One House’s Story: The Schmidt Family

The Schmidt House on Ray Avenue NW, New Philadelphia, Ohio, 2018. (Source: google.com)

If you have ever dropped your child off at Welty Middle School or the New Philadelphia High School, you have seen this home. This house was the home of one of the city’s most successful and well-liked saloon keepers. This is his family’s story.


A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.

Ernest Schmidt (1828-1894) had spent his youth learning the trade of milling and millwrighting and served for a time in the army in his native country of Germany before making the decision to immigrate to the United States in 1854. After arriving, he made his way to Ohio and settled in Lockport, Tuscarawas County where he began working as butcher. Once settled and working, Ernest married Swiss-born Magdalena Witmar (1830-1892) in 1858 and the couple started a family.

Ernest operated a successful butchery for eighteen years before constructing a block of brick buildings on North Broadway Street in New Philadelphia, directly across from the courthouse, where he expanded his business to include provisions and liquor. Business was good for Ernest and he eventually built a hotel, called the Schmidt House (later called the Reeves Hotel), which he sold in 1883. Meanwhile, the family had welcomed seven children, though only three of those children survived into adulthood. One of those children was a son named Edward Schmidt (1867-1927).

  • Ernest Schmidt and family recorded on the 1870 New Philadelphia census. (Source: familysearch.org)
  • This image from the Carpenter Collection of the Tuscarawas County Historical Society shows the brick block of buildings built by Ernest Schmidt on the west side of North Broadway, c. early 1900s. (Source: Courtesy of the Tuscarawas County Historical Society)

Edward must have learned the hospitality business working for his father and, around 1890, opened his own saloon and boarding house on South Broadway. Edward’s mother died in 1892 and his father soon followed in 1895, leaving the three children to split their parents’ estate. A year after his father’s death, Edward married Anna Geckler (1869-1966) and the couple took up residence in the South Broadway saloon and boarding house that Edward operated. Edward acquired his father’s block of buildings on North Broadway and established a saloon there and, now expecting their first and only child, the Schmidts decided that boarding house living was no longer appropriate for a young family.

The Schmidts purchased part of a corner lot on the southwest side of the intersection of West Ray Street and (then) North 7th Street in the spring of 1901. The house they constructed was in a style referred to as Colonial Revival and was a typical example of a popular version of that style; a cropped hipped roof with a full-width front porch. The house was nearly 3000 square feet and included gas fueled lighting fixtures throughout the house, gable roofed dormer windows and a columned front porch. Construction of the large, two-and-a-half story home was not completed until 1905 and the the Schmidts and their young daughter moved in shortly afterwards. Two years after the home was completed, the family almost died from a errant gas leak in the home from one of the light fixtures in their daughter’s room.

  • Edward Schmidt's purchase of the lot on West Ray Street where he built his new home, May 1901. (Source: newspaperarchive.com)
  • The Schmidt House on West Ray Street as depicted on the 1910 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map. (Source: loc.gov)
  • Newspaper headline of the near fatal gas leak at the Schmidt house in the summer of 1907. (Source: newspaperarchive.com)

Edward Schmidt continued to operate his saloon on North Broadway and even acquired similar businesses in other towns. One fall evening in 1911, while working at one of his establishments in Beach City, Edward surprised and shot two burglars attempting to steal cash from the saloon’s cash drawer. When Prohibition began, Edward shifted his business to that of a café and soda shop in order to survive the dry spell. Edward was also one of the early founders of the New Philadelphia Elks, and was one of a quartet of Elks who would travel around the community and sing.

When Edward Schmidt died in the spring of 1927, the local newspaper devoted part of the front page to his obituary. Writing that he was “the personification of health and vigor” and that the death was a “shock to host of friends.” Anna Schmidt and her daughter continued to live in the home until after the daughter married in 1935. Anna, having suffered an illness, moved into her married daughters new home around 1939. She lived with her daughter’s family until her own death in 1966 at the age of 97. Edward and Anna Schmidt are buried in the East Avenue Cemetery in New Philadelphia.

  • Edward Schmidt's death reported in the New Philadelphia newspaper, April 1927. (Source: newspaperarchive.com)
  • Anna Schmidt's death reported in the New Philadelphia newspaper, August 1966. (Source: newspaperarchive.com)
  • The Schmidt House on Ray Avenue NW, New Philadelphia, 2018. (Source: google.com)
  • The Schmidt House on Ray Avenue NW, New Philadelphia, 2018. (Source: google.com)
  • The Schmidt House on Ray Avenue NW, New Philadelphia, 2018. (Source: google.com)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.

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