We know the Frederick Oelwein family arrived in Jefferson township from Baltimore, Md. In 1854 they purchased from the US government 65.24 acres in section 7 in Jefferson township and an additional 40 acres in section 12 of Oran township. The 2 pieces of land were adjacent to each other separated by the township line.
This area was called Crabapple Grove on existing maps of Fayette county. The grove was made up of native hardwoods and and was surounded by a great number of crabapple trees. Just northwest of the grove was a 3 to 4 acre pond of water that was excellent for swimming and fishing. It was along Otter Creek that runs across the northeast portion of the farm. This pond was in existence until highway #3 was constructed in the 1920ís. The existing road went around the pond on the north and was called The Auchampach Road according to a map located in the Fayette county engineers office. This road followed section lines and finally reached what is now Oelwein by crossing farm fields and entering the town from the northwest.
The Oelwein family arrived short on cash and spent much of what they had on hiring 3 men to construct a log cabin for them. It was a fairly large cabin, probably about 18 by 24 feet, with a loft for sleeping. A fireplace was used for heating and cooking until an iron stove was purchased later. A spring bubbled out of the ground near the cabin for drinking water and cooking. Protected in winter from northwest winds by the grove, with wood to burn and water nearby, this was a good place to start life on the frontier. The soil was sandy loam which was easy to farm with crude implements and produced good crops of potatoes and wheat. Wild game was abundant. However, Frederick Oelwein was not a farmer and money was in short supply. Frederick had been trained as a silversmith as a youth in Germany. A silversmith makes or repairs silver articles. His training was especially working work with German silver. An alloy of copper, zinc and silver. The more silver used, the better the product. There was not much need for a silversmith on the frontier at this time.
` This tract of land was located by less than a half mile inside the Blackhawk Purchase. To the west were few settlers and much open country. About 4 miles to the north was the southern line of the neutral zone to Fort Atkinson or the Winnebago Reserve. A large rock located just east of what is now Westgate was the southern boundry of the reservation and Indians were not to travel west or south of this line.
Piles of dirt one half mile north of Crabapple Grove and one mile northwest were believed to be Indian burial grounds. Small groups of Indians would appear in the area near these dirt mounds. The mounds were about 2 feet high and about 20 by 20 foot in area. The Oelwein family and other nearby settlers had to be aware of the Indians because they were always begging for white manís food and whiskey.
Mrs Oelweins maiden name was Cecelia Emma Schmidt and grew up in the area near Weimar, Germany. She sent a letter to her brother, Frederick Schmidt still living on the home farm with his family of 4 girls and a son. She invited them to come to Iowa, the land of opportunity. The 2 oldest Schmidt daughters arrived in 1955 to live with the Oelwein family. They paid their way to America using gold coins for money. They brought extra gold with them to help support their Aunt and uncle.
The Schmidt girls wrote glowing letters back to their parents on the great life on the American frontier and they wanted the rest of the family to join them. The Schmidts were not happy with life in their homeland. They owned land an had a nice home. Germany was always at war and they knew their son Gustav, would someday have to spend at least 3 years in the German army. Gustav was showing great promise as a piano student at 14 years of age.The Schmidts were devout Lutherans and lived near the area were Martin Luther lived and taught. They decided to wait a year untl Gustav completed his religious training and then migrate to the United States. In 1856, they sold all their holdings in Germany, converted the German money into gold, and sailed for this country. The family arrived in Iowa and immediately purchased the Oelwein property for about $8.00 an acre. This gave Frederick Oelwein some cash and he then purchased cheaper property were the town of Oelwein is now located. The 2 families stayed very close because Frederick Oelwein and Frederick Schmidt had married each others sisters. Somehow the piano that Gustav played, made of rosewood, made its way to what is now Oelwein. There were now several Lutheran families in the area. Lutheran services were held in the Oelwein family home with young Gustav providing the music. This continued for many years as churches were built in an around this area for worship services.Gustav Schmidt died at the age of 34 when he was caught in a late spring blizzard driving a team and wagon of ground wheat between the farm and what is now the Oelwein city park. His cousin, Gustav Oelwein who run the Red Mill, begged him not to return home because the sky looked so bad. The date was 28 May, 1875. Gustav Schmidt was buried in the Oelwein plot on 4th st SW. Both families went into deep shock. The Oelwein family depended on their nephew to assist them with important business decisions. He was after all, the one with the most education up until this time.