The Schmidt Family

Earliest known photo of the Schmidt-Burnham Log House, c. 1890.

 

Drawn to the area for its beauty and opportunities, immigrants began setting up farms and homesteads in Winnetka in 1836. The Schmidts, the first known inhabitants of the Log House, were among these early settlers.

The Schmidt family was originally from Trier, Germany. In 1839, Peter Schmidt immigrated to the United States with his four children: Catharine, Anna Maria, Peter Jr., and Elizabeth. After arriving in New York, the Schmidts made their way to Winnetka by boat on the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes or by a horsedrawn wagon from Buffalo.

Arriving in Winnetka, the Schmidts found a sparsely settled, largely wooded landscape ready to be “improved” into farmland. They purchased the Log House in 1841 along with several acres of land. By 1860, eleven members of the Schmidt family were living in the Log House: Peter Sr. and his wife Helen, Peter Jr. and his wife Cecelia, and their seven children.

Life in Winnetka was promising yet challenging. Everyone, including the children, worked hard to keep up the house and help the farm thrive. The Schmidts owned horses, cows, oxen, sheep, and pigs. They produced about 500 bushels of rye, corn, oats, potatoes, and hay, as well as 150 pounds of butter annually.

Winnetka’s first public school, c. 1860. Census records show that Peter Schmidt Jr.’s children attended school in the Village.

To see what Winnetka was like in Winnetka in the 19th century, click HERE

1840 map of the area that became New Trier Township with Winnetka outlined in red pencil.

 

1861 New Trier Township land ownership map indicating Peter Schmidt (shown as P. Smith and P. Schmidtt) as the owner of two 40-acre parcels of land.