CHARLES SUMNICHT, who owns
a valuable and desirable farm of 160 acres in Hartland township, Shawano
county, was born in Prussia, Germany, August 11, 1836, and is a son of
Johan Sumnicht, a roofer, of that country, who supported his family by
In the spring of 1853, with his wife and four children, the father
sailed for America, hoping thereby to benefit his financial condition.
They embarked at Hamburg for Hull, England, but at Liverpool were delayed
for about two weeks owing to a government examination of the vessel, and
so boarded the "Concordia," which after a voyage of eight weeks reached
Quebec. Their destination was Watertown, Wis., and they made their way
to Chicago, where they took a boat for Milwaukee; but in making the trip
to that city the father died of cholera, which was then raging, the mother
only a few days before having died of the same disease in Detroit. The
four children were thus left utterly alone in a strange land, unable to
speak a word of English, and their condition was certainly a pitiable one.
They continued with a party to Watertown, and, though undergoing many hardships
in those early days; they at length reached mature years, and are now highly
respected and prominent people. Wilhelmina is the widow of
Carl Wussow, of Hartland township; Louisa is the wife of William Koerner,
who lives at Rolling Prairie station, near Beaver Dam, Wis.; and Frederika
is the wife of John Cook, of Hartland township.
On reaching Watertown, Wis., our subject secured work with a
Mr. Christian, who had formerly worked for his father in Germany, and thus
spent his first winter in America. In the spring he secured work with Hiram
Sawyer, a farmer of Rolling Prairie, with whom he remained three years,
working for his board in the winter time in order that he might attend
school. He made good progress at his studies, and today is a well-informed
man. In 1856 he came to Shawano county, walking the entire distance from
Appleton to Bonduel, where at that time lived only two families.
The State road to Green Bay had just been laid out, but the work was not
completed, and he secured employment with the surveying party engaged in
its construction. After two months he removed to Mayville, Dodge
Co., Wis., walking to New London, and then going on by boat, the "Wolf,"
commanded by Capt. Lynch, to Oshkosh. In December, 1856, he attended a
land sale at Madison and purchased extensive tracts.
In 1857 Mr. Sumnicht started with a party of eight for Pike's
Peak, attracted by the discovery of gold, and journeyed over the plains
with an ox-team, which at Fort Kearney, Neb., was sold to the Mormons then
en route for Utah. With the proceeds of the sale the party
purchased flour, then walked to Omaha, and returned to St. Louis by government
boats engaged in carrying provisions for troops on the western frontier.
From St. Louis Mr. Sumnicht went to Chicago, and arrived in Wisconsin during
the harvest season of 1858. He worked as a harvest hand hear Mayville on
the large farm of D. Puls, who that year threshed 1800 bushels of wheat,
all cut with cradles. In the fall he came to Shawano, and secured work
in getting out timber for a bridge. One of his fellow workmen was M. H.
McCord, now a member of Congress. Returning to Dodge county, Wis., in the
spring of 1859, Mr. Sumnicht worked as a farm hand near Oak Grove, but
later in the year pre-empted land in Section 8, Hartland township, Shawano
county, and in 1860, when the homestead law came into effect, went to the
land office in Menasha, Wis., where he secured a title to his property.
He had been closely watching for the passage of the homestead law, and
was among the first to apply at the land office for a title. With the aid
of others he opened a road to Shawano, and began improving his heavily
timbered land. In the fall of 1859 the township was organized,
and in 1860 the first election was held in the home of Mr. Parks in Section
16. Mr. Sumnicht erected upon his farm a small log house with a board roof,
and the next year shaved shingles to cover it. In the spring of 1861 he
brought to the little home his bride, having on the 5th of May, 1861, in
Herman township, Dodge county, married Augusta Zimmel, a native of Germany.
The pioneer cabin was brightened by the presence of several children, and
the family now numbers the following: William, at home; Bertha, wife of
William Ebert, of Washington township, Shawano county; Charles, Emma, Frank,
Albert and Henry, all under the parental roof.
Mr. Sumnicht continued the cultivation of his farm until 1870,
when he removed to Shawano. He now has 160 acres of rich land, ninety
of which are under a high state of cultivation, and the place is improved
with many good buildings which stand as monuments to the thrift and enterprise
of the owner. In 1868 he was elected register of deeds, and when re-elected
moved into the city. He was again in public office from 1884
until 1890, being elected county clerk by the Republican party, of which
he has long been a stalwart member. He has also acceptably filled many
township offices, having been township clerk, treasurer and justice of
the peace, while for nineteen consecutive years he was supervisor. Both
he and his wife are members of the Lutheran Church, and he has also been
one of its officials.
Mr. Sumnicht began life in the United States with a capital of
$10, and today is numbered among the substantial citizens of the community,
a position to which he has attained entirely through his own efforts. He
established the post office at Bonduel in 1863, and was its first postmaster,
receiving a salary of $10 per year. Its object was to furnish a means of
more quickly securing news from the soldiers who were at the front. He
resigned, at the close of the war. Mr. Sumnicht has a very wide acquaintance
in Shawano county, and is one of its most highly respected and honored
citizens, whose life has been an exemplary one and should serve as a source
of encouragement and inspiration to others.