In the year 1862 Theodore Rietz put upon his shoulders a large pack of grain and carried it to a grist mill to be ground. When he carried it back again to Silver Creek, where he had located, the first business transaction in the great distilling industry, of which his son Charles T. Rietz is now the head, was completed. The commercial beginning of the business could scarcely have been more humble.
Theodore Rietz, a native of Germany, built at Silver Creek a little log building in which he carried on the occupation of distilling for a number of years until it was destroyed by fire, which had caught in the straw roof of the structure. His qualities of industry and determination to conquer his destiny, however, had gained for him in the few years of his occupation in the little log cabin a sufficient sum of mozney to build a small stone building in which he carried on his business for some years. It is still standing but not in present use. Five gallons of whiskey a day was at that time considered a large output for the plant, but at the time of the death of Theodore Rietz one hundred and thirty gallons of liquor were being made and shipped every twenty-four hours. When he founded the business, Theodore Rietz had one horse and a small wagon in which he drove to Milwaukee with his goods, but even at that early date the quality of his whiskey and his reputation for fair and honorable business methods found him a ready market when he went to Milwaukee to sell the products of his plant.
These business trips occupied at that early period a large portion of Theodore Rietz's time, compelling him to be absent for many days from his distilling plant. In the interval his wife took sole charge of the business which was even then increasing and no time or money was ever lost in bringing goods to market.
Theodore Rietz was a native of Saxony, Germany, having been born in 1830. He worked in a distillery in his native country until 1860 when he crossed the Atlantic to America. He had also learned while still in Germany all the many details of the kindred occupation of yeast making and was an expert in this line when he reached America. There were thirty distilleries in the section in which he was born which gave occupation to many thousands of people and it was as an employee of one of the largest of these establishments that Theodore Rietz learned his business. He came to America in 1860 with his wife and two children and started immediately in the occupation which was his life work. The family spent two months in Pennsylvania before they moved to Milwaukee where they helped in the founding of the Went & Pfile Distillery Company in which they later worked. The plant soon after became the property of John Miner, who sold it to the distillery trust, upon its organization for a large sum. Theodore Rietz after completion of this transaction went to Silver Creek, Wisconsin, and started the distilling plant of which his son is the head today.
Charles T. Rietz was born in this district on April 20, 1867, and was brought up in his father's business. He was an assistant in the plant until July, 1903, at which time his father retired from active employment and gave his son sole charge of the business which he had built up. It is the only plant of this kind in Sheboygan county which was founded and organized in this district. Theodore Rietz died in 1904, having survived his wife Christina (Firme) Rietz, the mother of the subject of this sketch, for three years. They were the parents of five children: Herman, now a retired farmer living in West Bend, Wisconsin; Frederick, deceased; Amelia, the wife of Magnus Schmidt, now living near Oshkosh, this state; Franz, who died in infancy; and Charles T., the subject of this review.
Herman and Frederick were the only two who. were born in Germany. Charles T. Rietz was educated in the puhlic schools in the district of Silver Creek, Wisconsin, and received his business experience in his father's distillery, becoming a thorough master of the intricate details incident to the industry and becoming an expert distiller. He continued in the employment of his father until July, 1903, when he assumed entire control of the great and growing industry. Under his direction and as a direct result of his progressive policy the plant was enlarged year by year.
Many new improvements have been added, buildings have been erected, more efficient and more modern machinery has been installed and the capacity has been increased until at the present time the average output is one hundred and fifty gallons a day. Mr. Rietz gives his personal superintendance to the selling end of the business. His product is well known throughout the state of Wisconsin and obtains a ready sale in any market in which it is offered. In conjunction with his distilling business he has recently established a wholesale and retail liquor store which is flourishing under his efficient management.
In 1889 Charles Rietz was united in marriage to Miss Gertrude Stahl, a daughter of Valentine Stahl, a native of Baden, Germany. They are the parents of five children: Theresa, who was born in December, 1892; Phyllis, who is now nine years of age; Charlotte, whose birth occurred in February, 1905; Carl, aged five years; and Richard, who was born in May, 1909.
Mr. Rietz gives his allegiance generally to the republican party but does not blindly follow the party's standard and votes when occasion demands it for the man whom he considers best fitted for the place. He is a devout member of the Lutheran church in Silver Creek, Wisconsin, and his religion is a vital force in his life. He has attained that prominence which through efficiency in a chosen field will come to a man, and his beautiful home in Sheboygan county, which he has recently erected, has become known as a charming meeting place for hosts of his friends.
Information gathered and adapted from History of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Past and Present
Carl Zillier, Editor
Pubished by The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912, Chicago, IL