Schmitt, Johann Peter

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Johann Peter Schmitt (a.k.a. Schmidt, Smith) b. 1788.

In 1840, at age 52, Johann Peter Schmitt also called Peter Schmidt and his wife, Anna Marie Bruck born in 1795, emigrated to the U.S. from West Rhine, Germany with the 3 youngest of their surviving children, Maria Anna born in 1819, and twin sons Peter, Jr. born in 1824, and Jacob born in 1824, accompanied by Johannes Heinrich Joseph Fortmann (Henry Fortman), born in 1815, purchased adjacent farmland alongside Philip McGregor Rogers on the Ridge Trail (present day Pratt Boulevard, and built log cabins and undertook truck farming to provide produce to Chicago. The combined family lands ultimately encompassed 250 acres.

Henry Fortmann’s younger brother, Clemens August Ludwig Fortmann, born in 1824, joined him shortly, and bought an adjacent parcel. The Fortmann brothers married sisters, Catherine and Mary Lauterman, in New Trier, IL.

In 1871, at age 47, Clemens was tragically killed when a cart axle fell on him leaving his 8-1/2 month pregnant wife and 9 other children to combine with brother Henry’s wife and 6 children in their home at present day 6710 N. Seeley Avenue. This land was sold in 1910 to the Edgewater Golf Club (now Warren Park).

In 1849, Johann Peter Schmitt’s son, Peter Schmidt, Jr., born in 1824, married Elizabeth Phillipp (a.k.a. Phillippi, Phillips) born in 1832. She was the daughter of neighboring farmer Jacob Phillipp, who had emigrated in 1842 and ultimately owned several tracts of land at Ridge and Touhy as well as a flour and feed store in Ridgeville. In 1895 Jacob Phillip's son, Peter founded the Phillips State Bank.

Peter Schmidt changed his last name to "Smith", thrived as a farmer and community leader, and in 1871, Peter, his wife, and their 15 children (bearing the Smith surname) moved into their “dream home” at 6836 N. Ridge Avenue.

The two families formally joined with the marriage in 1894 of Clemen’s youngest son, Frederick Fortmann, born in 1869, and Peter Schmidt’s youngest daughter, Louisa Smith (born in 1871). The newlyweds continued to reside in the 6836 N. Ridge Avenue home. They had four sons, Frederick Peter, born in 1895, and Albert Joseph, born in 1905 continued the greenhouse operations. Son Lawrence, born in 1896, was a printer at Ridge and Farwell and Father Edmund, born in 1901, was professor of theology at Loyola University.

In 1902, Peter, Jr. died without a will so the family land was subdivided by the state. Albert Joseph, continued the stewardship of the home and family property. Upon his death in 1955, the home passed to their only son, David Alan Fortman, a prominent tax accountant, who fulfilled his legacy through careful attention to the home and the family history.

For more information on this fascinating family, you may visit the family history website at Through extensive research, David has traced his family to their pre-Saxon tribal roots in 15 A.D. and has many compelling stories to share.