No family has been involved in as many aspects of the East Peoria community as the Schmidt family. Over the course of time, members of the family have been involved locally in insurance, real estate, banking, trucking, coal mining, savings and loan, law and operated a confectionary, grocery, skating rink, funeral home, florist, restaurant and a beauty shop, served as a city council member, city clerk, county coroner and were active in the chamber of commerce, Jaycees and volunteer fire department.
Jacob Schmidt, patriarch of the local Schmidt family, settled in Groveland Township in the early 1880s after a short stint at farming in Clay County, Nebraska. Upon arriving in Groveland Township, Jacob purchased the mineral rights to 20 acres of land in Cole Hollow and opened a coal mine. Jacob, a German immigrant, born in 1833, had earlier settled with his parents and siblings in Limestone Township, Peoria County in the 1850s. His wife, Elizabeth Bentz, immigrated in 1863 and they were married shortly after. Elizabeth bore eight surviving children and Jacob worked as a miner, before moving to Kansas in the late 1870s. He later purchased lots 23 and 24 in Coleville, which today is 209 and 211 E. Washington St., in early 1893, with the intent of operating a feed store. Jacob died later that year on Nov. 28, and is interred in Lutheran Cemetery in Peoria. All of his children remained in East Peoria.
His oldest daughter Elizabeth, born Dec. 4, 1864, married neighbor, Gustav Gottlieb Karl Giebelhausen on March 9, 1883. Gustav became the owner and operator of the Giebelhausen Coal Mine. Four months later, on July 12, 1883, Elizabeth’s sister, Caroline M. Schmidt married Gustav’s brother, Louis Carl Giebelhausen, also a miner.
Frank Schmidt, Jacob’s oldest son, continued to operate his father’s mine until he was killed in a mining accident on March 12, 1900. He, too, rests in Lutheran Cemetery. Phillip John Schmidt, Jacob’s second son, purchased lot 24 from his mother on April 4, 1896, and operated a feed store and lived in a home behind. Fire destroyed the feed store and house and another home was constructed where Phillip lived out his life. Phillip owned and operated six teams of horses and wagons that carried coal from local mines. When fire destroyed his home, he had to take one of his teams to the fire house to pull the pumper to fight his own fire. He married Minnie Hufeld on Sept. 22, 1893, and their children continued to impact East Peoria. Phillip was born Oct. 23, 1869, died Oct. 14, 1947, and is interred in Fondulac Cemetery where he also served as superintendent. Jacob’s third son, John Jacob, was born Sept. 5, 1871, and married Elizabeth Modendricks on Nov. 26, 1891. John was a carpenter and later opened a small florist shop in the 500 block of Pekin Avenue. He moved his business to 1317 East Washington shortly after the 1927 flood. John sold his business to Don and Alice Wood in 1942 who operated it as Wood’s Florist for over 40 years. Jacob’s youngest son, also named Jacob, purchased lot 24 in Coleville from his mother and operated J. Schmidt Confectionary at 207 E. Washington.
Phillip John Schmidts’ children continued the entrepreneurship into the next generation. George H. Schmidt operated Schmidt Trucking and owned Schmidt Skating Rink on West Washington Street; Charles Edward Schmidt ran a grocery and mercantile, was city clerk and later President of First National Bank in East Peoria; Jacob Lester Schmidt operated Smitty’s Restaurant and was Superintendent of the Sanitary District; Phillip John Schmidt, Jr. owned Schmidt Insurance and Real Estate Company, was secretary and president of Tazewell Savings and Loan, and president of First National Bank in East Peoria; Harold Raymond Schmidt owned Schmidt Funeral Parlor and was county coroner; John Edwin Schmidt operated Jerry’s Radio Shop with his son; and Pearl Helen Schmidt Epkins owned a beauty shop.
Compiled January 2018 by Frank Borror
The East Peoria Historical Society is located at 324-326 Pekin Avenue. It is dedicated to the collection and preservation of local history. If anyone has information or pictures regarding East Peoria they would share please contact Frank Borror at 696-9227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.