Transcribed by Teresa Kesterke from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


A Few years ago the city of Burlington lost by the hand of death a citizen whom she could ill afford to spare from the activities of her commercial and social life; one in whose heart her interests ever held a first place, and one whose passing was deeply mourned by those who were familiar with the rare qualities of his heart and mind, as well as the great ability which distinguished him and was known to all. Mr. Schramm was born at Plech, Bavaria, Germany, a son of John Christopher and Anna Margaret (Kessling) Schramm. His education was begun in the public schools of Plech, and at the age of thirteen years he went to Culmbach, where he served an apprenticeship of five years' duration in a mercantile house, at the same time taking lessons in Latin and French. The father discharged his seven years' term of military service under Frederick the Third, and was engaged in the great battles of Jena and Austerlitz, and others of less importance, after which he returned home and devoted himself to mercantile business. For political reasons the elder Schramm resolved to emigrate to America, crossed the ocean, and in September, 1837, landed with his family at the port of New York. A few days later they started for Missouri, but on account of sickness were obliged to stop at Circleville, Ohio, where our subject secured a position in a printing office, which he continued to occupy for five years, thoroughly mastering the printing art and the English language.

In August, 1842, Mr. Schramm arrived in Burlington, and two days afterward secured employment with the Gazette; but the paper was sold shortly thereafter, and as his services were no longer needed, he made a trip to St. Louis, where he invested his savings in a small stock of groceries, with which he established himself in business in Burlington. He gave the strictest attention to business, and was successful from the beginning: but as he was a musician of pronounced ability, he spent at this early period of his career three evenings of each week in training a band which he founded, the first ever organized in Burlington. His musical tastes continued with him through life, and he long devoted a great deal of his valuable time to work of this character for the benefit of the public and his adopted city. On March 15, 1843, he wedded Miss Harriet -Morgan, daughter of Jonathan Morgan, one of the earlier settlers of Des Moines county, but during the cholera epidemic of 1850 Mrs. Schramm died, together with one child which had been born to their union. The mother of Mr. Schramm also fell a victim to the ravages of this terrible plague, which desolated so many homes throughout the length and breadth of the land, and her own demise had been preceded by that of her husband in 1849. Mr. Schramm afterward remarried, having on March 24, 1852, been united in bonds of matrimony to Miss Amelia Williams, a daughter of Silas Williams, and to them were born the following children, who survive him: Henry C., of Burlington, who married Miss Ida H. Copp; Lucia L., of Burlington, now the wife of T. G. Foster; Frank E., of Burlington, who married Miss Carrie Ashe Higgason; Charles E., of Burlington, who married Miss Fannie G. Anderson; Walter S., cashier of the First National Bank of Burlington; Ralph E., of Detroit, Mich.; Anna P., now Mrs. J. E. Doane, of Thompson, Conn.; and Miss Jessie.

In 1854 Mr. Schramm formed a partnership with his brother, Charles F., to conduct a dry-goods business. This arrangement was continued for five years, and then the partnership was dissolved on account of the ill health of Mr. Schramm's brother. He then assumed sole charge of the business, which he conducted at the store at 218-220 Jefferson Street, enlarging it with the growth of the city, and always meeting the increasing demand with a promptitude, thoroughness, and energy that indicated a strong grasp of changing commercial conditions and an appreciation of modern methods. In this manner, and almost exclusively by his individual efforts, he built up the great business known as the J. S. Schramm Company, now for the most part owned and managed by the heirs of his estate. Three of his sons are now active in the firm, these being Henry C., Frank E., and Charles E. The mother and her daughter Jessie have their home in the large and handsome residence at 616 Columbia Street, where they dispense a generous but quiet hospitality.

The political faith of Mr. Schramm was that of the Democratic party, to which he gave his allegiance after long and careful consideration, and to whose tenets he was ever loyal. Fraternally he was for thirty two years identified with the Masonic order, being a Knight Templar and a member of Malta Lodge of this city. He was also a member of the Commercial Exchange, and took an active part in its work. In his religious connection he was a member of the Lutheran church, although during the latter years of his life he attended the Presbyterian church, of which he and his family are members, while he himself, many years ago, assisted materially in the work of its choir. For a long term of years he was a member of the board of directors of the independent school district of Burlington, and was a stockholder, director, and vice-president of the German-American Savings Bank, as well as being financially interested in various other leading corporate institutions and enterprises of Burlington. He gave freely of his time and substance to the conduct and promotion of public affairs, assisting every movement that had for its object the upbuilding of Burlington, among other things lending substantial encouragement to the establishment of the public ferry, which he regarded as especially important. No form of pledge or subscription paper having that end in view ever passed him without his signature; no church or charity ever appealed to him in vain, and for the needy he was always a refuge. As an employer he was respected and beloved by those connected with his business during all the years of his mercantile activity in Burlington, where the greater part of his life was passed; and he was an ideal citizen; so also was he a model head of his family, — kind, considerate, self-sacrificing, cheerful, affectionate, and loyal. To few men have been vouchsafed so many of the graces and virtues that go to the making of a beautiful character. He died Feb. 17, 1898, universally mourned.

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