Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Carl Herman Zillmer, 1860-1933

Early Marion Businessman, Entrepreneur, Industrialist

by Delores Miller

Carl Herman Zillmer (1860-1933) was born in Granow, kr. Arnswalde, Brandenburg, Pommern, Poland  Prussia and emigrated to America with his parents Michael Zillmer (1814-1895) in 1868  Siblings Augusta Durkee     Arnd(t), 1840-1906, Fredericka Herrman, (1850-1907), Wilhelmine Schoneck, (1841-1917), William Zillmer of Symco, (1855-1907), Friedrich Zillmer, (1853-1877), John Albert Zillmer (1869-1939).

Teddy Roosevelt said in 1907:  'In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith, becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else.'  So it is with Carl Herman Zillmer, an emigrant who became an American.

On April 13, 1883 Carl Herman married Fredericka Detert, (1861-1944).  For a few years,  farmed in Dupont until they sold the farm to Wepners, and moved lock stock and barrel  to the village of Perry's Mill or Marion.  Blessed with three children, John, (1887-1969), Emil, (1891-1957), and Clara Miller, (1893-1995).  Neighbors  on the north side of town  were Heller, Strasburg, Schmidt, Popendorf, Case, Bertram, Westphal, Peters, Halpot, Elandt.  Their home was later occupied by Vic and Ruth Seyler.

Education was important and John, Emil and Clara were some of the first graduates of Dupont/Marion High School.

Carl Herman owned a dray and trucking business, delivering goods from the railroad station.  Owned and operated a grain elevator, a huge brick building next to the train tracks.  A pioneer entrepreneur and industrialist.  He was a founding member of the South Dupont St. Paul Lutheran Church, later gave religion away, and became a Mason Lodge Member.  Also a charter member of the Dupont Farmers Insurance Company and the Marion Telephone Exchange, although his house never had a telephone.  Loaned money out of his capital for farm mortgages at 2% interest.   Worked for Max Dapin, the Jewish businessman. 

Carl Herman had one of the first automobiles in Marion, a big touring car.  After driving horses for many years, he was never able to get the hang of three pedals on the floor.  Fredericka crocheted curtains and made flowers to put in the decorative vases adorning the inside of the motorcar.  Although he was born in Germany and brought the ship over the ocean, once he moved to Marion, he never ventured far.  Ambled down town to the Post Office and check his many enterprises.

When Carl Herman Zillmer became old, ill, infirm, he had cancer of the bowels, he was always constipated and took one of Carter's Little Liver Pills each day.  He was a teetotaler.    He died of complications of surgery for cancer on May 10, 1933 at the age of 73.   The Masonic service was held at the house and the small room in back of the Uttormark Funeral home. 

Blaine Bud Miller, born in 1929, a grandson could remember Carl Herman promising to take him fishing after his surgery, but alas, he died on the operating table.  Bud went on to a long life of fishing, and involved in the insurance business in Marion, traits and genes inherited from his Grandfather Carl Herman.

John Ewald Zillmer, (1887-1969) after graduation from Marion/Dupont High School traveled north to the Elmhurst, Minocqua and Woodruff area.  Railroad and   bakery business.  Two children, Evan John and Fern Krenger.  John was involved with the Chicago Black Sox Baseball Team of 1919.  He spent a year with the team, barnstorming around the country while his wife and two small children to fend  for themselves, by this time he was 32 years old.  This was before the Black Sox scandal of 1921 prior to when  they changed their name and were banned from professional baseball forever.  Bill Kinsella, an author wrote the 'Shoeless Joe Jackson' books which became part of the 'Field of Dream's movie shot in Iowa.  John came back to Woodruff, also an entrepreneur and capitalist and leading businessman of that area.

Emil Zillmer graduated from Marion High School, attended the Armour Institute of Technology and pursued a career in architecture.  Lived in Grand Rapids Michigan, three children, Bruce, Lois and Carl.

Clara, the only daughter of Carl Herman and Fredericka Zillmer graduated from Marion High School where she played basketball.  Went to college to become a teacher, but her parents deemed that too dangerous.  In December 1912 married Marshall John (Jack) Miller.  Lived in Milwaukee for several years where he worked for the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company.  Three children, John Carleton, Beth and Blaine.  Moved back to the Marion area, sold insurance and had a labor-intensive ginseng farm in back of their house, now located at the golf course and pond.  Gingseng was sold to the Chinese and they used it to cure many ills, including aphrodisiac.

Evan John Zillmer (1919-2006) was the son of John and Sadie Zillmer of Woodruff.  Often spent time in Marion visiting his grandparents and cousins.  When he was 22 years old on September 7, 1941 he asked his Mother for fifty cents for gas for his Harley Davidson Motorcycle so he could go to Rhinelander to enlist in the United States Army Air Corps.  On December 7, 1941 he flew to Bassingbourn, England.  While at Boeing he completed a course on the B-17 Flying Fortress.  Even though he was with the Honor Guard, and played base drum and trumpet, he applied for combat duty and went to gunnery school for the .50 caliber machine gun.  After that, with the U.S.A.s entering World War Two, Evan became part of an enlisted crew that flew 30 missions over Germany and received many medals.

When Evan had time off, he would ride into Cambridge, England where he met the Palmer sisters, Doris and Evelyn.   Both were part of the Women's Land Army working on neighboring farms, riding their bicycles.   After his 30 missions, in 1944, Evan qualified for a 30-day furlough back in Woodruff.  While in the states, Evan volunteered for another combat tour so he could go back to Bassingbourn to get married on January 13, 1945 to Doris Palmer.  He flew another 30 missions over Germany.

Whenever Evan and Doris were separated, both wrote daily letters, which survived and surfaced after his death.  For some reason, before she died, Doris destroyed all of hers written to Evan. Going through these letters now, it shows a legacy and commitment, love and legacy for the 45 years of marriage.

After the war ended Evan returned to the states on a LST ship for 18 days.  Four months lader, his bride Doris came on the RMS Queen Mary with thousands of other war brides.  Moved to Woodruff, where in 1951 he became owner and operator of Zillmer Electric.   Beautiful home on Lake Minocqua.   Five children, Evan Jr, Valerie, Wendy, Penelope and Renate.  Doris died in 1990.

Evan John Zillmer passed away of emphysema one cold January day 2006.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth;

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.

Put out my hand

And touched the face of God.

Evan Ernst Zillmer (1951-) is the great grandson of Carl Herman and Fredricka Zillmer.  When he was 19 years old, he joined the Marines and assigned to the jet engine school.  Spending time in Japan and other Far East Countries, seeing the world.  Reinlisted in 1979, a professional life long Marine.  Tours of Vietnam. Retired and now a federal employee working for the Naval Air Facility in Jacksonville, Florida.  Historian and genealogist.  Traveling through the USA, Evan has managed to track down every descendant of Michael Zillmer (1804-1895.)

It is uncountable how many descendants Carl Herman and Fredericka Zillmer have now in 2012, perhaps none in Marion but scattered around the United States.  Carl Herman and Fredericka are buried at Greenleaf Cemetery.  Remembering where we've been, so we can appreciate what we have before it's all lost in time....  That is history and genealogy.
copyright 2012, Delores and Russell Miller


  1. Delores, thanks for this story about the Zilmers. The good old days were sometimes good, sometimes not. But you tell it with truth.

  2. Kathryn Zillmer SternitzkyJune 25, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    Delores, this is absolutely wonderful! You and I talked many years ago, and I still have a copy of your Zillmer history that you gave me. Thank you!

    Kathryn Zillmer Sternitzky
    Green Bay