Sergeant Frederick William John
38 Wisconsin Infantry
Frederick William John
From newspaper article right
Oconto County Reporter
ONE OF THE OLD SETTLERS
Frederick William John, whose portrait we present herewith, is one of the best known pioneers of Oconto county. Mr. John was born in Prussia, March 3 1827 and resided there until 1852, when he came to this country and resided in Milwaukee until the fall of 1854, when he came to Oconto in one of the Ludington lumber vessels and worked for Mr. Hubbell in the Ludington mill. Here he remained until forty six years ago this coming May when he, with Mrs. John, who at first remained in Milwaukee, but had now joined him, moved to Gillett where together, out of the virgin forest they carved a home in which the weary and hungry traveler or woodsman was always welcome and assured of needed rest and food.
When they first sought a home in this now thriving county of Oconto,
the only way to reach it was by water or over the ice or by an Indian
trail without bridges from Green Bay. The only white woman they saw on
their way to their Gillett home was a Mrs.
in a small
shanty up the river in the town of Gillett, on the site of what for a
number of years after was his home. Mr. John first erected a small
shanty in which he and his wife and four small children resided cheered
at night by the howling of the wolves outside, which at that time
abounded. When flour was needed for their subsistence, Mr. John was
compelled to carry it home on his back and when the oldest son and
daughter first attended school they were compelled to go five miles
through the woods without a house on the way. Fish and game were
abundant but so monotonous did this become that the children
occasionally murmured over the unchanging venison diet. One of the
hardest experiences of their lives, however, came in 1871, when the sun
was obscured by the smoke for two weeks during all of which time the
woods surrounding them was on fire. They carried water and fought fire
day and night without rest. On the night of October 8, which old
residents remember with horror as the night of the famed Peshtigo fire,
the children spent the night on a blanket in the road while their
parents fought off the fire, the parents not daring to allow them to
remain in the shanty for fear it with the children would be consumed.
Mr. John has seen considerable military service, first in his native country, where as a member of the heavy cavalry, he assisted in putting down the revolution of 1847-8, which drove Carl Schurz and General Sigel out of Germany, and later in the 38th Wisconsin Infantry in which he enlisted in this city in 1864 and served until the end of the war, participating in the battles of Hatcher's Run, siege of Petersburg and capture of Petersburg and in the big review at Washington returning with the rank of Sergeant. He is the present postmaster of the village of Gillett and has filled the offices within the gift of the people of his town including that of treasurer when the town was a large one and the treasurer required to give a bond of $25,000.
Mr. John recalls many interesting incidents of the early days among which is one of Senator Philetus Sawyer when out on one of his campaigning trips through the lumbering country. It seems that while attempting to drive from Shawano through this county, Mr. Sawyer was overtaken by night, became lost and off the road, stopped his team and alighted from his vehicle to search for the road but after finally finding it was unable to find the team, but succeeded in reaching the John's home and secured assistance and lanterns by means of which the team was recovered and made comfortable for the night.
The C. & N. W. road ran a special train of four coaches from this city leaving here at 12:30 p.m. to convey the friends of the deceased to Gillett for the purpose of paying their last tribute of respect to one whom they had known and admired in his long life in this county. Among those who accompanied the train from here were about 100 Odd Fellows, several members of the G. A. R., a firing squad from Company M, and many others, including a number of ladies. At Stiles Junction and Oconto Falls a number of Odd Fellows and others boarded the train. Mr. John had been an Odd Fellow for a great many years, having joined Oconto Lodge No. 190 on Sept. 12, 1878 and he had always enjoyed the highest respect and esteem of the members. About four years ago he was presented by the lodge with a veterans jewel, which he cherished very much and which was buried with his remains.
The Pulcifer Lodge of Odd Fellows joined the Oconto lodge at Gillett.
The funeral was a most impressive one, and the church was not of sufficient capacity to hold those who had bothered to attend the ceremonies. The pall bearers were taken from the G. A. R. and from the Odd Fellows as follows: From the G. A. R. Chas. Forestal, Charles Burkhart and John Livingstone; from the Odd Fellows: George R. Hall, Adam Tisher and Charles Lynes. The Rev. Jumlien delivered a very eloquent sermon paying a high tribute to the deceased, and he was followed by the Rev. C. S. Gerlach, the Lutheran pastor, who had known Mr. John for a good many years, and who spoke in the German language. He gave a complete biography of the deceased, which was interesting and instructive and those who could understand him state that he was eloquent in his recital of Mr. John's history particularly that pertaining to his experience as a pioneer in this county and as a soldier both in the Prussian and American armies. At the grave the Odd Fellows burial service was read, the firing squad fired three volleys over the grave and the bugler sounded taps, when all that remained on earth of one of the grandest men who had ever lived upon it was laid to rest forever.
Frederick William John was born in Prussia on March 3, 1827. He served two years in the Prussian army, in 1847-48, and in 1852 came to America. He located in Oconto in 1854 having lived two years at Milwaukee prior to coming here. In 1856 he moved with his family to Gillett, where he settled on a homestead, which continued to be his home until his death. The hardships and privations of himself and family as pioneers of this county are interesting and would fill a large volume if the facts could be gathered together. In those early days there were no railroads, or even wagon roads leading from the centers of civilization to the forests in which the homesteaders located, and Mr. John was obliged to carry his supplies on his back from Oconto, a distance of 26 miles, along a blazed trail through the woods to his little log cabin at what is now the village of Gillett.
There were no bridges and whenever a stream was encountered it had to be forded. Beasts of the forest were a constant menace, and every night the wolves came to his door and sat and howled throughout the night. Deer and bear were shot from the door and window of the little log cabin, and they furnished meat for the family while the hides and furs were also utilized to good advantage.
In 1864, when he saw that his country needed his services to assist in preserving the Union, he enlisted in the army and served throughout the civil war, earning a promotion to the office of sergeant. He once told one of his comrades, after a hard fought battle, that he had just received a letter from his wife, whom he had left on the homestead to guard and care for his small children, in which she stated that she wished she could have a cow, as the milk would be such an aid to the family. The first money he received for his services as a soldier he sent home and he later received another letter from Mrs. John advising him that she had purchased a cow, and some of the neighbors had come and erected a warm, comfortable stable for the animal. She mentioned the names of the neighbors who had rendered her the service, and none of them lived less than nine miles away. Among them were Mr. Lord and Mr. Trecartin of Hickory. This shows that in those days neighbors were rather far apart and also that the country must have been very sparsely settled.
Mr. John leaves four sons and one daughter, besides several grandchildren and great grandchildren, to mourn his death. The children are A. C., W. W., Henry and Victor John and Laura Naylor, all of whom reside at Gillett, except Victor, whose home is at Hackley, Wis. All were present at the funeral. His wife died two or three years ago (note: 1908).
The death of few men in Oconto county would cause such profound and universal sorrow as that of Frederick William John. None knew him but to admire him for his splendid traits of character. He was honest, enjoyed the companionship of his friends, and was always jovial and witty. Up to his fatal illness he was a strong, robust man, muscular, active and fearless, which made him one of Uncle Sam's best soldiers.
Frederick William John, one of the best known and most highly respected residents of the county, died at his home in Gillett last Friday afternoon, after an illness of about three months with ureic poisoning.
Mr. John is survived by four sons, A(lfred) C., W(illiam). W., Henry and Victor, and one daughter, Mrs. Laura Naylor, all residents of Gillett except Victor, who resides at Hackley. His wife preceded him to the grave about three years ago.
The funeral was held at Gillett last Sunday afternoon from the M. E. Church, Rev. W. Kumlien of Appleton, pastor of the Gillett church, officiating in English and Rev. C. J. Gerlach, pastor of the Lutheran church and personal friend of several years standing, in German.
A special train was run from this city to Gillett to accommodate about 100 members of the I.O.O.F., of which he was a devoted member a number of his G.A.R. comrades, a firing squad from Company M and other friends who desired to attend.
The local lodge was joined at Gillett by members of the Pulcifer lodge I.O.O.F. and with the other friends from all parts of the country, who desired to pay their respects to his memory, the attendance more than filled the church.
The pallbearers who conveyed his remains to their last resting place were three from his former comrades of the G.A.R., Charles Forestal, Charles Burkhardt and John Livingston and three from his Odd Fellow brethren G. R. Hall, Charles Lynes and Adam Tisher.
At the grave the Odd Fellows burial service was held, three volleys were fired by the squad from Company M, taps were sounded and the earthly remains of a good citizen and friend passed from earthly sight.
PIONEER LADY DEAD
Mrs. F. W. John Died in Gillett Last Thursday Night
RESIDENT COUNTY 53 YEARS
Of Kindly, Genial Nature Was Friend of Hundreds Who Had Enjoyed Her Hospitality
Deceased was born in Germany May 8, 1830, and later came to America, settling in Milwaukee when in 1852 she was married to Mr. John and in 1855 she came to Oconto, Mr John having preceded her the previous year. In May 1858 they moved up the river, to what is now Gillett where they carved out a home for themselves out of the dense forest, only one white woman being seen by them on their way up the river. While they suffered all the trials and privations of this extreme frontier life the traveler who entered their home was always assured from them a cordial, jolly greeting and the motherly solicitations of Mrs. John for their welfare and comfort and the John¹s home was for years a haven of rest to the weary sojourner whose business or hunting trips took him to this portion of Oconto County, at that time virgin forests.
She continued to reside at Gillett from that time until her death and leaves still residents of Gillett her husband three sons A. C., W. W. and R. D. John and one daughter Laura L. John and one son Victor R(H). John at Wabeno to mourn her departure.
The funeral, which was held at Gillett last Sunday with Rev. C. S. Gerlach and Rev. G. M. Wenz of Oshkosh officiating, was one of the largest ever held in the village and every one present from Gillett and from outside the village revered her as a friend through, enjoying her hospitality or from association with her as a neighbor and their sympathy goes out to the surviving members of the family. Her remains were laid at rest in the Gillett town cemetery.