There is almost nothing known, and absolutely nothing concrete about the early life of Levi Schnell (as he was known). As a matter of fact, we're not even 100% certain what his given birth name was. All records seem to point to his full German birth name being Christoph Levin Schnell. We do know that by his death he was legally know as Christopher Levin Schnell1, E and that he had signed his name Levin Schnell as early as 1837.2 His birth name was most likely Christoph (the German version of Christopher) and yet it should be noted that an old family history on his wife's side seems to believe his name was Ludwig.3, K
Irregardless, on his headstone, Levi was born on 22 July 1806 in what is now Germany.4 The exact location of his birth remains a mystery, as do his parents. Levi's immigration manifest says that he was from the country of Hannover.5, A
The first mention of his life I can find has Levi, a Joiner,B departing from the port of BremenC on the 10 Aug 1836 aboard the brig Neptune. He arrived in New York, New York on the 23 Aug 1836 under the name Christoph Levi Schnell.5
Levi would make his way from New York to Ohio, where the following year, on the 23 May 1837, Levi married Maria "Mary" Richardson, a fellow German, in Cuyahoga County.6
Over the next 7 years they would have 4 children together, starting with son Lewis in 1838, followed by Mary in 1840, Elizabeth in 1842, and ending with son William in 1844.
It's not known where they initially lived after their marriage but it's most likely a place they rented. They may have started out in or around the city of Cleveland, but we do know the Schnell family eventually moved out to Medina County. On the 2nd Sept 1843, Levi purchased 30 acres of land in Liverpool Township, Medina County from Gottlieb & Maria Mack of Cleveland for $300.00. The land was officially known as the southern-middle part of lot 1, section 19. At some point, whether a clerical error on purchase acreage or through other acquisitions, Levi would own 43 acres in total.
The family was still living in Liverpool Township in Medina, Ohio by the time the 1850 census rolled around. This is where we get our first look at the Schnell family. Levi was listed under the name Levi Snell with his wife Mary, two daughters: Mary, 10, and Elizabeth, 8, two sons: Lewis, 12, and William, 6. Levi's occupation still mirrors his immigration manifest and says he's a cabinet maker with real estate valued at $800.7
The Agricultural Census that year also provided a snapshot of his property and depicted not only a man in the trade of cabinetry, but a skilled farmer as well. Levi owned 44 acres, 30 of which had been cleared for use. His farm was valued at $900 and his machinery at $80. His farm cared for 2 horses, 3 milk cows, 5 other cattle, 7 sheep and 2 pigs valued at $240. In the previous season's harvest the farm had produced 75 bushels of wheat, 50 bushels of Indian corn, 14 bushels of oats, 38 lbs. of wool, 15 bushels of Irish potatoes, 50 lobs. of butter, and 8 tons of hay. The animals sent to slaughter totaled $10.
The exact date is unknown but, sometime between the 1850 census and 1852, Levi's wife Mary passed away from causes also unknown. Neither a record nor a headstone have been found to document her death.
Catherine gave birth to their first child, Samuel Solon Schnell on 22 Apr 1854 in what Samuel's obituary states is Valley City, a small town in Liverpool Township.10 Following Samuel are his four siblings, sisters Priscilla in 1856 and Phebe in 1859, and brothers Leonard in 1860 and Charles in 1866.
In 1856, wife Catherine's parents headed west to Linn County, Iowa11, 12 and eldest son Lewis (from his first marriage) joined them, he would take up residence with step-aunt Mary Anna (Rauch) and her husband Andrew Steinagle.13
By 1860, we lose track of the Levi's daughters from his first marriage. Whether their absence is through death or marriage is unknown. There are no records that I have been able to uncover to show they ever married in Ohio and death records aren't reliable before the 20th century. The family is still in Liverpool Township14 and joining them is son William, working as a farmhand on the family farm with his step-siblings. (If the girls relocated to Iowa with the Rauch family, like brother Lewis, I have been unable to locate any proof to this.)
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Lewis took up arms in Iowa, enlisting on the 20 Sept 1861 in Iowa's 12th Infantry Co. D.15 Brother William followed suit in Ohio on the 13 Aug 1862 when he joined the 107th OVI, Co. D.16 William fared far better than Lewis, who died in July, one month before William registered for war. It's believed Lewis died while being held as a prisoner of war at Fulton County Jail in Atlanta. His regiment listed him as missing and taken prisoner at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee after his company surrendered following a lengthy fight.17, 18, G
On 1st Apr 1865, Levi sold his land in Liverpool Township and the Schnell family relocated to BeebetownF, a small village along the borders of Medina, Lorain, and Cuyahoga Counties at the intersection of Boston and Marks Roads. The Levi owned the property at the northwest corner of this intersection (the northwest corner falls within the jurisdiction of Columbia Township in Lorain County). At this time Levi is now primarily listed as a farmer, owning property worth $6400 and personal property worth $1600.20, 21
It's not clear what happened to the bulk Levi's property in the years following his death, but by the early 1900's a legal notice is in the local paper with a third party serving notice to the living Schnell family claiming rights of ownership to Levi's land (among others).1 I'm not certain how this played out, but I know that at least a portion of the Schnell property along Marks Road remained in the family through the 1940's. By the 1950's a large portion of what the family owned was eventually sold off by Levi's grandsons to a developer with intentions to build on the land, but for whatever reason the land still sits mostly undeveloped to this day.H
Maria "Mary" Richardson, abt 1812 - abt 1851
- Lewis Snell, 1838 – 06 Jul 1862
- Mary Snell, 1840 – ?
- Elizabeth Snell, 1842 – ?
- William Snell, 1844 – 22 Jun 1921
Catherine Rauch, 14 May 1828 - 18 Feb 1903
- Samual Solon Schnell, 22 Apr 1854 – 02 May 1936
- Priscilla C. Schnell, abt 1856 – 25 Jan 1905
- Phebe Clara Schnell, 22 Jan 1859 – 04 Mar 1940
- Leonard T. Schnell, 06 Aug 1860 – 06 Feb 1932
- Charles Franklin "Carl" Schnell, 01 Oct 1866 – 15 Sep 1878
A Hannover was an independent kingdom until it was annexed to Prussia and became the Prussian capital in 1866 during the Austro-Prussian War. Prussia was disbanded after World War I, eventually becoming a part of Germany.
B A Joiner is a type of carpenter, commonly associated with cabinetry.
C Bremen at the time was its own sovereign republic, surrounded by Prussia, and didn't become a part of the German Empire until 1871.
D Catherine is not mentioned by name on the 1840 census. Here, like everyone else, she is only noted as a tally mark, a number filed under the head of the household. Names of everyone in the household wouldn't be cataloged until 1850.
E In administering Levi's estate at the Lorain County Common Pleas Court Case #18072 in June of 1921, all reference to Levi spells out his full name as Christopher Levin Schnell.
F The Schnell family lived in Beebetown which is officially a part of Medina County. However, the tiny village sits along the border of Lorain, Medina and Cuyahoga Counties at the corner of Boston and Marks Road. This same intersection is the location of Levi Schnell's property. His land is officially mapped and under jurisdiction of Columbia Township, Lorain County, Ohio. It is the very corner of Lorain County. Crossing the street to the east would put you in Cuyahoga County and to the south would put you in Medina County. This explains the massive contradiction between records on residence.
G Lewis' Civil War experience includes the following battles: Ft Henry, TN, Feb 6, 1862; Ft Donelson, TN, Feb 16, 1862; and Shiloh, TN, Apr 6-7, 1862. At Shiloh The 8th, 12th & 14th Iowa comprised 4/5ths of the troops in "The Hornet's Nest" at Shiloh. The Hornet's Nest held their ground for 10 hours against attack after attack allowing the Union time to retreat to the river and get under protection of Union cannons. This allowed reinforcements to arrive and muster for the 2nd day where the Union snatched a victory from defeat. At the last surrounded by 10 times their number and out of ammunition, the men of "the Hornet's Nest" threw down their arms, with some shot with their arms in the air. The majority of all three regiments were captured/surrendered (Lewis listed as "slightly wounded"). The officers above rank of Lieutenant were sent to Selma, AL, then Atlanta, Ga (where Lewis died) and finally Libby Prison, Richmond,Va.(http://www.iowaz.info/surname/beadle.htm)
H Information about the sale of the Schnell family land was relayed to me by my Grandmother, a daughter of Levi's Grandson. She was born & raised on Levi's land in Beebetown.
I William's story seems eerily familiar to other instances of family soldiers and their brothers in arms. I'd assume WIlliam came back to his family and tried to resume life as normal after the war, but suffered from PTSD. Trying to return to the normal post-war life was too difficult. He likely went out west to escape and be alone; putting some distance between him and other people.
J The reason I believe Levi and Mary may have lived in Cleveland is circumstantial. The only evidence I have that points to this possibility is a marriage between the couple in Cuyahoga County, not Medina, and they purchased their land in Medina from a couple that lived in Cleveland, which is in Cuyahoga County, per the deed of purchase.
K I wouldn't read too deeply into this. Being the husband of a cousin to the writer's ancestor (no direct relation) Levi was only mentioned as a footnote in the book that included no research.
Where was Levi born in Hannover?
Who were Levi's parents?
Where did he first live in Ohio?
What happened to his wife Mary and their daughters Mary & Elizabeth?
Where is the family in 1840? By this point they should have settled somewhere with 2 year old son Lewis/Louis.