Utz H. Schmidt, a modern-day German immigrant and retired automotive engineer living in Palms, Michigan, recently published a history book about the Colonie (also spelled Colonia) Saxonia, one of a number of immigration promotion groups formed during the 19th century to encourage and support German settlers. This colony, which included as members my Riedel and Schreiter ancestors, came from the German state of Saxony and settled in the town of Forestville, Sanilac County, Michigan. Utz’s book is titled Michigan’s Thumb, a Paradise for Saxonia Setters, and it is available from Lulu Press.
Many descendants of the Saxon Colony settlers (including myself) provided Utz with maps, photographs, and information about their German ancestors. In addition, Utz did extensive research in both the United States and Germany. The book is rich in family stories and interesting images.
One of the book’s most important story themes involves a set of letters that my great grandfather Alvin Schreiter wrote to his oldest brother in Germany; the first was written in October 1873, soon after they arrived.
Alvin became a farmer in Michigan; in Germany he was a miner and maker of decorative braid trims.
Adolph Riedel owned a farm and various local businesses in Michigan; in Germany he was a weaver.
Adolph was not the only small business owner in the group; his future son-in-law Emil Zwicker owned the local blacksmith shop.
One image in Utz’s book of particular interest to me was the list of Saxonia Masons. Four members are my close relatives: L. H. Riedel is my grandfather, and A. N. Bostwick, A. L. Riedel, and L. A. Riedel are my uncles.
Kudos to Utz Schmidt for producing such a rich addition of information about this interesting group of immigrants!