Washington County, Illinois

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Ernst Heinrich Schnake Farm
Peithmann and Schnake Families in Illinois

Written & Furnished by : Roscoe E. Peithman

Peithmann and Schnake Families in Illinois

"Ernst Heinrich Schnake Farm"

Ernst Heinrich Schnake (1819-1904) and Luise Brink Schnake (1819-1898) came to the United States from Unterluebbe, Germany, in 1849. They first came to St. Louis, Missouri, and then moved to a farm in Washington County, near New Minden, Illinois.

After about six years they purchased 80 acres in the same county three miles south of Hoyleton, Illinois, from Nicholas Walker. The description of the property is "the N of the NE of Section 35, Township 1 South, Range 2 West of the Third Principal Meridian in Washington County, Illinois." Walker purchased the 80 acres from the U.S. Government on 04/01/1854 for $2.50 an acre, a total of $200. The sale to Heinrich Schnake probably netted Walker a profit.

The land was broken with a plow by Heinrich shortly after moving there. My grandmother, Louisa Schnake Peithmann, told my father that the prairie grass was so tall that one had to be on a horse to see over it. My father said that he was told that they first dug a well and attempted to establish a place for the buildings near the west end of the 80 acres. The well did not produce enough water, so a new well was dug and the buildings were erected on the north side of the property, about halfway between the east and west ends. Temporary structures would have been necessary when they first settled there.

On this property the Schnake family built a house, barn, granary, chicken house, smokehouse and machine shed. The well was lined with limestone, and was located a short distance northeast of the house and not far from the barn. Heinrich and Luise farmed this 80 acres and other land nearby until they retired in about 1891 and moved to the nearby town of Hoyleton.

Schnake/Peithmann Home,
Hoyleton Township, Washington County, Illinois.
circa 1891.
Standing left to right; Hermann, Amelia, Louisa, Lydia, Louis, William, Edward, and Arthur.
Seated; Heinrich and Luise Schnake.

Hermann Peithmann (1838-1920) married Louisa Schnake (1851-1908), daughter of Heinrich and Luise, on May 19, 1869. They first owned and lived on a farm near Nashville, Illinois. This later became the farm of Louis Peithmann, oldest son of Hermann. In 1879, Hermann, Louisa, and their four children moved in with her parents on the Heinrich Schnake farm. By that time, the amount of land owned by the Hermann Peithmann family was considerably more than the 80 acres.

  This photo was taken at the Hermann Peithmann farm home by Florence Peithmann about 1908. Louisa Peithmann, wife of Hermann Peithmann, had died and Hermann's brother, Frederich Peithmann and wife Helen of Sedalia, Missouri, were visiting. Left to right: William (son of Hermann), Frederich, Helen and Hermann Peithmann. The granary is on the left and the barn is on the right. These buildings were built by Heinrich and Luise Schnake soon after they moved here in 1857. About 1922 I helped tear down the barn. The large timbers had been shaped by hand with an adz and wooden pegs had been used to secure them.

Since all of the buildings on the Heinrich Schnake /Hermann Peithmann farm still existed during my early years, I became quite familiar with them. I remember a number of family gatherings in the home prior to the death of Hermann Peithmann (my grandfather) in 1920. Usually these would be on "second" Christmas, December 26. It was a huge "potluck." The families of the seven children probably added up to over 40 people.

Photo taken December 26, 1916 at the farm home of Hermann Peithmann by Florence Peithmann.

Cousins, left to right:
Wilfred, Harlan and Irvin Peithmann, Arthur Hake.

The steam engine provided belt power for the wheat separator and the cordwood saw used on the farm.


I remember the gathering of December 26, 1919, quite well. My brother Elwood was born December 15, 1919 so he would have been only 11 days old. Our cousin Marvin Peithmann was born August 8, 1919 and was five months old. The two were lying on a large bed in the bedroom next to the kitchen, oblivious to all around them. On a table in the kitchen were a number of cakes brought by the families. I was tempted by the delicious looking icing on the cakes and, when I believed no one was looking, I removed some icing from one of them with my finger and tasted it. I suddenly became aware that my cousin, Corrine Hake, had seen me. She whispered in her mother's ear and pointed at me. Her mother put her finger over her lips as if to say, "Forget it." I was still not certain whether or not my mother would discover my indiscretion. I tried to follow the older children who were going out for a walk, but they did not want me with them. So I returned to the house to face whatever might come. Fortunately for me, nothing further happened.

At another time, there was a rabbit hunt at my grandparents' home. For some reason the rabbits had multiplied to such an extent that they were eating forage required by our farm animals. My adult uncles and cousins, armed with shotguns and rifles, did a systematic slaughter of the rabbits. I was too young to help, but I remember the huge piles of rabbits in the yard. They were sold on the St. Louis market, providing a lot of spending money for the young men, ordinarily a scarce item in those days.

My father, Edward Peithmann, bought the 80 acres after the death of my grandfather, Hermann Peithmann, in 1920. After the house was vacated, we children often played there. We would enter the house and go upstairs with some trepidation for fear that someone might be in one of the rooms. Once, after we had climbed on to the roof of the porch, a hobo approached the house. He hadn't seen us and we were frightened. We began singing a song as loudly as we could. He looked up and seeing us, made a hasty retreat.

  Picture taken at the Hermann Peithmann farm by Florence Peithmann Randell about 1920.

Left to right, Helen, Roscoe and Wilbur Peithmann.


The upstairs after my father bought the property was strewn with old newspapers and family letters. I discovered, and still have, several letters from the Peithmann family remaining in Germany. One of these letters appears in a German booklet, AUSWANDERER NACH USA, Hille 1991.This booklet relates the migration of people from Overlubbe, Rothenuffeln and Unterlubbe areas in Germany to Illinois 1864-1872. I had supplied a copy of the letter for display at the 1980 Peithmann Reunion in Stadthagen, Germany and someone had seen fit to include it in the booklet.

In about 1922 we tore down the barn to obtain lumber for an addition to the barn on the Edward H. Peithmann farm. Some of the larger beams were found to be hewn rather than sawed. Wooden pegs were used in places where in later times there would have been iron spikes. The old barn may have been the first building erected, possibly before 1860. It may have served as the shelter for both the family and livestock for a few years, as would have been true in Germany. I once noticed that the vertical boards on a corner of the siding of the house were broken, put back together and painted over. I asked my father why this would be. He replied that I should ask Uncle Will Schnake, son of Heinrich and Luise, who was living there with his parents at the time the house was built. Uncle Will told me the following story. As soon as the house was built it was painted. The painting was completed on a Saturday. The next morning Uncle Will's father told him to drive the horse-drawn vehicle up to the house so that the family could climb in and go to church. Unfortunately, he got too close to the corner of the house and the vertical boards were damaged by a wheel hub. Uncle Will and his brother August knew that their father would be furious. Using a hammer and some ingenuity, they repaired the damaged corner as best they could. The paint was still handy, so they repainted the area. The repair was so well done that their father never noticed. Uncle Will was born in 1850, and if he were about 12 years old at the time, it would mean the house was completed about 1862. This suggests that the family had been living on the farm under rather poor living conditions for some six years.

I have chosen to call this family story "Ernst Heinrich Schnake Farm" since my great-grand parents, Heinrich and Luise Schnake, were the first to live on this farm. During the years here, 1857 to 1891, they raised four children. Their children married and had children and over the years these families visited the Schnake home. My grand parents, Hermann and Louisa Schnake Peithmann, came to live here in 1879 and it soon became the "Hermann Peithmann Farm." They had seven children who married and had children. These families also visited the parents/grand parents over the years. Some seventy persons make up the first four generations starting with Heinrich and Luise Schnake. By the time that the current seventh generation is populated one would expect the number of their descendants to be more than eight hundred.

Louisa Schnake Peithmann died in 1908. The youngest daughter, Florence Peithmann married James Randell on June 20, 1918. I remember going to the annual North Prairie Picnic in May of 1918. Dad, Mother and children went in the surrey. As we drove down our lane we could see James Randell leaving his home in a cart pulled by one horse. My father slowed down so that we could see whether he would pick up Aunt Florence to take her to the picnic. As we headed west towards Huegley we could look back and see James Randell turning into the Hermann Peithmann place. Aunt Florence and James Randell were married shortly after. Hermann Peithmann died on May 25, 1920. He spent several months before his death in the home of his son, Louis Peithmann, near Nashville, Illinois. I visited him there and attended his funeral in the North Prairie Methodist Church. James and Florence Peithmann Randell were the last of the family to live in the Henry Schnake/Hermann Peithmann home. After the death of Hermann Peithmann his land holdings were sold. James and Florence Randell then bought a farm near Tuscola, Illinois and moved there.

I was born February 26, 1913, on my parents' farm which adjoined the Schnake/Peithmann Farm on the south. My father bought the 80 acres after the death of Hermann Peithmann in 1920. My first memories of this place go back to about 1915. After 1920 my family referred to the Schnake/Peithmann farm as the "Old Place." The buildings slowly wasted away. The 80 acres and other land holdings, for a total of some 355 acres belonging to Edward Peithmann, were sold at a public land sale in 1980.

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1. Six Centuries of Peit(h)mann Families from Stadthagen. Commemorative Pamphlet, Family Reunion in Stadthagen, 1980.

2. Wilhelm Meier-Peithmann. Aus der Chronik der Familien Peit(h)mann. Folge 1 (1982), Folge 2 (1983) and Folge 3 (1984). These three booklets are in German. I have English translations of Numbers 1 and 2.

3. Auswanderer Nach USA. Hille 1991. A letter that I discovered in the upstairs of the Schnake-Peithmann home in Hoyleton Township about 1921 appears in this booklet on pages 36 and 37. I still have the original letter.

4. Washington County Illinois, 1979 History. The Historical Society of Washington County, Nashville, Illinois.

Roscoe E. Peithmann, July 4, 2006


See : Obituary of Ernst Heinrich "Henry" Schnake




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