Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Two Generations of General Store Owners

If I were to do a comparison of my various ancestors and the occupations they had I would find invariably that most were farmers - both in Europe and in the US.  There was a butcher thrown in here and a blacksmith thrown in there but the majority were farmers.  An honest occupation for sure and one that was sorely needed but the farmers needed somewhere to market their crops in the 1800's and early 1900's in America.  That would be where the General Stores came in.

In my ancestry I have 2 generations of General Store owners and the stories are interesting, historical and were challenging to research.  My paternal grandmother, Ella Wellhausen Schulte, lived well into her 90's and I had many opportunities to tap into her memories of her ancestry.  She told me many times about the General Store that her parents had and in which she and her older sister lived as young girls.  Taking the meager information I had from her I was able to discover some interesting facts.

My second great-grandparents Charles and Christina (Graumann) Wellhausen were both born in Germany in the Pomeranian county of Demmin with Charles being born in the village of Alt Kentzlin and Christina born in the neighboring village of Hohenbollentin.  These villages are still in Germany in what later became the DDR.  Charles and Christina married in 1860 at the Evangelical Church in Hohenbollentin and their first two daughters, Bertha and Augusta, were also born there as well in 1860 and 1862 respectively.

 Evangelical Church in Hohenbollentin
 Kreis Demmin, Germany
Still standing in August, 1993

When Bertha was 3 years old and Augusta 6 months Charles and Christina decided to immigrate to the United States.  Accompanying them as well was Christina's mother, Christina (Neider) Graumann.  They arrived in the US on the ship Saxonia on April 19, 1864 settling in the village of Fraser in Macomb County in Michigan where their next daughter, Caroline, was born in 1866.  Information found indicates the next 3 children Anna, George and Edward were born in 1867, 1869 and 1872 respectively in what was then known as Greenfield Township in Michigan.  Following this they evidently moved back to Macomb County because their last child, son Charles, Jr., was born in Fraser in 1876.  Whether Charles was farming at the time first in Fraser, then in Greenfield Township is unknown but it is assumed that he was.  However upon relocating back to Fraser in Macomb County prior to the 1876 birth of their last child, Charles and Christina were able to purchase a large farm in what is now Clinton Township.  The 1880 Macomb County, Michigan US census corroborates the family was living in Clinton Township, Michigan and Charles was a farmer.

With more daughters than sons Charles naturally was assuming that his 3 sons would help him on the farm and Edward is known to have done so.  Son George, however, was not a well man with bronchial ailments and farming played havoc with his health.

On February 14, 1895 in Fraser, Michigan son George Wellhausen married Amelia Schluessler at St. John's Lutheran Church.  They are my 1st great grandparents.  Later in 1895 their first daughter, Gertrude, was born in Fraser and in 1896 their second daughter, my grandmother, Ella, was born. 

The 1895 Atlas of Macomb County, Michigan reproduced in November, 1985 by the St. Clair Shores Historical Commission in St. Clair Shores, Michigan contains some sketches of prominent farms in the area in 1895 along with photos of the owners.  In this volume in 1985 I was delighted to find the farm of my 2nd great grandparents, Charles and Christina Wellhausen, along with pictures of both.  This is the only photo I have of Charles.  Their farm was listed as having been in Section 29 of Clinton Township in that year of 1895.  

 Farm and Home of 
Charles and Christina Wellhausen
1895 - Clinton Township, Michigan

In early 1900 Detroit Creamery was buying up farms in Clinton Township attempting to corner the milk market.  Charles and Christina decided to sell their farm to the creamery as they were both now 67 and undoubtedly farming was becoming more than they could handle.  As part of the arrangement they retained ownership of the farm house which to this day still is standing on what is now called Moravian Drive in Clinton Township.  To have an ancestral home still in existence some 117+ years later is very exciting.

 Home of Charles and Christina Wellhausen
Currently Standing in 2012
Moravian Drive, Clinton Township, Michigan

Shortly after selling their farm in early 1900, Charles and Christina purchased a small general store in a nearby village known as Cady's Corners.  They gave this store to my great-grandparents George and Amelia who ran it.  This was much less taxing on George's health than farming had been.  George and Amelia ran this General Store until 1905 and then moved to Utica where George ran a "jitney" service which we now would call a taxi service.  There in Utica, George and Amelia had their 3rd and final child, a son they named George as well who was born in 1906.

My grandmother always spoke of Cady's Corners to me.  She told me that their General Store was on one corner and a "beer garden" as she always referred to a bar was on another corner.  In researching this little village I learned that Cady's Corners was an area first settled in 1833 with a post office being established on July 15, 1864.  The post office operated until July 31, 1906 when the village was disbanded.  Today the former area of Cady's Corners can be found at what is Moravian and Utica Roads in Clinton Township, Michigan.  

George and Amelia Wellhausen General Store
Cady's Corners, Michigan
ca 1905

While living in Utica, Michigan great-grandpa George was an upstanding citizen and involved in local politics.  He was Utica's Clerk in the years 1917-1918 and was even Mayor of Utica from 1920-1921.  

In 1924 the local Kroger store in Utica needed a manager and George and Amelia persuaded their 18 year old son, George, to apply for the position where he was hired becoming the youngest manager that Kroger ever had.  Son George remained with Kroger's as their manager for 24 years.  In 1948, an opportunity arose for George and his wife Eleanor to purchase a General Store at 24 Mile Road and Van Dyke in a village that was known at that time as Disco, Michigan.  The store had been built in the mid 1850's and not only was a general store but also a gas station and in the early days a stage coach stop.  Originally it had sleeping quarters on the second floor for travelers and supposedly General George Custer stayed there on one occasion.  An excellent article on "The Lost Village of Disco" can be found here by the Shelby Township Historical Committee.

After much deliberation George resigned from his position at Kroger's and he and Eleanor purchased this General Store which they owned from 1948 until 1970.  One of the big draws in this Wellhausen General Store was the home made German Pomeranian Teewurst sausage that was made there.  It was certainly a family delicacy and people came from near and far to purchase the sausage.  The recipe for the sausage came from my great-grandmother Amelia Wellhausen who had learned this recipe from her Pomeranian Schluessler ancestors.  Teewurst is a sausage made from two parts of raw pork, sometimes beef, and one part bacon which are minced, seasoned and packed in casings before being smoked over beech wood.  The sausage has to mature for 7-10 days in order to develop its typical taste and contains 30-40% fat - ahh a great dietary food.  I never had the privilege of tasting the teewurst sausage but sausage and I are not friends so it is just as well.  

My great aunt and uncle, George and Eleanor Wellhausen, had this General Store until 1970 when they sold it for $68,000.  Under the new ownership it went into disrepair.  On January 24, 1977 a photo was taken of the former Wellhausen General Store which I found on sale via eBay.  Why anyone would want to buy this photo is beyond me as the store obviously was not cared for in the 7 years since my great aunt and uncle had sold it.  The caption on the photo states:

"The 111 year old Wellhausen Country Store at Van Dyke and 24 Mile Road is the genuine rustic item in Disco".

Author Note 1/12/2014 - Photo removed by Web Site

Despite the efforts of the local historical association to raise money to move the store to an area nearby that had other historical buildings, the store was demolished.

Today a huge CVS store is at the location of 24 Mile Road and Van Dyke with the land purchased for $650,000.   

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the research and discoveries that went into this post.  I think it is a valuable piece of my family ancestry that deserved to be shared.

Above photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte
Copyright (c) 2012, Cheryl J. Schulte