In the 1850s Heinrich Rohlwing and his wife Wilhelmina built a general store on the southwest corner of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads where the clock tower stands today. They called it Schaumburg House.
Heinrich and Wilhelmina (Freise) ran it together after their marriage at St. Peter’s in 1852. Between 1853 and 1868 they had eight children, three of whom survived into adulthood according, to Larry Nerge’s Founding Families of St. Peter Lutheran Church.
In 1870, at the age of 43, Heinrich died of cancer and was buried at St. Peter’s. Wilhelmine then married Henry Meyer in 1871 and continued to run the store past his death in 1874.
Unfortunately, the store burned to the ground on September 21, 1881. A brief from the Chicago Tribune dated from Elgin, Ill. states “the large general store, warehouse, barn, wagon-shop and blacksmith 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.”
By the time of the fire, Mrs. Rohlwing’s daughter, Caroline, had married John Fenz in 1877. They had seven children between 1879 and 1899 and had helped Mrs. Rohlwing run the business.
In 1882 John and Caroline stepped in and rebuilt the store, renaming it Schaumburg House. We are secure in the year 1882 because the October 1936 obituary of John/Johann said that he retired after 37 years in the business. Earlier issues of the Daily Herald give 1919 as the year he sold the store. Subtracting 37 from 1919 gives us 1882. His mother-in-law was very likely tired from maintaining the store and overwrought from the fire that leveled it. As a result she turned the corner location over to her daughter and son-in-law.
Once it was rebuilt, the business continued to be all things to all the people of Schaumburg Township. At various times it served as a general store, post office, polling place, dance hall, hardware and tin dealer and farm implement dealer.
In the photo above, according to a “Way Back When” article from the October 7, 1949 issue of the Daily Herald that was specifically written about this store, the first door on the left was the entrance to the general store. The second door on the left was the entrance to the tavern. The door on the right hand corner was the entrance to the dance hall on the second floor.
By zooming in on the photo above, the upper sign on the left says “John Deere Plows.” The lower sign on the left says “Champion Harvesting Machines.” The sign above the middle door says “Schaumburg House.” The words on the right side of the building say “Groceries & Dry Goods, Clothing, Hats & Caps, Boots & Shoes, Tin & Hardware.”
Or, as the October 1936 obituary of John Fenz put it, “He sold them [his friends and neighbors] the supplies for the table, the things to wear, machinery for the field and hardware for the house and barn. It was in the days before paved roads and autos and many a farmer depended upon the service of Mr. Fenz to market his produce. His advice was also frequently called upon in other business problems of his customers.”
And, judging by the people in the photo above, it is suspected that John and Caroline are proudly standing in front of the large front store window to the right. The year is probably 1884 and can be deduced in the following way.
The young girl in the dress is likely Emilie, their second daughter and child who was born in 1880 and died in 1887. Caroline appears to be holding their son, Herman, who was born in 1883. He looks to be between the ages of one and two. John and Caroline’s next child, Hermine, was born in 1885. Since these three were alive together until 1887 when Emilie died, all three would have been in such a proud photo. Since there are only two children in the photo, we have to assume it was taken in 1884, about a year and a half after Herman was born and a year before Hermine was born.
By 1905, the first year that the Daily Herald is available on microfilm, the store was referred to in advertisements as John Fenz & Son. It most likely refers to his first son, Herman but could have also referred to his second son, William, who was born in 1889. We can confirm it was Herman through his January 14, 1944 obituary in the Daily Herald, where it states that “he was a former resident of Schaumburg and some 25 years ago operated a general store there.”
It is also possible that John retired around 1913 when he had this home built by local builder and neighbor, Louis Menke who lived in the Turret House. John would have been 61 years old, having owned the store for 31 years. The home still exists today on East Schaumburg Road, across the road from Lou Malnatis.
By the time this photo was taken in 1913, the Fenz’s had updated the building by adding the front display windows and entrance. Not only did there appear to be a livery, stable or blacksmith shop on the southern side of the building but a telephone pole on the far left also confirmed that phone service was available for residents of Schaumburg Township.
More elaborate gables and an addition on the western edge, with a more formal entrance, were also put in place. It is possible that the far right portion of the building was used as a residence for the Herman Fenz family. Herman had married Emma Pfingsten in 1906 and, in running the store, it might have been more convenient to live on the premises.
In fact, as stated earlier, Herman W. Fenz held onto the business until 1919 when he sold it to Charles E. Hoffman in May of that year. In the Daily Herald of May 9, it states that “H.W. Fenz moved his household effects last week to the John Fenz home.” In addition, it states that Mr. Hoffman hired Edward Dickman to manager the store and his family “will occupy the rooms annexed to the store.” It seems a reasonable assumption that the far western portion of the store was used by both Fenz and Dickman.
For over 60 years a member of the Rohlwing/Fenz family was engaged in running a vital, community gathering space for township residents. Unfortunately, though, the building met the same fate as its predecessor when it caught fire on September, 17 1924, a mere five years after the Fenz family passed on ownership. They may very well have watched the building burn from their home. We can only imagine what a sad day it was.
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library