Biography of George Schmadeka

George Schmadeka
George Schmadeka

History was at one time almost entirely a record of wars, a tale of conquest in which armed hosts went forth to capture, pillage and destroy, but with advancing civilization it has become a very different chronicle, being now more particularly the story of the onward march of progress, the upbuilding of towns and the establishment of those enterprises and interests which contribute to man’s happiness and welfare. In pursuing the study of Idaho’s history we find that the flourishing town of Grangeville owes its existence in part to the gentleman whose name heads this sketch. He arrived on Camas prairie, July 3, 1876, and celebrated the centennial of our national existence at the place which has since been his home. Here he has kept untarnished his good name, and is accounted one of the loyal citizens of his adopted land.

Mr. Schmadeka was born in Hanover, Germany, June 25, 1830, and is of stanch German lineage. He acquired his education in the Fatherland and came to the United States in 1849, then in his nineteenth year. He landed at New Orleans to find himself among a people whose manners and language were utterly unfamiliar to him, but he possessed a resolute spirit and strong-determination, and it was not long before he had gained a start in business life here. He finally joined a party emigrating to Missouri, and on the way eleven of the number died of cholera. On arriving in Missouri he secured employment at a dollar per day and board, in Lafayette County, at raising hemp and also breaking it, which is an arduous task. In 1852 he crossed the plains to Oregon and became one of the brave pioneers of that now prosperous state. That was the year of the “great emigration,” when many hundreds of the emigrants were stricken with the dread scourge of cholera, and the newmade graves of the victims marked the way across the plains. There were thirty wagons in the party with which Mr. Schmadeka traveled, under command of Rev. Jacob Glasbie, a Presbyterian minister, but though the Indians were frequently seen, such a close watch was kept that the party were not attacked by the savages. They were also fortunate in escaping the cholera, only two of the number dying of the disease. On the journey they passed through what is now the state of Idaho, on their way to the beautiful Willamette valley in Oregon, and Mr. Schmadeka located near Eugene, where he took up government land and improved it. He had brought with him a team of horses and a yoke of oxen, and with these he began farming. There he remained for ten years, and his industry and economy brought him success. When the railroad was being built through that section he was enabled to sell his place for a good price, and in 1862 he came to Idaho, where for a number of years he engaged in stock raising.

In 1876 Mr. Schmadeka came with his stock to pasture them on Camas prairie, and that year he purchased here a ranch of one hundred and sixty acres, for nineteen hundred dollars. On a portion of this has since been built the town of Grangeville. He with the neighboring pioneers were “Grangers,” and they built a hall, which was the first public building in Grangeville. This formed the nucleus around which the town was built and from which Grangeville took its name. Thus he became one of the founders of the town, and he and his sons have been important factors in its upbuilding. In the early days of its existence the settlers built a stockade, within which they gathered for safety during the Nez Perces war. In the pioneer times Mr. Schmadeka also offered a lot in exchange for a wheelbarrow, but the owner of the barrow would not make the trade. At all times our subject has aided materially in the improvement and advancement of Grangeville, and many of its enterprises owe their existence to his public spirit. He donated a large lot whereon was erected a roller-process flouring mill, and gave the land which forms the sites of the Methodist and Episcopal Churches. He has platted a large part of the town: many of the lots have been sold and improved by substantial residences or other good buildings, and the lots which he still retains are enough to make him a rich man. Some of the land which he purchased for ten dollars per acre is now valued, at a low figure, at three hundred dollars. No movement or measure tending to benefit the moral, intellectual, social or material interests of Grangeville solicits his aid in vain, his support being cheerfully given to all such. When the grain industry of the valley became great enough to require it, he bought two headers and a threshing machine, and his sons and son-in-law did all the heading and threshing in this locality for years.

While a young industrious farmer in Oregon, Mr. Schmadeka became acquainted with Miss Sophia Maria Gostmaer, a native of Prussia, Germany, and before he had been two years in the Sunset state they were happily married, in 1854. Unto them have been born five sons and three daughters: Christopher Henry, who is now a farmer near Grangeville; Caroline, wife of Henry Miller, of Grangeville; William Frederick, a prominent merchant of the same town; George S., a farmer and stock-raiser on Camas prairie; John Wesley, who also follows stock-raising on the same prairie; Henry, who died in February, 1898, at the age of twenty-four years; Emma May, at home; and Martha Alice, who died in infancy.

In the Nez Perces Indian war Mr. Schmadeka, with his wife and one child, had an almost miraculous escape from death. Just before the out-break of the war he had planned to go with his wife, one of their children and their son-in-law, Mr. Miller, to Walla Walla. The day before starting, a neighbor, John Chamberlain, came to them and asked if he and his wife and child could not go with them. Mr. Schmadeka told them yes, but said to be on hand promptly, as they wished to make a very early start; where-upon the neighbor replied that if he was not there at the hour appointed for Mr. Schmadeka to ride on and he, Chamberlain, would overtake him. The following morning, at the time designated, our subject started. About half an hour later Mr. Chamberlain also started, but met some Indians, who knocked out his brains with the butt of a musket, took the child from its mother’s arms, made a gash in its throat and cut off the end of its tongue. The mother and daughter still live in Idaho. Had Mr. Schmadeka’s family started only a few minutes later they would have undoubtedly met the same fate.

For many years our subject has been an active member of the South Methodist Church and still strongly adheres to that faith. In politics he has been a lifelong Democrat, but has never sought office, serving only as school trustee. For some time he was a prominent member of the Grange, and therein served as trustee and chaplain. Such is the history of one whose connection with Idaho has been long, honorable and beneficial to the state, and although he came to America empty-handed he has by well directed and earnest effort attained a position among the substantial citizens of the community in which he makes his home.



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

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