Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Obituary: Claus Schlichtmann, 1831-1899

Claus Schlichtmann was my 3rd great grandfather on my mom's side. He was born in 1831 in Hanover, Germany, and sailed to New York on November 10, 1862, on the ship Teutonia. Not long afterward he sent for his family, including his wife, Anna, and my great great grandmother, Christina Schlichtmann Bruhns, who was just a baby when they made their voyage. They finally they came to California, living for a short time in San Francisco before they settled in my hometown of Tracy, San Joaquin County, California. He was a well-known and well-liked farmer in the area and was a member of the Order of Druids in San Francisco. He voted with the Republican party.

Claus died at the German Hospital in San Francisco on July 5, 1899, at the age of 68. Here is his obituary in the July 7, 1899, edition of the San Francisco Call newspaper:

The obituary reads:
SCHLICHTMANN -- At the German Hospital, July 5, 1899, Claus, beloved husband of Anna Schlichtmann, and father of Claus, William and August Schlichtmann, Mrs. John Bruhns, Mrs. John Krohn and the late Mrs. F. Genzen, a native of Germany, aged 68 years.

Remains at the parlors of Theo. Dierks, 957 Mission street. Remains will be shipped to Tracy, Cal., this day (Friday), at 8 o'clock a.m. for interment.


When I read this obituary, I immediately thought of the hardship that Claus and his family must have gone through when he became ill and needed to travel to a hospital. Today, Tracy is only about an hour's drive from San Francisco. But, back in 1899, that had to be a difficult journey for a sick man. Think about it: they didn't have our cars, freeways or bridges back then. So, they likely traveled to the German Hospital in San Francisco by horse-drawn carriage over dirt roads. They had to travel over two hilly passes in the heat of the summer (it gets well over 100 degrees in the San Joaquin Valley in the summer, although it was likely nice and cool and foggy in SF at that time). I'm guessing that there must have been a ferry to get them from the East Bay to San Francisco. Otherwise, they would have had to skirt the bay around San Jose and then come all the way up the peninsula to SF. Easier said than done in those days!

The other thing that caught my eye in the obituary was the name of the hospital where Claus died: the German Hospital. I live in San Francisco, and I had never heard of that hospital. When I did a little research, I found out that the German Hospital, as you might surmise, served the German population of the area. It was built in 1854, and was the first public hospital built on the west coast. It sat on the site where Davies Medical Center now sits: at the corner of Noe and 14th Streets. It's an easy walk just up the street from my apartment, and I now think of Claus every time I'm near there!

I wish I could find a picture of Claus. He sounded like a lovely man who was adored by his family and respected by his community. And he had that pioneer spirit that I admire so much in my ancestors. Here's to Claus!

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