By Kris Leonhardt
In the early morning hours on a Wednesday morning early in March of 1910, the city laid to rest one of its founding fathers. In 57 years, Michael Steinmetz had built a solid reputation operating as a decent and honorable businessman in the city.
Born to a noted German general who had immigrated to Wisconsin, Steinmetz grew up in Washington County, where he met and married the daughter of the neighboring Doll family.
Immediately after their marriage, the couple came to Marshfield, where they owned and operated a hotel in the city. As Marshfield was still in its infancy, Steinmetz promptly pitched in, assisting in developing a financial institution, aiding with fraternal organizations, and organizing the city.
The conservative and level-headed patriarch became active in the city’s operations, serving on its first common council and later serving three additional terms.
After working in the hotel for six years, Steinmetz sold the business to Joseph Thomas, who renamed it the Thomas House. Steinmetz then purchased a small store located at the corner of North Central Avenue and East A Street — now Arnold Street.
In 1887, when fire swept through the city destroying a major portion of the business district and many of its residences, the Steinmetz family was spared from the cruel devastation of its flames.
As the only store left standing following the scourge, Steinmetz continued to reap the harvest as customers flocked his way.
As the city began rebuilding, Steinmetz joined in, constructing a new brick building on the southeast corner adjacent to his current store lot. The new building was large enough to hold two businesses, which would now include his store.
The Steinmetz family continued to operate its mercantile business from that location for approximately 15 years. With Steinmetz suffering from the effects of disease, he fell ill for several years, and the business was sold to the Kestel brothers.
The Kestel brothers’ store would later become the Consumer Store, which is now the present site of St. Vincent de Paul.
After years of suffering, Steinmetz would succumb to his illness on a Sunday afternoon. Along with his wife, Anna, Michael left behind a total of 10 children. He is now laid to rest at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Marshfield alongside his wife.
Kris Leonhardt may be reached at email@example.com.