JOHN GUNZENHAUSER

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 107-109

JOHN GUNZENHAUSER, one of the most successful among Chicago citizens of German birth, has seen the city develop from very small beginnings, and has built up his own fortunes in the same marvelous manner as that characterizing the growth of the city.  He was born at Geislingen, Wurtemberg, Germany, on the fifty-seventh anniversary of the Declaration of American independence—July 4, 1833.  His paternal grandfather was a miller in Geislingen, where his father, David Gunzenhauser, was born.  His mother, Ursula Spaeth, was the daughter of a potter and farmer, and was born within two miles of the same place.  David Gunzenhauser served an apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker and house-carpenter, and spent several years as a journeyman at Frankfort-on-the-Main.  At the age of about thirty years he settled in his native city, where he continued until his death, at the age of ninety years, his life being contemporaneous with that many years of the present century.  His son spent the winter of 1883084 in visiting his father, who was then in perfect health.   The mother died December 19, 1881, at the age of seventy-eight years.  They had five sons and two daughters.  One son, Frederick, the only one beside John to locate in America, came over in 1865 and settled at Austin, a suburb of Chicago, where he died in April, 1895, survived by a widow and five of his six children.

John Gunzenhauser remained in his native city until seventeen years of age, receiving his education in the public schools.  On leaving school at fourteen, he was apprenticed to an architect, builder and surveyor, for the purpose of fitting himself to be a master-builder.   During his apprenticeship he was employed in railroad construction, thus acquiring a practical education as well as theoretical.   At eighteen he set out upon a tour through Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Germany and Denmark, to enlarge his experience, according to the custom of German journeymen.  Having mastered all the details of his business, he determined to seek his fortune in the New World.  He left his home March 23, 1854, and sailed from London, England, on a sailing-vessel in April, 1854, and arrived, after a voyage of thirty-five days, in New York, on the 12th of May.  He found employment for a few weeks in Brooklyn, and was then offered a position as carpenter at Troy, New York, on the 12th of May.  He found employment for a few weeks in Brooklyn, and was then offered a position as carpenter at Troy, New York, where he remained nearly a year.  He mastered the English language very rapidly, and because of his proficiency was soon employed as an architect.

He came to Chicago in April, 1855, and pushed on to Dixon, Illinois, where he remained for a few months.  January 1, 1856, he established himself in Chicago, and was busied for a short time in building operations.  On the 15th of February, 1859, he opened a real-estate office, acting as agent for others.  By his shrewdness and close application he was able to secure a clientage among the wealthy real-estate owners of Chicago, whose interests he served faithfully, and many opportunities for investment were placed in his way.  He made judicious purchases of real estate on his own account, and has steadily enlarged his holdings, until he is reckoned to-day among the multi-millionaires.  He is a large owner of real estate in Indiana, near Chicago, and in many districts of the city.  He is still among the most diligent workers, giving personal attention to the details of his extensive operations, and takes very few holidays.  By his systematic methods and diligent application, he established himself in business when many others were bewailing the hard times, or their own individual ill-fortune.   He is the owner of a few acres at Batavia, Illinois, where in his quiet rural home he escapes from the noise and burden of business in the city when his day’s work is done.

Mr. Gunzenhauser has been for many years identified with the Christian Church, in which he is an earnest and sincere worker.   He is a Deacon of the church at Batavia, and formerly occupied a like position at Chicago.  His every action is guided by principle, and he became a member of the Republican party on acquiring citizenship, because he believed that organization represented the truest and most practical rules of free government.  He has acted as receiver, trustee, and as executor of many estates, bringing to the discharge of his duties in such capacity the same faithful and diligent labor which has characterized the management of his individual affairs.

He was married, in 1861, to Miss Emma Scouton, a native of the Mohawk Valley, New York, who died November 4, 1865, leaving a daughter, Emma.  The latter is the wife of Charles E. Hodge, of Normal Park, Chicago, who is the assistant of Mr. Gunzenhauser in business.  Mr. and Mrs. Hodge have a daughter and son, named, respectively, Edith and Frank.  October 22, 1868, Mr. Gunzenhauser married Miss Magdalena Groll, who was born in Chicago, April 17, 1845, and is a daughter of Philip Groll and wife, whose maiden name was Letz, both natives of Alsace.  Three sons and a like number of daughters have blessed the second marriage.  The third child, William, died February 18, 1892, at the age of nineteen.  The others are John, Magdalena, Clara Louise, George W. and Nellie, all residing with their parents.

Let the American youth who would succeed in life adopt the same rules of diligence, economy and integrity which have characterized the life of the subject of this notice, and he cannot fail to achieve success, honor and a peaceful old age.

                                -- Submitted on March 22, 2000 by Sherri Hessick ( shessick@flash.net )