Obit: Shafer, Sam J. (1850 - 1902)

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----Sources: Colby Phonograph (Colby, Clark County, Wis.) 05/15/1902

Shafer, Sam J. (6 JUN 1850 - 6 MAY 1902)

(Written by G. E. Vandercook)

Sam J. Shafer was born in Hamilton, Canada, June 6th, 1850. In company with his parents, at an early age, he removed to Beaver Dam, Wis., and after a common school education, entered the office of the Beaver Dam Argus and learned the printer’s trade. He worked at his trade in Beaver Dam and as a journeyman printer, at Milwaukee and La Cross. He was united in marriage to Theresa Wagner at Beaver Dam, Dec. 23, 1873. In 1878 he came to Colby and associated with his brother Joel J., established and became editor of the Phonograph, and from that date up to the time of his death maintained the part ownership and editorship of this paper.

He was appointed postmaster of Colby and served during Cleveland’s first term and assistant postmaster from ’93 to ’97. He was assistant chief clerk of the Wis. State Senate during the session of 1891, and was the unanimous choice of the democrats in that body and was elected chief clerk in 1893. In the election of 1895, when the senate became a Republican body, he again received the caucus nomination of his party for chief clerk. He was a member of the school board for 15 years and was president of the Free Library Association up to the time of his death. He was a candidate for member of assembly on the Democratic ticket in 1898; was mayor of the city in 1894 and 1896.

Sam J. Shafer was one of the best known Odd Fellows in Wisconsin. At the time of his death was Deputy Grand Master of the order in Wisconsin. He became a member of the order by joining Colby Lodge, No. 234, in 1881, and had he lived until the meeting of the Grand Lodge next month, he would have been chosen Grand Master.

The above brief statement, without embellishment, is a history of the public life of Sam J. Shafer, but by no means is it a proper measurement to apply to him as he was known to his neighbors, friends and associates. As applied to him in his public aspect, the rule is too narrow, too limited in its scope and too circumscribed, to permit the heart throbs of his wholesome, kindly nature to speak to those who knew him in a truer and better way that in his relations to the public.

The public positions he held were matters of duty and good citizenship, and faithful was his stewardship. The field of public trust and confidence could be shared by others, but the good influence of a good life was his own, diffusing itself with rare unselfishness wherever a cheering word was needed or a kindly act served to assuage grief or pain. There was no tandy flagging in the sympathy or conduct of Sam J. Shafer. He had but to know of suffering or sorrow in this community and he was the first to act. Within the limits of his capacity, and sometimes beyond it, he was public spirited in all those matters which pertain to the public welfare; in his personal relationships, the acts of his daily life, which best tell the story of a man’s character without pain or tinsel, there is no break in his loyalty to his friends, his faithfulness and love to this family and his honesty of purpose and uprightness of treatment accorded to his fellow men.

There is no need of eulogistic words to do exact and true justice to the life and character of the man so well known and so beloved in this community. The danger lies rather in the fact that his full and true merit will be under estimated. If ever there was a man uninfluenced by the dross of purely mercenary consideration, by the selfishness of money’s power, that man was the friend whose death we mourn. Limited by the possibilities of his business environment, at time hard pressed to meet his business engagements, he used his opportunities with a good and kindly nature. When measured by his capacity to do for others and to give to others less fortunate, there is no littleness in his life, for it is marked all along its pathway with good deeds, touching sympathies and neighborly kindness.

In the tumult and turmoil of competitive life, large based upon the survival of the strongest, with few of the elements which can appeal to the highest and best in men, no one can say what the achievements of our friend might have been; but we do know that he made the best of life’s possibilities among men. A larger and broader field, with its additional responsibilities, might have brought its limitations and its failures. To us he stands full statured because we do not measure his success by material achievements, but by his kindness and his honesty. There is always a community of interest in the life of such a man as our friend. If perchance he had weaknesses, they are widely blazoned so all may know them, while his charities and keen sympathies are only known to those who travel along the pathway of close and intimate acquaintanceship. But even in this our friends does not suffer, for his character stands to the test of close inspection. He may at times have lacked intensity, he might have been more assertive, more subject to the passions and prejudices which sway men, but who is there among us, who has not had reason at some time or another to bless him for his forbearance and to thank him for his broad charitableness.

In his capacity as an editor, his ministrations to the community have always been for the best of the community. Unquestionably there was a measure of disappointment in his work, no doubt due largely to the meagerness of the support which rewarded his efforts, but there are many subscribers who have been steadfast friends of the editor and of the paper, who can testify that he never neglected an opportunity to advance the interests of this community. He was a good defender of his home interests. A fair and honorable fighter for what he believed to be right. When the Phonograph was first established, during the pioneer days, when hardship and privations were common property of all, Sam J. Shafer was as strong an advocate as northern Wisconsin ever had and he bore this record from that day to the day of his death. The little hamlet of 1879, when he came, has grown in size and in importance until every citizen feels a just pride in its stability and progress. If due and proper credit is given, our friend must share in much of this, for its accomplishment is largely due to his efforts. Other men might have left a stronger impress of their personality upon their work; he chose to make his influence felt in his personal relationships rather than through the columns of his paper. While zealous in the discharge of his fealty towards his party, he was never a partisan, in that he permitted party loyalty to prejudice local interests. In politics as in all other ways he attempted to subserve the best interests of his home and a record of a quarter of a century of faithful and loyal service stands to his credit and identifies his name as no other name in this community is identified.

There are indeed few in this community who in the past, have not had occasion to feel that he gave far more than he received. His energy, his life’ work was a part of our welfare, and having done all in his power as a man and as a citizen, his unselfishness could find many illustrations to give him a high identity among good and public spirited men. He was always moderate and conservative in his influences, tempering his friendship with fairness. How often in this petty strife and bickering of community quarrels, has he acted as the mediator; how often has he in the kindness of his heart smoothed over the harsh criticisms of deserved censure. In that his personality was pre-eminently above most men. Of him it can be truthfully said, that as editor he never made his paper a party to a quarrel, for he kept it clean from those influences which tend so much to bring disrepute upon an editor because of a wrongful use of his opportunities. Never in its history can it be said that the paper was used to carry the personal animosities of the editor. It was more the reflex of what he would liked to have the community be.

There was a wholesome geniality about him; an assurance of firm friendship in his hand clasp which needed no reinforcement of expression to show that he was the same yesterday, today and always. Sam J. Shafer was a poor hater. He had a woman’s disposition in kindness; in the strength of his honesty and uprightness, a man’s sterling and stable qualities. His friendships lasted and grew stronger, and the chance of circumstances and conditions only intensified his belief in and loyalty to his friends, but it never amounted to license. There was much of humanity about him, for he knew the frailties of mankind and possessed a broad and deep sympathy which forgot the offense condoned for the offender. He lived with and was of the people; he knew in their grief and sorrows and felt a proprietorship in in their successes and their enjoyments. Who other than he was first to come in times of distress and sorrow, to speak the word of comfort or to perform the act of relief? Who more than he, in this community, was a better friend at all times?

To those of us who have known him in the years of boyhood and through the epochs of ripening manhood, Sam J. Shafer had an identity peculiarly his own. To many of us he was the friendly adviser whose good counsel helped us over difficulties. He was a man who could be and was the friends of boys, and that friendship was just as enduring when the boys became men. When considered from the standpoint of his influence, what long list there is of the boys of yesterday who are men of today, who in the limits of their capacities and stations, will unite with the writer in paying a tribute to the goodness and wholesomeness of this good man. The larger world may not feel satisfied entirely with him or with us, and possibly too, there may be failures where success ought to have been achieved, but his friendship and interest would have made us all full statured manful men. During the quarter of a century of his residence here, much of the personal history of this community centers about him, and through his friends can be experienced the wider scope of his influence.

It is no easy task to pay fitting tribute to the one who has passed away, because words add little to the warmth of feeling all must experience in contemplation of what he was and how much he was to this community. No more complete tribute could attest the worth of the man than found silent expression in the tearful eyes of the hundreds who gathered last Friday to pay their respects to the memory of the man the entire community mourns. There is a compensation in all good deeds and the record of our friend is replete in them. Few of us, indeed, have more kindly acts to our credit.

He lived a good life. He was much to those within the ties of close relationship. His companionable nature made him popular among his friends, how much greater it was in his home circle. To his business associate, it is more than the loss of a brother, for it means the going away of a friend as well. It means the severing of a partnership of brotherly interest and kindness enduring for over twenty-five years, without scarcely a harsh word or an unkind act to mar the relationship. The loyalty and devotion of the one who is with us could only find it counterpart in the loyalty and devotion of the one who is gone. There was a mutuality in their trials and troubles in their success and achievements. One is prone to look away from home for examples of unselfishness, but no higher or truer example of unselfish, brotherly devotion to each other could be found that that shown in the relations existing between these two brothers and friends.

In the circle of his friends throughout Wisconsin, genial, popular Sam J. Shafer will be missed. His life was not all sunshine; he was a better man possibly because it was not because he was a brother in his sympathies and his sentiments knowing what the difficulties of life were. He did good with his opportunities and lived faithful and how and what better epitome could possibly because he was broader in his sympathies and his sentiments knowing what the difficulties of life were. He did good with his opportunities and lived faithfully, and how and what better epitome could be written about any man? Why conjecture about what he might have been? We know what he was and are better and truer because of having been what he was. Some ray of happy memory with which he is closely associated comes to us and we look upon him as we knew and respected him, and the clouds of grief and sorrow are dispelled and there is much of brightness instead of gloom, for he truly filled his place in the circle of our lives and we are better and the world is better because he did so.

The funeral was held at 2 o’clock at the M.E. Church. The Rev. E.G. Vischer preached the funeral sermon, taking his test from the 90th Psalm, 12th verse, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." He spoke forcibly of the necessity of all being prepared to meet the common fate of us all. He closed his sermon speaking very feelingly of his close relationship with the deceased, his noble manhood and exemplary spirit shown to all.

At the close of the exercises the Rev. Chas. Barker, Chaplain of the Grand Lodge, made an eloquent address on the life of the deceased. He spoke of his long acquaintanceship, lasting almost a quarter of a century; of the many kind and noble sentiments expressed in his paper, when the then little church was struggling for an existence; of the many times the deceased had bone out of his way to lead a helping hand, or say some kind word to some struggling sorrowful people.

The exercises at the cemetery were beautiful, being conducted entirely under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of the I.O.O.F., of which Sam had been so long a true and honored member. Of these there was no exercise more simple and grand that when each Odd Fellow and each Sister of Rebekah, as the last tribute to the departed, placed the simple ivy green in his last resting place.

The singing was by Mesdames Enright of Oshkosh, Salter, Bartell and Miss Fannie Kugle, and Messrs. E.L. and Howard Wicker, Bartell, Grimes, sometimes called "The old crowd," for so many times, in the past, these same people had gathered at the home of the departed and there sang the old songs which Sam had so many times enjoyed.

The selections at the church were: "Nearer My God to Thee," the last words that were on the lips of our dead president, "Lead Kindly Light," and "We Shall Meet By and By."

The pallbearers were: Brothers Chas. Holtzhausen, R.W. Brotherton, J.W. Wicker, R.B. Salter, Oliver Yerkes, of Colby Lodge, and R.H. Kohorn of Milwaukee.

Among the many floral tributes was the beautiful pillow from Colby Lodge, the handsome three link design fro Shaurette Lodge of Stevens Point, the crescent from Stevens Point friends; besides friends and classmates of Miss Callie of the Milwaukee Normal, and friends from Beaver Dam, Madison and Abbotsford sent many beautiful floral tributes.



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