The Blended Family of John Schmitt (1852-1916)


to add: farming issues see PDF

German during WWI  in us -- see sedition article in PDF

link back to Martin home page


A third of a century after his death, John's seven surviving children/step children pose for this photo (age at the time of this 1949 picture in parenthesis) Left to Right: Sister M. (Catherine Schmitt) Monica (65), Joseph R. Schmitt (58), Mathias Banner (68), Leo Schmitt (59), Mary Banner Klein (70), Herbert Schmitt (56), Martin Schmitt (61). 

John Schmitt had 3 marriages and a total of 8 children and 2 stepchildren.  His oldest child (Anna) died at age 6 and his son John (Martin's only full sibling) died as an infant.  The others lived into adulthood but Peter was already dead at age 61, 7 years before the above picture was taken by Francis M. Schmitt (Martin's oldest son) on August 15, 1949.  Mathias Paul Banner (3rd on left) would die a month later. 

Here's more genealogy:

John's parents were both born in Haag, Germany, his father in 1819 and his mother in 1824.  Death dates are unknown.  Our family tree files show no siblings for John (but he was rumored to have a brother in Chicago).

John Schmitt lived 63 years, dying in 1916 on the same day on which his grandson Stan was born.

When John was 23 years old, he married 23-year-old Anna Gauer in 1876.  Anna died at age 32.  The 8 year marriage produced 3 children:

  • Anna (1876) lived 6 years, dying before her father migrated to the United States.
  • Peter (1880) lived 62 years and died 7 years before the above picture was taken.  See his picture below.
  • Kathern (also spelled Catherine?) lived 75 years and entered the Sister of St. Joseph where she was known as Sr. M. Monica.  She is quite obvious at the far left in the above picture.

Meanwhile, Back at the Farm

Rural folks in Germany were leaving in huge numbers, and more often than not, for the United States.


Barbara Flach Schmitt, young Peter Schmitt (missing from the top picture with his siblings), and John Schmitt -- date unknown

In 1885, about 16 months after Anna died, John, then aged 32, married 26-year-old Barbara Flach.  She died at age 28.  Their short marriage had one surviving child, Martin, who would go on to have over 60 grandchildren:

  • John (1886) died before he was a month old.
  • Martin (1887) was born 51 weeks after his brother.  Martin lived 83 years and is at the far right in the top picture.  He married Emma Katherine Klein in 1912.  That marriage produced 7 children and 62 grandchildren (anyone got a better count?), the primary audience for this web page.

John Schmitt (called J.... check Bert)  was from a stable world:  He was born in the same town as his father was in the Rhineland, a part of Germany named for the Rhine river -- Europe's Mississippi.  He shared the name John with both father and grandfather.

German Migration to the US peaked in the 1880s when over 1.5 million entered the States.  John and Magdalena came at the tail end of that decade.  A year after their arrival 2.8 million German-born emigrants were living in the US.

The Emigrants

Apparently before Barbara's death, the couple planned to migrate to the United States.  The next year, John, now a widower with 3 children, married Barbara's older sister, Magdalena, age 32, who was herself a widow with 2 children.  Magdalena's children by her first husband Mathias Banner (1850-1881) joined the blended family as they migrated to the States aboard the S/S Rhynland (shown at left):

  • Mary Banner (1879) lived 75 years and married Mathias Klein (a first cousin of her step-brother Martin's wife) in 1905.  She is 5th from the right in the picture.
  • Mathias Paul Banner (1881) lived 68 years and married Mary Eva Klein in 1906. 

Departing Antwerp, Belgium, the family of seven arrived at Ellis Island on May 16, 1889. (There may have been eight as the four-month pregnant Magdalena may have brought her father, Anton Flach.  However, Ellis Island has no record of him.  (He died at age 80 in 1899 and is buried with many Schmitt/Flach/Banner/Klein relatives in St. Edwar check Bert's note here.)  The family first went to Chicago where John was thought to have a brother.  Eventually they then moved to Mendon but must have spent some time in Michigan's upper peninsula as John and Magdalena's son Leo was born there the following October.  John, who had been a carpenter in Germany, turned to farming.  Martin was (Magdalena's nephew and stepson) was 20 months old and the baby.  (His step-brother Leo would be born in the fall, the first of John and Magdalena's children).  



Many of the names on this page can be found on tombstones at St. Edward's Cemetery in Mendon, Michigan.  If you're into that sort of thing, click here to check it out.


Pay attention now! Since the Kleins and Banners intermarried, we now had a Mary Banner Klein (directly above) and a Mary Klein Banner (you are here).  It gets even more confusing as Mary Eva Klein was one of 3 sisters named Mary (the other 2 died as infants).  In fact, our family tree database has 9 Mary Kleins in all.  When her parents died, Mary raised her younger siblings, including the youngest, Emma Katherine Klein who married Martin.  Looked at another way, John Schmitt's son Martin and stepson Mathias married Klein sisters.  To further complicate matters, John's step daughter Mary married Mathias Klein, a first cousin of Emma.  In later years, Francis Schmitt would refer to some of his relatives through these myriad branches as  "double cousins."

Don't worry, you family tree does branch, but the branches get intertwined: Not only were John's 2nd and 3rd wives sisters, two of his sons married Klein sisters and a daughter married a Klein cousin.

After moving to Michigan, John and Magdalena had three children:

  • Leo Jacobs (1889) was born in Ishpeming in Michigan's upper peninsula and lived 81 years.  He married Selina M. Poirier (date unknown). He is 4th from the left in the above picture.
  • Joseph R. (1891) was born after the family relocated to Mendon, MI, and lived 93 years.  He married Colette Haas in 1918.  He is 2nd from the left in the picture.
  • Herbert Raymond (1893) lived 68 years.  He married Mary Agnes Vyverman in 1921.  He is 2nd from the right in the picture above.
After emigrating to the US, John and Magdalena lived on several farms around Mendon before buying property on the St. Joseph river.  This appears to be their frame house where Martin was raised.  It burnt down...
...and was replaced with this stone house.  Magdalena stayed here until her death at age 74 in 1930.   Leo ((her oldest son by John Schmitt) and his wife Selina took care of her during her final years and lived here after her death.)

Anyone got a good picture of Magdalena????

Magdalena is remembered by her children and grandchildren as a very kind woman.  She was the only mother that Martin would remember as he was 8 months old when his natural mother) and Magdalena's younger sister) Barbara died at age 28.  When she married John in 1888, they had 5 children between them.  She would raise 8 children in all and be remembered fondly by her children, step-children,  and their grandchildren.

Below is a picture taken the same day with John Schmitt's children/step-children standing and their spouses seated (or kneeling).

John Schmitt Children in 1949
Standing from Left: Katherine Schmitt( Sr. M. Monica, SSJ), Leo, Joseph, Herbert Schmitt, Mary Banner Klein, Mathias Banner, Martin Schmitt; Sitting/Kneeling from left: Salina Porier Schmitt, Mary Vyverman Schmitt, Colette Haas Schmitt, Mary Klein Banner, Emma Klein Schmitt. Photo taken August 15, 1949 by Francis Schmitt

Have you been paying attention?  If so, you should be able to handle this photo of 3 Klein Cousins.  Who married whom?               

At far left is Mary Klein Banner who married John's stepson Mathias (and raised Emma after both parents died before Emma was 13).  Next is Colette Haas Schmitt (not a Klein) who married John's youngest son Joseph.  Next is Sister M. Pius, SSJ who (you've guessed it) didn't marry anyone.  She is Mary Therese Klein, first cousin of Mary (far left) and Emma (right).  Mary Therese's sister Lucille was also an SSJ.  If you didn't identify the woman on the far right as Emma Klein Schmitt, wife of Martin, you are too slow to be her descendent.  She was, after all, her class valedictorian.   Emma and Mary were second generation German-Americans.  Orphaned at age 23, Mary was the fifth child in her family but the first to reach age 4!  In fact, she was the third girl in her family to be named Mary; two siblings with that name had died in infancy (not unusual for this time and place.)

How about them links?

Where do you fit in?  To find out, click here and trace downward on John's family tree.

   To see this slide show large, click here

To see more old pictures from the family archives click here.



*John's marrying sisters and his offsprings' inKleination may not have been all that much coincidence.  Before cars became commonplace, most men married women within 5 miles of their homes, about as far as a man could walk and return on the same evening while courting.  In populaton-sparse farm communities, how many eligible women would be within that five mile radius? 

Thanks to the following for their research and editing:  Francis Schmitt, Norbert (Bert) Schmitt Renauld, Sherlene Schmitt Belden.

Please use the "contact us" link below to send corrections, additions, and updates.

last revised: 30 June 2007
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