PUBLISHER: J.H.BEERS & CO., CHICAGO; 1903     P.  416

HENRY AUGUST STEPHAN.  Early in August, 1864, there arrived in Rockville, Tolland Co., Conn., a young German, a blacksmith by trade, who but a few days previously had first set his foot on American soil, and who was unable to speak a word of the English language.  This was a trying position for the willing and energetic young stranger, and he failed to find work at his trade, but fortunately some one needed to have a cellar dug, and he was able to understand a kind of sign language by which he obtained the job, and thus earned his first money in the United States.  This honest and industrious young man is today one of the substantial citizens of the city of Rockville, and the owner of much valuable property in that vicinity.  He was born in Prussia, Sept. 2, 1838, a son of Gottleib and Maria (Schmidt) Stephan, and was one of a family of six children, of whom Henry A. and a sister, who married and died in Providence, were the only ones to locate permanently in the United States.  The father came to America and lived in Rockville for four years, but returned to Germany, so that Henry A. Stephan is the only one of his family on this side of the Atlantic.

Mr. Stephan’s school days were over at the age of thirteen.  A year later he was apprenticed to the blacksmith’s trade, under hard conditions, serving three years without wages (working from 4 A.M. to 7 P.M), and three months more without wages after he was considered a full-fledged mechanic.  In travel through Germany, on foot, from the Oder to the Rhine, he followed his trade as a journeyman, often with little to eat but the black bread of his country, but always cherishing the hope that he would be able to save enough to engage in business for himself.  For nine years he followed this strolling life, and at length decided that he would follow the example of many of his countrymen and make his way to America.  His money by this time amounted to $72, and of this $50 had to be paid for a ticket on the steamer “Germania,” from Hamburg to New York.  He landed in the latter city Sept. 2, 1864, a stranger in a strange land.  Rockville was his objective point, as acquaintances had come to that place, and soon after his job of cellar digging he found work in Ellington at his trade.  For six months he worked for Albert Heiser, at the end of that time returning to Rockville, where he entered into a pleasant engagement with Horace Treat, which lasted for almost twelve years, or until April 1, 1877, when he decided to open up business for himself.  Renting a small place on Grove street, Mr. Stephan began business, and for the first time in his life was his own master.  Less than two years later he bought from E.N. Stickney a tract of rough land on East Main street, at a time when there was not a building there, and on it erected a shop, a few years later building a home on his property, where he has resided ever since.

Mr. Stephan was married in July, 1865, in Rockville, to Miss Harmina Wagner, a native of Germany, who came to the United States when she was twelve years old.  The two surviving children of this union are Bertha and Anna.  The latter, Mrs. Alfred Markert, of Rockville, has three children, Gertrude, Agnes and Ethel.

Although a good Republican, Mr. Stephan takes only a voting interest in politics.  Socially he is connected with the A.O.U.W. of Rockville, and he is a valued member of the German Lutheran Church.

By industry and economy Mr. Stephan has become a successful man of business.  As his means accumulated he invested in real estate, and has built a number of tenement houses in the city, some of which he has sold, and all of which rent without trouble, being well located and carefully built.

In 1895 Mr. Stephan revisited his native country and viewed the scenes of his boyhood, finding fewer changes in the people and locality than in himself, after an absence of thirty-one years.  Leaving there a poor, discouraged boy, he returned a prosperous and happy citizen of a great country, where success waits upon those who bravely seek for it.  Although still quite able to do a day’s work in his business, he has long since retired from activity, and enjoys the respect of the community where he has lived an honest and industrious life for so many years.

Reproduced by:

Linda D. Pingel


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