ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


“Ideals are like the stars:

we never reach them,

but like the mariners of the sea,

we chart our course by them.”


- Carl Schurz, American statesman



Carl Schurz,

German American


Carl Schurz, one of the most celebrated German Americans, was born on March 2, 1829, in Liblar near Cologne, and died on May 14,1906, in New York. In 1929, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Germany's Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann characterized him in the following way:


"Carl Schutz managed to combine his love for Germany with a loyalty to his American homeland in a marvelous unity reflecting the striving of his great personality which, here as well as there, was concerned with profound moral goals that are not restricted to a single nation, but apply to all mankind."


 While a student in Bonn, Schurz joined what would become the German revolutionary movement of 1848. He participated in the rebellions in the Rhineland, the Palatinate and in Baden. After the defeat at Rastatt, Schurz escaped via Strasbourg to Switzerland, and later to Paris and London. From there he shipped out in the fall of 1852 to New York, along with his wife, settling in 1854 as a farmer in Watertown, Wisconsin, where he gained admittance to the bar to practice law.


 He became a dedicated supporter of the still young Republican Party and campaigned for Lincoln in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin. After the election, President Lincoln appointed him U.S. envoy to Spain. The first defeats of the Union Army in the Civil War occasioned his return to play an active part as Union general in the war against the Confederacy and the struggle for the emancipation of the slaves. 


After the devastating war had ended, leaving 600,000 dead, Schurz returned to civilian life, working as Washington correspondent for the New York Tribune, then as editor-in-chief of the Detroit Post and after l867 as co-editor and part owner of the German-language Westliche Post in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1869, he was elected U.S. senator by his new home state. Thus at the age of forty, only sixteen years after arriving in America as a homeless fugitive, Carl Schurz became a member of his adopted country's highest legislative body, an institution often more powerful than the president in those days.

As secretary of the interior under President Rutherford B. Hayes from 1877 to 1881, Schurz had the opportunity to begin his long championed civil service reform and make improvements in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


He then moved to New York City, where he helped found the New York Evening Post. From 1892 to 1898 Schurz wrote the editorials for Harper's Weekly. He became nationally famous as a political writer and reformer, especially in the field of civil service administration.


During extensive lecture tours and new journalistic endeavors after his service in the Cabinet Schurz continued


He died in New York on May 14, 1906. In addition to his collected speeches, books written by Schurz include Life of Henry Clay (2 vol., 1887) and Abraham Lincoln: An Essay (1891).


Some of his quotes:


 "Our ideals resemble the stars, which illuminate the night. No one will ever be able to touch them. But the men who, like the sailors on the ocean, take them for guides, will undoubtedly reach their goal."


 "My Country! When right keep it right; when wrong, set it right!"  


Senator Carl Schurz addressing rally in Cincinnati

Image from an 1872 issue of German magazine "Über Land und Meer"

Carl Schurz was born in 1829, near Cologne, in Liblar, Germany, to parents who were the local school master and daughter of the "tenant in chief" to the Wolf Mettemich feudatories.  He was born under feudalism, living in a "chateau" or castle, surrounded by a moat.


His school master father had a library full of Schiller, Goethe, and Shakespeare, and told him that "George Washington was the greatest man who ever lived." His father read Schiller's poems to him, as well as G. E. Lessing's Nathan the Wise. The boy became an expert pianist, who later performed for Lincoln, Hayes, and other Presidents.


Thus, Schurz was still a "teenager" when the 1848 revolutions broke out, and he followed his teacher, Gottfried Kinkel, into "battle", or such that the aborted "revolution" could be characterized, even though it was more a disjointed protest against the relic of feudalism which still ruled Germany, but was crumbling everywhere.


Schurz gained fame in revolutionary circles when he rescued his teacher/ leader from prison, and led him into exile into London by 1851. There he met with all the other revolutionaries, including Mazzini, and even led a German delegation welcoming the Hungarian Kossuth into his British (later Italian) exile.


Soon, however, he followed the other "48ers" to America, migrating to Watertown, Wisconsin because of relatives having settled there. While most Germans had gravitated towards the Democratic Party, and about 1 million Germans left for America in the 1850's, the '48ers started a new trend to support the Whig Party, and later the Republican party, because of its more anti-slavery stance.


Schurz led this trend in Wisconsin, and fast became a leading orator of the new formed Republican Party, traveling to Illinois in 1858 to see the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln was already subsidizing a local German paper there, realizing the importance of weaning the German-Americans away from the Democratic Party. Schurz became dedicated to Lincoln for the rest of his short life.


Meanwhile, Schurz and his wife created a cultural storm in the prairie wilderness of Wisconsin, performed operas, holding concerts, and even forming a new movement started by Frederic Froebel in Germany, as they created a "kindergarten" in Watertown, Wisconsin. However, Schurz also had a lifelong romantic fling with Wagnerian operas and music, which showed the destructive force of this cultural rebellion in European Enlightenment.


Schurz became the major German American orator for Lincoln's 1860 election campaign, and swung enough German voters into the Republican Party to win that election. Lincoln was very grateful, and showed his respect by showing Schurz his Inaugural Address before he left Springfield for Washington in late 1860. After the inauguration, Lincoln appointed Schurz to Ambassador of Spain; he only served there a short time, but quickly told Lincoln that he could win over Europe with an Emancipation Proclamation, which would make the main issue of the war the abolition of slavery.


Lincoln did issue this proclamation after the "victory" at Antietam, actually a draw, but it repelled Lee from the North until Gettysburg. Lincoln did this before Congressional elections of 1862, which cost him some Republican seats in Congress, but won him enough European support to counteract British aid for the Confederacy.


Shortly, thereafter, Schurz returned to fight as a Brigadier General to lead the huge number of German Troops in the Army of the Potomac. He was attached to General Fremont's corps, whose staff officers were colorfully garbed Hungarian 1848ers! He maintained an impetuous correspondence with President Lincoln, who respected him enough to answer his tactless questions about military strategy, including several White House visits.


Soon the German corps were caught up the battle of Gettysburg, where one artillery unit near Culp's Hill held off desperate Confederate flanking attacks: one Southern officer reached the guns and declared, "This Battery is ours!" while a German trooper speared him with a shaft, and yelled, "Nein, dis battery ist unser!"


German artillery units then mowed down Pickett's last charge with devastating fire, while the Yankee lines broke out with victorious sounds of "John Brown's Body" to the retreating confederates.


In 1864, Schurz again rallied the German American vote for Lincoln. However, Lincoln's death left him and many Americans without sound leadership, and he was soon embroiled in the bitter impeachment of President Johnson. He toured the South to document trampled civil rights and reconstruction, and his Congressional Testimony was reprinted in 100,000 copies.


In 1868, Schurz traveled back to Germany as an American Icon, and Bismarck greeted him with a private hour and half interview, followed by more conversation at dinner. When some North German jurists and Privy Counselors attended the dinner, they did not recognize Schurz, until Bismarck introduced him to his former enemies, much to their discomfort.


Schurz asked Bismarck why he did not attack France right after he routed the Austrians in 1866, and Bismarck told him that he had not consolidated South German support yet, and to defeat France then would require raising of Hungarian troops, which was anathema to the Austrian Hapsburgs! However, this shows confirmation that the Hungarians were working closely with Bismarck against Austria, which resulted in the 1867 compromise by Austria allowing home rule by the Hungarians who had rebelled in 1848, and defeated Austria on the battlefield until Russia intervened.


Meanwhile, back in the United States, the Grant Administration had poured millions of dollars into northern internal improvements, while the Democratic Party vetoed all monies to the occupied South, which remained prostrate while the Northern industrial revolution boomed. This untenable situation was exploited by various "scandals" such as Credit Mobilier in order to split the Republican party asunder. This resulted in the great "compromise of 1877", after the Tilden/Hayes election, which seated Hayes in the disputed White House in return for withdrawing all Federal troops from the south, thus ending "reconstruction."


Schurz returned to America to become a St. Louis German paper editor, and then a Senator from Missouri, where he vigorously opposed New York (GOP) Senator Roscoe Conkling (Wall Street Agent) in hearings on arms sales during the Franco Prussian war. However, while Senator he also broke completely with the Grant Administration, and James Blaine, in particular.


Subsequently, Schurz was in and out of the GOP, leaving in 1872 to support Greeley on the Third Party ticket, returning to elect Hayes in 1876, and become Secretary of the Interior, thence supporting Garfield in 1880, but slipping away again when Arthur replaced the assassinated Garfield, and appointed Conkling to the Supreme Court.


Thereafter, he left elected and appointed office for good, reestablishing himself as a journalist with Henry Villard's Nation.  He became a leader of national civil service reform, which was a catch all of Wall Street agents and anti-silver populists. He disliked Blaine so much he supported Grover Cleveland in 1884, although the defection of New York's Conkling, who hated Blaine with a Wall Street venom, may have done more damage to Blaine, than Schurz did with the German American voters.


However, Schurz did come back to his senses when he saw various oligarchical currents revive anti-Semitism in Europe and anti-black racism in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, submerged under the cover of renewed "imperialism". On this issue he broke with Theodore Roosevelt completely, and organized an Anti-Imperialism League in America in the last years of his life, which ended in 1906.


Interestingly, a fact missed by Schurz's latest biographer, Hans Trefousse, a Brooklyn College Professor, is that Governor Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin, who was the national leader of the Lincoln Insurgents in the GOP at the turn of the Century, feted Carl Schurz in Wisconsin in June, 1905 by endowing a Carl Schurz Professorship at the University of Wisconsin.

Schurz addressed LaFollette in Madison, Wisconsin by saying:


"I am so happy to know that what I have been striving for all my life has been taken up by a younger man. Go on with the good work, Governor, do not lose courage, and may God bless you. "

Authored and contributed by:

Glenn Mesaros

Minneapolis, MN

[ Address added with permission of the author ]


1854       CARL SCHURZ ARRIVES IN WATERTOWN (via Plank Road)

Going west to St. Louis, Schurz wrote: "I am taking a lot of notes and having many experiences which will come in handy. I am more and more convinced that we should be on easy street here in a couple of years. . . ." So it seems he was positively bent on getting rich quickly. When he reached Chicago on his return trip he found letters from his uncle, Jacob Juessen, who urgently invited Schurz to visit him and his family at Watertown, forty miles west of Milwaukee. He must have had such a side excursion in mind, for the uncle's letters were doubtless in response to suggestions of his own; otherwise the time of his arrival in Chicago would not have been known. On that trip he experienced for the first time the natural charms and material enticements of southern Wisconsin. The beautiful moonlight voyage on Lake Michigan by boat from Chicago to Milwaukee prepared him for a cheerful, but not quite openminded appraisal of the Badger metropolis. He found the combined rail and stage ride to his destination enjoyable rather than the reverse, a "splendid plank road" contributing to his satisfaction. Schurz was impressed with all he saw, calling Wisconsin a beautiful land. The development of the southern part of the state surprised him; he had expected to find it less well settled. It was already a fine, prosperous farming region.    From “Margarethe Meyer Schurz – A Biography” by Hannah Werwath Swart, reprinted by the Watertown Historical Society and is now available in two formats, ebook and soft cover.



Margarethe Schurz was born to a prominent family in Hamburg, Germany, on August 27, 1833, that encouraged her to pursue the arts and education.


Schurz and her sister Bertha studied under kindergarten founder and advocate Friedrich Froebel for two years and learned about the 10 gifts he believed helped children use exploration to awaken thoughts that would to lead to higher stages of development.


Bertha went on to establish the first kindergarten in England, but became very ill.  This was at the time of the failed 1848 German Revolution.  Schurz traveled to London to help her sister in her kindergarten and there met exiled revolutionary Carl Schurz.  They were married in 1852, emigrated to America and lived in Philadelphia, Pa.


Carl was restless and wanted to move west.  He went ahead and purchased a farm in Wasserstadt, in what is now the 700 block of North Church Street in Watertown, while Schurz returned to England and gave birth to their second child.  In 1856 the family moved to Watertown.


With her children so small, (her older child, Agatha, was then 4) Schurz remembered her training with Herr Froebel. She invited neighborhood children to sing, play and march about the big sitting room of her home with its bright red carpet. Froebel’s “10 gift boxes” were ready each day for the children — bright balls and blocks of wood divided into curious sections. They were a series of 10 toys developed by Froebel, the first educator to emphasize the importance of play in a child’s development, noting their instincts to explore, try out, take apart and look inside, all part of early learning. Other parents were so impressed at the results that they prevailed upon Schurz to also help their children, so she opened a small kindergarten.


While Schurz gained credit for establishing the first kindergarten in America in Watertown, Carl became more active in politics.  They left Watertown in 1858 when Carl was admitted to the Wisconsin Bar and began to practice law in Milwaukee.  He spoke on behalf of President Abraham Lincoln during the 1860s and went on to be Secretary of the Interior.  Schurz died at age 44 in Washington D.C. in 1876, three days after the birth of a son.  After the family’s departure, others took over the kindergarten in Watertown:  Carl’s cousin, Miss Juessen, followed by Mrs. Rose Kunert and Mrs. Kunert’s sister, Tante Elle Koenig who ran it as a private kindergarten for 42 years.


1856       PROPERTY SUBDIVIDED, scathing article about 



The “Volks Zeitung and People’s Gazette,” a German paper, was started through the instrumentality of Carl Schurz, most three years since, and is now published under the editorial management of Herman Lindeman. 



01 21       Lecture before the Young Men’s Association    


09 16       Appointed Regent of the University of WI


12 02       Special Election to fill vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Ald. Schurz   WD



01 12       Beaver Dam Democrat gives currency to charges against Carl Schurz    WTranscript


05 05       Schurz is as prolific as Queen Victoria, although their tastes are somewhat different   WG






In the 1850's that outstanding statesman and soldier, Carl Schurz, settled in our community and came regularly to the [Globe] mill, driving in from his hill-top home, the Karlshuegel of today, on the northern outskirts of the town, taking with him the flour for the little cakes so eagerly awaited by the children in his wife's kindergarten.  This was the first school of its kind to be established and maintained in the United States.        Derived from the booklet   "The Globe Milling Company, Watertown, Wisconsin, 1845-1945."



09 28       Extracts from speech of Carl Schurz, New York, Sept 13, 1860

I think it was Sen. Pugh who once said that that if Douglas were struck down by the South, he would take his bleeding corpse and show it to the youth of the Northwest, as an example of southern gratitude.  Let that modern Mark Anthony come on with his dead Caesar (pardon me, it is neither Caesar dead nor Mark Anthony alive) (applause and cheers); let him bring his bleeding corpse and I will suggest the funeral oration.  Let him say to the youth of the American Republic:  This is Douglas.  Look at him.  For every wound the South has inflicted on him, he has struck a blow at the liberties of his countrymen.  Let him serve as a warning example that a man may be a traitor to liberty, and yet not become a favorite of the slave power.  Mark him.  By false Popular Sovereignty he tried to elevate himself, and true Popular Sovereignty strikes him down.  (Loud applause)


If the youth of America profits by this lesson, then it may be said that even Douglas has done some service to his country. (Laughter)  Then peace be to him—his mission is fulfilled.


But now we have to fulfill ours.  False Popular Sovereignty is down.  Freemen, it is for you to see to it, that true Popular Sovereignty triumphs (applause).


Citizens of New York, when, after the adjournment of the convention which nominated that great and good man, Abraham Lincoln, for the presidency, I addressed the people of my state again for the first time, I said to them:  Let Wisconsin stretch her hand across the Great Lakes and grasp the hand of New York.   WR



03 21       CARL SCHURZ     New York Times

We are glad to see confident statements in intelligent quarters that the President intends to offer Carl Schurz some high and honorable office in recognition of his talents and political services.  We opposed his appointment to Sardinia, or to any of the leading diplomatic posts in Central Europe, not from any disposition to underrate his abilities, but because we consider the circumstances of his past career likely to destroy his usefulness there, and needlessly to embarrass our relations with those countries.  Our Government undoubtedly had the right to send him as our Representative to the Government which had exiled him—but no one, we presume, would deem it a wise or a friendly act.  And our objections to sending him to Sardinia were similar in kind, though less in degree.  But Mr. Schurz is a gentleman of great ability, an earnest Republican, and abundantly worthy of recognition and promotion at the hands of the Administration.  He rendered effective service to the Republican Party during the canvass, and has a right to look for the reward which such services usually command.  The objection which has been raised, in unfriendly quarters, that he was paid for his campaign speeches, is entitled to no weight—as that was a matter exclusively between himself and those who engaged his services.  We trust, therefore, that the President will confer upon him some position which will indicate a satisfactory recognition of his political labors.   WD reprint of NYTimes article


06 13       Gone to Europe

The steamship New York and Edinburgh sailed for Europe on the 8th inst.  Among the passengers were Carl Schurz and family, the United States Minister to Spain.  There is a report from Washington intimating that he will not be received at the court of Madrid as representative of our government and the Spanish Minister have said.  While we do not question Mr. Schurz’s talents, his appointment, under the circumstances, was decidedly improper and made by the President contrary to the advice of the Secretary of State.   WD




     Harper’s Weekly cartoon  



03 22       DEATH OF MRS. SCHURZ

Mrs. Schurz, the wife, of ex-Senator Carl Schurz, died last Wednesday afternoon, at her husband's residence in New York, of puerperal fever.  She gave birth on the evening of Sunday, the 5th inst., to a boy -- her fifth child.  Great anxiety had been felt ever since by the physicians as to her condition.  For some days she seemed easier, but on Tuesday morning the fever appeared to reach its crisis, and since that time she had been gradually sinking. 


Mrs. Schurz was the daughter of a well known and wealthy Hamburg family.  Her marriage to the ex-Senator was essentially a love match ... Mrs. Schurz leaves two grown daughters, a son three or four years old, and the infant boy born ten days ago.   WR




Carl Schurz, with his two sons and two daughters, reached New York, from Europe, last Saturday.  He begged to be excused from being interviewed.  Mr. Schurz wisely refrained from coming home until after the election.     WR




A correspondent writes:  "I meet Carl Schurz on lower Broadway now and then and am impressed with his somewhat frail appearance on the street, but seated at his club, his length of tenuous limbs concealed, he looks and acts the young man.  His manner is still vivacious, his smile genial and his wit ready.  His hair, too, retains much of its original warm brown, in spite of coming frost."    WR



Carl Schurz has dropped into an easy line of life as agent and counsel for a large steamship company, and with a salary practically assured to him as long as he lives, he can enjoy as he pleases, his duties not being arduous.  His fondness for music takes him to all the great musical events, and he is sought as a dinner-table guest.   WR




It will not be denied that in case of war with a strong naval power the defense of Hawaii would require very strong military and naval establishments there, and a  fighting fleet as large and efficient as that of the enemy. . . . . Attempts of the enemy to gain an important advantage by a sudden stroke, which would be entirely harmless, if made on our continental stronghold, might have an excellent chance of success if made on our distant insular possession, and then the whole war could be made to turn upon that point, where the enemy might concentrate his forces as easily as we, or even more easily, and be our superior on the decisive field of operations. . . . . We would no longer possess the inestimable privilege of being stronger and more secure than any other nation without a large and costly armament.  Hawaii, or whatever other outlying domain, would be our Achilles' heel.  Other nations would observe it, and regard us no longer as invulnerable.


 -From "Manifest Destiny" by Carl Schurz, Harper's, October 1893.


CROSS REFERNCE NOTE regarding 1893:

In January 1893, a revolutionary “Committee of Safety,” organized by Sanford B. Dole, staged a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the tacit support of the United States.  On February 1, Minister John Stevens recognized Dole’s new government on his own authority and proclaimed Hawaii a U.S. protectorate.





Watertown Historical Society Collection  




   05 15 1906


Carl Schurz who was widely known as an orator and writer passed away at his home in the city of New York at an early hour yesterday morning in the 76th year of his age, having been born in Cologne, Germany, March 2, 1829. He entered the University of Bonn at the early age of 17 and at once became prominent in his studies and in the life of the University and soon became an active advocate of the principles of a republican form of government and became identified with the revolutionary movement that exiled so many from Germany in 1848. After a brief stay in England, he came to this country in 1852 and located in this city and soon became a leading spirit in political matters and upon the organization of the republican party in 1854 he took an active part and soon was recognized as a leader of marked independence and ability . . . He undoubtedly was the most prominent foreign-born citizen that ever made this country his country and our flag his flag. Had he not been handicapped by birth it might possibly reach to the presidency. On the day of the funeral, the flags of this city should be hung at half mast and appropriate exercises held by the people.



Watertown Daily Times, 02 10 2001

Carl Schurz, general in the Union Army in the Civil War and one of Watertown's most famous residents, is scheduled to be inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in Stevens Point this spring.


We learned of this honor for a great American statesman in a call from a strong friendship we made in our years in the newspaper industry. Bill Berry, former editor of the Stevens Point Journal, called us with the information. Bill is a friend whom we had not heard from since he left his newspaper career to pursue a little slower pace of life as a freelance writer and also as head of public relations for this conservation group.


Bill said he thought we would be interested in knowing Carl Schurz was scheduled for this great honor. The induction will take place on Saturday, April 7, in a program from 10 a.m. to noon at the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame Pavilion on a large parcel of forestland outside of Stevens Point. A large plaque bearing Carl Schurz' likeness will be unveiled at that time. He is one of three people to be inducted in April but Bill declined to name the other two at this time. This event is open to the public.


Carl Schurz is known in Watertown for his great oratorical skills, his political leadership and also for his famous wife, Margarethe Meyer Schurz, who established the first kindergarten in the United States.  It was founded right here in Watertown at the southwest corner of North Second and Jones streets.  That's now a municipal parking lot, but there is a stone monument marking that as the location of the first kindergarten.


Many years ago the actual first kindergarten building was moved from its original location to the Octagon House grounds where it can be toured.


We didn't realize the strong role Carl Schurz played in conservation efforts for the United States back in the 1800s and up to the turn of the century. Here's a little background on this famous man. It was included in the information Bill sent to us this week.


Carl Schurz was born in Liblar, Germany on March 2, 1829, and died in New York City on May 4, 1906.  He was educated at the University of Bonn from 1846 to 1848. He was a leader of the democratic student union at the University of Bonn.


He settled in Watertown in 1854 and remained one of Watertown's famous citizens until 1860 when he was appointed envoy to Spain.


It was during his years in Watertown that he became deeply involved in politics. He ran unsuccessfully for the position of lieutenant governor of the state in 1857. He was elected chairman of the Wisconsin delegation to the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1860. He campaigned for the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and was a United States senator from Missouri from 1869 to 1875.


From 1877 to 1881 he served as secretary of the Department of the Interior under presidencies of Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield. In his tenure at that position he opposed the spoils system, advocated enlightened treatment of Indians, made Civil Service reforms, prosecuted forest/land thievery and had vast impact on conservation efforts nationally.


He was a great influence on the American Forestry Association and other foresters and he played a key role in the adoption of the 1891 Forest Reservation Act.


Carl Schurz wrote extensively throughout his life.  He was an editor of Harper's weekly from 1892 to 1898, also edited the New York Evening Post and The Nation, published a history of the United States and a biography of Henry Clay.  He also wrote a three-volume book of memoirs titled "Reminiscences."


He was a brigadier general and then a major general in the Union Army and served in the military at the Battle of Gettysburg.


The Carl Schurz Society in Germany was founded in 1926 and is active to this day. A Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation was established in Chicago in 1930. A large statue in Oshkosh proclaims him to be the foremost German-American in the country's history.


Here's a little more information about his conservationist views as researched by our friend Bill Berry:


That Carl Schurz merits mention in American history is beyond discussion. A German immigrant, Schurz was a Civil War hero, a reformer and political activist. He was a writer and author, a brilliant orator and a keeper of company like Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Rutherford B. Hayes.


Schurz was a man of many interests and activities. Even when focusing only on his conservation activities, his importance to the cause is hard to summarize.


For instance, Schurz is credited with helping to bring about Civil Service reform. On the surface, this might not seem related to conservation. But the late Steward L. Udall put the two together in his book, "The Quiet Crisis." Udall noted that Schurz's first act as Secretary of the Interior (1877-81), "was to initiate an intensive study of forest depredations, and his first report, in 1877, singled out lumbermen who were 'not merely stealing trees, but whole forests.'"


Udall added that when Schurz set out to regulate these practices, he found trouble within his own agency. "... he soon discovered that his fieldmen in the General Land Office, who were supposed to be looking after the forests, were spoils appointees inclined to wink at trespass and timber theft."


As secretary, Schurz acted quickly to remove politics from everyday forest management. New job candidates and those proposed for promotion were required to take an examination, noted Schurz biographer Joseph Schafer ("Carl Schurz, Militant Liberal," 1930). "All applicants, no matter how politically strong their support might be, found themselves obliged to go through this testing process and to abide its results," Schafer wrote.


Next week we'll continue with more of the commentary from Bill Berry on Watertown's Carl Schurz.




Watertown Daily Times, 02 17 2001

In last week's column we told our readers about the high honor Carl Schurz, one of Watertown's most famous citizens, is scheduled to receive in April. Schurz, a famous American who was born in Germany in 1829 and died in New York City in 1906, had lived in Watertown in the 1850s and 1860s.


He became famous as a statesman and was deeply involved in politics. He served in Cabinet positions under several United States presidents. Lesser known to most of our readers was his strong interest in the environment. Carl Schurz was secretary of the interior and a champion of preserving our country's natural resources.


It was his devout interest in protecting our country's environment that led the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame to select him for induction on April 7 at the conservation organization's large parcel of forestland outside Stevens Point. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and will be open to the public.


Our column of last week included some background on Carl Schurz and also started a narrative by our friend Bill Berry on Schurz's history and why he was selected for this honor. Here we are concluding his narrative:


Carl Schurz's causes were many, but historians give plenty of attention to Schurz's keen interest in conservation and land use.  In his day, the duties of Interior Secretary were many, but "his heart was clearly in the two subjects of forestry and Indian affairs," wrote Schafer.


Schurz battled against views still prevalent at that time that saw "forests as an obstacle to civilization, fit only to be slaughtered and burned." Appreciation of forests for conserving soils and governing stream flowage was still absent in America of the 1870s, noted Schafer. The belief that timber resources were inexhaustible still prevailed.


"Schurz, by reason of his knowledge of world conditions, realized the tragic shortsightedness of such views and made it one of his special duties, as the officer charged with the oversight of the forests on public lands, to educate congress and the people upon that subject," wrote Schafer.


Schurz sought to end timber thievery, the taking by private operators of government timber. An unsympathetic Congress instead passed a law that all but legalized the practice in some states.


As secretary, Schurz succeeded in passing a measure to penalize those who set fires on forestlands. He exempted timber areas from homestead or pre-emption claims and regulated the sale of government wood to miners and settlers, who he said had been "denuding the national domain whenever and wherever they saw fit to do so."


Schurz, like other early conservation figures, was ahead of his time. Historian Henry Clepper wrote "Crusade for Conservation, The Centennial History of the American Forestry Association." In that history, he referred to Schurz as "the first authentic conservationist to hold cabinet rank."


He would also be called "The Father of the Forest Reserves" for his efforts to rescue and reinvigorate America's forests. It was Schurz's job to educate, so that others would later act. As secretary, Schurz called for establishment of a system of federal forest reserves, initiation of reforestation practices, charges to the users of natural resources, stiff fines for willful setting of forest fires and empowerment of the president to appoint a commission "to study the terribly instructive laws and practices of other countries." He also called for a campaign of public education on the conservation of forests, trees and soil.


Most of his agenda was squashed or ignored. "Deaf was Congress, and deaf the people seemed to be," Schurz later wrote. Secretary Schurz also encouraged the country to adopt land management practices for America's West, based on the recommendations of Major John Wesley Powell. The Powell Plan was a broad vision for land use in the West, taking into consideration the need for a reservoir system for irrigation and many other land use practices employed today. Congress dallied on his recommendations, but Powell's ideas were to be vindicated several times in the future. The Reclamation Act was passed in 1902. The Dust Bowl era of the 1930s finally brought an introduction of many of the practices recommended by Powell.


In a letter to Herbert Welsh in 1899, Schurz reflected on his years as secretary: "What I did with regard to the public forests was simply to arrest devastation, in which I partially succeeded, and for which I was lustily denounced, and to strive from year to year to obtain from congress legislation for the protection of forests, in which I largely failed."


Schurz continued to lobby the cause after leaving office. He sought to rally support for a national forest policy with the American Forestry Association, and momentum built for reform. In 1891, Congress empowered the president to withdraw forest reserves from the public lands, creating the Forest Reservation Act. Presidents William Harrison, Grover Cleveland and, especially, Theodore Roosevelt, laid away 132 million acres as national forests before Congress repealed the Forest Reservation Act in 1907. This is still the major part of the National Forest System.


It was Carl Schurz who first called for establishing federal forest reserves. He lived to see that happen.


Wisconsin is quick to claim Schurz, even though he lived here for but eight or nine years.  Schurz moved to Watertown from his native Germany in 1852 and stayed in the state until 1860. He immersed himself in many causes while in the state.  He quickly became part of the anti-slavery movement.  He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1857. He set up a law office in Milwaukee.  He campaigned for Abraham Lincoln with both natives and foreign-born. He was a Wisconsin delegate to the National Republican Convention in Chicago.


But for a brief return to the state after serving as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War, that fairly well sums up the time Schurz actually spent in Wisconsin.


He was, of course, the first and only Interior Secretary from Wisconsin, and he lives on in the state's history books. He and his wife, Margarethe, are both listed in the standard reference, "Wisconsin Biographies." His three-volume "Reminiscences," holds a place in the Wisconsin section of state libraries to this day.


The Schurz home was a historic attraction in Watertown.  Margarethe Schurz is generally recognized as having established the first American kindergarten, in Watertown.


Like many early conservation figures, Schurz's main job would be to educate people about the need for change. By most accounts, the conservation movement wasn't born in America until the mid-19th century.


As noted by historian Henry Clepper, Schurz was the first conservationist to be appointed to a cabinet position. Schurz, like the other early conservationists, must by necessity be measured in no small part by the deeds of those who followed. Such is the lot of people with vision and foresight beyond the normal scope.


Watertown residents should be proud that one of this community's famous sons has been honored for his conservation efforts.  We're glad Bill passed this information on to us. It helped us to learn more about this important figure in American history.






08 30       Popular Sovereignty Doctrine:  Extracts from Speech of Carl Schurz   WD



We have had left at our office two lithographs of this distinguished orator and statesman.  The larger of the two, taken in tint, and the other plain, will at once be recognized by his friends and acquaintances, but we hope to see a more bold and full picture, of which he is certainly worthy.  They will be sold at 50 and $.25.   WR



04 10       Our former townsman, Hon. Carl Schurz, expects to attend the great musical festival to be held in Milwaukee next month and take part in the program.  No doubt Mr. Schurz will find time to run out to Watertown and shake hands with his old neighbors.    WR


08 03       Herbert Schurz, son of our former townsman, the Hon. Carl Schurz, of New York City, died in London, England, on Tuesday, July 24, 1900.   WG


10 26       Carl Schurz, in a recent speech in New York, did not mince words in disclosing his views of President McKinley in refusing self government to the Filipinos. He said in part:  "Let me say at the start that I consider the manner in which the imperialistic policy is being commended by some persons to popular approval the highest confidence game ever practiced upon a free people. In my whole along life I have never known of such systematic use of distortion of history, hypocritical cant, garbling of documents and false pretense. I am here to speak a word for truth and injustice, and in doing so I shall call things by their right names." WG


1906       Mr. Carl Schurz devotes the eighth chapter of his “Reminiscences of a Long Life” in McClure's to a description of his adventure in Paris after his flight from Kinkel from his own country. And the adventures are surely exciting. Schurz almost without money, struggling along in a hotel carnet in the Latin Quarter, trying to keep body and soul together by correspondence with German socialistic papers, was followed by the spies of Louis Napoleon, just then planning his coup d'etat which was to make him Emperor of the French. Mr. Schurz, all unsuspecting that his revolutionary record would make him of interest to Napoleon, went placidly on his way until he was arrested and thrown into a cell with a common thief from which he was taken only to be warned to leave the country immediately. This incident, exciting as it is, is only a small part of the good things in this installment. There are charming descriptions of life in the Latin Quarter and of the writer's encounters with famous artists and poets of the period. Mr. Schurz is always entertaining, but in this installment he outdoes himself, and one regrets that it is not twice as long as it is.    06 12


June         Harsh criticism upon the 1906 death of Carl Schurz    Mother Earth magazine




04 02       Contributions being received for the Carl Schurz memorial fund.  Apathy on part of the people of Watertown.


05 01       Watertown fund raising for Carl Schurz memorial.  Carl Schurz Memorial Professorship.


09 15       Schurz home sold to honor judgment.  City urged to buy for memorial and withdraw funding Carl Schurz chair at UW     NY Times




One very brief, two sentence commentary in the Gazette of November 5, 1909, unknowingly told an additional tale.  It reported that the Junior Children of Mary Society of St. Bernard’s had held a Halloween party several nights earlier “at the Schurz homestead in North Church Street.”  It is quite likely that none of the group, youngsters or their elders, knew one background story about Carl Schurz who had built the rococo-style home half a century earlier.  Schurz had been a Catholic in his youth.  He had attended a Jesuit school back in Germany, but dropped his Catholic heritage while still a young man.    Built on Irish Faith, by Charles Wallman, pg. 267.




Professor Eugene Kuehnemann of the University of Breslau, who has been Carl Schurz Memorial exchange professor at the University of Wisconsin since last fall, has returned to Europe.  His presence for one semester at the University of Wisconsin was made possible by the contributions of German-American citizens of the state to the Carl Schurz Memorial Fund.   WG




New Yorker magazine article on a Carl Schurz monument in New York park.  "By our lights today, he’s neither a good guy nor a bad guy, and elements of the monument that seemed progressive when it was dedicated don’t seem progressive today."



05 28       ST. LOUIS HONORS SCHURZ  /  Citizens Unveil Memorial to Him and Other War Editors.

  St. Louis, May 26 — A memorial was unveiled to Carl Schurz, Dr. Emil Preetorius and Carl Daenzer, German-American newspaper editors, who, in St. Louis during the Civil War, directed their influence both to save Missouri to the Union and to uphold the Union cause generally.  The bronze statue is that of a nude woman of heroic size.  In each hand she grasps a torch, symbolic of enlightenment.  The funds for the memorial were raised by St. Louisians, headed by Ben Altheimer.  The late Adolphus Busch subscribed $20,000.   WG



Among the chief works of art in the City of Oshkosh is the monument to the memory of Carl Schurz, Wisconsin statesman, who represented one of the truest types of American patriots, with the highest ideals as to democracy and loyalty.  This beautiful statue is located at the foot of Washington Street, with the waters of Lake Winnebago and the hazy east shore as a background.  Upon one side of it is an imposing city recreation center, formerly the clubhouse of the Oshkosh Yacht Club, and upon the other the municipal water plant. 


The donor of the monument, Col. John Hicks, went to the studio of Karl Theodore Francis Bitter, of New York, for the statue of the great apostle of democracy.  It was on the date of Saturday, July 4, 1914, that this magnificent work in bronze, upon marble, was dedicated, and the event marked a new epoch in the history of Fourth of July celebrations here.  A parade was held, led by the Arion Band, in which there were automobiles carrying those having active part in the unveiling, and the members of Companies B and F of the Wisconsin National Guard, the Oshkosh Kriegerverein and the Oshkosh Maennerchor marched.  A huge crowd of citizens gathered about the monument, and those taking part were seated on and spoke from a raised platform decorated in the patriotic colors.  The Arions played “Star Spangled Banner,” and Rev. Theodore Irion, of St. Paul’s Evangelical church, delivered the invocation.


The Maennerchor rendered a song in German, and the monument was disclosed to view, Miss Marianne Schurz, one of the daughters of Carl Schurz, performing the ceremony. 


Gen. C. R. Boardman presented the gift in behalf of the donor, stating that Carl Schurz was the greatest American of German birth this country had ever known.  The response of acceptance for the city was made by Mayor John Mulva, who emphasized the “wise and generous philanthropy of that distinguished fellow citizen, who has done so much to beautify our public places.”  Judge Emil Baensch, of Manitowoc, was the principal speaker, his address being an eloquent tribute to Schurz, whom he termed a type of active American citizenship, the immigrant, and whose character and career he sketched in detail.   Oshkosh Public Library Digital Collections



Oshkosh, Wis., July 4 — While a daughter of Carl Schurz hauled the veil from the statue of the German-American statesman, thousands of citizens and visitors from Watertown and other cities cheered to the echo.  Gov. McGovern, Judge Emil Baensch and Gen. Boardman spoke of the career of the famous adopted citizen of Wisconsin.  The mayor and Col. John Hicks, the donor of the heroic bronze, also spoke.  The ceremonies were preceded by a great parade through the principal streets, the guests of honor riding in autos.  Two companies of the National Guard, the Spanish War veterans, Sons of Veterans and the German Krieger Verein marched.  The Maennerchor sang during the program.


Cross Reference:  Link to info on Oshkosh monument




A large audience was at Turner Opera house Friday evening to hear the lecture of Prof. Kuehnemann, holder of one of the Carl Schurz professorships at the University of Wisconsin.  He spoke in English and German, and presented the Germany-Austria side of the present war in Europe in a masterly manner.   WG




   Among brands manufactured by Wiggenhorn Bros.  



06 21       USS SCHURZ LOST


Named after the famed writer, Union Army general, Senator, Secretary of the Interior, and one-time Watertown resident Carl Schurz.  Originally known as the SMS Geier, the 255-foot long German cruiser was built in 1894 in Wilhelmshaven, Germany.  The USS Schurz is the only German Imperial Navy warship captured by the U.S. Navy during World War I.



-- --           MARIANNE SCHURZ “Pussy” (1857-1929)


Daughter of Carl and Margarethe Meyer Schurz.  Pupil in First Kindergarten established by mother Margarethe




Chicago Tribune, 05 11 1932

Accurate Study of Noted German-American.


"Carl Schurz” by Claude M. Fuess. [Dodd-Mead.]


Claude M. Fuess, author of the distinguished and scholarly biography of Daniel Webster, presents us with the first complete life of Carl Schurz, the most notable of German-Americans.  This biography has been carefully put together, with an ample and discriminating bibliography and many illuminating notes.


Claude Fuess’ biographical method does not fall in with the new trend which emphasizes psychology and perhaps even sensationalism, but is serious, sound, interesting, and accurate.


"No one who ever saw Carl Schurz walking jauntily down Fifth Avenue was likely to forget that slender, erect figure, usually a little cramped in a tight fitting frock coat; that noble head, crowned with a mass of grizzled hair; that mustache and beard, giving him a foreign appearance in a land of smooth shaven males; those sharp, twinkling, sometimes whimsical eyes, behind steel rimmed spectacles; and that bearing of conscious intellectuality and power which befits only those who have matched their abilities successfully against potentates and presidents."  Thus is this amazing man, vividly described.


Early Interest in Politics.


Carl Schurz, a middle class German, born In Prussia, was in his early youth a thoughtful boy interested in books and culture.  When he went to college he soon became interested in politics in his native land and allied himself, as most youthful Germans at that time did, with the revolutionary forces.  He effected a striking rescue of a revolutionary leader and was for many Germans a romantic hero.  He was practically exiled from his native land, found himself unpopular in France where Napoleon the Third was trying to effect the change from republicanism to monarchy, and landed in England where he joined many of his friends in the German colony.  Though he soon came to America, he never lost his passionate enthusiasm for a united Germany.


Arriving in America with his bride at the age of 23, he, within six months, learned to speak and write fluently the English language.  With this amazing accomplishment he began the career that was to lead him to the highest places ever reached by a German-American.  His gift as an orator, his vital interest in politics and his passion for justice and honesty soon put him before the eyes of the public.  His zeal and efforts undoubtedly helped to elect Abraham Lincoln, who upon attaining office appointed him as minister to Spain.  He soon returned, however, to this country and took an active part in the civil war.


Perhaps the only discreditable phase of his career, discreditable only in that it was unwise and short sighted, was his attitude toward Andrew Johnson and his reconstruction policy.  In his lifetime Carl Schurz became a senator and a secretary of the interior, and adviser, friend or enemy to every President from Lincoln to Roosevelt, always advocating the honest and the just in politics even to the extent of changing parties often and organizing a third party.  His main doctrines were anti-slavery, sound money, civil service reform, anti-imperialism, international peace, conservation of natural resources and clean government.


Respected by Good Citizens.


Though he was not always successful, he was a person forever to be feared by the corrupt and vacillating and respected by the good citizen, no matter where he lived or to what party he belonged.


Carl Schurz's career was perhaps one of the noblest in the history of American public life.  Furthermore, it was one of the most astonishing, considering the enormous handicaps under which he attained distinction.  He became, in a few short years after his arrival in this country, an Americanized-German of the highest order and never once did his allegiance to the United States waver.  Carl Schurz was a not altogether attractive personality however.  His dogmatism and his oftentimes childlike but nevertheless annoying egotism, his reforming zeal that many times antagonized the presidents he took upon himself to advise, were not traits that endeared him universally to the public.  There has never been a doubt, however, of his consistent honesty in times of the most flagrant corruption and his invaluable contribution to the public life of America.


Claude Fuess writes disinterestedly of his hero.  He is not blind to the repellent features of this German- American reformer, but he gives him his due in a biography that is interesting, well written and stimulating.


- M. D.




Plans for Watertown’s centennial were discussed last evening at a meeting of the directors of the Watertown Historical Society held at the library.  The directors last night decided to make a determined effort to have the Schurz monument, which is to be purchased by the Federation of German Societies in Wisconsin, erected in Watertown.  The society [Federation of German Societies in Wisconsin] has asked the state for permission to erect the monument on either the state capitol grounds or the University of Wisconsin campus.








Carl Schurz, German-American patriot and one time Watertown resident will be honored at a German Folkfest in Madison on 8/8/37.  The affair will be held at Olin Park.  A program is now in preparation.  Plans for erecting a statue to Mr. Schurz in Capitol Park, at the State Street entrance, was recently voted by the Wisconsin Legislature and a state-wide fund for the monument is to be launched.     WDTimes



03 22       Schurz Memorial proposed for Madison, instead of on Octagon House grounds in Watertown




The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a leading American newspaper, has informed the state department that it will award the Carl Schurz centennial grant to a West German newsman.  The year 1952 is set aside as the centennial of Carl Schurz’ arrival in the United States from Germany.  He lived in Watertown after his arrival and began a notable career here.  A sketch about him appeared in the Times on Monday of this week.  The St. Louis paper said that the winner of the grant will be assigned to the Post-Dispatch for six months as a regular reporter and special feature writer.  The office of the U.S. high commissioner for Germany, the State Department and the St. Louis newspaper jointly will select the award winner.   WG




U.S. stamp honoring Carl Schurz.




Chapter on Schurz home and fire 

Carl was a nephew of Catharine Gaebler, wife of Emil C. Gaebler

Daniel Kusel, Sr. was persuaded to stay in Watertown by his friend, Carl Schurz

The Weltbuerger, one of the oldest German paper in Wisconsin, had many able editorial writers, among them being the Hon. Carl Schurz

New York Times article. 

Marcella Killian article 


Carl Schurz on "True Americanism" (I) 

Carl Schurz on "True Americanism" (II) 


Forest named for Carl Schurz:  The Monches segment of the Ice Age Trail.    jsonline article  


Two letters that describe the essence of the American identity, one which we’re struggling to recapture now.     Hermann Herald article  

The Statesman and the Socialite: Carl Schurz and Fanny Chapman: Secret Love, Letters, and Life in the Gilded Age, by Peter Lubrecht


NEW YORK CITY MONUMENT to Carl Schurz in Morningside Park



FOREST NORTH KETTLE MORAINE area, trail, 2020, 1 of 2,   2 of 2  






Margarethe Meyer Schurz – A Biography



The book “Margarethe Meyer Schurz – A Biography” by Hannah Werwath Swart has been reprinted by the Watertown Historical Society and is now available in two formats, ebook and soft cover.




The FIRST KINDERGARTEN IN AMERICA was started in 1856 in Watertown by Margarethe Meyer Schurz, wife of Carl Schurz, the famed revolutionary who went on to become Lincoln's Minister to Spain, Hayes's Secretary of the Interior and the first German-born citizen to sit in the U. S. Senate.





Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin