Johannes Schrock (1801-1875) and his descendants

Johannes Schrack (Schrag)

This material was used in the Johannes Schrock presentation at the Illinois Mennonite Heritage Center’s “Schrock Immigrant Day” on June 19, 2010. The presentation was made by Justine Detweiler Trout, John Cender, Don Schrock, Frank Kandel, and Kathy Cender Martin, direct descendants of Johannes. The material was compiled by Kathy Cender Martin.

(The following is for personal use only and not to be used in published form without permission.)

Introduction: A Letter – Searching for Schrock History

(read by Justine Detweiler Trout)

More than 30 years ago, a great-great-granddaughter of Johannes Schrock, Alta Heiser Detweiler, my mother, began trying to connect with her Schrock cousins by writing a letter and sending it out to the various addresses she had.  In this letter she was searching for stories and history of the Schrock family:

“Dear Cousins:
Several years ago I became interested in tracing the Schrock family history back several generations, and I wrote to you asking for any information you might be able to give me.  I had no intention of writing anything authentic, but just what I could find to further satisfy my own curiosity.  I have worked on this now and then for several years and haven’t found very much information.  I have wished so many times that I would have listened more carefully and written down some of the things I used to hear Grandpa and Grandma talk about.  But that opportunity is gone.  Now I have to pick up these stories bit by bit, and piece by piece.  It is so fascinating to me to think about the past lives of my ancestors, that I would like to share what I have with you.  As you read this, please correct anything that you know to be a mistake, or add anything that you can and let me know about it.

Some time ago I visited with Naomi Schrock of Congerville, Illinois, who is the daughter of Jonathan Schrock, who was the son of Joseph Schrock, who was the brother of Peter, your grandfather and my great-grandfather. [Joseph and Peter were both sons of immigrant Johannes.] She gave me copies of some newspaper articles written about her grandfather Joseph, and the beginning of the town of Congerville, and also some about her father Jonathan.  She also gave me a copy of a write-up of John Schrock of Pekin (who was a brother of grandfather Peter), [John was another son, the youngest, of Johannes] at the time of his death. I am sending you a little history of these men that I have taken from the information Naomi gave me.  I don’t have much official information on Peter, other than what I remember. I was eight years old when he died.  One of the things I really want to do is to visit each of you and share pictures and memories.  It shouldn’t be too hard to arrange, but I’ve been working on it for some time, and can’t seem to accomplish it.”

From this letter, you can see that these two women, Alta (descendant of Peter Schrock) and Naomi (descendant of Joseph Schrock) were both amateur family historians trying to piece the Schrock family story together and keeping the family connections strong. Alta visited Naomi when she was still living in the old house in Congerville built by her grandfather Joseph.  Alta showed Naomi an old picture of a man she couldn’t identify, and lo and behold! Naomi had one just like it and said it was of Johannes Schrock, probably a passport picture [it was not a passport picture—db] taken in France, the only known photo of our patriarch who we celebrate today! One mystery was solved that day as the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to come together.

Today, we have continued with Alta’s earlier quest by letter searching for information on the Schrocks.  In preparation for this day, we have searched—mostly by email letters—all over the world, trying to locate lost cousins and to fill in the gaps in our family histories.  What a contrast between the letter Alta wrote, sending out carbon copies by slow postal mail and the instantaneous email messages we have been sending to multiple people and receiving replies on the same day and often within a few minutes!  We thank all the people who have contributed photos and information, even if they couldn’t be here in person.  Alta and Naomi would be so pleased with all we have discovered, and they would be very happy that Schrock descendants are gathered here today.  We are excited to share with you some of the fascinating information and interesting artifacts we have found about Immigrant Johannes Schrock and his descendants.

Immigrant Johannes Schrock

(read by John Cender)

My great-great-great grandfather Johannes Schrock was born in Gondrexange, Moselle, France in August 1801 of Swiss-German ancestry, and was educated in French.  He was the oldest of the five children of Joseph and Marie Neuhauser Schrag.  Johannes married Catherine Salzman, who was born in Sarralbe, Moselle, France in October 1804.  Johannes was a miller by trade.  While living in France, Johannes and Catherine had two children named Joseph and Catherine. The year after Johannes’ father Joseph died Johannes decided to move to America with his wife and the two young children. He packed up his trunk and left the port of Le Havre in 1831. It was a long ocean journey—44 days on the ship—and near the end their food supply was exhausted. According to family legend, they had to boil leather straps from the ship’s riggings to make some broth in order to keep strength for the remainder of the trip. They finally arrived and disembarked in Baltimore, Maryland. Another family story tells that tragedy struck while checking their trunks and belongings amidst the large crowd.  Somehow they lost younger brother Joseph who had traveled with them from France. We don’t know how old Joseph was or exactly how he got lost, but we can imagine the chaos of humanity at the docks and the confusion and babel of languages. They looked endlessly for the boy and waited several agonizing days, but finally had to give up and reluctantly traveled on to Lancaster, PA. [This oral tradition has never been verified by documentation, thus remains a tradition only—albeit one found in every family line. – db] A year later, in 1832, Johannes left Pennsylvania and moved to Butler County, Ohio, where he bought land near his brother Peter and his father-in-law, Michael Salzman.  He established a successful milling business—his work in the old country as well. For almost 20 years Johannes stayed in Butler County.  While in Ohio, he and Catherine had five more children; two died in infancy, but Peter, John, and Magdalena survived to adulthood along with the two older siblings, Joseph and Catherine. Today, we will look briefly at what we know about the lives of all five of these children of Johannes and Catherine Schrock.

Johannes Schrock and Catherine Salzman had seven children:

Joseph Schrock 3-17-1828 to 12-29-1901
Catherine Schrock 12-18-1829 to 5-10-1906
Johannes Schrock 7-11-1834 to 10-12-1835
Jacobina Schrock 8-23-1836 to 9-12-1837
Peter Schrock 8-1-1839 to 4-5-1922
John Schrock 3-26-1843 to 4-20-1935
Magdalena Schrock 4-23-1845 to 1914

In 1850, Johannes began to look for land in Tazewell County, Illinois.  It’s interesting to wonder why he considered moving from his successful milling business in Butler County. His sister Magdalena had married Christian Smith in Butler County where they stayed for a few years and then moved to Illinois and purchased land.  His other sister Barbara had married Red Joe Belsly and they too moved to Illinois, but Barbara died in 1836 and Joe remarried.  Johannes’ brother Andrew was also living in Tazewell County, Illinois. So it’s likely that Johannes heard from his siblings of this growing new land where acres were cheap and crops were abundant. And since Johannes found Ohio to be pretty well settled, he decided to take three horses and travel from Trenton, Ohio, to the Pekin area to look at this new West. He liked it, purchasing 161 acres from the Neukirk family for $12.50 an acre. The Neukirk’s lived catty corner from the present location of the Bethel Mennonite Church in a house that once served as a stagecoach depot. Johannes left one horse in Illinois and drove the other two back to the Buckeye State. He told his anxious wife, “We’re moving to Illinois.”

In preparing to move to Illinois, Johannes gave his oldest son, 22 year old Joseph, the important responsibility of driving through with the horses and cattle and what goods they had. Imagine what that overland trip must have been like crossing the vast prairies and through the woodlands!Many years later, Joseph showed his children and grandchildren where he had camped out under his wagon the last night of his trip from Ohio to Pekin under an American elm tree along the road west of Bloomington.

Father Johannes and Mother Catherine took the rest of the family to Cincinnati where they boarded a boat. Their oldest girl, Catherine, was 20; Peter, my great-great-grandfather, was 11; John was 7; and little Magdalena was 5. They boarded the boat and traveled down the Ohio River to Cairo, then up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to Pekin, Illinois. Imagine what that riverboat ride must have been like! How many days would it have taken?  When they finally arrived at their destination, Amish Mennonite families and friendly neighbors welcomed them. They established a temporary home in a log cabin on Andrew Ropp’s (now the Allen Miller farm) farm five miles east of Pekin. The main Ropp house is still standing and was traditionally a first stop for many Amish Mennonite families moving into the area. Later, Johannes moved his family to his purchased acres a few miles away where he had built a house that became the family homestead. This house and farm eventually became a showplace under the maintenance of Johannes’s grandson Edward, when he inherited the homestead from Johannes’ youngest son John, Edward’s father.

Johannes and Catherine lived out their lives in Tazewell County, Illinois. They were members of the Amish church. Catherine died in 1858 at the age of 53.  Johannes took a second wife, Jacobina Phebe King, in 1861. They had no children. Johannes died in Tazewell County in 1875 at the age of 73.

Johannes Schrock’s Butler County homestead, but a bit updated. The farm first went to son John, then to grandson, Edward. It was sold out of the Schrock family in 1953.

Focusing on Johannes and Catherine’s Three Sons (and a few other descendants)

1. Joseph, Johannes’s oldest son, as well as Joseph’s son Jonathon who lived in Congerville.
2. Peter, Johannes’s second son, as well as Peter’s son John who lived in Fisher.
3. John, Johannes’s youngest son, as well as John’s son Edward who lived in Pekin.

We will also mention some of the other descendants of each of Johannes’ three sons.  They all had interesting lives and we wish we had time to include more details about all of them and we will briefly discuss Johannes’ two daughters, Catherine and Magdalena. We want to make it clear that we are not male chauvinists, intentionally slighting the women.  Although we tried to find more information on the daughters and their descendants, we were unable to find more than a few names and dates and regretfully, no photos.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that details about the women have been left out or lost in many histories. We are sure, however, that the women were interesting personalities and were crucial to the survival and success of their families.

1. Oldest son of Johannes, Joseph of Congerville

(read by Don Schrock)

My Great-Grandfather Joseph was the eldest son of Johannes and Catherine Satzman.  He was born on March 17, 1828, and came to this country from Lorraine in 1831 with his parents and sister when he was three years old.  The Schrocks were powerfully built people.  Joseph grew up to be well over 6 foot tall and weighed in excess of 250 pounds.  His son, Jonathan, was able to heave a hundred pound sack of grain onto each shoulder and walk up the steps to the second floor of the granary.  And you heard about how Joseph, single-handedly at age 22, moved his family’s possessions and livestock from Ohio to Illinois.  Almost a year later, on June 8, 1852, he married Magdalena Guingrich.  He was 24 years of age and she was 22.

Magdalena’s father had gone west to Oregon during the Gold Rush.  He soon gave up mining for gold and began transporting and selling supplies to the miners.  His descendants came to know him as ‘Gold Rush Guingrich’. He was paid in gold dust and nuggets which he exchanged for Double Eagle $20 gold coins at the federal mint in Denver. Returning to Illinois with $18,000 in gold coins, he invested in farmland for his seven children. These coins weighted 56 pounds.  At today’s prices, the gold would be worth over one million dollars.  The Schrock homestead was a part of Joseph Guingrich’s land purchase.

Joseph and Magdalena lived on a farm in Montgomery Township that was the beginning of a town called Schrock.   A railroad line going west was being built from Bloomington to Peoria but the tracks were laid only as far as the Schrock farm when the work was halted by a severe early winter.  Railroad workers and contractors built housing at the end of the tracks to wait out the winter.  Others eventually moved in hoping to work for the railroad when the winter was over.  The settlement was platted as the Town of Schrock in 1888 but was eventually re-named Congerville, purposely after an early settler and landowner. An inside story of the name change suggests that it may have had something to do with the division between the Amish Mennonites and the New Amish or Apostolic Christians.

Joseph and Magdalena were among the earliest converts in the New Amish movement that was first called ‘Evangelical Baptist’, and later was called the Apostolic Christian Church.  They were both impressed when the Apostolic minister, Joseph Virkler, came visiting from New York and inspired a revival with his preaching.  Later, Benedict Weyeneth, who had been ordained by Samuel Froehlich, the founder of the Apostolic Christian faith in Switzerland, came to reside in Illinois. Weyeneth held services at Dillon, which was near Tremont, and at Partridge Prairie, near Metamora.

Each of these places was 22 miles from where Joseph and Magdalena lived, but they were eager to attend Sunday services. They would start off at four in the morning, driving a team and wagon the 22 miles, returning the same day.  Each Sunday, they alternated the 22 miles, either to Dillon or Metamora.  They forded the Mackinaw River since there wasn’t any bridge.

During this time period, it is thought that both Amish Mennonite and New Amish/Apostolic Christians gathered at Peter Engel’s barn for their separate church meetings on Sundays.

An except from the diary (Sunday, July 1, 1866, Metamora, Illinois) of  Brother Henry Geistlich (elder of Meilen, Switzerland), regarding Partridge Prairie reads, “Today there was church in Peter Engle’s barn.  It was clean and had planks for seats.  When the chickens got noisy, they were chased out.  There were 53 horse drawn rigs in the yard.”

Joseph Schrock and Magdalena Guingrich had nine children:
Catherine Schrock Zimmerman 22-17-1853 to 6-16-1930
John Schrock 3-30-1855 to 6-16-1930
Lydia Schrock Roth 1-1-1857 to 5-25-1885
Joseph Schrock 10-21-1859 to 3-12-1936
Jonathan Schrock 12-2-1861 to 12-3-1947
Magdalena Schrock Sutter 2-18-1864 to 12-19-1938
Mary Schrock Gudeman 1-15-1867 to after 1900
David Schrock 4-14-1869 to 12-5-1948
Susannah Schrock Gerber 5-20-1872 to 12-20-1944

Joseph’s son, Jonathan, was born Dec 2, 1861 and married Naomi Gerber in 1890. Naomi was from the same area of Lorraine as Johannes and Catherine.  As a young man of 21 years of age, Jonathan Schrock went to Kansas to live with his brother, John Schrock.  He possibly would have remained there but he received word from home that his parents wanted him to come back to Illinois and help with the farming.

Jonathan would later tell his children of his conversion to the Apostolic faith at a singing that John Schrock’s wife, (Rosa Witmer), gave on two hymns in rather close succession.  One was “Der Weg und das Ziel” which means “Two Ways O Man are There for Thee.”  The other was “Die Erbarmung,” or “Boundless Mercy.”  Jonathan was so convicted that he left the room, went outside and threw away what remained of a plug of tobacco.  He recalled that when he was baptized ice was floating on the Mackinaw River.  At times, they would chop holes in the ice to baptize converts.

Jonathan didn’t marry until he was 28 years old.  Jonathan and Naomi lived the early years of their married life in a little house on the site of Jonathan’s Aunt Magdalena Schrock Smith’s cabin.  Here they had their first four children.  When Joseph Schrock died in December of 1901, Jonathan and Naomi moved to the house a hundred yards or so to the south that Joseph had built in the early 1880s, and where Jonathan’s mother Magdalena was still living. She had an addition built on the west end of the house where she reserved two rooms for herself, but had her meals with the family.  Her grandchildren had fond memories of visiting with her and reading to her out of her German Bible.  She passed away in 1922.

Jonathan lived on this Schrock farm until his death in 1947 at the age of 86.  At that time, the whole south end of Congerville belonged to the Schrocks, including five houses and an office building.  The orchard they had planted was called ‘Schrock Orchards.’ Jonathan’s two youngest sons, Joseph and Alvin (A.J), started the Schrock Hybrid Corn Company in 1947 and Schrock Fertilizer Company in 1951. These companies became known throughout the Midwest. A.J. went like a freight train and Joseph kept putting on the brakes. They were a good team.

Jonathan’s brother David, who lived on the northwest edge of Congerville, had a daughter Loretta, who married Art Baum.  They owned the Baum Chevy dealership in Carlock, the next town east of Congerville. The Baum’s son, Dick, later moved the dealership to Clinton.

Jonathan’s daughter, Mae Schrock, was born May 1, 1904.  She is 106 years old this year and is living in Eureka.  Mae is the great–granddaughter of Johannes.  We honor her today as the oldest living descendant of Johannes.

Many more stories are found in letters that Jonathan wrote that we don’t have time to read. I’ll just mention some of what they contain:  One letter contains orders for 50 barrels of wine; Jonathan’s family had many vineyards and shipped wine all around the state. They also had acres and acres of orchards. The letters also mention their Percheron horses, big powerful animals.

2.  Second son of Johannes, Peter of Fisher

(read by Justine Detweiler Trout)

My Great-Great Grandfather Peter Schrock was born to Johannes and Catherine Salzman Schrock in Butler Co., Ohio on August 1, 1839.  Johannes and Catherine had their first two children in France (Joseph and Catherine) and then two more were born in Ohio, but both died in infancy:  A boy, Johannes, born in 1834, died at 15 months, and a girl, Jacobina, born in 1836, died at 11 months.  So you can imagine how precious this baby Peter was. Peter was 11 years old when his father Johannes decided to move from Ohio to Illinois.  Their family journey on the riverboat must have been an exciting one for a boy of eleven.  Peter became an adult on the farm in Tazewell Co., Illinois, and in 1860 he married [a neighbor girl] Anna (Nancy) Garber.  They were both 21 years old.

Peter Schrock and Anna (Nancy) Garber had eight children:

Katherine Schrock 9-30-1860 to 8-2-1861
John Schrock 5-28-1862 to 7-28-1951
Samuel Schrock 7-16-1864 to 12-31-1943
Joseph Schrock 8-18-1866 to 4-14-1947
Lydia Schrock Eicher 3-26-1868 to 4-14-1947
Moses Schrock 4-26-1870 to 12-12-1879
Ella Schrock 11-7-1875 to 2-8-1951
Magdalena (Lena) Schrock 8-20-1885 to 6-27-1950

Peter was different from his two brothers who survived to adulthood. You just heard the story of Joseph, the elder brother, who married money and had a town named after him.  You will soon hear about John, the younger brother, who stayed on the home place for many years and turned it into a showcase farm.  And now I’ll tell you the story of Peter, the middle brother. He wasn’t rich but he had a big heart and gave generously to help those in need.

As a young father, Peter spent much time fishing and hunting in the woods of Tazewell County with his three boys, John, Sam and Joe.  One day while cutting wood in the woods, the youngest son Joe accidentally chopped off one of his fingers with the axe.  Because they were quite a distance from home, father Peter wrapped what was left of the finger with his red bandana to stop the bleeding, then picked up the piece of finger and put it in his shirt pocket.  That evening, when the day’s work was finished, they went home, washed the wound and put the finger back in place and wrapped it.  The finger grew back and when Joe was an old man you couldn’t tell which finger had been cut.

When his children were grown Peter moved across the Grand Prairie to Fisher to be near his oldest son John who had moved there in 1891 with his wife and family. Peter’s wife, Anna (Nancy) died in Fisher in 1902 and is buried in East Bend Cemetery. Alta Heiser Detweiler, great-granddaughter of Peter, writes the following about her ancestors:  Soon after his wife’s death, Peter and two of his sons were persuaded by a fast-talking, high- pressure real estate agent to purchase some farmland in Michigan, near Fairview.  The two sons, Samuel and Joseph and their families, and Peter and his two unmarried daughters, Ella, 28, and Lena, 19, decided to leave their homes and move to Michigan in 1904. Grandpa Peter went on ahead and sometime later Sam and Joe and their families chartered a freight car and traveled to Michigan. Sam and Joe, their livestock and furniture, rode in the freight car. The women and children rode in a passenger car. Sam’s home was three miles south of Fairview. On the north side of the small buckwheat field was the Sam Schrock house and on the south side was the Joe Schrock house. There were beautiful big rainbow and speckled trout in great abundance in the Au Sable River about two miles south of their house, and many smaller speckled trout in the creek that ran through their land. Fish and buckwheat cakes were two important items in the Schrocks’ diet. The land in Michigan was uncleared timberland.  They slowly cleared a few acres to farm the first year, then for several years more they struggled to make a meager living.  Uncle Sam’s wife Ellen and daughter Katie, and Great Grandpa Peter’s daughters, Ella and Lena, all worked for other people as much as possible. The younger children went to school. Times were very hard. They ate fish that they caught in the river nearby, buckwheat cakes (buckwheat was their only crop), and a few squirrels they managed to kill.  Wild huckleberries grew in the woods and the adults picked them.

Pete Jr., a grandson and namesake of Peter writes in his book, Just Pete, about some memories in Michigan:  One time Pete, Jr. remembers his mother and sister being gone.  His father Sam got some bacon and fried it.  “It sure tasted good after eating fish all the time.” It was such a treat that they invited Joe’s three girls, Nettie, Frances, and Lorine to eat with them.  To this day when the cousins get together, they talk about how good that bacon tasted. Joe’s daughter Lorine remembered that life in Michigan was difficult but she remembers them as the best years of her life.  She said she was outside all the time helping her dad with the stock.  He gave her the dickens for playing with the bull she had raised up from little—she would sit on top of the fence and play with its horns—her dad used a pitchfork.

After a few years they realized this land purchase was a mistake.  So in 1907, Peter, Ella and Lena moved back to their house in Fisher; Sam and his family went to Thurman, Colorado, where his wife’s family lived, and Joe’s family went to Defiance, Ohio, where their oldest daughter, Nettie, was planning to live after her marriage to Homer Culbertson.

Back in Fisher, Peter raised pigs, had a cow, and kept 10-15 hives of bees.  He also grew big delicious watermelons.  He had a jack knife with the words, “Peter Schrock, Fisher, Illinois,” on the handle.  He probably used that knife to split open those ripe, juicy watermelons, and he also cut his chewing tobacco with his jack knife.  He often whittled with his knife as well.  He passed the knife to his namesake and grandson, Peter. Jr.

Peter’s oldest son John, my great-grandfather, had taken up farming 80 acres near Fisher. John was also a carpenter and painter and he built and painted his own houses and barns as well as many barns and cribs in the community. John married Mary Birky in 1885 and they had two children, Albert and Fannie.  After Albert married Josephine Yordy, John built a house for his son just a quarter of a mile from his own house.  But Albert died of tuberculosis in 1917, leaving his wife and two children, and a third unborn. A sale of some of his farm animals and implements a few years before his death raised needed cash for his family and perhaps helped fund the family’s stay at the tuberculosis sanitarium in La Junta, Colorado.  John’s daughter Fannie married J. A. Heiser and they had five children.  J.A. became minister and later, bishop, of East Bend Mennonite Church, chosen by lot in 1918 by the voice of the church.  John Schrock soon turned over his farm and house to his daughter Fannie and son-in-law Bishop Heiser, and John built a grossdaddy house next door.  In this way, John Schrock and his wife Mary would live between their daughter’s family and their son’s widow and family so they could help the two families with farm work and help raise their grandchildren. As bishop and pastor, J.A. had many duties in the church and community, as well as the work of raising a large family and helping his widowed sister-in-law on her farm nearby.  Together, these families supported each other in daily tasks of milking, carrying water, washing, gardening, canning, caring for livestock, butchering, threshing, wheat binding, and oat harvesting.  In every way, Grandpa John Schrock was a faithful and constant figure of support to these families.  In addition to earning income by painting in the community, he painted and repaired at home, worked in the gardens, and kept busy doing useful things.  He loved working with wood and made fern stands, stools, the bench we are sitting on, shelves and cupboards, doll beds and darning tools.  When he could no longer work in the community, he would sit under the shade tree at home on a bench he had made and whittle, just like his father Peter.  He made whistles and toys for his grandchildren.

John Schrock was remembered by Jennie Schrock, Pete, Jr.’s wife, as a man “with kindness wrinkles all over his face, and very soft spoken.” His granddaughter Edna Heiser Cender wrote that Grandpa John Schrock “was neat and meticulous in all his work.  There were never any complaints about his painting jobs in the community.   He never left any splatters on windows or sidewalks and he was careful of flowers or shrubbery around homes.  Once when painting at Ores Foster’s home, he accidentally bumped a cactus plant in the flowerbed and broke off one of the young plants.  He apologetically told Mrs. Foster, who said he should just take it home.  He soon had it thriving and it reproduced many times, blooming beautiful, pink, trumpet-like flowers.  All of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren have cactus plants that come from that original Foster plant.”

Peter’s three daughters, Ella, Lena, and Lydia, lived in Fisher where Ella and Lena ran a boarding house and hotel on Sangamon Street.  They also operated the town telephone switchboard. Lydia married Chris Eicher and had two girls. Great Grandpa Peter lived nearby in a smaller house until his death in 1922. The house that was used as a hotel still remains next to the Methodist Church.  Peter’s house was on Third Street, north of downtown Fisher, in the spot where the Baptist Church now stands.

Peter Schrock was not as successful financially as his two brothers.  At the time of his death in 1922, he owned only the modest home in Fisher, plus the farm in Michigan that didn’t yield enough to pay its own taxes. After all bills were paid there was nothing left for distribution to his heirs. But we know that Peter must have been a very kind man, considerate of others and willing to lend a helping hand. We know this because he handled the affairs of his sister Catherine after her husband died in Pekin leaving Catherine with several young children.

Catherine was Johannes’ oldest daughter. She married Joseph Oyer and he died sometime before 1865.  They had six children: Joseph, John, Peter, Lena Oyer Bloom, Katie Oyer Staker, and Mary Oyer Coswell. Later, Catherine re-married to Christian Kauffman. In addition to his kindness toward this widowed sister, Peter also assisted his wife’s brother who had failed financially and had lost all he owned. These two facts about the life of Peter Schrock tell us that he was kind and generous, and it doesn’t matter that he wasn’t rich.

Magdalena was Johannes’ youngest daughter. Little is known about her except that she married Joseph Yoder and had six children:  John, Joe, William, Mary Yoder Pepper, and two other children who died. Persistent research by various historians has revealed a few basic facts about Catherine and Magdalena and their descendents gleaned from census records, obituaries, and newspaper articles.

3. Third son of Johannes, John of Pekin

(read by Frank Kandel)

John Schrock was the youngest son and sixth child of Johannes and Catherine Salzman Schrock.  Born March 26, 1843 in Butler Co., Ohio, he was named Johannes after his father and he was the second child in this family to be given exactly the same name.  His older brother named Johannes had died at the age of 15 months.  The father, wishing a namesake, named this newborn boy by the same name as the one who had died.  Later this son named Johannes went by the anglicized name of John.

John was eight years old in 1851 when the family came by riverboat from Ohio to Pekin, Illinois.  He often remembered that trip.  As he grew older, he worked in sawmills, gristmills and brickyards.  He could do a tremendous day’s work even in the day when a big day’s work was expected of all men.  He, himself, carried from the sawmill every tie and plank for the first bridge over the Illinois River in Pekin—the Peoria, Pekin and Jacksonville Railroad Bridge.  Three men would be assigned to such a job nowadays and work only half as many hours.  A newspaper article at the time of his death told of John Schrock, “he could cut with an axe and rack five cords of wood in a day.  Four men wouldn’t want to do that today.”

In December 1865, John Schrock married Barbara Rediger and they had twelve children:

Peter Schrock 1-29-1867 to 6-28-1941
Catherine Schrock Ropp 6-23-1868 to 10-18-1951
Daniel Schrock 1-18-1869 to 1-15-1937
Bina Schrock 4-19-1871 to 10-30-1942
Sarah Schrock Ringwald 11-15-1872 to 6-23-1941
Ida Schrock Gueber 3-25-1874 to 2-13-1945
Frances Schrock 10-25-1875 to 4-7-1968
Edward Schrock 12-1-1877 to 11-15-1964
John W. Schrock 6-24-1880 to 8-10-1948
Margaret Isabel (Belle) Schrock Thode 7-1-1882 to 1-10-1954
Barbara Schrock Heisel 1-27-1885 to 4-1980
Aaron Lester Schrock 9-25-1888 to 3-18-1889

John and Barbara Schrock established one of the most respected homes in the county.  In 1876, John Schrock bought the home east of Pekin and that place became known as the old family homestead.

After leaving the farm, John Schrock lived in Pekin in a house his sons built for him on 714 South Ninth Street until he died in 1935 at age 92.  The big house still stands on 9th street, but the porch is gone.  John’s wife, Barbara, preceded him in death in 1911.  At that time, John was near 70, but he lived for 24 more years.  On his 89th birthday he spaded in his garden.  On his 90th birthday the family gathered for a great reunion and celebration, but he took pneumonia that day.  None expected him to survive, but he lived another three years, even weathering another bout of pneumonia.  At the time of his death, the Pekin newspaper wrote of him, “He was a man of excellent character, good habits, and moral strength, and to this is attributed his long years.”

John’s son Edward bought the family farm from his father. Edward, Sr. was President of the Farm Bureau and one of the founders of Pekin Auto Insurance Company.  In 1953 Edward Jr. sold the family farm. Ed and his family moved off the farm because he favored his work at Keystone Steel and Wire, a manufacturing company in Pekin, over farming. Ed’s daughter, Eddis Schrock Hasselman, who lives in Morton was born in 1912 in the original home place and lived there until she married in 1936. She turned 98 years old yesterday [June 18, 2010]!  Eddis is the great-granddaughter of Johannes.  We honor her today as the second oldest living descendent of the Johannes line and we wish her a very happy birthday and continuing good health. She remembers her Grandfather John as a big man with a long white beard.  He loved gardening; he kept his horse shining and his buggy glistening.

Eddis relates:  “In the late 1920s after Mom had died, Dad, (Edward Schrock, Sr.) was awarded the Prairie Farmer Master Farmer Award.  Two men came down from WLS in Chicago and stayed overnight.  He was given a gold medallion that he passed on to Ed, Jr., whose son Brett in California has it now. “

“In 1953 Dad sold the farm to a Bill Long.  Bill said that he always wanted to buy that farm because it was always so neat.   Dad told me later that he mustn’t have realized how much work it took because it went downhill after the sale.  Before it really had been a showplace.

“When I was six or seven Grandpa John wanted to go to Fisher to visit his brother Peter. His children told him he was too old to go alone so me and my little brother Ed Jr., and my Mom Nellie went with him on the train. The train had cane seats and it stopped and started with a jerk and Ed fell off on the floor, but Mom told him he’d be alright and to get back up and sit down. When Grandpa saw his brother Pete they both cried. Peter lived in a small house in Fisher with Ella and Lena (Ella’s health was not too good at the time) and a lot of people came to the house to visit Grandpa.  I remember hearing Lena say to Ella she didn’t know what to do because she didn’t have enough food in the house to feed everybody.  One lady suggested serving lemonade and cookies so that’s what they did. We spent two or three days in Fisher.”

Imagine that house in Fisher and many people coming to visit and socialize with cousins from a distance.  I’m sure there was laughter amidst the tears and sharing of memories. Don’t you wish we could have heard the stories they were telling?

In some ways, this reunion is a natural extension of that visit in 1918—almost 100 years ago—when brother John of Pekin traveled by train to Fisher to see his brother Peter.  They probably hadn’t seen each other in many years and when they met they felt those strong emotional bonds that bring tears of joy.  Today that universal longing to re-connect calls us together to share stories, memories, and common values.  In that spirit, let us continue our fellowship and conversation with each other today.  What memories have come to your mind about the Schrock family as you’ve heard these stories? What will our descendants remember about us?  What stories do we have in common?

Closing Conversations

Frank:  Don, Do you remember your ancestors having a strong work ethic?

Don:  Yes, in fact my Grandfather Jonathan had a favorite saying, “Don’t be idle or I’ll have you picking hairs off grasshoppers!”  They all worked hard.  And they had some amazing skills.  Grandfather Jonathan could walk through an oat field and bind up the oat shocks without string.  He strolled along, picked up some oats straw and started walking to the next bundle.  By the time he reached the bundle, he had twisted the straw into a rope and wrapped the straw rope around the bundle, ready to move on to the next bundle.

Kathy:  Our Great Grandmother Mary Schrock would gather herbs and make effective herbal concoctions and salves for many ailments. She was very artistic as well as a little bit cantankerous, but Great Grandpa Schrock in his calm manner was always able to keep the peace with her.  She designed and sewed many dresses and hundreds of quilts, painted flowers, and birds on recycled jars, created intricate hair flowers and beautiful paper flower bouquets for many weddings.

Don:  My Great Grandmother Magdalena baked bread in an outdoor oven on a brick floor covered with clay.

John:  Great Grandpa John Schrock would save every piece of string and wrap it around a corncob.  He saved potato peelings with eyes to plant in his big garden. Talk about thrift! They knew how to make ends meet!

Justine: Great Grandpa John Schrock told how he visited his cousin Jonathan in Congerville a number of times. He was so impressed with the large orchards of fruit trees that Jonathan cared for.  In fact, on one of those visits, Jonathan gave him a sweet cherry tree that he happily planted in his daughter’s (Alta’s – my mother’s) orchard, and we enjoyed sweet cherries for many years.  And so we come full circle as we reconnect with our cousins here today and fill out the branches on our family tree.


Birkey, Donna Schrock. 2002.  Immigrant Johannes Schrock, 1801-1875, of Illinois. Illinois Mennonite Heritage Quarterly, Vol. XXIX, No. 4. Also available online at

Cender, Edna Heiser. “Grandpa,” Memoirs (1990), typed manuscript, in possession of Kathy Cender Martin,
St. Joseph, Illinois.

Detweiler, Alta Heiser. “John Schrock,” Biographical Data, typed the manuscript, in possession of Justine Detweiler Trout, Loda, Illinois.

Detweiler, Alta Heiser. The Family History Book: A Genealogical Record, in possession of Justine Detweiler Trout, Loda, Illinois.

Estes, Steven R. 1984. Living Stones: A History of the Metamora Mennonite Church, M & D Printing, Henry, IL.

Kandel, Frank.  Interviews with Eddis Schrock Hasselman, Morton, IL, January 14, 201 and May 29, 2010.

Kandel, Frank. Interview with Lola Pardee, daughter of Nettie Schrock Culbertson, Defiance, OH, 1995.

Schrock, Alvin J.   Joseph Schrock Reunion of 1976, typed the transcript of the speech given at the reunion.

Schrock, Don.  Grandpa Jonathan Schrock (2010), typed the manuscript, Morton, IL.

Schrock, Pete, and Jennie. Copyright 1980.  Just Pete, The Print Shop, Fort Morgan, CO.


  1. e hendrickson

    i am reading a book by shelley shepard gray, and in the book she has reprinted some recipes from the shrock’s family cookbook called “our family’s favorite recipes”. do you know where i could find a copy of that cookbook? i tried the library, but they don’t have it. please reply to me by email if you know anything about it. thanks, elaine

  2. dbirkey

    I have no knowledge of the book you ask about. If the surname is spelled Shrock, it is a different line from my Schrock line. However, they may stem from the same so-far-uncovered link in Europe. Sorry I can’t help, but perhaps someone from the Shrock family will see this post and contact you with information.

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