Biography of Charles A. Schnabel

Thirty-seven years have passed since Charles Augusta Schnabel came to Idaho. This state, so aptly termed “the gem of the mountains,” was then a wild district, its lands unclaimed, its resources undeveloped. A few courageous frontiersmen had dared to locate within its borders, but the work of progress and improvement remained to the future, and there was little promise of early development. In the years which have since passed Mr. Schnabel has not only witnessed a most wonderful transformation, but has largely aided in the labors which have transformed the wild tract into a splendid commonwealth. Now in his declining years he is living retired, enjoying the well-earned rest which is the merited reward of a long and honorable business career.

A native of Prussia, Mr. Schnabel was born in Elberfield, October 18, 1828 and for generations his ancestors had resided in the fatherland. He acquired his education in the public schools, and in Germany learned the trade of fringe and lace weaving. When a young man of twenty years he determined to try his fortune in America, landing in New York on the day that Zachariah Taylor was elected president of the United States. He then made his way to Baltimore, Maryland, where he had a brother living, and in that city worked at his trade for a year, when, hearing of the rich gold discoveries in California, he determined to make his way to the Pacific coast. Twice he attempted to work his way across the country, but each time, after getting as far as western Missouri, lack of means forced him to turn back. A third time, however, he made the attempt, and this time succeeded in reaching the goal of his hopes. He traveled by way of New Orleans and by the Panama route to California, where he arrived in 1853, and in Sierra County successfully engaged in mining. He was thus enabled to send money home to his mother and sisters, but in the winter of 1862 mis-fortune again overtook him, a flood carrying away his flumes and other mining machinery. It was at this lime that he learned of the discovery of gold in Florence, Idaho, and so, traveling by way of Portland, Oregon, and up the Columbia River, he ultimately arrived in Florence, in May, 1862. His mining operations in that locality, however, did not prove profitable, and in the spring of 1863 he went to Idaho City, where he engaged in merchandising, his sales in one year amounting to one hundred thousand dollars. In a single day he sold and wrapped goods to the value of twenty-six hundred dollars.

Mr. Schnabel was thus closely connected with the development of the business interests of the northwest, and has taken an active part in promoting all enterprises which tend to advance the welfare of his state. In 1859, while engaged in mining, he visited Virginia City, when there was one store in the town. He became the owner of the Monte Christo claim, which in the following spring he sold to Senator Stewart for twelve hundred dollars. He purchased a fourth interest in the Hale & Norcross claim for one hundred dollars, and sold it the following spring for fifteen hundred dollars. That claim afterward proved to be very valuable, yielding rich deposits of ore. While at that point Mr. Schnabel saw the first pony express that ever crossed the country. In his mercantile ventures his success was assured from the beginning. He had a reputation for in-flexible integrity that extended far and wide, and his word was ever considered as good as his bond. He received a very extensive patronage from the Indians, and never had any trouble with them, for they said that “he has but one tongue,” meaning that they always found him truthful. What higher compliment could be paid a business man?

After engaging in merchandising for a year, Mr. Schnabel found it possible, as the result of his success, to visit the fatherland and the friends of his childhood. Five times has he crossed the Atlantic to Germany, thus continuing the ties of comradeship and regard with many in the old country. In 1867 he returned to Idaho, and engaged in merchandising with Peter Sonna until 1870, when he sold his interest to his partner and again made the voyage across the Atlantic to the home of his childhood and youth. There he was married to Miss Eva Elizabeth Shafer, his old sweetheart, and with his bride came to his far western home. Here he again opened a store, and was successfully engaged in merchandising until 1890, when, having acquired a handsome competence, he retired to private life. In 1867 he attended the World’s Fair in Paris, and after selling his store, in 1890, he took his family abroad. His seven daughters are all talented musicians and vocalists and in the art centers of the world they were given opportunity to study music under some of the most famous musicians of the age. Mr. and Mrs. Schnabel may well be proud of their family. Their eldest daughter, Elizabeth Idaho, is now the wife of Sherman King, of Boise. The others are Minnehaha, Anna Columbia, Victoria America, Rosa May, Augusta Octavia and Flora Centennia, which latter died at the age of thirteen years and five months. The youngest daughter was given her father’s middle name, Augusta, and also the name of Octavia, by reason of her being the eighth.

During the civil war Mr. Schnabel was a stanch advocate of the Union cause, and since the organization of the Republican party has been one of its earnest and zealous supporters. The cause of education in Boise has found in him a warm friend, and while serving as school trustee for a number of years he did effective service in the interest of the city schools. He was at one time the nominee for County commissioner. Reared in the faith of the Lutheran church, he has always had great respect for religion and now attends the Methodist services, but is not a member of any church. He is now enjoying a well earned rest and the esteem of his fellow men, who, having long been witnesses of his upright career, entertain for him the highest regard.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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