John Schilling

JOHN SCHILLING. A hazardous and arduous task confronted those venturesome and hardy men who forsook the security and comforts of the settled communities during the '50s and penetrated the wilds of the untrodden West. None but themselves and their children can ever realize, in the faintest degree, the difficulties with which they were forced to contend, the perils to which they were exposed, and the privations which they endured. Fortunately, they were animated by an indomitable spirit and sustained by inflexible resolution, and patiently, perseveringly and steadfastly accomplished their mission, leaving to their posterity the fruits of their enterprise, in an advanced civilization. To the memories of the self-sacrificing and devoted wives of the pioneer settlers of Kansas adequate tribute can never be rendered, but the remembrance of their virtues has served as a high incentive in molding the lives of their children.

Of the sturdy men who came to Kansas during the early settlement of Brown County, the late John Schilling was typical of the best material to be found for the upbuilding of a state. After he had overcome the obstacles confronting him and had established himself in a material way, he gradually became more and more a factor of prominence in his community, and his fellow citizens, realizing his worth, elected him to offices of high trust, in which he was able to still further benefit his county and his state. Four years have passed since he joined the great majority in the bourne from which no man returns, yet the influence of his kindly, helpful and useful life still remains, and his record as pioneer, citizen and legislator is one well worthy a place in the annals of the great state which he adopted as his own and whose institutions benefited through his labors.

John Schilling was born at Bingen-on-the-Rhine, Germany, January 1, 1839, and as a small boy he was brought to America by his father, Valentine Schilling. The family settled first in New York State and from there, after a short time, moved to near Kalamazoo, Michigan, at which place John Schilling grew to manhood on a farm and received a limited scholastic training in the public schools. When a young man he left home and for a period thereafter lived at different places in Missouri. At Amazonia he married Susan Meisenheimer, a daughter of Martin Meisenheimer, who was a native of Alsace-Lorraine when those states formed a part of France. Martin Meisenheimer was a soldier in the Napoleonic wars under the direct command of the emperor, and was one of seven of that command to have survived at the overthrow of Napoleon on the great battlefield of Waterloo. It was after this, and because of the unpopularity of his war career, that he came to the United States.

In 1857 John Schilling came to Brown County, Kansas and pre-empted a claim near Hiawatha. At that time he was in exceedingly modest financial circumstances, and, possessing no team, began breaking his land with a spade and hoe. Later, he secured a team of oxen, but not until he and his wife had passed through inconceivable hardships. Game was plentiful and formed a goodly share of each meal, but other foodstuffs were obtained only at prohibitive prices and then had to be hauled over a wide stretch of country before brought to the homes of the sturdy men and women who were courageously and confidently braving the future, ready to meet whatever it might bring. Thus passed four years, years of struggle, of sacrifice and of constant hardship, yet years which saw the little farm take form and become productive. At this time the Civil war came on to interrupt the agricultural career of John Schilling. An ardent Union man, he recruited Company I, Thirteenth Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Infantry, of which he was commissioned captain by Governor Carney, this regiment being mustered in at Fort Leavenworth and mustered out of the service at Little Post, Arkansas, at the close of the war. When peace was declared Mr. Schilling, with an excellent record for bravery and courage on the field of battle, returned to his home, and soon thereafter engaged in mercantile pursuits at Hiawatha, where he became a prominent factor in commercial life. His lack of early educational advantages had been remedied in his later years by extensive reading and observation, and when he entered actively into politics he was fitted to hold any position to which he might be elected. After holding a number of offices in his city and county, he was elected on the republican ticket as a representative to the State Legislature, in which distinguished body he made a very creditable record, notable for its activity, honesty and straightforward search for a betterment of conditions not only in his own community but in the entire state.

Personally, Mr. Schilling was kind-hearted and sympathetic, ever ready to extend a helping hand when asked. He was a worthy neighbor, companionable, kindly in all respects, and when he died, November 21, 1912, left behind him a wide circle of friends to sincerely mourn his loss. He was interested in fraternal affairs, taking particular enjoyment in his membership in the Masons. While inclined to be slow in making up his mind, he was a man of strong convictions, and was tenacious in holding to his views when the matter had once been decided in his mind. In his later life he became a member of the Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Schilling and his wife were the parents of six sons and three daughters, of whom four sons and two daughters are now living. The only child now living in Leavenworth is Albert J. Schilling, secretary and treasurer of the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company. He was born at Hiawatha, Kansas, July 9, 1864, was there educated in the public schools and as a young man engaged in banking which he followed at Hiawatha for a number of years. He came to Leavenworth in 1888 as deputy revenue collector under Cyrus Leland. Since 1904 he has been identified with the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company. To his marriage with Miss Carrie Hill, daughter of O. C. Hill, of Hiawatha, there has been born one son: Carl Fielding, who is now a resident of Kansas City, Missouri.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by students from Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 9, 2000.

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