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Werner Trimborn


[Note: The following article is referred to by Anne C. Leahy in her answers to items on the Trimborn Farm Questionnaire See Questionnaire. The original article was written in German; original author unknown; it was written 13 JUN 1875, and appeared in Volks-Magazin. The article was made available to Anne C. Leahy by a cousin, Pricilla Hausmann. It appears here courtesy of Jody L. Filipi.]


When in America somebody has worked himself up through mental or bodily effort or through both, from poverty or ignorance to a rich or spiritually important person, he is called a self-made man, in contradistinstinction to those who have inherited or married riches, or have gotten them through birth, family influence, or expensive education.

Naturally, the term "self-made man" in the true sense of its meaning takes 1st place among the citizens of our country. People hold him in greater esteem. Among the best-known self-made men of the US none probably ranks higher than Andrew Johnson, former president of this republic and now a member of the US Senate; he worked himself up through his own efforts from a very simple tailor to the high honor with which the people of his country entrusted him.

Among the citizens of the city of Milwaukee who through strenuous work, through a clear look into the future, through an untouchable sense of honor, and correct procedure amongst their fellow men has attained a high position in the respect of his fellow citizens as well as considerable pecuniary success, the very well known aged man, Werner Trimborn takes first place. Werner Trimborn is, in the strongest sense of the word, a self-made man.

He was born on the 18th of October, 1802, in the town of Geich, near Zulpich, in the county of Duren, in the state of Aachen, in the kingdom of Prussia. His parents were farmers, sent their children to school there and decided Werner should become a farmer.

In the 1820's, Werner became a soldier in a regiment of Uhlans (cavalry), but, due to sickness, was released after a short service. Werner then married and, after the death of his parents, took over the farmstead in Giech, which also included a tavern and a general store. In all of these, he did his full duty, but fate wasn't kind to him. His wife became ill, and neither medical care of doctor nor the devoted and loving care of the worried husband could dispel the malady. She remained weak and sickly for 18 years until a sympathetic death freed her from her suffering. With heavy heart, Werner Trimborn brought her to her final resting place, but with her he also lost all his earthly goods, for the long sickness of his wife as well as the costs entailed in it, such as doctor and necessary care which kept him from his work, had ruined his financial means to such an extent that he had to consider working for other people. Then the idea of America came to him. "If I must work for my daily bread with my bear hands," thought Werner Trimborn, "then I'd rather go to a country that honors and pays labor better and where the outlook to get ahead is 10 times more favorable than here. Besides that, America is the proven land of liberty for which I have long hoped for and to which thousands emigrate." He made known his plan to his family and all agreed with him; the last effects were hurriedly turned to cash and the trip to the promised land started, which ended when all arrived in excellent condition in the state of Wisconsin on the 24th of July, 1847.

As Werner Trimborn's means were not sufficient to buy his own piece of land, he rented a farm on the Beloit Road in the town of Greenfield about seven miles from Milwaukee and worked at it with all his might. He didn't like farming very much and when further difficulties arose he gave up his enterprise and moved back to Milwaukee where he ran a cartage firm with some success. From the proceeds of this business, he was soon able to buy himself 10 acres of land on the Janesville Road in the town of Greenfield, nine miles from Milwaukee. On this property were also included all the machinery necessary for a limekiln. On the 6th of February, 1850, he moved his family in great hopes out to this property. On the land, they found a small wooden house to be used as a dwelling, which they soon veneered with stone so that the wind couldn't whistle through the loose boards at its will. Then everybody went to work with great determination. The kiln was stacked with stone and lime of the best quality was burned. That was all very well, but it looked pretty bad for the sale of the product. At that time, Milwaukee was quite small. Competition was also present and wherever Werner Trimborn went to sell his lime, people generally shrugged their shoulders. From the Americans he often received the name Dutchman rather than order. His countrymen assisted him as well as they could, but their use of lime was not great enough to make his business profitable. Werner Trimborn did not lose courage, but his two sons did; they remonstrated with their father that they could earn more money working for other people. But Werner Trimborn, with the greatest of confidence, pointed to the future of Milwaukee. "Milwaukee must," said he, "become a large city. The country is being filled with immigrants who will come soon enough to buy and sell their products and needs to Milwaukee, business will become better and the city will grow in importance. Let's hold out a while longer, and you will see that our lime, which is of the finest quality, is going to be so sought after that we won't be able to deliver enough of it." And so it happened that Werner Trimborn, through his unshakeable confidence in the future of Milwaukee and the courage of himself and his own (family) lived to see his prophecy come true in a short time, for the need for lime and with it the orders, multiplied and became so great that Werner Trimborn had to move to Milwaukee, transfer the kiln to his sons and himself take over the delivering and selling of their product.

He was untiring in his work; the order were most punctually and conscientiously taken care of. They also came in, in ever-increasing numbers for, as has been said, the quality of the lime is unsurpassed. We're not overdoing here in the least when we say herewith that Werner Trimborn's lime is the best made in these parts. Werner Trimborn told us that he often rode out late at night to the limekiln in order to take care of orders, which he only got with the stipulation that they would be delivered the next morning. In short, he was on the go day and night, didn't spare any pains, showed himself to be punctual and just in business; his word was as good as a written contract. The result of doing in this manner was a budding business, which kept pace with the growth of Milwaukee and finally attained the importance it has now.

We now come to a description of Werner Trimborn's lime kilns and the plant necessary to run it, hoping that it will be of interest to our readers. The property on which the limekiln is found lies in a friendly valley in the town of Greenfield. Root Creek runs through it. Its complete area is 523 acres. The roomy living quarters are built of Milwaukee brick set on a solid foundation of limestone and functionally furnished. Instruments in music are not missing. Among several living quarters for men, shed, and stables, there are also placed a fruit house, a massive barn for horses and a large, frame granary with stables for cattle, pigs and fowl. Six limekilns are always in production, in winter less, in summer more, and to keep them running usually takes between 30 and 40 laborers. More than 20 wagons and sleighs and over 50 horses are kept on the farm to bring in the limestone to the kiln and to take away the lime as well as to supply the necessary fuel which generally runs to about 6000 cords of wood a year. It is entirely reasonable to believe that Werner Trimborn also used the help of the surrounding farmers and of their teams.

See Milwaukee Journal article/pictures of farm--29 OCT 1972

It is also unnecessary to mention that on an estate of this size, which was always kept in the best condition, a goodly number of cattle, sheep and pigs were kept as well as colts. We would also like to mention that Mr. Trimborn has just bought 80 acres of land in the town of Muskege that likes five miles further out of Milwaukee than the before mentioned 523 acres, for a price of $8,000. This constitutes the whole personal property and real property.

Besides this. Werner Trimborn owns six fine, profitable houses and some lots in the city of Milwaukee and when we take his all into consideration we can unhesitatingly call Mr. Trimborn a rich man. This extraordinary result he has brought about through clear foresight, through hard work and effort, and through the help of his second wife and his children. We cannot emphasize it strongly enough that if a family is to get ahead in America it is of basic importance that all the members of that family should work together, and that the children should willingly submit to the will of a well-meaning father. Even when friend Werner Trimborn had to experience the sorrow of again losing his wife through death in 1860, as well as her son, his step-son, his other children remained unfailingly true to him. The oldest son erected the business of the limekiln in the town of Greenfield; the second son took care of it in Milwaukee, and the daughter took care of the considerable household duties and made things easier for the aging father through her loving care and attention. Werner Trimborn himself is still the spirit of the whole enterprise, although he can watch the sure running of his business with complete confidence and live his old age as he wishes.

It always makes a good impression on us when we witness the harmonious manner with which the members of this family live with each other. For instance, when we see with what affection Werner Trimborn and his brother Peter, who was also born in Geich on the 4th of March in 1790 and is now over 85 years old and living with Werner, get along together. Peter is still quite hail and hearty; he came to Wisconsin in 1857 and also bought a far in the town of Greenfield which he successfully worked for many years. His son now lives on this farm. The two old people, brothers, Werner Trimborn and Peter, now live contented under one rood as they once did in the parental home. They often reminisce about their dead parents, relations and friends, about the conditions and experiences they had across the sea.

Some years ago, Werner Trimborn suffered a sunstroke, which caused him to be dangerously ill for quite a while, but he has recovered so well that he can assuredly add many years to his life.

We are all acquainted with the history of the founding of many of the most important cities of the world. The names of the builders have come down to us from the past. But we are not acquainted with the name of a single one of the lime burners who delivered the lime and who assuredly have contributed so much in the building of a city, because lime is the putty that keeps everything together; we believe this to be unjust. Now, if the name of our friend Werner Trimborn who delivered the lime for most of the buildings of Milwaukee is not known to posterity, it isn't our fault for we insist that nobody has contributed more to the building of Milwaukee than he.

And if ever the chronicle of Milwaukee, many, many years from now should mention the name of Werner Trimborn as the most important producer of lime in the building up of the city during the second half of [the 19th century], the writer of this chronicle may confidently add that Werner Trimborn was in every instance a real man, a good person who, as far as we know, has only friends and no enemies. And it is saying a very great deal when we take into consideration Werner Trimborn's exceptional successes as well as the development of his large business.