The name on the obituary caught my eye.  But, what really got my attention was this line in the obituary.  “Mr. Homeyer was born November 19, 1847 in Schaumburg township and has lived at the place where he passed away all his life.”

Considering the 1847 date, it was likely that his parents were original land patent owners.  During the years 1846-1848 the government sold cheap land to anyone who was interested in buying it.   And, sure enough, John’s father, Henry Homeier (as it was recorded), is listed as having purchased his 40 acres on March 1, 1848.  His property was in section 34 in the southern part of the township along what is now Roselle Road.  You can see his name in the center at the bottom of this plat map.

The other notable thing about the date is that he was born just as the original St. Peter Lutheran Church building, as shown below, was being built and dedicated.  The chances are very good that he was baptized at this church but we can’t say for sure because baptisms were not officially recorded until 1858.

So, think about that.   It was 1847.  At some point prior, John’s parents, Henry and Sophia (Thies) Homeyer, who had married around 1840 in Schaumburg, Germany, made the difficult decision to leave their family and friends, likely forever, to come to the United States.  They made the long, harrowing journey across the Atlantic on a sailing ship with a number of other people from their Lutheran church.  Travelling overland to the wilds of Illinois, they settled in an open space west of the recently incorporated town of Chicago in a township that was laid out but not yet named.

Within a year or two of arriving they discovered that Sophia was pregnant.  Their oldest son, Johann or John, was born November 19, 1847 just as a church was being formed for the rather large German Lutheran contingent that was making their home in the township.  In the following spring, on March 1, 1848, after having occupied their land for a year or two, Henry made the trip into Chicago to finalize the purchase of their forty acres.

Eight years later, in 1855, Henry and Sophia had their second child, Henry.  John was later confirmed at St. Peter’s on April 13, 1862 at the age of 15.  He helped his father on the farm that had expanded to include acreage on the northwest corner of Roselle and Wiese (Wise) Road.  By 1878 he had met Caroline “Lina” Baumann who emigrated in 1874 from Mekelburg in Schwerin, Germany.  They married on July 3 at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church with Reverend Henry Schmidt officiating the service. They are pictured below.

In May of 1879, they had Sophia, their first daughter.  Two years later, on May 5, 1880, Henry Sr. died and was buried at St. Peter Lutheran Church.  John and Henry subsequently inherited the farm.  Judging by the 1880 census–in which Henry Sr. was still listed–the farm contained two households.  Henry, Sophia and Henry Jr. were listed as one household and John, Lina and Sophia constituted another.

Sophia, his mother, died in 1888 and was buried beside Henry as noted in the tombstone above. In the 1900 census, their son Henry Jr. was listed as unmarried and was living with John, Lina and their family, in the same household. Other children had followed for John and Lina and were born through 1895.  They included Wilhelmina, Emma, John, Henry, Martha, Caroline, Herman and Emil.  Unfortunately, Martha and Herman died when they were five and one, respectively.

Around 1913 John and Lina built a new two story home for their big family.  Three years later in May 1916, John’s brother, Henry Jr., passed away and came to the end of his farming days.  By the 1920 census John and Lina were listed as their own household and lived in the farmhouse with their oldest son John, his wife, Martha and their young daughter Viola.  Then, in February 1922, Lina died at the age of 67.  Unfortunately, their daughter Emma died the following year in 1923.  After the death of Lina, John continued to reside with John Jr. and his young family which had grown to include another daughter, Esther.

John lived another 17 years and died at the age of 91 on October 25, 1939.  It is an amazing feat to have been born in 1847, in what was probably a rudimentary shelter, marry, have children and prosper.  And–and–to have it all begin in the same year that St. Peter’s, the crux of this loose community, was forming.

Would I have ever taken note of John Homeyer and his remarkable life if I’d not seen that obituary?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It reinforces how vital an obituary is in recording a person’s history.  They are a wonderful way to track people and the life they lead, whether brief or long–because everyone deserves to have their story told.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

Many thanks to Larry Nerge for the work he did in putting together genealogies of the German farm families of Schaumburg Township.  They are invaluable and many of them are available in the Document section of the Schaumburg Township District Library’s Local History Digital Archive.

I am pleased to share the photo of John and Lina Homeyer that comes to us, compliments of Pastor John Sternberg, who was the pastor at St. Peter Lutheran Church for many years.  Because he came at a time when many of the German families were still in the township, he crossed paths with them and he, too, became interested in their history.  As a result he actively tried to obtain photos, documents and archive items from them and their farms.  After he passed away, his daughter graciously gave us his collection.  This photo was part of it and reinforces how saving your photos is a good idea too!




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