Simon Trefzger
born 10/16/1831, immigrated 1855, died 2/17/1921

Simon Trefzger(Jr), was born in Wehr, Baden on October 16, 1831. He was the 9th child and 4th son of Simon Trefzger, Sr. and Juliana Gruny.

Joseph (the 1st son) who had grown up playing around the pottery shop of his father became a Master Potter like Simon, Sr. Since there was no need for another potter Johann (the 2nd son) became a Master Shoemaker. Anton (the 3rd son) learned the plastering trade and became a Master Plasterer. Felix (the 5th son) became a lumberman.

Simon, Jr. attended the local schools and learned the bakery trade. On completion of his apprenticeship, became a member of the Master Bakers Guild.

The town of Wehr was very small, not much more than a village. It is located in a valley on the small Wehr River, just about 5 miles from the Rhine River and Switzerland.

During the late 1830s and 1840s while Simon was growing up there were crop failures, a lack of industrial employment, overpopulation, social discontent and political repression. The industrial revolution which had started in England and was moving into north Europe did not help southern Baden.

The people had heard about the American Revolution, about the tremendous size of the United States, all of the cheap land, and all of the opportunities in America, the turmoil in France, and the changes in the world. Liberal and nationalist ideas became more popular. The political discontent grew along with a movement to create a republic in Baden.

Finally (when Simon, Jr. was 17) there was a revolution. In September 1848 the reigning grand duke Leopold had to flee from Baden. The revolutionaries held Baden until May of 1849 when Leopold with the help of Prussian troops was restored to power. The revolutionaries had to flee across the Rhine to Switzerland.

Shortly after the revolution Simon, Sr.’s friend Meinrad Berger and his wife Catharina Trefzger (Simon’s distant cousin) sold their textile mill, and took their family to America.

Simon, who was just 21years old had been dating Katharina Scherr. Katharina was 19. Johann, Simon’s older brother was dating Maria Weber.

Saturday April 11, 1853 was a special day for the Trefzgers. For months the whole family had been planning. Johann had proposed to Maria Weber, and Simon, Jr. had proposed to Katharina Scherr. Finally the big day came. Almost the whole town turned out. They all met at Saint Martin’s Church. What a ceremony, Johann married Maria and Simon married Katharina. And what a reception they had.

Later that year Simon and Katharina's first child, little Mary Luise was born. Late the following year their second child, Emma Lena was born.

Having heard of the unusual and wonderful opportunities which lay in the new world, and knowing the Bergers who had gone to Cincinnati, Ohio, Anton (Simon’s older brother), Maria Anna (his older unmarried sister) along with Simon and Katharina decided to go to America. At that time Cincinnati was the "metropolis" of the new world with a high percentage of people of German descent. Anton wanted to go on farther west to St. Louis where there was also a large number of Germans.

After much discussion in the family, weighing the pros and cons, the descission was made. Simon would go to the Grand Duke's represenative in town and request permission to leave. The request was granted. Permit number 356 was issued for Simon Trefzger, his wife and 2 children, (Maria Luisa and Emma Lina), his brother Anton 26 years old, and sister Maria Anna Trefzger 29 years old, all born and residents of Wehr with the destination, America, with the purpose to settle there. The date was March 31, 1855.

There was much hurried last minute packing. There was the sad last day with last meals with the family and sad farewells with Mother and Father and siblings. An of course, the last instructions from Simon(Sr.). The little group was off to leave Baden at Grossherzogthum on April2, 1855. Then they had to get their Permit stamped at 3 French towns. They cleared the first one on April 4, the second on April 7, and finally the reached LaHarv. Then on April 29, 1855 the had their Permit stamped for the last time and were able to board their ship.

The little group, with all their luggage, made their way to the port. They boarded a sailing ship as steerage passengers. The trip would take about 30 days.

After a long and difficult voyage Simon, his wife Katharina, daughters Mary Luise and baby Emma, along with Maria Anna and Anton finally arrived into New York’s harbor. What an exciting time, they had made it to America.

Had they come 5 years earlier they probably would have caught a ship up the Hudson River to Troy, where they would have moved onto a barge to come across the Erie Canal to lake Erie or else they would have had to come west by stagecoach, but in 1851 there was train service from Cincinnati to Columbus and to Cleveland. In 1853 there were tracks from Philadelphia and the east coast to Cincinnati. So they probably took the train to Philadelphia and then on to Cincinnati at the incredible speed of about 25 mph where their friends the Bergers had settled.

They had come as steerage passengers, in the spring of 1855. The trip took 30 days. Simon and his family settled in Cincinnati. In Cincinnati they lived at 71 McMicken Street.

With no opportunity to follow his trade and having a family to feed, Simon worked at the docks on the Ohio River. Still later he worked for his friend, John Berger, a cigar manufacturer.

After living for two years in Cincinnati, Simon heard of an opening for a baker in Oxford, Ohio. He went there to work leaving his family in Cincinnati. He traveled back and forth by stagecoach. While working in Oxford, his wife did sewing in her home for a tailor in order to supplement their meager income. He worked in Oxford one year.

Simon learned from Anton of the need for a baker in Peoria. In 1858, Simon took his family (which now included a son Adolph, born in Cincinnati) with him to Peoria. Simon got the job, and worked for another baker for several years. In 1861, he opened his own bakery.

During these years Simon’s family grew. Son Adolph was born in 1857 in Cincinnati. Joseph was born in October 1858 and died in 1862 in Peoria. Charles was born in 1860. Frederick was born in November 1861 and lived about 9 months. A second Frederick was born in 1863 and lived only 3 months.

During the Civil War Simon got the contract to supply bakery goods for the Union troops stationed just outside of Peoria. It was a hard job, seven days a week, week in and week out. At the end of the war Simon was worn out. Some sores had opened on his legs, and they were not healing. Simon knew of the healing hot springs near his home in Baden, he knew a good doctor who had treated his family, he wanted to see his family and friends again in Wehr, and he longed for a vacation after all of his hard work.

So in 1867 he took his family (which now consisted of his wife and 5 children; Mary, Emma, Adolph, Charles and Louis) back to Germany. After reaching Germany the Franco-Prussian War broke out. This prevented his return to America as he had planned. While in Germany Anna, Rudy, and a third Frederick were born. Simon was not able to return until early 1872. Anna who was just 4 years old was running around so Charles who was almost 12 was given the responsibility of going after her and watching over her. Baby Frederick Wilhelm ‘Fritz’ learned to walk on the ship coming back to America. Rose Petronella or ‘Nellie’, the last child, was born in Peoria in 1875.

Simon had left his bakery in the hands of two employees. Expecting to find his business thriving when he returned, he was quite surprised to find the doors locked and no customers. The employees had abandoned the business, and were gone.

Simon opened the bakery and started again. He and his family lived above the bakery on Fulton Street.

Charles, when he was 16, started working for his dad in 1876 at the bakery. The bakery was renamed “Simon Trefzger and Son. In 1890 Simon sold the bakery to Charles and Simon retired.

The 1890 Peoria, Illinois Directory list Simon as a 'Baker and confectioner' at 533 Main Street for 1890 and 1891. I also lists Simon as living at 108 S. Monroe St. for 1891 and 1892.

Simon was active in the building of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and the development of the parish. He was also very active in the German societies and clubs in Peoria.

After Simon retired he lived on Monroe Street just behind the Bakery on Main Street.

The 1900 census shows Simon living in Ward 2. With Simon and Katherine are Mary Bauer, Emma Schmidt, Anna Trefzger, Charles and Louis Schmidt.

Simon was proud of his German heritage, and his German friends. He valued the things he had learned as he was growing up. In 1892 Simon, his wife Katharina, and youngest child Nellie went back to visit his homeland, family and friends in Wehr, Baden. In 1910 Simon, Katharina, and daughter Anna went back to Wehr again. A July 5th article in the weekly Sunday newspaper in Wehr tells of big going-away party Simon threw in Wehr before he left Wehr for the final time.

In the 1910 census Simon And Katherine are in Ward 3. With them are Anna and Mrs Mary Bauer.

Simon died on February 17, 1921 when he was 89 years and 4 months old. Simon is buried in the Trefzger plot in St. Joseph Cemetery in Peoria.

Fred's 'Stories'
Fred Berger has written an excellent book 'Stories from The Berger History'.
For information about 'the Bergers and the Trefzgers join hands again' see the link to "Fred's 'Stories'p.53".

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