County (about seven miles west of Dixon, the county seat of Lee County) on a forty acre tract of virgin prairie land, adjoining the farm of William Miller who was the husband of one of the older daughters of the O'Brist family. Here a log cabin was built, with the help of two brothers, Dan and Abram O'Brist, whose farm adjoined the Miller farm on the east. A small stream ran through the lumber section of this farm, called Sugar Creek (from the maple trees in the woods). On this creek the O'Brist brothers had a rude primitive sawmill with the perpendicular, instead of the circular saw. The material for the log cabin to be built on the prairie a mile away was all prepared in this grove and mill which when completed sheltered the family and weathered the storms from 1842 to 1867, twenty-five years--when it gave way to a more pretentious modern frame dwelling which still stands, though its builders, and all but three members of that original family have passed away.

But to go back--the pioneers endured the hardship of Western frontier life, a shop was built at the foot of the hill, on what was later the lower part of the garden, and the sound of the anvil of the village blacksmith was heard, but there was no village or "spreading Chestnut tree" or trees of any kind, not even a bush or as he often stated, one could not find a switch to "drive a horse with." There were neighbors, few and far between it is true. The land was placed under cultivation along with the smithy. The family increased--after Anna came Henry, who died in infancy, then Emanual, who died in 1864, while with Sherman in his march from Atlanta to the sea, and who rests with thousands of his comrades in the National Cemetery at Marietta, Georgia. Then came Theodore, who in his new home in Nebraska passed away in 1881, then Charlie, George and lastly, William H.

The Miller farm was finally sold to E. Fisk (later to F. Klosterman) and a larger one purchased three miles away.

In those days, the nearest market was Chicago and farmers drew their grain there, 100 miles away. The grain was in sacks and several wide boards were also carried along. When the loaded wagon became struck in marshy land or mud holes the boards were placed on the most available spot. The sacks of grain were piled on the boards and the empty wagon drawn out, reloaded and the trip resumed. This was repeated more than once. Later, it was evident as the country settled, that it would be a good plan to have some fruit orchard and shade trees, and ornamental shrubs. So Grandfather Schick engaged in the nursery business. He obtained a good stock of various fruit and shade trees, from Buffalo, New York, and for several years carried on quite an extensive trade, met with some reverses as the stock was winter killed by the bleak winds and frost. I can still remember something of the trees, honey bees, fruits, flowers and vegetables that were sold in Dixon and Sterling from my earliest childhood.

Of Grandfather O'Brist and Grandmother I have no knowledge, only I have heard that Grandfather was struck by a runaway team in the streets of Dixon and died the following day.

Although Grandfather Schick had no English school advantages he mastered the language so well that his speaking was almost devoid entirely of foreign accent, and his penmanship was more legible than that of any of his children. His judgment and language were so favorably accepted that he was elected and served for several years as Justice of the Peace, as well as director on the School Board. His character and reputation were those of an honest man and he was respected by all who knew him. Though a German and accustomed to beer and wine he denied himself--as he said to obtain them he would be obliged to visit a drinking place, so he would rather go without.

In April 1875 his faithful life partner passed away, at the age of fifty-seven--left alone. After three years he again married and ten years later at the age of seventy-five years he passed away and was laid to rest among his old friends and neighbors in the village cemetery, in Prairieville, Illinois.

These notes are all from memory, as I have heard them in fragments as there are no written records of any kind.

Grandmother Schick's name was Salena, Saloma, or perhaps Sarah in German. Father of Matthias, Sr. was named John.

Added in 1924:


Mathias A Schick; born October 24, 1840; died February 18, 1910; buried East Jordan near Sterling, Illinois.
Anna Elizabeth Burger; born February 28, 1842; died May 31, 1901; buried East Jordan near Sterling, Illinois.
Emanual Schick; born 1845; died August 7, 1864; buried National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia.
Theodore Schick; born May 20, 1849; died August 9, 1881; buried Brownville, Nebraska.
Charles B Schick; born January 11, 1851; died April 27, 1923; buried Sterling, Illinois.
George W Schick; born January 5, 1853; died October 11, 1918; buried Marshalltown, Iowa.
William H Schick; born June 21, 1855; died December 15, 1923; buried Syracuse, New York."

Contributed by Charlotte Carter Schick:
(The above biographical sketch of Matthias Schick was written by Carrie Schick George. She was the daughter of Matthias Abraham Schick and Mary Senn. She was a granddaughter of Matthias Schick and Elizabeth Obrist. When her father died, 18 February 1910, she was listed in his newspaper obituary as Mrs. Alfred George of Kankakee, Illinois. She not only wrote down her memories of her grandfather but she passed copies of them to other family members. Her younger first cousin, Mary Leona Schick, a daughter of Charles Brunner Schick and Pantha Hayward Barrett, saved Carrie’s work and passed it along to us and other family members. Without the work of these two ladies most, if not all, of what we know about our Schick, Barrett, and Obrist ancestors may well have been lost forever. Additionally, through research done in the records at the Family History Library and also by a professional German researcher, we have been able to trace back and verify another four generations of Schick ancestors behind Matthias Schick.]

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