Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christian Drager - Shoemaker

Christian Drager, my father's great grandfather, was born in Angermünde, a town in the province of Brandenburg in Germany. It is in the far east of the country being about 10 miles from the Polish border and about 45 miles from Berlin. When Christian was about 7 years old, he immigrated to the United States in 1867 with his parents, Charles Friederich Drager and Dorothea Louisa Streble, and five siblings: John, Charles, Marie Louise, August and Ferdinand.

By the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, the Drager family had settled in Casco, St. Clair County, Michigan, a small farming community about 40 miles northeast of Detroit. At this time, Christian was about 10 years old and was listed as "At School" under his occupation, but he and his siblings most certainly helped on the family farm.

By 1880, Christian was living in Armada, Macomb County, Michigan, a town about 16 miles to the northwest of Casco. He was a boarder with the James R. Dryer family. Mr. Dryer owned a boot and shoe store and Christian was working in the shoe store. Whether he was an apprentice at that point is not clear. Because he was nearly 20, he had probably either ended or was coming close to ending his apprenticeship.

1880 U.S. Federal Census showing Christian Drager working as a
shoemaker in Armada, Michigan.

Around 1883, Christian married Emma Amelia Hourtienne of Macomb County, Michigan. He and Emma had three children: Albert, Edward and Elsie. Christian and his family eventually moved to Detroit and by 1890, Christian was working for L.N. Valpey & Co., a prominent shoemaker in Detroit (Family lore tells that he made shoes specifically for handicapped people, but I haven't located any information at this point verifying this information).

1894 Advertisement for L.N. Valpey & Co. in Detroit, Michigan.
Note that the company does not extend credit in order to offer
customers better prices.

In May 1895, Christian married Mary Jasper and they had one child, Hildegard Clara Drager. He and his family made their home at 782 St. Aubin Street, where they shared their home with Herman and Helen Hamel. The Hamels made confections. In the 1896 Detroit Directory, Christian is listed as making confections, as well as being a shoemaker. It is possible that the Hamels learned confection-making from Christian and then took over the confection-making business as their own, because by the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, the Hamels are listed as confection makers, while Christian is listed as a shoemaker.

Success eventually came to Christian and by 1910, he and Mary had moved to 1585 Medbury Avenue, a home which they owned free, without mortgage. During this time, Christian also improved his standing in the community, becoming proprietor of a shoe shop.

By the time Christian reached age 60, he and Mary had moved back to Macomb County, Michigan and purchased a farm, again which they owned free, without mortgage. After retiring from shoemaking, Christian sold produce to the local market. Christian and Mary lived on the farm for a little over 10 years and Christian died of kidney complications on 10 Feb 1928.

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