Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 704 - 705
Among the early settlers, and those who have built up the industries of Sheboygan, this well-known gentleman is
deserving of mention. Landing in this place with only $5, he has by industry and economy accumulated a snug
fortune. Mr. Balzer was born in Goerlitz, Prussia, Germany, August 21, 1827. His parents, Elias and Mary
(Wiesehiter) Balzer, spent their lives in the Fatherland, where the former was for many years an overseer of
forests. Of their seven children, John is the sixth in order of birth and the only one that came to the United
States. Having attended school until about thirteen and a-half years of age, he began a three-years apprenticeship
at the trade of wagon-maker. After the completion of his trade, he traveled and worked thereat until his emigration
to the United States. In November, 1851, he shipped aboard a sailing-vessel at Hamburg for New York. The voyage
was a very perilous one; storms were encountered, and to add to the misfortunes of the passengers cholera broke out
on ship-board, forty-nine dying in one week. For ninety-six days they were rocking on the restless waters of the
Atlantic. Mr. Balzer was fortunate in two particulars - in escaping the fatal disease and in having $400 in gold
when he landed at New York. Work was very hard to find, and he tried in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore,
Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toledo, St. Louis and Chicago in vain, the first permanent employment he could secure being
at Sheboygan, which at that time was but a village. His gold dollars had all vanished but five, though he had a
good trade and a strong pair of willing hands.
After working about a year for wages, Mr. Balzer opened a small shop on the beach, where the factory now stands.
For a year he did all his own work and then employed one hand. As his resources and business increased, he enlarged
the capacity of his shop. In 1881, his son, John, Jr., became a partner in the business, and in 1887 they erected
their present factory. The plant consists of a salesroom 24x90 feet, two stories in height; and factory 60x75 feet,
three stories. They employ about thirty-five hands, turning out wagons, buggies and carriages, their work being
well known to dealers in their line of trade. In 1888 the business was turned over to the son, who is recognized as
one of the prominent young business men of Sheboygan.
Mr. Balzer was married in 1854, in Sheboygan, to Miss Kathrina Kump, who was born in Obenheim Meintz, Rhine
Province, Germany, and in 1850 came to the United States. Of this marriage four children were born: Bertha, wife of
W. A. Halsted, of the Chair City; John, who carries on business as given above; Emma, who became the wife of Hugh
Martin; and Alfred, an engineer by profession. On the 10th of January, 1891, Mr. Balzer was called upon to mourn
the death of his wife, who had for thirty-seven years been his companion in sorrow and joy, in poverty and
abundance. Mrs. Balzer was a consistent member of the German Reformed Church, as is also her husband.
Politically, Mr. Balzer was a Republican until 1876, and since a Democrat, though he has never been an office-
seeker. In business he has ever dealt honorably and justly with his patrons, and as a result has not only gained a
competence, but the confidence and high regard of his fellow citizens as well.
Copyright 1997 - 2009 by Debie Blindauer
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