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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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Henry J. Friedrichs

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 444 - 445

The German pioneer who bade his Fatherland adieu and sailed across the briny deep to penetrate the forests and boundless prairies of the far West, is a personage that America may be proud to adopt as a true citizen. The men who have come to this land to subject themselves to the laws and government of the United States have made the barren tracts of country bloom and blossom like the rose. The old pioneer whose name heads this sketch has aided very materially in the growth and development of Sheboygan.

The birth of our subject took place in Rhenish Prussia, the date being March 27, 1819. He was reared to the trade of a blacksmith, and his early education was obtained in his native land. At the age of thirty-six years, or in 1855, he, with his family, bade farewell to Germany, and sailed from Antwerp, Belgium, in the good ship "Hurlbert," in company with about six hundred passengers, bound for New York City. The voyage consumed eighty-five days, as the vessel encountered many heavy storms. One peculiar fact of the voyage is that there were seventeen deaths and eighteen births on the ship. When our subject arrived in New York, he was obliged to remain there a short time on account of the sickness of his wife. They finally arrived in Sheboygan, where Mr. Friedrichs engaged with his father-in-law in work on a farm for a short time. Then going to Milwaukee, he remained there for three months, since which time he has been a resident of this county. His capital on coming here was only $250, but with characteristic German enterprise and industry, coupled with economy and frugality, he has been enabled to amass a fortune for himself and children.

In December, 1855, our subject opened a little shanty shop on what is now known as Indiana Avenue. This building was only 11 x 18 feet, boarded vertically, and did not cost over $25. These rude quarters served both for shop and home, a plank partition separating the two, and here the family lived for six years. When he came to the little town of Sheboygan, it numbered about three thousand inhabitants. The southern part of the city was an unbroken wilderness of thicket and trees. He and his wife are truly pioneers, and have witnessed the entire growth and development of the city since their coming here. They underwent many of the hardships and trials of those early days, and the wife has picked berries near their lowly home, selling them for five cents a quart to the people at the pier. Many a time our subject did not have enough money after his scant living was paid for to buy an extra pound of butter. Remnants of the tribes of Winnebago, Chippewa and Duck Creek Indians oftentimes begged for food at his door. He was a good shot, and with his trusty gun he would often replenish his scanty larder. Meat could not be had, and he exchanged game for ammunition. Deer, geese and ducks abounded in the immediate vicinity of his home, and wolves and bears were sometimes seen.

Mr. Friedrichs married Miss Barbara Rittman several years before leaving Germany, the wedding taking place in 1846. She died in 1852, leaving a son and daughter, the elder of whom, Henry, is a hardware merchant of Sheboygan, and his sketch may be found elsewhere in this work. Catherine is deceased. Our subject was again married, in 1853, the lady of his choice being Miss Catherine Meyer. By this marriage nine children were born, two of the number being now deceased. Those living are as follows: Mary; Peter, who is engaged in a lucrative business in Wilson Township; William, a resident of Oconto, Wis.; Anton, a business man of this city, whose sketch is presented elsewhere in this volume; Rudolph, who is also a business man of this city; Edward, whose home is in Oconto, Wis.; and Alfred, also engaged in commercial pursuits in Sheboygan. The mother is well educated in her native tongue, and can read and speak the English language.

In 1869, Mr. Friedrichs erected a fine building, which he occupied as a saloon. He carried on that business for fourteen years, and had a large trade. He is a man whose word is considered as good as his bond, and he has set a worthy example to his children, who are following his precepts. By attending strictly to his business he has risen from almost penury to be one of the solid men, financially speaking, of the city. The Friedrichs family are owners of fine property, which is valued at from $75,000 to $100,000.

Our subject now votes with the Democratic party, but for twenty-eight years he upheld the banner of the Republican party. He cast his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln, but at the time of Mr. Cleveland's first administration he changed his party principles. He was three times elected as Alderman of the Third Ward of this city, served for two years as Justice of the Peace, and one term as Township Supervisor. The honors which have been bestowed upon him demonstrate the confidence which the people have imposed in him. He was instrumental in erecting the first school building on the south side of the river, and is a friend to education. He and his wife are now living retired lives, in the enjoyment of the respect and esteem of their many friends.


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