Coni Calligaro, Charley Christenson, Richard Drueke, Marilyn Hamill, Barbara Lockrey, Janet Ramsey, and Leslie A. Pahl contributed to this family history.
Index The Bergers and Sol Smith Russell Census Directory Descendants Home Page
Cris J. Smith Born in 1852
Grand Rapids, 1852-1880. Crescenz Joseph Smith, later known as Cris J. Smith, was born March 21, 1852, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The U.S. flag had 31 stars, the most recent one being for California. The President was Millard Fillmore.
Cris was the second of three children of John and Mary Augusta Schickell Schmitt, both born in Bavaria.
Cris' mother Mary Augusta Schickell had come over from Bremen to Baltimore with her parents, John Adam and Maria Eva Schumm Schickell, on the sailing ship Johannes in 1834. They were from Kassel, which is 32 miles east northeast of Frankfurt. At that time, Kassel was in the north of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Now, Kassel is in the Kinzig-Main-Kreis region in the south of Hesse. They settled in Tiffin, Ohio. Mary Augusta had a younger brother Peter who came over from Kassel with her. She also had a sister Mary Appolonia and a brother Joseph, who were born in Tiffin.
Cris' father John Schmitt came from the same area in Germany as the Schickell's and settled in Tiffin, Ohio. He was listed as a saloonkeeper in the 1860 census.
Cris had an older sister, Maria Appolonia Smith, known as Abbie. She was born in Tiffin, Ohio, in 1849.
Sometime between 1849 and 1852, the Schmitts moved from Tiffin to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In 1854, a third child, Rosa Wilhelmina, was born to John and Mary Schickell Schmitt.
In 1858, Cris' aunt, Mary Appolonia Schickell married Francis Boxheimer, who in 1865 became the owner of the Bridge Street House, a hotel on the east side of the Grand River.
In the 1860 census, the family was living in the 4th Ward of Grand Rapids, and Cris' father was listed as a saloonkeeper.
In 1861, Cris' father John died at age 41. Cris was only 9. His mother was 33. His sisters were 12 and 7.
Starting with the 1867 Grand Rapids city directory, Cris' mother Mary Augusta was listed as living at Gold and Washington. Later, this was specified as 44 Gold Avenue. In 1874, Washington was changed to Sibley and 44 was changed to 105. In 1893, when a new house was built on the lot, the number was changed to 113 Gold. In 1912, the number was changed to the present address of 151 Gold Avenue NW. This was the southwest corner of Gold and Sibley Street. The 1893 house is still there and occupied by Marilyn Hamill, who is preserving and restoring the house.
In 1869, Cris' sister Abbie died at age 20.
In the 1870 census, Cris, 18, was listed as a photographer. In the 1872 Grand Rapids directory, at 20, he was listed a musician living on Front Street. In the 1873 and 1874 directories, he was listed as a clerk at the grocery store of his uncle, Peter Schickell, on Front Street. He also was listed as living on Front Street. His uncle Peter was a musician as well as a grocer. In the 1875 directory, Cris again was listed as a musician. He continued to work as a musician for the rest of his career.
In 1872, Cris' mother, Mary Augusta Schickell Schmitt, married Frederick W. Cordes, and he moved into the house at 44 Gold. He was born in 1834, the son of Anton Cordes and Maria Platte. He had been a grocer, but was listed as a laborer in the 1873-75 directories. His wife Adelaide had died in 1869 at age 26. Mary Augusta and Frederick were divorced in 1876. Frederick died in 1891 and was buried with his first wife Adelaide at St. Andrew's Cemetery.
In the 1876 Grand Rapids directory, the Schmitt (Smith) family lived at 105 Gold Avenue (151 Gold Avenue NW after 1912). This was the southwest corner of Gold and Sibley Street, two blocks east and two blocks north of where the Kochs lived.
Cris traveled with the Bergers and Sol Smith Russell (1848-1902). Sol Smith Russell was an actor, comedy star, playwright, composer, singer, and friend of James Whitcomb Riley. An evening at an "opera house" in those days might include band music, instrumental and vocal solos, and Sol Smith Russell, in his comic songs and character sketches.
Sol Smith Russell was closely associated with the Berger Family from 1869 to 1880. Sol Smith Russell married Louisa Berger. Her brother Fred G. Berger was manager of the group. Cris probably did not join the group until later in that period. His cousin Louis F. Boos was a cornetist with the group near the end of the period.
Christine Koch Born in 1860
Grand Rapids, 1860-1880. Christine Koch was born on June 23, 1860, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The U.S. flag had 33 stars, the most recent one being for Oregon. The President was James Buchanan.
Christine was the third child of William and Theresa Fassnacht Koch. Christine was a second-generation American. Her father William Koch had immigrated in 1853 from Andelfingen, which is 180 miles south southeast of Frankfurt in Württemberg (now part of the Kreis Biberach district of Baden-Württemberg). Her mother Theresa Fassnacht Koch had immigrated from Königheim, which is 70 miles southeast of Frankfurt in Baden (now the Main-Tauber-Kreis region of Baden-Württemberg).
The Kochs lived at 109 California Street (803 California Street NW after 1912), at the corner of Straight Street. This was nine blocks west of the Grand River and six blocks south of Bridge Street.
Christine's father William had a furniture and upholstering business on West Bridge Street, a few doors down from the Franz Berles grocery store. Franz' daughter Elizabeth Berles, who married William Peter Drueke in 1882).
Christine had two older brothers, William Koch, who was born in 1857, and August J. Koch, who was born in 1858.
In 1863, Francis Xavier, a third brother, was born.
Cris and Christine Marry in 1880, Have 1 Child
In 1882, Cris and Christine had a daughter, Rose Viola.
In 1882, Cris' younger sister, Rosa Wilhelmina Smith, married Charles Andrew Hauser. They lived in the Smith home at 105 Gold Avenue (151 Gold Avenue NW after 1912).
Cris continued to work as a musician. The 1882 Grand Rapids directory lists him as a musician at Smith's Opera House. Perhaps he had started his own opera house. According to Grand Rapids As It Is, published by the Board of Trade in 1888, Smith's Opera House was located at the corner of Waterloo and Louis streets and was a "model Vaudeville playhouse." It cost $40,000.
Cris was a euphonium soloist with the Patrick Gilmore Band. Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (1829-1892), a cornetist, immigrated from County Galway to Boston in 1849. Gilmore was a regimental bandleader during the Civil War and wrote "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again." In 1873, Gilmore left Boston to accept a position as director of the 22nd Regiment of New York Band, which served as one of the most famous American professional bands. Gilmore toured extensively throughout the United States until his death in 1892.
On May 19, 1883, Christine's brother, August J. Koch, died at age 24. In 1883, prior to August's death, the Koch undertaking business operated as Koch & Koch (William, Jr., and August). August was buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Cris Widowed in 1887 at Age 35
Grand Rapids, 1887-1890. Upon the death of his wife Christine, Cris, 35, was left a widower with one child. His daughter Rose Viola would have been five years old. Cris and his daughter Rose Viola continued to live with Christine's parents, the Kochs.
On August 3, 1888, Christine's mother, Theresa Fassnacht Koch died. In 1890, Christine's father William, 63, married Elizabeth Lavo, 48.
Cris continued to work as a musician. In the 1889 Grand Rapids city directory, he was listed as a musician at the Redmond Opera House. According to Grand Rapids As It Is, published by the Board of Trade in 1888, Redmond's Grand Opera House was located on Canal street, near East Bridge, and was a "handsome and modern play house with a seating capacity of 1,200." The building and furnishings cost upward of $100,000.
In 1889, Cris and his daughter Rose Viola moved two blocks east and two blocks north from the Koch home at 109 California Street (803 California Street NW after 1912) to the Hauser home at 105 Gold Avenue (151 Gold Avenue NW< after 1912). Cris' sister Rosa Wilhelmina Smith had married Charles Andrew Hauser in 1882, and they lived with Mary Augusta Schickell Schmitt, the mother of Cris and Rosa Wilhelmina. Rose Viola referred to Rosa Wilhelmina Schmitt Hauser as "Tante" and Charles Hauser as "Uncle Charlie." The Hausers had no children of their own.
At some point, Cris began seeing his brother-in-law Charles' younger sister, Mary A. Hauser.
Christine Dies at Age 27
On April 3, 1887, Christine Koch Smith, 26, died. She left a husband Cris and child Rose Viola. Cris and Christine had been married only six years. Christine was buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery next to her brother who had died four years earlier.
Mary Hauser Born in 1870
Grand Rapids, 1870-1890. Mary Hauser was born in March 1870 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The U.S. flag had 37 stars, the most recent one being for Nebraska. The President was Ulysses S. Grant.
Mary was the sixth of eight children of Hubert and Mary Ann Bohr Hauser. The family lived at 132 Second Street in Grand Rapids. Hubert was a mason and a contractor who had immigrated from Rottweil, Württemberg, Germany. Maria Bohr Hauser had immigrated from Langenfeld, Prussia.
In the 1888 to 1890 Grand Rapids city directories, Mary was listed as a tailoress, living at home.
Cris and Mary Hauser Marry in 1889, Have 3 Children
Cris J. Smith, 37, and Mary A. Hauser, 19, were married at St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids by the pastor, Rev. Joseph Schwick, on May 25, 1889. Witnesses were Frank Kilmarten and Julia Hauser, a younger sister of the bride.
Grand Rapids, 1889-1893. Following their marriage, Cris and Mary lived at 105 Gold Street, where Cris had been living. Cris continued to work as a musician.
A 1928 letter to his cousin Mort Smith says Cris played in theaters in Chicago from 1889 to 1922.
On August 5, 1890, Cris and Mary had their first child, Crescenz L. Smith.
Seven people now lived in the house at 105 Gold Avenue:
In 1892-93, Charles Hauser built a new house on the site of 105 Gold Avenue and 50 Sibley Street. The new address was 113 Gold Avenue (151 Gold Avenue NW after 1912).
Chicago. In 1893, Cris and Mary Hauser Smith moved to Chicago to further Cris' career as a musician. Rose, 11, and Crescenz, 3, stayed in Grand Rapids with the Tante and Uncle Charlie Hauser.
In 1894, Cris and Mary Hauser had their second child, Leroy A. Smith. Cris and Mary were living on the Near West Side at 174 S. Green Street (311 S. Green Street after 1909).
In 1895, Cris and Mary were living in Armour Square at 2340 S. Princeton Avenue.
In 1896, Cris and Mary Hauser had their third child, Karl H. Smith.
In 1897, Cris and Mary were living on the Near West Side at 170 S. Halsted Street (303 S. Halsted Street after 1909).
In 1898, Cris and Mary were living on the Near West Side at 371 W. Harrison Street (1054 W. Harrison Street after 1909).
In 1899, Cris and Mary were living in the Lake View section at 1052 Seminary Avenue (3359 N. Seminary Avenue after 1909).
In 1900, Cris and Mary were living back on the Near West Side at 275 Loomis Street (807 S. Loomis Street after 1909).
Cris' children Rose and Crescenz were included in the 1900 census twice: once with the Hauser household in Grand Rapids at ages 18 and 9 and once with Cris' household in Chicago at ages 17 and 10.
In 1901, Cris and Mary were living back on the Near West Side at 605 W. Harrison Street (1434 W. Harrison Street after 1909).
In 1903, Cris and Mary were living on the Near West Side at 588 W. Harrison Street (1423 W. Harrison Street after 1909).
In 1903, Cris' mother, Mary Augusta Schickell Schmitt, 75, died in Grand Rapids.
Cris Widowed a Second Time
Chicago. Cris was widowed for the second time in his life upon the death of his second wife Mary Hauser Smith in 1907.
In 1910, Cris was living in the West Town section at 1732 W. Superior Street.
Mary Hauser Smith Dies
Mary Born in 1855
England. Mary was born in England in 1855. We do not know Mary's last name. The birth year of 1855 is based on Mary's age in the 1920 census. Sometime between 1855 and 1920, Mary immigrated to Chicago.
Cris and Mary Marry
Sometime between 1910 and 1920, Cris J. Smith married Mary. The 1920 census shows Cris and Mary married. It shows Mary born in England, and age 65, the same age as Cris. It also shows Cris as a theater musician.
Chicago. The 1913-1917 city directories, as well as the 1920 census, show Cris living in Chicago in East Garfield Park at 323 S. Richmond Street.
Cris Widowed a Third Time
Chicago. Cris was widowed for the third time in his life upon the death of his third wife Mary sometime between 1920 and 1925.
In 1921 or 1922, at age 69 or 70, Cris quit the music business, based on the 1928 letter to Mort Smith shown below. The letter says he had played in Chicago theaters for 33 years, since 1888 or 1889. This was several years before he actually moved to Chicago in 1893. So, he must have been commujting between Grand Rapids and Chicago during that time.
In the 1923 Chicago city directory, Cris was living East Garfield Park at 706 S. Sacramento Boulevard.
In 1924, son Crescenz Smith married Ethel Gazan in Grand Rapids. They had three children: Charles in 1927, Ethel Rose in 1928, and Marilyn in 1931. Ethel was born in Sheerness, England. Sheerness is in the Thames estuary, on the Isle of Sheppey.Kansas City. Cris moved to Kansas City for a year in 1924 or 1925, based on the 1928 letter to Mort Smith shown below.
Wichita. Sometime between 1925 and 1926, Cris moved from Kansas City to 3329 E. 1st Street, Wichita, Kansas. On Jan. 20, 1928, Cris, age 75, wrote a letter from Wichita to his cousin Mortise Smith in Alden, Michigan, a small town near Traverse City.
Jan. 20, 1928According to the death certificate of Mortise Smith, he died on November 6, 1930, in Alden, Michigan. He was 82. He was survived by his wife Margaret Jane Abrushaby Kincaid, whom he had married in 1879 in Newago, Michigan, and five children, including his daughter Mary Elizabeth Smith Breece (1889-1990). His parents were Henry Smith (1820- ? ) and Catherine Smith (1825-1852). According to the 1850 census, his father Henry was born in 1820 in Germany, the same year and country as Cris Smith's father, John Schmitt. Henry is 30, a cabinet maker. His wife Catherine is 25, and son Mathias is 2. Catherine died when Mortise was 4. He was sent to live with the Freeman Matthews family in Newago and never saw his father Henry again. The letter was provided by Barbara Lockrey, granddaughter of Mary Elizabeth Smith Breece. Her grandmother also gave her Cris Smith's obituary and a photo with the name "Tante Hauser" written on the back. We have not been able to find records that confirm the relationship between Cris' father John Smith and Mortise's father Henry Smith.
Kansas City. Sometime between 1929 and 1930, Cris moved to 3620 E. 60th Street.
Daughter-in-law Emma Rosenberg Smith died March 21, 1932. Karl and Emma were living at 18 W. 73rd Terrace in Kansas City. This is where Cris was living when he died in November 1932.
Sometime between 1920 and 1925, Cris' third wife, Mary, died in Chicago or Kansas City.
Cris Dies in 1932 at Age 80
Cris died November 17, 1932, intestinal obstruction at St. Joseph's Hospital in Kansas City. He was 80 years old. His body was brought back to Grand Rapids and buried in Greenwood Cemetery with his second wife, Mary Hauser Smith. He was survived by his daughter Rose Viola Smith Drueke, his sons, Crescenz, Leroy, and Karl, and his sister Rosa Wilhelmina Schmitt Hauser.
The Grand Rapids Herald, November 19, 1932
The Kansas City Times, November 19, 1932
Cris and Christine and Mary: 4 children, 13 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren
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