Civil War Blog

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Gratz During the Civil War – Isaiah Schminky, Physician

Posted By on January 17, 2012

The house which stood on Lot #22, next to the Gratz National Bank, no longer exists.  Its last owner and occupant, Guy Snyder, is remember by a plaque and a gazebo which were placed there by the bank after it acquired the property.  During Civil War times, the owner of this lot and building was Dr. Isaiah Schminky (1832-1900), who arrived in Gratz around 1854 and purchased it in 1855.

Prior to Dr. Schminky’s ownership, the property was owned and occupied by the Baddorf (Battorf or Bardorf) family and the Dubendorf family.  Jacob Ritzman  and his wife also owned the property for a short time from 1853 to 1855.  The Civil War era house was built in 1853 by David Dubendorf and was the dwelling that was on this lot when Dr. Schminky purchased it.

The earliest picture of the house available at the Gratz Historical Society is shown above and was probably taken in the late 20th century after many renovations were made.  The Gratz Post Office was housed here for a time and the Snyder family ran an antique business from the premises, but for the purposes of this study of Civil War era Gratz, the primary use of the property was as the residence and medical office of Dr. Isaiah Schminky.

Dr. Isaiah Schminky

Dr. Schminky was a graduate of Pennsylvania Medical College in 1854.  He set up practice in this house and performed surgical operations here.  He was believed to be the first doctor in the area to use chloroform as an anesthetic.  His practice also became a place where young men could come to “read” medicine and learn the skills of being a doctor.  One such person was William Lebo who studied with Dr. Schminky and later set up a practice in Valley View.

In addition to being a lieutenant in the Gratztown Militia, Dr. Schminky played a vital role in the health care of the Gratz community.  As stated in A Comprehensive History of the Town of Gratz Pennsylvania:

The post Civil War period was a morbid era, and the residents of Gratz shared in that gloomy time.  Many men from Gratz and vicinity had served with area units during the war.  Some of them never returned, and many more of them came home with very distressful conditions.  A large percentage of them were both physically and financially poor.  Dr. Schminky, with the help of a few other doctors in Gratz, had their work cut out for them.  They spent much time attending to the diseases of the veterans.  In many cases the service was gratis, because the patients were poor.  In addition to the ailing veterans, there were many elderly widows to care for and numerous maladies of everyday life.

For more information on Dr. Schminky, see Gratztown Militia and Home Guards.

The account books of Dr. Isaiah Schminky are available at the Gratz Historical Society and list all of the patients he treated during his long career.  There is also a record of a partnership with a “Dr. Buehler” which was formed in 1861, with no mention of length or when it was dissolved.

In politics, Dr. Schminky was a Republican and even served a term in the Pennsylvania Legislature representing Dauphin County from 1871-1873.  Later, he joined the Prohibition Party and served as a Burgess of Gratz and a school director.  His land ownership was also widely known  including the area south of town where Fort Jackson was located as well as the entirety of what is now the Gratz Fair Grounds.

Dr. Schminky died in February 1900 and is buried in Gratz Union Cemetery.

It is unfortunate that there are no pictures available of the house and office of Dr. Schminky as it looked during the Civil War period. The plaque and gazebo that are presently on this property are in recognition of its last resident, Guy Snyder.  But those familiar with Gratz history known that the Civil War associations of this property properly lie in the life and deeds of the man who owned it as his main place of operation for more than forty-five years – Dr. Isaiah Schminky.

This is part 31 of an ongoing series on Gratz during the Civil War.  Some of the information for this post was taken from the book A Comprehensive History of the Town of Gratz Pennsylvania.  


17 Responses to “Gratz During the Civil War – Isaiah Schminky, Physician”

  1. Walter A. Schminky says:

    Dr Isaiah Schminky was my Grandfather’s (Walter H) Grandfather. My Grandfather spoke of him frequently as being quite an accomplished physician and notable person in Gratz. Gratz was my family home, my father being born in 1912 in nearby Klingerstown. I always wanted to go to Gratz someday, but never made it. The “Red Hill” of Dauphin county being the closest I ever got. They all seemed to gravitate to Harrisburg (Dr Guerney Schminky – My Greatgrandfather) and the nearby West Shore Area. Later we all moved to Florida (Walter H side).

  2. Carol Schminky Staley says:

    Dear Walter,
    I believe we may be related.
    Dr. Isiah Schminky was my great grandfher. He was also the father of Harry Newton Schminky, my grandfather and grandfather of Harold Bruce Schminky, my father.
    I am just beginning to learn about my family history but my sister has informaton and photographs of the family.
    Please let me know if there is a connection here. I am really interested in tracing the family back to Baron Heinrih Von Schminky my great, great, great grandfather.

    • Walter A. Schminky says:

      Heinrich Schmink(e)y (who came from Germany) married Susanna Acker (Acre), bore John Schmi(e)nk(e)y who married Mary Schauer(?Thower?), who bore Isaiah (John) Schmi(e)nk(e)y who married (1859) Elizabeth Wiest who bore Gurney Schmi(e)nky (1862) who married Ida ? who bore Walter H Schminky (1891) who married Sylvania Bowers who bore Walter A Schminky (1912) who married Grace Dight (Adopted name)) who bore Walter A Schminky Jr 1944(That’s me) who married Mary Elizabeth Stephenson (1980) who bore Rebekah Ann (1983) and Hannah Marie (1985) Schminky. So Isaiah (John) Schminky was my Great Great Grand Father. According to the 1880 census Gurney Schminkey was 5 years older than Harry S Schminkey, both sons of John S (MD) and Elizabeth Schminkey of Gratz PA. There could be only one Gurney Schminky and my dad talked of him so I know Isaiah must be the John S of the 1880 census. (How many Schminky doctors of the same age could live in Gratz PA in 1880?)I have seen alot of errors in census records as modern day transcribers incorrectly read the hand written records of the census takers. I hope this helps you and I honextly don’t know where alll the extra Es cone from but they are all over the census data. If you want to contact me directly: walterschminky@msn.com

      • Hannah Schminky says:

        Schminky reunion in 2014? (Daughter of Walter A. Schminky)

        • Carol Schminky Staley says:

          Hi Hannah,
          We share the same ancestors through Isiah and Elizabeth Schminky.
          Of their 13 children, my grandfather was Harry Newton Schminky who married Alice S. Wolf. They had one child, Harold Bruce who was my father. He married Ruth Brown and they had two daughters, Carol and Alice.
          I’m Carol and live in Woodacre, CA. My sister, Alice, lives in Portland, OR.
          I’ll be visiting her next week and we plan to pour over family pictures.
          She has a number of old photos of unknown from the Gratz, PA. region and it would be such fun to have a Schminky family reunion and see if anyone can identify any of these pictures.
          I have been in touch with Walter in Florida who I believe is your father.
          I would love to communicatae with you as well.
          It takes such a long time for things to get forwarded on this blog but I hope that this does reach you eventually and that we can start up an e-mail correspondance.
          Carol Schminky Staley
          P. O. Box 684, Woodacre, CA. 94973

      • Sylvia Schminky Creach says:

        Don’t forget your brother, Uncle Walt – Jon Alden Schminky, who had 5 children; Jon Jr, Stephen, Sylvia, Michael. And James – as well as their children and grand children 🙂

        ~~ daughter of Jon Alden Schminky

        • Ellen Rebecca Schminky says:

          I found this after such a long time searching for something on my family history. I wouldn’t know if this is him but Mrs. Sylvia, It seems you just listed my dad and uncle when you listed Jon Alden Schminky’s Children. My Uncle is Jon Schminky Jr and my father is Stephen E. Schminky. I’d love to know if we are related. I have only been around my mother’s side of the family and know nothing of my grandfather’s side let alone my grandmother’s. It would mean the world to me to know I have family out there.

          • Ellen Rebecca Schminky says:

            Sorry I actually meant Steven E. Schminky. Same person just spelled differently. 🙂

  3. Carol Schminky Staley says:

    Hi to all of you who have posted comments above.
    Yes, we are all related and I would LOVE to make contact with you.
    Please e-mail me: carol1934@juno.com

    • Susan Schminky-Worman says:

      Jon and Carrie Schminky were my Great grandparents. My grandfather was Gordon Schminky, one of the 13 children of Jon and Carrie. My father was Herbert H. Schminky. Gratz, Pa is beautiful. We used to go up every summer to visit my father’s Aunts and Uncles. We used to always stay at Lottes house. I have a wonderful picture of the 50th anniversary of Jon and Carrie, with all their children, and their grandchildren.

  4. Hi to all of you above.
    This Civil War Blog is not the best way to contact each other.
    Why don’t we exchange our e-mail addresses so we can communicate directly?

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