Family celebrating German roots here

Published 8:54 pm Monday, July 26, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- In August, a large group of people from across the country, whose American origins began right here in Niles, will be coming to our city to celebrate their family reunion.
In 1861, German immigrants Friedrich and Anna Schmidt made the trip to America and found their way to Niles. The family planted their roots here – having seven children and eventually founding the Schmidt Packing Company.
On August 7, more than 60 descendants from the family will be traveling here from places like New York, Florida and California for the reunion. Many of the visitors will also be taking a historical tour of the city to see the places that their family called home.
The celebration will be held at Jack and Judy Young's home on Brown Street. Jack and his brother Fred are the last of the remaining Schmidt descendants living in Niles.
Young, a retired Niles High School teacher, is looking forward to seeing some of his old relatives, but mentioned there will also be a handful of family members that he will be meeting for the first time.
He credits his cousin Dick Orton, a Santa Monica, Calif. resident, for stirring up the interest in family history and the upcoming reunion.
Orton, a grandson of Ruth Schmidt and Donald Noble, had always heard tales of his grandparents' adventures in Niles in the early 1900s.
He has visited Niles before and is excited to return in August for this generation's first Schmidt family reunion.
The interest in sparking this reunion began when Orton, who could be called the family's official historian, started to inquire about the German origins of his great-great grandparents.
While visiting Young's home in Niles a few years ago, Orton was shown some old family Bible pages that indicated the Schmidts came to Niles from Breitungen, Germany.
He began researching historical documents at the Niles District Library and calling relatives to gather family information.
While making these calls, he started to hear some interesting stories.
Orton started documenting the stories and his family tree project soon snowballed into a family almanac.
His interest in the Schmidt family history even led him to visit Breitungen last September, where the locals made him feel at home.