So our home’s story begins in 1893. We actually don’t know who built the house but we have our theories and can speculate based off of what we know. Finding the history on the house has been rather difficult but I am resourceful when it comes to research.

Here is what we know from what I have researched. The property was bought in 1893 by Johann Mertes (1862-1943) who was a carpenter and home builder from Germany who had settled in the area and married his wife Emma Kammerer (1871-1933) in 1890. Together they had eight children: Martha, Anna, Elizabeth (Lizzie), Theresa, Clara, John, Helen, and Mary.

Emma Mertes and her sisters (I don’t know which is Emma)

Johann was a respected member of the community and was very involved with his extended family. He had a sister who lived down the block and a brother who owned one of the many resorts that were on Chain of Lakes and the Fox River. I can assume Johann probably helped build many of the homes in the area. Which is why I have a theory when it comes to who actually built our house and the answer is….Johann Mertes. I’ll explain why I think this is on another post.

Life was not easy for those in Johnsburg in the early days and I imagine it was not easy for Johann and Emma to feed their many children. It is a sad fact but we know that Baby John died in 1897 at the of three and Helen died in 1922 at the age of seventeen.

Notice of Helen Mertes’s Death

Emma died in 1933 and by that time all of the children had married or moved on. Their daughter Clara actually married a carpenter like her father and moved next door to her parents. Their other daughter Martha married Peter Schaefer and moved to McHenry, IL. We don’t know much about the rest of the Mertes’ daughters.

Emma Mertes Death Notice
Martha Mertes and Peter Schaefer Wedding

According to the 1940 census Johann lived in the home by himself until his death in 1943. The home passed to his daughter Martha, who then gave it to her son, Leo Schaefer, who had returned from WWII and had recently married Rita Brown of Volo. Together they raised their eight children in the house. I am sensing a theme of eight here….

Leo passed away in 1992 but, Rita and their son Richard lived in the house till 1999 when Rita passed away. After Rita’s death the family sold the property. That is 106 years of the that this wonderful house stayed in the same family. I am rather in awe of this and makes me wonder what changes and events these walls saw with the Mertes-Schaefer Family.

The house in 1998

In 1999 the Smiths moved in with their family. They didn’t stay long and sold in 2007 to the previous owners the Jaggers. Which I should mention the Jaggers had eight kids…once again I am sensing a pattern here. (Sara has flat out told me we will not have eight kids to continue the tradition and will neuter me if I attempt to.)

Sometime when the Smith’s were selling the property, the vacant lot which had been part of the property was sold off. It is still empty. It now belongs to the city of Johnsburg according to the property records.

Sara and I bought the property in May of 2019 and it has since become our home.