According to the 2020 census data, the little village of Thayer, Nebraska now has a population of 44, and most of them are of German heritage. A short article on Wikipedia says the most notable person from Thayer was Steve Henson, the inventor of ranch dressing. Today, you will read the story of some other past residents of Thayer. I consider them notable, first of all, because the man was born in Altenburg, Missouri. Secondly, their surname was Schmidt (no relation).
Paul Gotthilf Schmidt is today’s birthday boy. He was born on March 25, 1885, the son of Jacob and Sarah (Schmidt) Schmidt. Yes, that means Paul was the product of a Schmidt/Schmidt marriage. A short post was written about Paul’s parents back in 2016 titled, Schmidt nee Schmidt. Paul had some relatively famous siblings. Judge Adolph Schmidt and the well-know Schmidt Twins were older brothers of Paul, who was child #10 out of 11 born into this Schmidt family. Like all the others, Paul was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. We can view an image of his baptism record below.
Paul was already baptized and confirmed before he appears in a census since we cannot view the 1890 census. In 1900, he was 14 years old. His mother had died in 1894, so we see his father as a widower who was farming in the Brazeau Township. Paul was working on his father’s farm.
That census would turn out to be the only one in which we find Paul living in Missouri. When the 1910 census was taken, we find him living in Beemer, Nebraska. He was part of what looks like a Louis Rocke household. Several of the members of that household were born in Missouri, but I was unable to connect them to Perry County. Paul was a clerk for a general merchandise store, and the head of the household was a merchant, so Paul probably worked for him. I found no evidence that Paul was ever involved in farming after his time in Altenburg.
That area of Nebraska is where Paul found his bride. In a previous post, Bergt & Panning Store – Altona, NE, it was told that another character, Gottfried Bergt, who had spent some of his childhood in Perry County where his father was a pastor, had married Mary Panning in 1891. Paul would end up marrying a much younger sister of Mary whose name was Anna Dorothy Panning. Anna was born on November 2, 1887, the daughter of Henry and Meta (Meyer) Panning. I can show you a photo taken of Anna’s parents.
I cannot resist showing you another more casual photo of the above couple taken with a horse and buggy.
When the 1900 census was taken, we find Anna at the age of 12 living in Hooper, Nebraska where her father was a farmer. By this time, Anna’s sister, Mary, was married and her husband established a store along with F.G. Panning in Altona, Nebraska. F.G. was Anna’s brother.
The 1910 census indicates that Anna, the youngest in her family, was the only child still living with her parents. At that time, she was 22 years old.
The map below shows some of the locations that will be mentioned in this tale so you can keep track of the various settings that will be discussed. Altona is quite near Beemer.
Paul Schmidt married Anna Panning in 1912, although I cannot pin down an exact date. There is a collection of Nebraska marriage licenses on Ancestry.com, but it only goes up to the year, 1908. What I did find was an index of Nebraska weddings that includes both Paul and Anna, but it only lists the year, 1912. The numbers associated with these two in this document give us confidence that these two were indeed getting married to each other in 1912.
Before I leave the Hooper area, let me show you a photograph taken of the Panning home with some of the Panning’s standing in front. One of them is supposedly Anna.
In 1918, Paul had a World War I draft registration completed. His address is given as Thayer, Nebraska, and his employer was the Bowersock Brothers.
All indications are that Paul and Anna had two children. When the 1920 census was taken, we find those 2 children in their household, a boy and a girl. It shows the Schmidt’s living in Thayer where Paul was the manager of a lumber yard. At this point, let me tell you that the German word for lumber is holz. That helps explain today’s title.
The 1930 census for the Schmidt’s can be potentially confusing. There is an Everett Hicks that appears to be part of their household, and he is called a son. But there is also a note that says he belongs in the Hicks household shown just above the Schmidt’s on that page. Paul is once again called a lumberman.
The Schmidt’s are next found in the 1940 census with an empty nest.
In 1942, Paul had a World War II draft card completed. This document says Paul was employed by the Joyce Lumber Company in Omaha, which looks as if it had a branch store in Thayer.
I found this photo of the Joyce Lumber Company building in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is just across the Missouri River from Omaha.
There is evidence that the Schmidt’s were members of Zion Lutheran Church in Thayer. I found photos of that church, both the exterior and the interior. The altar, pulpit, and lectern look very similar to the ones we have in our museum that once were part of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg. Those 2 churches were established at about the same time.
The last census we can view is the one taken in 1950. Living in their household were two female teachers, one of which says she was a parochial school teacher. I am thinking that she was teaching at Zion’s Lutheran school. I found a Viola Ehlers who was living in Seward, Nebraska in the 1940 census, where her father was a farmer.
Anna Schmidt died in 1979 at the age of 91; Paul Schmidt died in 1982 at the age of 97. These two are buried together in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Thayer.
I have to wonder if there were times over the years when Paul and Anna made trips back to Perry County to visit relatives and friends. Or did any of the Perry County Schmidt’s ever make the trip to Thayer, Nebraska to visit Paul and Anna. Maybe our docent, Ray Schmidt, who comes out of that Schmidt/Schmidt family could tell us whether he remembers such a trip or visit.