HENRY ERNST SCHMIDT.
Left an orphan at the early age of sixteen years, when death robbed him of both mother and father in the brief space of two short weeks. Henry Ernst Schmidt has been in the fullest sense the architect of his own fortune. Alone and unaided he has been able to secure a comprehensive education, and for several years past he has been filling acceptably the position of superintendent of the Breese public schools. That he was called to fill that responsible position in the town where he was born and spent his early youth is a fitting testimony to the intrinsic worth of the man, and of his qualifications for the work in which he is engaged.
Henry Ernst Schmidt was born in Breese, Illinois, on January 19, 1861. His father, Frederick Schmidt, was born February 17, 1827, in Mecklenburg, Germany. He was the son of a farmer, and when he came to America in 1859 he located at Breese, Illinois, and secured work as a day laborer. When he landed in New York he was immediately married to Catherina Yungblut, a native of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany, the marriage occurring on September 25, 1859. Settling at Breese, Illinois, they took up their life among the earliest settlers of Clinton county. Five children were born of their union: Henry; Annie, now Mrs. Charles Muehlenbein; William; Lizzie, now Mrs. Armin Kerbes; and Fred.
William and Lizzie were twins. In 1877 Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt were torn from their young family by death, passing away within a few weeks, leaving their five children in an orphaned state, Henry being the eldest. No relatives were near to care for the children, and kind neighbors helped them in various ways until they were old enough to make their own way in the world.
Henry Ernst Schmidt found a home in the family of Charles Dorris, a neighboring farmer, and he worked with him for four years, diligently saving his slender earnings until he would have sufficient to see him through a course of schooling. He had been able to receive but very limited advantages in the public schools prior to the time of his parents' demise and he was determined to secure an education that would help him materially in his future life and work. When he was twenty-one he drew out his savings of four years and attended the Southern Illinois Normal for two years. Following that course of study he accepted a position as teacher of the Breese school, which at that time had but one room, with an attendance of sixty to eighty pupils. After eight consecutive years of service in that capacity he took a position with the Breese Mill & Grain Company as clerk, remaining with that firm until the mills burned down several years later. Subsequently he was with the Hoffman & Helwig Company as a clerk in their store until 1908, at which time he was appointed principal of the Breese public schools. The school system had expanded with the passing of the years, coincident with the growth of the town, and at the time Mr. Schmidt resumed the principalship of the schools after an interval of more than fifteen years the pupils were housed in a fine brick structure of four rooms, with an average attendance of two hundred scholars. The curriculum of the system includes nine grades, and graduates of the school are able to secure second grade teachers' certificates. Mr. Schmidt's efforts since he has had charge of the schools have been largely rewarded in renewed and increased efficiency of the system, and he is a strenuous worker for the advancement of the standing of the institution of which he is the head. Modern methods are his, and the results of his labors are everywhere apparent in the school.
Mr. Schmidt is a liberal Republican in his political views and has held office in Breese in many and varied capacities. He was township collector for four consecutive terms, and township clerk for one term, as well as city treasurer of Breese. On each occasion he has been elected in the face of strong opposition, the town being almost solidly Democrat, but his record and standing has been such that he has been able to break down the strength of opposing political forces in every fight he has waged in the municipal elections. His service in every public office he has held has been of a high order, and always he has held the interests of his town in first place. Mr. Schmidt is a member of St. John's Evangelical church, is secretary of the church, and is active in all departments of its work. He is clerk of the Modern Woodmen of America lodge in Breese and is the secretary of the Concordia Singing Society of Breese. In addition to Mr. Schmidt's position as superintendent of schools, he is the agent for a number of fire insurance companies, and carries on a thriving business in that line in connection with his other duties.
On April 29, 1886, Mr. Schmidt was united in marriage with Miss Emma Gerdes, daughter of Gottleib Gerdes, of Breese, her parents being both deceased. Ten children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt, eight of whom are living. Edward, the eldest, is superintendent of the Water, Light & Power Company of Breese, while Fred, Herbert, Harold, Hilda, Alfred, Alevia and Emily are all students in the schools of Breese.