Bisplinghoffs Practiced The Cooper, Printer Trades In Chattanooga

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 - by John Wilson

When the Civil War broke out, Henry Bisplinghoff volunteered as the staff bugler for Henry Ashby's Second Cavalry. He served until Sept. 15 of the following year when he was discharged as being overage. Afterwards, Bisplinghoff was a member of the Confederate Home Guards who stayed behind when younger warriors marched off to fight. His wife and mother gave valuable service as nurses at the makeshift hospitals that sprang up around Chattanooga.

The Bisplinghoffs were originally from Prussia where they resided at Elberfeld, an industrial city on the Wupper River. This was in Westphalia near a town called Bingen-on-the-Rhine. The mother, accompanied by sons Henry, Herman and Augustus, had arrived first in about 1843, followed by Charles and John Henry. They sailed from Antwerp, Belgium, to New York and then up the Hudson River to a German settlement of Saugerties in the Catskill Mountains.The father was Henry Bisplinghoff Sr. The mother's name is given in the 1860 census as Hellena Bisplinghoff and elsewhere as Marie Von Steinhoff Bisplinghoff. The Bisplinghoff sons and their mother migrated on down to a German colony at Roane County, Tn. Charles and his wife, Margaret Magdalena Stottling, stayed in Roane County. Both were natives of Prussia. Charles died at Paint Rock in Roane County in 1913.

Augustus Bisplinghoff had enlisted for the Mexican War, but the conflict ended before his regiment saw action. He married Jane Jenkins in 1852 in Roane County. In 1856, they moved west to Missouri, settling near Patterson. Augustus Bisplinghoff served as surveyor of Wayne County for 18 years under appointment from the governor. His wife died in 1887, but he lived until 1917 when he was 87 years old. He left sons Henry, Monroe and Leo.

Another son, Rufus Carl, had died of typhoid pneumonia in 1870, and another son, Elisha Bisplinghoff, had died in 1904 of consumption.

Henry Bisplinghoff decided in 1859 to join his brother. The family boarded the steamboat "Tennessee''at Kingston. When they stopped off in Chattanooga, Henry Bisplinghoff learned there was work available from Dr. William Bell at his distillery and flour mill. Henry Bisplinghoff was a cooper (barrel maker) by trade, so he decided to take a job here. Within three months he had become the boss cooper. His brother, Herman Bisplinghoff, was also a cooper and he joined him here. Bell's Distillery was at the foot of Cameron Hill. This operation produced over 300 gallons of pure white corn whiskey daily. It sold all over the state for 30 cents a gallon.

Herman Bisplinghoff lived near the distillery, while Henry Bisplinghoff resided on Cherry Street near Seventh. Henry Bisplinghoff was one of the coopers who was distressed by a warehouse fire that went unchecked on Market Street, and he helped organize the city's first fire department.

Herman Bisplinghoff married Susannah Treckler, who was from Switzerland. They had two daughters, Hellena and Isabella, born while they were in New York. The other children were Anatha, Charles, Susannah, Herman and Ida. Herman moved his family to Peoria, Ill., in the mid 1870s, and from there to Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1876 the largest deposit of gold was found near Lead in the Dakota Territory. Herman left his wife and children in Peoria, and he and his 18-year-old son, Charles, traveled to the Black Hills of what would become South Dakota in search of fame and fortune. Upon their arrival to the gold field the Sioux Indians immediately took a fancy to the light-complexioned, dark brown-eyed boy, nicknaming him "Black-eyed-Charlie." But tragedy soon struck when Charles mysteriously disappeared, thought to have been kidnapped by the Sioux. A search lasting two weeks failed to find any trace of the boy and it was widely presumed he had been killed. Herman Bisplinghoff died in Indianapolis in 1895.

Henry Bisplinghoff was married to Sybilla Witte Bisplinghoff, who was also from Prussia.Their son, Charles, had been born in Prussia. They were at Roane County in 1852 when Herman was born. The other children were Henry, Wilhemina, Lena and Ann Margaret..Despite the fact that Bell's Distillery was destroyed during the war and its proprietor was killed while standing on a steamboat in the Mississippi River, Henry Bisplinghoff stayed on in Chattanooga after the war. He resided at his Cherry Street residence. He died Oct. 30, 1888.

Ann Margaret Bisplinghoff, a daughter of Henry and Sybilla Bisplinghoff, married Clarence Starr Steward, a son of the manufacturer D.M. Steward. The Clarence Stewards built a brick mansion on Payne Street at the end of Georgia Avenue. Clarence Steward was an official of his father's firm. Wilhemina Bisplinghoff, another daughter of Henry Bisplinghoff, married Joseph Woody. They lived at the German settlement at Roane County, but Joseph Woody died at a young age. Wilhemina Bisplinghoff Woody then moved to Chattanooga on the steamboat "Joe Wheeler'' with her young son, John Woody, and her daughters. John Woody became an official of the D.M. Steward firm. Lena, a third daughter of Henry Bisplinghoff, married Carl Kane and lived in Atlanta.

Herman Bisplinghoff, son of Henry Bisplinghoff, decided to follow the printer's trade. Known to his friends simply as "Bis,'' he was "very spare of build and over six feet tall'' in an age when that was an unusual height. Herman Bisplinghoff was an apprentice at the Daily Republican, then he switched to the American Union, which was printed on a No. 7 Washington press. When a new paper, the Chattanooga Times, went into production on Dec. 15, 1869, Herman Bisplinghoff and the No. 7 Washington press were on hand. But he soon moved to the Southern Press, which was printed in the old Wills Valley Railroad depot by O.A. Clough. This publisher was "a most affable person, who looked much more like an artist than a man struggling with a newspaper situation, where practically all conditions attending upon the business were hard and discouraging.'' He was also "poor pay,'' and he fell far behind in the money owed Herman Bisplinghoff. One Sunday "Bis,'' "finding his need of money quite pressing, called on his employer, asking for something on account. Mr. Clough excused himself on the Sunday observance punctilio. Bisplinghoff was one of the mildest and best natured of men, but now he resorted to a mild character of force for the collection of a debt. He imprisoned his employer in that gentleman's own room by holding the door shut and keeping him prisoner until he paid half of the amount due. Thereupon, with a kind of improvidence characteristic of his craft, he "called the account square.' ''

Afterwards, Herman Bisplinghoff worked for Sam Bard at the short-lived Herald in James Hall at Sixth and Market. He was back at the Times when the cholera epidemic of 1873 struck. He and Tom Pryor were the only regular printers who remained at their posts. When another epidemic - yellow fever - broke out in 1878, it claimed the life of Charles Bisplinghoff, elder brother of printer Herman Bisplinghoff. He was 29. Charles Bisplinghoff had been a railroad employee. Herman Bisplinghoff also helped print the Chattanooga Land Register, and he was there for the start of the Chattanooga Commercial. He was a bachelor for many years living with his parents, but he finally married Jennie Suns at the First Presbyterian Church in 1896. She was 22 years younger than he was. They set up housekeeping at "Ruohs Crossing'' at Highland Park. The family also resided on Montgomery Avenue (Main Street), then they moved to East Chattanooga.

Herman and Jennie Suns Bisplinghoff had two sons and three daughters, including twin girls. The family had been expecting only a single daughter, who was to be named Mildred Elizabeth. When two arrived on Jan. 29, 1901, one was named Mildred and the other Elizabeth. The Bisplinghoff sisters worked at the United Hosiery Mill at a young age, then worked for 43 years at the Miller-Smith Hosiery Mill in Alton Park.They lived in retirement on 13th Avenue. The Bisplinghoff twins died in 1988. Their sister, Alliene, married J. Samuel Dickert, who worked for the Southern Railroad. Their brothers were Carl Allan Bisplinghoff who married Betty Davis and Henry Suns Bisplinghoff who married Alma Irene Mathis.

Henry Bisplinghoff, younger brother of the printer Herman, worked all his life for the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad. He was 13 years older than his wife, Nora. They had two sons, Charles G. and Vincent. Charles G. Bisplinghoff was president of the Hodcarriers and Laborers Union in Chattanooga. He and his wife, Bessie, lived on Fourth Avenue. They had no children. By the time Charles G. Bisplinghoff died in 1953, Vincent Bisplinghoff had moved to Pacific, Mo.

Both Herman and Henry Bisplinghoff died in 1924. Herman was 72 and Henry 69. Herman lived at 503 Cooley St. in East Chattanooga and Henry at 3501 Divine St. Jennie Suns Bisplinghoff had died in 1920 when she was 45.

There are no longer any Bisplinghoffs in Chattanooga. But Edwin Bernard "Buck'' Bisplinghoff lived at nearby Ringgold, Ga., with his wife, Evelynn "Whitie'' Bisplinghoff. Their daughter, Coby Bisplinghoff Widick, also lived at Ringgold. E.B. Bisplinghoff was a son of Carl Allan Bisplinghoff, who first followed his father in the printing trade by working at the Washington Post. Then he was superintendent of the Turnbull Cone Machine Company here, and he operated a school supply business. Buck Bisplinghoff was in the shoe business for 60 years, last working for Sears Shoes in Fort Oglethorpe. He died in 2011. Carl Allan Bisplinghoff Jr. lived in Orlando, Fla. His sons were Robert Allan and Roger. Robert Allan Bisplinghoff was the co-owner of Cannon Financial Strategists at Athens, Ga. He married Betty Bell Shockley. Robert Allan Bisplinghoff died in 2011.

Henry Suns Bisplinghoff worked for the Hamilton National Bank, then was an official of the Peerless Woolen Mills. He married Alma Mathis. Henry Suns Bisplinghoff moved to Orlando, Fla., in 1934. He lived until 1973. His son, Donald Morris Bisplinghoff, was an outstanding golfer, winning the Florida amateur championship when he was 15 and later playing on the Walker Cup team. He was the owner of Mid-State Steel Company at Jacksonville, Fla. His brother, Henry Suns Bisplinghoff Jr., was associated with the steel firm. Their sisters were Jean Sahina of Orlando and Mary Lou Lungmus of Birmingham.

John Woody Jr. was the only child of John Woody Sr. and Mabel Jones, a teacher at Chattanooga High School. John Woody Jr. was also an official of the D.M. Steward Company.



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