Founders and Early Settlers of Johnsburg, McHenry County, Illinois

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: Aug 1841
Location: Johnsburg, McHenry County, Illinoismap
Surnames/tags: Adams Frett Schmitt
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St John the Baptist Catholic Church

The area that came to be known as Johnsburg was first settled on 20 August of 1841 by three immigrant families from the Eifel region of Prussia (Germany), the Mayen District (Kreis). The families of Nicolaus Adams, Nicolaus Frett and Jacob Schmitt settled in McHenry County and formed the Catholic parish of St. John the Baptist. Until a church was built, the Nicolas Frett cabin served as a church. In the fall of 1841, a Catholic priest, Father Fisher, had gotten lost when returning from Wisconsin was guided by Indians to the Nicolas Frett cabin, where he said Mass.

The first child to be born (recorded at St Joseph Catholic Church in Wilmette, Cook County, Illinois) in Johnsburg, McHenry County, Illinois on 7 October 1841: Nicholas Schmitt son of Johnsburg founder, Jacob Schmitt. The first marriage was on 8 May 1843 (recorded at St Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois), when Johann Freund married Maria Wagner, in the Nicolas Frett cabin. Nicolas Frett is said to be the first burial in St John the Baptist Cemetery, on 10 July 1844. The first church built served the community until 1850 when a larger frame church was built to replace it. From 1842 until 1852 the parishioners of St. John's were served by visiting priests sent from the diocesan headquarters at Vincennes, Indiana, to care for the sacramental needs of Catholics in northern Illinois and Wisconsin. With the appointment of Reverend Jacomet in 1852, St. John's acquired its first resident pastor and the official record keeping of the parish was begun. NOTE: Previous to this time, records for St John the Baptist were recorded at St Joseph Catholic Church in Wilmette, Cook County, Illinois, as well as several other area established Catholic parishes. In 1867 a third church, [50' by 133'], was built in the Gothic style of Germany. During this time the village of Johnsburg was platted in June of 1868. The church took thirteen years to complete and was the pride of the Johnsburg community.

Twenty years later, this church was also destroyed by a fire on 19 February 1900. Many wooden grave markers of the early settlers in the adjoining churchyard cemetery, were destroyed. A new Gothic style church was built on the same site as the previous churches, and still serves the community of Johnsburg today. The McHenry County Historical Society Committee announced the June 29th 2014 plaquing of Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church located at 2302 West Church Street in Johnsburg. The parishioners of Saint John the Baptist Church, along with the Diocese of Rockford, who have taken care in preserving and restoring their parish church for over 112 years, were awarded their historical plaque in a public ceremony on 29 June 2014, by the McHenry County Historical Society Committee.

St John the Baptist Catholic Church


Links to Profiles of Founders:

Nicolaus Adams 1799-1879

Nicolaus Frett 1797-1844

Jacob Schmitt 1808-1892

Jacob Schmitt and Anna Goedert

Shortly after their arrival, Nicolaus Frett wrote a letter on 30 August 1841, which he sent to friends and family back in Germany, praising the new land and encouraging them to come to America. The letter is known today as The Frett Letter, and was responsible in large part for the great emigration from the Eifel area of Prussia (Germany). The letter has been reproduced in many local history books and a copy is at the Newberry Library in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. There is also a German account in the book, "Homeland Book From Mayen", published 1957, which many relatives today may not be aware of.

Nicholas Frett letter, encouraging friends and family to come to Johnsburg:

"We left our wives and children in the city of Chicago, and we three, [Frett, Adams and Schmitt], went into the country to look for an opportunity, and we found it thirty English miles from the city of Chicago near the village of McHenry, where there is an English free school and a house of correction.

"The village is only three miles distant from us. There I bought land of 160 acres, which according to German measure makes 200 morgen, at $2.50 per acre, in German money, 6 marks. The land lies in a good situation and also is a beautiful area.

"Also, we have very fine meadow land upon which the grass is so high it reaches above my head. This will perhaps seem unbelievable to you, but it is true. I would not have believed it myself had I not seen it. The forest is composed of many trees and hazel bushes like none such as found in Germany and they grow in great masses. Also, in the woods, the wild lemons, (plums), grow in abundance. When we bought the land we hardly knew what to say as we glimpsed the splendid fruit and high grass."

"Nicolaus Adams from Hirten also has as much land as we. Jacob Schmitt of Muenck has sixty acres. We three took ours altogether in one piece. We also bought two oxen that are as heavy as the largest one to be found in Germany. Also, a double span wagon and a cook machine, (cook stove), which is artfully constructed. One can cook on four fires at once and at the same time have an oven baking."

"We also bought two cows and a plow, besides household gear which one needs to farm. The oxen cost forty dollars, and wagon thirty-three dollars, the stove twenty-two dollars with the utensils included, the plow seven dollars, and the two cows twenty-four dollars. When we get things somewhat arranged, we can keep a hundred head of stock at our own place."

"Here it is not like in Germany that one must support the cattle with his labor; here the cattle support themselves. They run out day and night, cows, hogs, oxen, horses, etc. Cows come home evening and morning by themselves. Feed is absolutely free. One can make as much hay as he wants and where he wishes without paying for it. Here one knows nothing about taxes. One does not need to worry about beggars as they do in Germany. Here a man works for himself. Here one is equal to the other. Here no one must take his hat off to another. We no longer yearn for Germany. Every day we thank the dear Lord that He has brought us, so to speak, out of slavery and into paradise. This also I wish from my heart for my dear friends, sisters and brothers, who continue to live in Germany as if under lions and dragons, fearing every moment to be devoured by them."

"Costuming in America is similar to the best people in Germany. It is particularly handsome in the case of men. One cannot distinguish the farmer from the gentleman, they all stand on the same plane. If a women should cross the street without a hat she would be laughed at. In New York, I bought my wife and daughter, Maria, a new mantie, (coat) , of American cut."

"Board is also cheep in America. The common men lives better than the highest in Germany. One cannot describe how good it is in America and the many remarkable things to be found here. If one should write about them, they would sound too unbelievable."

Early Settlers

The following profiles (a work in progress !) are of Early Settlers of Johnsburg, who arrived after 21 August 1841, and members of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church

Nicholas Adams, Martin Adams, Mathias Adams, Johann Adams, Martin Adams, Anna Adams, Jacob Adams, Johann Adams, Bernard Alfing, Heinrich Althoff

Leonard Bantes, Stephan Bantes, Johann Bantes, Nicolas Barbian, Joseph Bauer, Maria Bauer, Peter Bauer, Johann Bell, Catharina Bell, Michael Bell, Gerhard Benolkin, Johann Benolkin, Johann Benolkin, Johann Berlinger, George Blackman, Mathias Blake, Peter Blick, Adam Blick, Phillip Blake, Johann Blick, Philip Blick, Michael Bohr, Joseph Bohr, Jacob Bonslett, Leonard Bonslett, William Bonslett, Bernard Bræcker, Anton Braun, Gerhard Brefeld, Johann Brefeld, Peter Britz, Joseph Buch, Johann Bugner

Peter Caspers, Caspar Caspers, Mathias Cossmann

Anna Dahm, Anna Damble, Margaretha Damble, Clara Damble, Anna Daub, Nicolaus Degen, Margaretha Degen, Maria Demerath, Mathias Diedrich, Thomas Diedrich, Henry Dowe, Bernard Dowe

Johann Ehlert, Clement Engeln, Jacob Engels, Peter Etten

Hubert Fegers, Johann Feldhaus, Johann Festert, Christina Flohr, Catharina Frett

Johann Freund, Johann Freund, Leonard Freund, Mathias Freund, Nickolaus Freund, Nicolaus Freund, Nikolaus Freund, Peter Freund, Stephan Freund, Stephen Freund

Nicolaus Gaeb, Adam Geister, Mathias Gerhard, Mathias Gilles

Johannes Hackenmueller, Peter Harff, Andrew Haungs, Eva Hauprich, Nicholas Hauprich, Peter Josef Hauprich, Phillip Hauprich, Michael Hein, John Hey, Nicholas Hey, Paul Heimer, Johann Heimer, Maria Heimer, Joseph Hemling, Herman Herbes, Nicholas Hess, Heinrich Hiller, Johann Huemann, Johann Huemann, Johann Huemann, Joseph Huemann, Theodore Huemann, Maximillian Huff

Johann Jakobs, Johann Jung, John Justen, Johnn Justen, Nikolaus Justen

Johann Kamb, August Kattner, Robert Kattner, Christian Kaut, Mathias Kehr, Castor Kemmler, Johann Kernebeck, Bernard Kernebeck, Gerhard Kernebeck, Anna Kirst, Peter Klapperich, Johann Klassen, Wilhelm Klein, Johann Koenig, Joseph Koenig, Friedrich Kretschmer

Bernard Laures, Michael Laux, Nicholas Laux, Michael Lenzen, Mathias Ley, Johann Ley, Mathias Linden, Adelheide Luetkefrerich

Johann Martin, Johann May, Johann May, Martin May, Peter May, Anton Meiler, Peter Mertes, Nicolas Meurer, Jacob Meurer, Anton Michels, Catharina Michels, Casper Michels, Joseph Michels, Simon Michels, Nicolas Molitor

Nikolaus Mueller, Peter Mueller, Johann Mueller, Maria Mueller, Adam Mueller, Mathias Mueller, Peter Mueller, Jacob Mueller, Michael Mueller, Adam Mueller, Johann Müller, Jacob Müller, Andreas Mueller, August Mueller, Peter Mueller

Heinrich Nell, Anna Nett, Johann Nett, Christian Niesen, Jean Nimsgern

Johann Oeffling, Michael Ollinger

Joseph Palmes, Ferdinand Phannenstill, John Pitzen, Johann Pitzen, Michael Pulvermacher, Anna Pung

Mathias Rauen, Franz Rothermel

Balthasar Schaefer, Johann Schaefer, Johann Schaefer, Mathias Schaefer, Joseph Schaefer, Johann Schaefer, Johann Schaefer, Michael Schaefer, George Scheid, Mathias Schimmels

Johann Friedrich Schmitt, Johann Schmitt, Friedrich Schmitt, Joseph Schmitt, Franz Schmitt, Martinus Schmitt, Johann Schmitt, Michael Schmitt, Johann Schmitt

Nikolaus Schneider, Friederich Schnorr, Johann Peter Schreiner

Johann Schumacher, Johann Schumacher, Jacob Schumacher, Mathias Schumacher, Peter Schumacher

Catharina Schuenemann, Johann Schuenemann, Peter Steffes, John Stilling, Johann Stilling, Johann Stilling, Heinrich Stilling, Johann Stoffel

Martin Thelen, Mathias Thelen, Stephen Thelen, Heinrich Thelen, Joseph Thelen, Johann Thelen, Anton Thelen, Johann Thelen,

Gerhard Tonyan, Johann Tonyan, Herman Tonyan

Gerhard Uhlenkott, Herman Uhlenkott, Albert Uphoff

Nikolaus Wagner, Mathias Wagner, John Weber, Johann Weber, Barbara Weber, Heinrich Wegener, Simon Weingart, Elizabeth Weingart, Michael Winkels, Martin Williams

First child to be born in Johnsburg, McHenry County, Illinois on 7 October 1841: Nicholas Schmitt son of Johnsburg founder, Jacob Schmitt

First marriage was on 8 May 1843 (recorded at St Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois), when Johann Freund married Maria Wagner in the Nicolas Frett cabin.

First burial in St John the Baptist Cemetery, on 10 July 1844, Johnsburg founder Nicolaus Frett

Early Pastors of St John the Baptist Parish:

The first priest to come upon what was then called "Miller's Settlement" was the Rev. Fr. Fisher who had lost his way returning from Wisconsin and was brought to the settlement by friendly Indians. From 1842 until 1852 the parishioners of St. John's were served by visiting priests sent from the diocesan headquarters at Vincennes, Indiana, to care for the sacramental needs of Catholics in northern Illinois and Wisconsin. [1]

In 1852, St. John the Baptist acquired its first resident pastor, Father T. B. U. John Jacomet and the official record keeping of the church was begun

Father Henry Mehring

Father Hubert Fegers


Family Book: From Langenfeld To Johnsburg, by descendant, Teryl Miller, a great-great-great-grandson of Nikolaus Mueller, published 2008, a copy is at the Johnsburg Public Library:

The Immigrant Founders, Members and Associates of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church, Johnsburg (est August 1841), McHenry County, Illinois. Recently compiled by a great-great grandson of Nikolaus Justen. This booklet can be viewed upon request at the Johnsburg Public Library. NOTE: Call ahead to verify this booklet is still available at the library.

First children to be born in America to the early settlers of Johnsburg, compiled by Sandie Schwartz, maternal great-great-great granddaughter of founder Jacob Schmitt (Anna Goedert):

Volume I of III Early Records 1852-1868 Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church :

Volume II Early Records 1869-1882 of St John the Baptist Catholic Church

Volume III Early Records 1883-1909 of St John the Baptist Catholic Church

Early Settler Certificates, McHenry County, includes surnames of Early Settlers of Johnsburg:

Johnsburg Public Library:

St John the Baptist Catholic Church, Johnsburg:

St John the Baptist Catholic School:

St John the Baptist Cemetery, Johnsburg;

Comments: 2

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Thanks Sandie for putting this wealth of information together!
posted by Andreas (Basso) West
Great work, Sandie
posted by Robin Rainford