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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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Francis Geele

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 220 - 221

Francis Geele. In the record of the old settlers and representative people of Sheboygan County, no one of the pioneers is more worthy of favorable mention then the gentleman who name heads this sketch. He was one of the very earliest of his nationality to locate in Sheboygan, and was one of the foremost to win prominence, both as a business man and a public officer.

Mr. Geele was born in Westphalia, Prussia, March 15, 1825, and was reared and educated in his native country. In 1846 he emigrated to America, and reached Milwaukee, Wis., in August of that year. There he found employment at first in a brick yard, but shortly afterward got a situation in the tin shop of Gov. Farwell. The following November {1847} he removed to Sheboygan, then but a small hamlet, in a wild and sparsely settled region. On coming to this place, he secured a situation in the tin shop of Camp & Darling, where he served three years as an apprentice, after which he formed a partnership with Edwin Gaertner in the hardware business, beginning in 1850. A year later, John Plath was admitted to membership in the firm, which was known as Gaertner, Geele & Co. After two years Mr. Gaertner withdrew, the firm becoming Geele & Plath. In 1865 these gentlemen bought the dry goods and grocery stock owned by George End, Mr. Plath taking charge of that department of the business, while Mr. Geele conducted the hardware department. That connection continued until 1867, when Mr. Plath retired and Mr. Geele conducted the business alone. Being very successful, he increased his stock and extended his business until he had one of the most important mercantile houses in the county.

In 1868 our subject erected the Geele Block at the northwest corner of Eighth and Center Streets. a substantial brick structure, three stories high besides the basement, with a front of forty-eight feet on Eighth Street and a depth of one hundred feet on Center. In this building he carried an immense stock of heavy and shelve hardware, stoves and tinware. He also built the fine two story brick block of two stores, 48x100 feet, at the southeast corner of Eighth and Center Streets, which buildings are the property of his heirs.

On the 25th of November, 1852, Mr. Geele was united in marriage at Sheboygan with Miss Gertrude Trilling. Mrs. Geele is a daughter of Frederick and Francisca {Kleffner} Trilling, and was born in Neidemarsberg, Westphalia, Germany, and emigrated to America with her parents in 1852, and reaching Sheboygan in May of that year. Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Geele; Matilda, Henry, Frank, Antonia, William and Emma. Three have married. Matilda, the eldest, was Mrs. R. Hoch. Her death occurred in November, 1888. Frank married Miss Matilda Stamm; and Emma became the wife of E. Mattoon, and resides in Minneapolis.

Mr. Geele was a Democrat in politics, and held various public offices. In 1855 he was elected City Treasurer, and was re-elected for the years 1856-57-58-59. In 1861 he was elected County Treasurer, was re-elected, and served four years, namely: 1861-62-63-64. In 1868 he was elected Mayor of Sheboygan, was re-elected, and held that office during the years 1868-69-76-77-78 and 80. He also held the office of County Supervisor at large {a member of the County Board}. As a public officer he was always found capable and trustworthy, and faithful in the discharge of every duty. So popular was he, that whenever he accepted a nomination his election was assured. In his views of public policy, he was broad and liberal and anticipated the wonderful growth and development of the city of his adoption. Every worthy public enterprise in both city and county commanded his warm interest and earnest support. He rendered substantial aid in making the Sheboygan harbor on of the best harbors in Wisconsin. The Sheboygan County Chronic Insane Asylum, an institution of which the humane people of the county are justly proud, received his earnest support in its establishment and completion.

In the broadest sense of the term, Mr. Geele was a good citizen and a self made man. He appreciated and was in sympathy with the liberal laws and progressive spirit of his adopted country; he realized the superior advantages it afforded him and his fellow-countrymen for happiness, liberty and prosperity, above those they had enjoyed in the Fatherland. He came to this country when a young man, poor in everything except ambition, hope, good character and the ability and disposition to win an honorable success. He possessed habits of thrift, industry, enterprise and economy, supported strict integrity and a love of justice. His success was marked and rapid from the start. He built up a magnificent business, accumulated a large property, and made substantial improvements that afforded employment to many people, and still adorn the city. At his death, which occurred July 27, 1886, he left his family in affluent circumstances.

It is only fair to say of Mr. Geele that he was a man of superior ability, possessed of noble impulses, broad generosity and cordiality. He invariably won the good will and confidence of all with whom he came in contact, and no man enjoyed a deeper hold on the respect and friendship of his fellow citizens than he. Mrs. Geele survives her husband, and with her unmarried children resides at the old homestead.


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