Luxembourg Brotherhood of America
Section 3 - Oldest Active Section - 1897
Rogers Park - Chicago, Illinois
Birthplace of the Schobermesse - Since 1904
Section 3 of the Luxembourg Brotherhood of America is the oldest of the four remaining sections from the Luxemburger Bruderbund established at an organizational meeting held on October 23, 1887 on the south side of Chicago. The section was formed in April 1897 by John Glessner, a member of Section 1, who was then living in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. On May 9, 1897, Grand Lodge President John Hankes initiated 33 men into the L.B.A. and christened them as Section 3. They were from the Rogers Park and High Ridge neighborhoods, men devoted to their greenhouse businesses and their parish, St. Henry’s on the southwest corner of Ridge Avenue and Devon Avenue in Chicago.
The following men were the initial 33 charter members:
The first officers of Section 3 were:
President J.P. Koob
Vice President J.P. Michels
Recording Secretary Nick Nilles
Financial Secretary Nick Thinnes
Treasurer Peter Weimeskirch
The section’s size and influence was quickly felt as the L.B.A. grew. By the year 1908, the Section rose to 350 members, the largest in the Brotherhood.
The history of Section 3 is best told with the history of the Schobermesse, the yearly fall festival of the Luxembourg people, modeled after the Schueberfouer in Luxembourg City. In Luxembourg this annual fair is called Schueberfouer in the Letzebuerger language, in contrast to the German pronunciation Schobermesse.
The birth of the Schobermesse came about because of a picnic sponsored by Section 3 on May 29, 1903 that was a financial failure as the result of an afternoon downpour. At numerous picnics and family gatherings that summer, Section leaders resolved to find a better way to hold a large picnic. Peter Malget, who had been part of the arrangement committee along with Andrew Weber and Vincent Schmitz, discussed the issue with Nicholas Karthauser, who owned a restaurant located in Chicago at 3543 Ridge Avenue (later to become 6666 Ridge Avenue when
Chicago changed its address numbering system). Before he immigrated to the United States, Mr.
Karthauser had lived several years in Luxembourg City, where he attended the annual
Peter Malget believed that such a Schobermesse could be held in Chicago, patterned after the one in Luxembourg City. He brought this idea up at the June, 1904 meeting. A very lively debate ensued, with some being very skeptical that such a fair could be successful in Chicago, and others willing to study the matter further. A committee chaired by Peter Malget was formed to work on the details and report back at the July meeting. Others on the committee were Gregor Rolling, Secretary, Matt Laplume, Michael Neuer, and J.P. Leider.
At the July meeting, Chairman Malget reported that the committee as a whole supported having a Schobermesse in Chicago. Section 3 then voted and unanimously approved hosting a Schobermesse in Chicago. They chose the date of the first Sunday in September and the following day, Labor Day. They also selected the combined picnic groves of Nicholas Karthauser and Joseph Ebert, since they adjoined one another on Ridge Avenue. A committee of 30 members was established and told to spare no expense to make this first Schobermesse a guaranteed success.
The Schobermesse in Chicago was born. Peter Malget became known as the father of the Schobermesse. The committee of Section 3 visited the other sections and also got them involved in this new venture. There was an exhibition of farm crops and flowers grown by Luxembourg truck gardeners and florists in the area. Singing societies participated and there was dancing. Beverages such as Wormeldinger Kopchen (wine), Moselle wine, and Quetch were served. In the early years, the size of the Schobermesse Committee continued to grow, indicating the popularity of the festival among the Luxembourg community. To serve on this committee was an honor that many sought.
With Section 3 serving as the driving force, this wonderful festival was carried on for 64 years in various picnic groves on the north side of Chicago and nearby north suburbs, such as Tessville (known today as Lincolnwood), Niles Center (known today as Skokie), and Morton Grove, until 1967, when the property that housed the Luxembourg Gardens (formerly known as Deckert’s Hall) at 62ll Lincoln Avenue in Morton Grove was sold.
After an absence of 34 years, Section 3, under the leadership of its President, Peter Schroeder, and Grand Lodge President, George Meyers, rekindled the idea of the Schobermesse among the Section members, as well as the other three remaining active Sections (8, 15, and 21) and reintroduced the annual Schobermesse in 2001 with #65. On August 22, 2010, #74 was held, under the leadership committee comprised of many members from Section 3, as well as members from the other three Sections. The Schobermesse is once again alive and well and looking forward to a rousing celebration next year, 2011, when it celebrates its 75th annual festival. Several new features have been added to the traditional events, most notably the addition of live sheep in the Hammelsmarch parade. This too is patterned after the annual Schueberfouer in Luxembourg City.
A closer look into the history of Section 3 shows that by 1908 it had organized the Luxembourger Dramatic Club, consisting of 16 members and the Luxembourger Harmonie, which gathered every Tuesday and Friday in John P. Jaeger’s Hall. Mr. Jaeger was its President. At the 1908 parade kick-off for the Schobermesse, the marchers followed the band to the tunes of the Hammelsmarch. The Dramatic Club performed one- and two-act plays in Luxembourgisch over the two-day festival. The year 1913 was the Silver Anniversary of the L.B.A. and the Schobermesse took on the added significance as the premier event of the Brotherhood’s calendar. This is still the case today.
One of the most outstanding members of Section 3 was Fred A. Gilson, whose efforts on behalf of the L.B.A. were carried out with great devotion and instinctive fervor. He was born in Mertzig, Luxembourg in 1889 and immigrated to the United States in 1906. Shortly thereafter, he joined Section 3, and he became a U.S. citizen in 1912. He established the Gilson Employment Service in 1920. Mr. Gilson was elected L.B.A. Grand Lodge President in 1931 and retired from that post in 1943. His greatest accomplishment on behalf of the L.B.A. was his willingness to record the history of the Brotherhood and its sections. In the 1938 Golden Jubilee Book, he wrote the history which served as the basis for the Luxembourg Brotherhood of America 1887-1987 Centennial Book. In 1952, he authored the history of Section 8, and the following year the history of the Schobermesse, followed by the history of Section 21 in 1957. These three works were critical to the completion of the L.B.A. Centennial Book. In 1934, Fred Gilson was appointed Chancellor of the Luxembourg Consulate in Chicago. He was later appointed Vice-Consul in 1954, a post that he held until his death on May 1, 1964. He was twice decorated by the Luxembourg government, in 1934 as Knight of the Oak Leaf Crown, and another in 1953.
Mr. Gilson chaired the Schobermesse Committee in 1920, the first one after the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1919. The program booklet for that year contained an article written by Albert P. Schimberg entitled “A Land of Mary.” This told the story of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Consoler of the Afflicted, who is also the Patroness of Luxembourg. During the 1920s, the Schobermesse continued to grow in scope and size. Section members continued to vie with one another for appointment to the Committee. At the 1921 Schobermesse, cash prizes totaling $600 were given away, quite a nice sum for that time. In 1925, the location of the Schobermesse was relocated from the Karthauser/Eberts Groves in Chicago to Klein’s Grove at Crawford and Lincoln in Tessville (n/k/a Lincolnwood), Illinois. It is interesting to note that Anthony Obladen, a native of Port Washington in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, printed the first 23 Schobermesse program booklets.
The year 1928 was a great one in the history of Section 3, as the Schobermesse marked its 25th anniversary. The Program Book that year was the largest published to that time. Fred Gilson once again served as Chairman. Nicholas Nilles, one of the foremost Luxembourg pioneers in the United States, born in Eschdorf, Luxembourg on October 4, 1875, served as Secretary. Mr. Nilles arrived in this country at the age of 14 on April 21, 1889 and came directly to Chicago. For the first six years, he worked on various farms in the Chicago area. Then in 1902, at the age of 27, he took a position in the City’s Collector office. He also served in the County Clerk’s, Country Treasurer’s and Sheriff’s offices. He then moved on to become Deputy Clerk of the Municipal Court in 1931. Nicholas assisted 327 Luxembourgers in becoming U.S. citizens.
Perhaps the high point of Mr. Nilles’ career was the half century he served as Grand Secretary of the Luxembourg Brotherhood of America. He was elected to this exacting position and high office on February 13, 1899 at the convention held at Uhlich’s Hall in Chicago and served with unfailing efficiency until the convention held on May 1, 1949 in Remsen, Iowa. During this period, Nicholas served under the first 12 Grand Presidents, from John Hankes to Harry Trausch.
(Today, George Meyers of Section 3 serves as #16.) He was instrumental in the creation of all Sections from 3 to 25. In the mid-1930s he was made Knight of the Oak Leaf Crown
Another significant accomplishment of Nicholas Nilles was his advancement of the Luxembourg Weekly, the Luxembourg newspaper in America. For 35 years, he was the owner and editor of this publication, often up against impossible odds to keep it alive. Mr. Nilles surrendered his newspaper efforts in 1945 when the Luxembourg News was taken over by the corporation formed by the then Consul General John Marsch and Grand Trustee John B. Krier, known as the Luxembourgers of America, Inc. John Marsch, also a member of Section 3, was appointed Commander of the Oak Leaf Crown in the 1930s. He served as Consul General from 1937 - 1954 and was succeeded by Section 3’s John M. Trevelier, who served from 1954 - 1963.
During World War II, Mr. Nilles distinguished himself by his stellar work in all the various war bond drives and other activities. The War Department honored him with a Certificate of Merit in recognition of his loyal service. He died on August 7, 1950.
Section 3 sponsored several sports teams, including in its early years the Luxembourg Soccer Football Club of Rogers Park, and in later years bowling teams and youth softball teams.
Section 3 had several other strong and dedicated leaders in the 1930s through the 1960s and the second half of the 20th century, men like Eugene Koeune, Leo Eschette, and Perry Daubenfeld. Mr. Koeune served in several posts for Section 3, including President, as well as Grand Trustee of the Grand Lodge. Mr. Eschette was a member of every Schobermesse Committee from 1934 until his death in 1967. He also served as President of Section 3 from 1937 until 1949. He then was elected 13th President of the Grand Lodge in 1949, a post he held until 1965.
Mr. Daubenfeld was born August 14, 1879 in Reckigen (Mersch), Luxembourg and immigrated to America in 1893, settling in Chenoa, Illinois. On December 3, 1900, he enlisted in the Marines and saw active duty in Panama and the Philippines. Upon his discharge, he returned to Illinois, married and started a family. In 1916, he enlisted in the Army and served under General Jack Pershing, together with First Lt. George S. Patton, Jr. and fellow Luxembourger Harry Trausch in the expedition that year against Pancho Villa. The following year, he was shipped to France, where he again served under General Pershing in three major offenses - the Somme, Ancre River, and Meuse-Argonne. In this last battle, he was gassed, and suffered the effects the rest of his life. After his discharge from the Army in 1919, he moved his family to South Dakota in an attempt to recover from his war injuries. The Luxembourg government appointed him Consul General of Luxembourg, with jurisdiction over South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas in 1925. After an extended visit to Luxembourg from September 1924 to December 1926, he moved to Chicago and rejoined the U.S. Postal Service and Section 3. However, he retained his Consular post until his death in 1945. Mr. Daubenfeld served as Trustee of Section 3 from 1935 until May 1943, when he was elected the 11th President of the Grand Lodge and served until he succumbed to a heart attack in January, 1945. Perry Daubenfeld was given a full dress military funeral, and the Luxembourg Government was represented.
On July 3, 1954, Section 9 (Chicago’s Lakeview area) was merged into Section 3. This brought with it both membership growth and future leaders such as Harry Trausch and Nicholas Colling.
Harry Trausch was born in Bourscheid, Luxembourg on September 23, 1892. In 1913, he
migrated to America with his older brother John, and they found their way to Chicago. Harry served under General Pershing in the Mexican border war, together with First Lt. George S. Patton, Jr. and Perry Daubenfeld, chasing Pancho Villa. He later served in World War I. Harry joined Section 9 around 1920. Later he succeeded Perry Daubenfeld as Grand Lodge President in 1945 and became Grand Secretary in 1949. In 1954, he became editor of the Luxembourg News. During World War II, Harry continued to serve both his native Luxembourg and his adopted country. He was a member of the War Bond Drive Committees to solicit contributions from the Luxembourg community. During the years 1941 to 1947, he was Chairman of the Luxembourg Relief Commission. The Luxembourg government honored him for his many years of service to Luxembourg with the Order of the Oak Leaf. Harry Trausch’s most significant contributions to the affairs of both Section 3 as well as to the L.B.A. were his editing efforts of the Schobermesse Program Books and the Luxembourg News. His contributions to these publications were critical to maintaining the recorded history of the Brotherhood. Were it not for him, vital information would have been irretrievably lost. Harry died in 1974.
Nic Colling was born in Weiler-La-Tour, Luxembourg on July 19, 1906. He and his wife immigrated to America in 1934, first settling in Detroit, and then moving to Chicago in 1937, when he joined Section 9. Nic was President of the Section when it merged with Section 3 in 1954. He was also President of the Luxembourg Singing Society. When Al Ammon retired as President of Section 3 in 1956, he became President of Section 3, and held that post until 1965, when he became Vice-Consul of Luxembourg. On February 1, 1968, he was appointed Consul of Luxembourg and held that post until 1976, when he was named Consul General. Nic Colling retired from his Consular duties on December 31, 1985. Mr. Colling received three major decorations for his efforts on behalf of the Luxembourg government. They are: 1) Chevelier, Order of Merit, 2) Medal of the Oak Leaf Crown, and 3) Order of Merit, Officer of the Grand Duke Adolph of Nassau.
Another very dedicated member of Section 3 was Melvin Thillens, whose father immigrated to this country from Luxembourg in the 1890s and started a greenhouse business on Peterson Avenue, near Damen. Mel was working as a bank clerk in 1933 when the Depression closed the bank. He then sought work at a currency exchange, where, soon after he started working there, he thwarted five robbers. The owner than sold the business to Mel. This was the beginning of Thillens Checkcashiers, which remains to this day a regular advertiser in the Luxembourg News of America. Mel used his successes in business to start a boys Little League program. He built Thillens Stadium on the north side of Chicago at a cost of $75,000 in 1939. It has been used as
a beautiful setting for Little League baseball, high school football games and other sporting events. In 1986, Mel was named a Chevelier of the Order of Merit by H.R.H. Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg in recognition of his contributions to Section 3, the Luxembourg community of greater Chicago, and to the Luxembourg government.
Members of Section 3 continued to vie for Schobermesse Committee appointments well into the 1960s. However, the sale of the Luxembourg Gardens led to the end of the Schobermesse for many years. The final picnic was in 1966, and the 1967 Schobermesse was a dinner dance held at the Luxembourg Gardens. Nevertheless, Section 3’s strong leadership continued into the latter part of the 20th century, with such men as John Keil, John Lang, George Meyers, and Tony Schroeder. George Meyers is the 16th President of the Grand Lodge in 2010, having held this post since 1996. Section 3 led the efforts to open the Brotherhood to female membership and leadership positions in 1996. In the year 2001, once again under the leadership of Section 3, the Schobermesse has been revived and is the premier annual event of the Luxembourg Brotherhood of America, held annually at All Saints Pavilion on Higgins Road in Chicago. Peter Schroeder took over the leadership reins of Section 3 in the late 20th century and has continued here in the first decade of the 21st. century.
Section 3 is the only Section to have purchased cemetery graves for its members who were without resources to do so for themselves. In 1916, it purchased 32 plots at Memorial Park at 9900 Gross Point Road in Skokie, Illinois. At the head of these gravesites, located in Section 33, is a large stone monument in the form of a cross, which identifies these graves as belonging to members of Section 3. While most of the sites are filled, there are a few remaining. Dolores Meyers Chozianin, sister of George Meyers, has lovingly cared for these graves for many years.
Members of Section 3 have played a prominent role in decorating the Luxembourg Christmas tree and crèche in the annual “Christmas around the World” exhibit held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Most notable have been George Meyers and his sister Dolores Chozianin, as well as Rich and Marcy Trausch and their son Jeff Trausch and his friend Carrie Brunetti.
In 2008, Section 3 made a donation to the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, Inc. in the form of a Legacy Panel that is displayed in its Heritage Center in Belgium, Wisconsin. It is one of the first three panels to be displayed.
Section 3, the oldest remaining Section of the Luxembourg Brotherhood of America is well into its second century and proudly looks forward to the future in serving the Luxembourg community here in America and in preserving its Luxembourg-American heritage.
The following items are available in the Research Center of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, Inc. Research Center.
Gilson, Fred A; Keefer, Jack; and Witry, Richard J. Luxembourg Brotherhood of America: The
Grand Lodge 1887 - 1987. Chicago: Luxembourg Brotherhood of America, 1987.
(Appendix 3 lists the membership roster of Section 3 for the years 1897 - 1987.)
Gilson, Fred A. and Trausch, Harry. Schroeder, Tony and Keil, John - Compilers. Section 3
Luxembourg Brotherhood of America Chicago, Illinois. Chicago: Luxembourg
Brotherhood of America, 1987.
Luxembourg Brotherhood of America. Schobermesse Programs 1907 - 2010. Chicago:
Luxembourg Brotherhood of America. (Clicking on the link: www.luxam.info
and the sub-link: Luxembourg Brotherhood of America and the further link:
Schobermesse Books will lead to all the programs for the years 1907 - 2010.
Those for the years 1907 - 1932 are in German. The years 1933 - 1939 are in
German and English. The years 1940 - 2010, and following, are in English.)
Donald L. Wampach
Luxembourg Brotherhood of America