GERMAN FAMILIES OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP: THE ROHLWING FAMILY

Once upon a time, instead of a clock tower on the corner of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads, there was a general store.  It was called the “Schaumburg House.”  It opened in 1858 with Heinrich Rohlwing as the proprietor. 

Heinrich was born in Schaumburg, Germany on Sept. 5, 1826 and came to the United States with his parents, Christoph and Eleonore (Gellermann) Rohlwing, in 1851.  Here, Heinrich met and married Wilhelmine  (Freyse) on April 18, 1852 in St. Peter Lutheran Church. 

During their married life, Heinrich was a busy man.  He owned and farmed land in the far northwest portion of the township and, later, bought property on the west side of Roselle Road  near the intersection with Schaumburg Road.

By the 1860 census, Henry’s occupation is noted as Merchant.  The Schaumburg House sold general merchandise, served as a saloon, hotel and community hall and as a residence for his family.  In fact, a few of the early township elections were held in his house, presumably because of the centralized location of the store in the township. 

 He did his part for township government as well.  He served as Town Clerk from 1862 to 1866, as mail carrier in 1867 and as postmaster in 1869.  Again, the convenient site of his business must have deemed him a natural for these necessary tasks. 

Unfortunately, this active, involved man died at the early age of 43 on March 13, 1870.  In the nearly 18 years of his marriage, he and Minna had eight children.   Only three–Caroline, John and Louise–survived him. 

Minna remarried the following year on September 22, 1871.  This husband, Heinrich Meyer, died three years later in 1874.  Minna kept the store going until a fire in 1881.  According to the Chicago Tribune, “The large general store, warehouse, barn, wagon-shop and blacksmithing shop belonging to the Widow Rohlwing, and situated in Schaumberg, Cook County, burned last night, scarcely any of the stock being saved.  The fire originated in the barn, seemingly being the work of an incendiary.  All the buildings were frame.  The loss is from $10,000 to $12,000.”  Six years later, on June 18, Minna lost her 21 year old daughter, Louise, to tuberculosis.  Minna did not have an easy life. 

Her daughter, Caroline, married John Fenz, another industrious man in the township.  He and his father owned and farmed various parcels of property and, at some point, after the destruction of the Schaumburg House, John and Caroline rebuilt the store.  It continued to be named Schaumburg House but the name was eventually changed to J. Fenz & Son General Merchandise.  It is suspected this happened either after a later remodeling when the building looked like the photo below or when John’s son Herman joined his father in business.              

John Rohlwing went on to marry Louisa Lichthardt and had nine healthy children of his own.  They farmed just over the border in Elk Grove Township and, in fact, the barn that recently came down on the Busse Woods Forest Preserve property was on the former John Rohlwing farm.  In 1909, at the age of 48, John accidentally scraped his left leg against a cultivator and died several weeks later from the resulting infection.

Minna had died of influenze three years before John in 1906 at the age of 82.  Caroline was the last of the third generation and died in 1918 at the age of 63. 

The Rohlwing name lives on, not only in the annals of Schaumburg Township government, but on Rohlwing Road that bears their name. 

(Many thanks to Larry Nerge for his help with the details of this entry.)

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