Margaretha Helfman Schaber was widowed at the age of 39. She was left with ten children, the oldest 18 and the youngest newly born, the Saint Paul Mills flour mill along Phalen Creek, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Her husband Henry Schaber’s story is told in Identified Sat, Oct 25, 1879 – Page 4 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com. Below is Margaretha’s story.
Margaretha Helfman was born in November 1840 in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany. At the age of 18, she immigrated to the United States in 1859. She joined her husband who had come to Saint Paul a few years earlier. In 1869, Henry quit his job as a teamster at the Brainard’s Mills and went into business with Phillip Thon and purchased the Saint Paul Mills. By 1872, Henry had purchased his business partner’s interest in the Mill and made various improvements.
In October 1879, Henry was killed crossing train tracks. Margaretha continued the running of the mill but the first year was tough. A fire destroyed the mill in January 1880. Undaunted, she rebuilt in the spring: doubling the size of the building and increasing the horse power of the engine from 25 to 30. In August, she took on a business partner, Charles Passavant. On September 30, 1880, tragedy struck again when the boiler in the mill exploded that destroyed the mill and killed the night engineer. Fri, Oct 1, 1880 – Page 7 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com. Margaretha rebuilt the mill again, this time with a 35 horse power engine. They advertised as “Millers of the Celebrated White Rose Flour.” Margaretha’s eldest son, Henry, began working in the mill in 1881 at the age of 17.
In 1883, the Schaber family moved to 689 Minnehaha, just north of the mill and the Hamm (Excelsior) Brewery.
Margaretha ran the mill through 1886. She was 46 and the mill industry was modernizing from grist to rollers. The 1887 and 1888 Saint Paul City Directory lists the Schaber’s as proprietors of a grocery store at 637 Minnehaha. Henry Schaber later returned to milling at the Lindeke Mills. Margaretha sold the family home at 689 Minnehaha in 1895, as the Hamm Brewery continued to expand.
Margaretha Helfman Schaber lived with her daughter and family when passed away in Saint Paul on July 4, 1921.