Today we say, “Happy Birthday” to Theodore Heinrich Kassel who was born on June 5th 128 years ago in 1889. His most notable accomplishment in Perry County was as the owner and operator of the Frohna Machine Shop. I wish I was at home to get some local input for this story because there are plenty of people there who could help me. So if I make any mistakes in telling this story, please add your comments and correct me. Here is a photo of the Frohna Machine Shop.
But first, let’s discuss some family trees. In 1914, Theodore married Dorothea (Dora) Mueller at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. Both Theodore and Dora were born and raised in Uniontown and attended Grace Lutheran. Here is the wedding photo of Theodore and Dora.
Theodore was the son of Christian and Sulamith (Hopfer) Kassel. Here is a photo of the Christian Kassel family.
My best guess is that Theodore and Dora are shown at the far left, holding a child in her lap.
Dora was the daughter of Gottfried and Ida (Landgraf) Mueller. Gottfried’s father was the Christoph Mueller who was the subject of the recent post, Christoph in the Cavalry, Ida died in 1903, and Gottfried then married Martha Telle. This is where this family crosses a path with mine. The first child born to Gottfried and Martha was Frieda Mueller, who eventually married my father’s half-brother, George Loebs. She was my Aunt Frieda, and she was a sweetheart of a woman. Here are photos of both of Christian Mueller’s weddings. Ida Landgraf is on the left; Martha Telle on the right.
In 1917, Theodore registered for the draft during World War I, but I do not think he was called to serve.
I do know that his brother, Arthur, did serve some time in the military, and I am guessing he is the one in the above Kassel family photo who appears to be wearing a uniform.
After having a stillborn baby in 1915, Theodore and Dora had five children, four boys and a girl. This photo shows the Kassels with three of their children. Lillian and Norbert are in the back and Vernon is sitting between his parents in the front.
Several years before his marriage, Theodore began working at the Frohna Machine Shop which was owned by Theo Bachmann. It is said that he worked a whole year as an apprentice without pay in order to learn the business. Then in 1911, he and his brother Charles bought the business. One year later, Charles sold his share of the business, making Theodore the sole owner. In 1919, his brother Arthur returned from serving in the military during World War I and joined the business. Arthur was the salesman and Theodore the mechanic.
The Frohna Machine Shop served this area during that time when the transition was being made to tractors on local farms. It provided a place to buy equipment and parts, and to get that equipment serviced. Later, as automobiles came into more common use, the Frohna Machine Shop started selling and maintaining them too. This is a photo of the interior of the Frohna Machine Shop taken in the 1930’s.
When Arthur Kassel married Magdalena Oberndorfer in 1921, that eventually brought some Oberndorfers into the business also. You also see Tommy Petzoldt, the founder of East Perry Lumber Company, in this picture. The development of the Frohna Machine Shop and East Perry Lumber Company were related to each other, but that will have to be a story for another day.
Here is another photo taken outside the machine shop, also in the 1930’s.
This picture shows McCormick Deering cream separators that had just been delivered.
Business must have been very good because sometime in the 1930’s, a second location was located in Perryville, and it was managed by Arthur.
In 1942, the Frohna Machine Shop became incorporated. Sometime around 1950, this business began selling Buicks. Over the years, several Kassel brothers and sons, as well as several Oberndorfers, were employed by the Frohna Machine Shop. It is one a several examples we see in the history of East Perry County where good, hard work and entrepreneurship led to very successful businesses.