This family story takes us to Romania, more specifically to the Brasov area, also known as Kronstadt.
In this first photograph someone has marked the persons to be “Ludwig Michaelis senior, Samuel Schiel, Marie Schiel, Heinz Schiel (4 or 5 years old), Friedrich Schiel“. The photo dates to 1901 or 1902 according to whoever labelled it.
The Schiels were a very prominent family in the Brasov area, as it turns out! I’ve been able to find quite a lot of information on them because of their status in their community.
In this blog post, I want to focus on Samuel Schiel and his family. He was an entrepreneuer ahead of his time, owner of several factories and a trail blazer in many ways.
Samuel was born in 1857, so he was about 44 years old when this photograph was taken. He was already a successful businessman at the time. His wife Marie Julie née Ganzert was born in Heilbronn, Germany, in 1860. They got married in 1886 in Kronstadt:
They became parents of their son Heinrich (“Heinz”) Samuel Schiel (the little boy in this photo) 10 years later, in 1896. Here’s Heinrich’s birth registration from April 14th, 1896:
The couple had had their first son, Karl Friedrich Otto, already in 1888:
In 1890 they were blessed with a baby girl whom they named Anna Marie:
In 1892 Samuel and Marie had another son, Hermann:
In April 1901, Samuel and Marie welcomed their youngest son Richard Gustav Schiel. Marie was 41 years old at the time of his birth. So she may be actually pregnant with Richard in the above photo.
Factories in Busteni
I came across this interesting article in German. I used the information from the article below and borrowed the photos courtesy of Klaus Schiel. Click HERE to read the article in German.
Samuel and his older brother Carl Schiel founded their first paper mill “C. & S. Schiel” in Buşteni, which lies close to Kronstadt, in 1882. At the time Carl was 31 and Samuel just 24 years old.
Brothers Carl (left) and Samuel Schiel
Their start was rocky since their financial means were limited. Carl was a father of four children at the time and Samuel had just finished his training as a mechanical engineer. In their first year of business, 36 employees produced 185 tons of brown wrapping paper. 10 years later, 222 employees produced 1420 tons of it.
“C. & S. Schiel” paper mill. Source: Article by Klaus Schiel
In 1894, a tragedy struck the family: Carl died unexpectedly from the consequences of a severe cold. He left behind a wife and 10 children. Now Samuel was in charge of the business as well as of his brother’s family. He himself was a father of 3 at the time.
But business was booming and Samuel had no time to grieve. In 1904, Samuel turned his business into a public limited company and decided to set up a cellulose factory next to the paper mill. In the coming years, he expanded his business and set up subsequent factories.
Samuel and his brother Carl were what we would refer to as socially responsible employers already in their time. The benefits they offered to their employees would make the Schiel brothers attractive employers today as well. The company built dwelling houses for their employees and their families, which is how Buşteni became a real community. The employees enjoyed the benefits of health, pension and unemployment insurance, financed by the company. Samuel invested in the well-being of his employees and the community. He financed the heating of the local church, set up a gym for sports and had a banquet hall built for parties of the inhabitants of Busteni, just to name a few of this additional projects.
The brothers also cared for the sustainability of the environment and took care to reforest the areas where wood had been chopped for the purpose of their paper production.
As the business grew rapidly, Samuel needed support managing the plants. He asked his oldest son Otto to join him. Later, Samuel’s other sons joined the management as well as the sons of his late brother Carl.
By the end of August 1944, as WWII devastated Europe, the future of the German population in Busteni became uncertain. The factories were nationalised, the Germans were forced to relocate and leave Busteni, the only home they had known. Samuel Schiel was spared this painful departure. He passed away on August 13th, 1944, at the age of 87.