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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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Frederick Koehn

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 718 - 719

Frederick Koehn is a pioneer fisherman of Sheboygan, who through close application to his business has amassed a small fortune. Though eighty-two years of age, he is well preserved, especially as to mental faculties. A record of the early settlers of Sheboygan would be incomplete without an account of this sturdy German pioneer. Mr. Koehn was born in Lenzerselge No. 3, Brandenburg, Germany, October 13, 1811. His parents, Christov and Fredericka (Jones) Koehn, were both natives of the same province, where they spent their entire lives, the father being a stock-dealer.

Mr. Koehn of this sketch had very limited chances for an education, as when about fourteen years of age he commenced the miller's trade, at which he worked until his marriage, in 1832. The lady he chose was Miss Anna Elizabeth Baalke, who was born February 25, 1809, in Cumlosen, Brandenburg, Germany. Not able to earn at his trade sufficient wages to support himself and wife, Mr. Koehn decided to turn his attention to other pursuits. Going to the River Elbe, he engaged as a deck hand aboard a vessel. From time to time he was promoted, until he became a captain. After eighteen years' service, and by carefully husbanding his resources, he was enabled to buy a vessel of his own, which he ran for about seven and a-half years. He had wished for some time to come to the United States, but not having sufficient surplus money to bring him to this country, he waited till he could sell his vessel. That accomplished, he set sail from Wittenberg in a three-mast bark, "Sir Isaac Newton," on the 24th of April, 1853, a n d arrived in Quebec June, 20. From that city Mr. Koehn proceeded by boat to Niagara Falls, and thence by rail to New Buffalo, where he took the boat for Detroit. There he boarded the cars for Chicago, and from that city came to Sheboygan by water, arriving July 9, 1853.

When our subject arrived at this city, all he had left was a twenty-dollar gold piece. With this he bought a bag of flour and a cook stove, with its belongings, from Frank Geele, who was then conducting a hardware store, in which Fred Karste, the well-known banker, was clerk. Mr. Koehn determined to try his fortune as a fisherman. By sawing wood and working at whatever he could find to do, he made money enough to buy twine for his nets. These he made by night, working by a scanty fire until he got so cold that he would have to go to bed. With the small net thus constructed, he commenced to fish in the Sheboygan River. His business gradually increased until it became one of the prominent industries in Sheboygan.

In 1861, Mr. Koehn began to smoke fish for the market, and his was the first product of the kind ever offered for sale in this county. He also put the first smoked white fish on the Chicago, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh markets. Until 1873 he used only a sail-boat in his fishing business, but in that year he built the little tug "Hoffnung." Business so increased that he later purchased "The Fred Koehn." In 1890 he built another tug, called the "Hoffnung Bro.," which was sold a year later because it was too small for the business. In 1892, he put up another tug-boat, which he christened "The Frederick Koehn."

On the 17th of April, 1891, Mr. Koehn received a slight paralytic stroke, from which he has not fully recovered. Unable longer to actively take part in business, Mr. Koehn has practically turned it over to his grandsons. On the 5th of March, 1892, the F. Koehn, Sr., Fish Company was organized, of which Mr. Koehn is President. The business has been extended, till about forty-five men and two steam-tugs are employed in taking and smoking fish.

February 12, 1886, Mr. Koehn was bereft of his wife, for death claimed her. This was a great loss to him in his declining years and afflictions, for she had been a faithful wife and companion during a period of fifty-four years. Both husband and wife were members of the Lutheran Church. Their family consisted of two children. Frederick, who was a prominent merchant and citizen of Sheboygan, died October 22, 1890. Mary married Charles Welzien, of the Chair City. In his political faith, Mr. Koehn is a strong Republican. Throughout life he has been an industrious and unceasing worker, and his efforts have not gone unrewarded. Mr. Koehn has a wide circle of friends in this county, who will read with pleasure this brief record of his life work.


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