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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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Christian Ernst Eckhardt

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 721 - 722

Christian Ernst Eckhardt is an early settler and a business man well known to the people of Sheboygan County. An account of his career will prove both interesting and instructive, as it shows how a young man without means or advantages of any kind may rise to a worthy place among his fellow-citizens.

Mr. Eckhardt was born in Eischleben, Saxony, Germany, February 14, 1835. When ten years of age he was left motherless, and some twelve years later his father, John Eckhardt, who was a farmer by occupation, also passed away. Christian Ernst Eckhardt is one of six children, of whom three came to the United States: Henry, who is a resident of Sheboygan; Edward; and Christian. The latter received a limited education in his native land and language, but since coming to this country has, by reading and contact with the business world, become a well-informed man. From the part of Germany where he lived many people were emigrating to the United States, and he, full of youthful enthusiasm and the spirit of adventure, was very desirous of trying his fortune in the New World, but his father, unwilling to have him go, refused to furnish him the means. An. uncle of young Eckhardt's, Henry Kemmer by name, seeing the disappointment and anxiety of the boy, proposed to take him along, as he was coming to this country. To this the father gave assent. Accordingly, they sailed from Hamburg to Liverpool, and thence to New York, taking thirty days to cross the Atlantic. From there they made their way to Green Bay, Wis., but the uncle, not pleased with the country in that section, came on to Sheboygan, where they arrived July 2, 1852.

A stranger to the country, people and language, Mr. Eckhardt then began his career, which, though marked by some reverses, has been on the whole quite successful. During the summer of his arrival he worked on a farm, receiving the munificent salary of four dollars a month, and during the winter he got still less. For some two years he was employed at farm labor, he meanwhile thinking that as soon as he had earned sufficient money he would return to his native land. Next going to the Lake Superior country, he worked in the Douglas, and also in the Minnesota copper-mine, remaining about fourteen months. For a time he was employed on the surface, but his shortness of stature fitted him so well for working within the mine, that the manager prevailed upon him to go there. Returning to Sheboygan Comity, he was engaged in a sawmill at Howard's Grove for a time. Later he worked eighteen months in a shingle-mill in Sheboygan, and as his employer had no money with which to pay his wages, Mr. Eckhardt was compelled to take shingles in payment. Having no use for them, he traded them to the brewery for beer, and, being so poor that he could not afford to consume that luxury, he sold it to the saloons for cash. It is needless to say that in each transaction Mr. Eckhardt was the loser, so that by the time he received the money it amounted to somewhat less than his wages, had they been paid in legal tender.

For the succeeding three years our subject was hostler at the Kossuth House, located where the Grand Hotel now stands. While thus employed Mr. Eckhardt met the lady of his choice in the person of Miss Katie Hoelling, who was an assistant at the same hotel. Mrs. Eckhardt was born in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, September 7, 1838, being a daughter of Claus and Christina (Tolk) Hoelling, both of whom were natives of the same province, where the father carried on a farm and a store. In 1857 the family, consisting of parents and six children, sailed for America, and after thirty-five days spent on the ocean landed safely in the harbor of New York. Coming on to Sheboygan, the parents there spent the rest of their lives, the father reaching the age of eighty-seven, and the mother seventy-nine. They enjoyed a happy wedded life, extending over a long period. Their children are all living. Mrs. Maggie Huffman and Mrs. Christina Rohwer reside in Sheboygan; John makes his home in Davenport, Iowa; Claus is also a resident of the Chair City; Mrs. Eckhardt is the next in order of birth; and Mrs. Anna Kemmer lives in Chicago.

The wedding of Mr, Eckhardt and Miss Hoelling was celebrated March 26, 1861. Soon after they rented the hotel, where they had been employed, which they ran most successfully for six years. Both husband and wife worked hard, saved their earnings, and thus accumulated enough to purchase the hotel, which they subsequently disposed of. For some ten years thereafter Mr. Eckhardt was engaged in buying grain. In 1880, in company with Fred Karste and C. Reiss, he engaged in the wood and coal trade, doing business under the firm title of the C. Reiss Coal Company. This partnership continued until 1893, when Mr. Eckhardt sold his interest in the business. The first year they handled three thousand tons of coal, and the last year sixty-five thousand tons. From this may be seen something of the growth and extent of their trade.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Eckhardt have been born a family of eight children, of whom five are living: Albert H., who is paying teller of the German Bank, of Sheboygan; C. F. Ernst, who is a student at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., having been appointed to that position by Hon. George Brickner; Adolph, who is a druggist of Sheboygan; Leopold, who is possessed of superior musical talent, and Leslie, the youngest of the family, who are still in school. Both Mr. and Mrs. Eckhardt are members of the German Reformed Church. Politically, he is a Democrat, having served two years as a member of the City Council from the second ward, and one year as Superintendent of the Poor.

Through his business relations as hotel-keeper, coal dealer and grain merchant, Mr. Eckhardt has become generally known to the people of Sheboygan County. In his dealings he has always been just and honorable, having thereby won the confidence and good-will of those with whom he has been thus brought in contact. Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Eckhardt commenced their domestic life in a manner in which young people now would not care to begin, they occupy a social standing among the best families in the city, being esteemed for their true worth, rather than for any display of accomplishments or wealth.


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