Etta (Lyle) & John Fischer, 1858-1926
John Fischer was Carl's great uncle, ten years younger than Carl's grandfather, Michael Ludwig Fischer. However, John's meteoric rise in fortune was to impact the Fischer family for generations to come. At first, his generosity and support of family members was a boon.
John’s rapid ascent is described in The Biographical Record of Henry County, Illinois, pp. 243-245. The authors had only good things to say about this self-made millionaire:
“Prominent among the energetic, far-seeing and successful business men of Kewanee is the subject of this sketch, whose life history most happily illustrates what may be attained by faithful and continued effort in carrying out an honest purpose. Integrity, activity and energy have been the crowning points of his success, and his connection with the various business enterprises and industries have been of decided advantage to Kewanee, promoting its material welfare in no uncertain manner.”
The authors go on to explain John’s business successes, describing a time of unhindered American industrialism and the fortunes it offered. The opportunities were dazzling and within hands' reach.
On 2 October 1883, John Fischer married Etta Ruth Lyle (1861-1938), daughter of George and Sarah (Snugs) Lyle. According to her family’s biography, “by inheritance she brought her husband considerable wealth which through his capable management [he] has largely increased.”
John & Etta's residence, S. Chestnut, was the largest mansion in town.
John began working in the mines with his father, Peter, but soon became a farm hand, grocery clerk, and store owner. He embarked on the real estate and loan business as a land agent for farm parcels and commercial properties throughout Illinois, Chicago, and elsewhere. As stockholder, then president of Kewanee Savings and Trust in 1902, John was able to manage loans, mortgages, and acquisitions within his own bank. Though he diversified in coal and lumber companies, he was not able to sell off properties in time to offset many farm foreclosures by 1926.
In 1926, both John Fischer and his son, John Emmons, suffered catastrophic illnesses and died within two months of one another. With the owner gone and the bank on the verge of failing, two cashiers, Gould and Burge, saw their chance to embezzle. In 1928, they left with the cash assets on a train going West, leaving the widow and the Fischers with a scandal and angry bank customers. They were never apprehended.
Etta Lyle Fischer fled Kewanee to the North Shore of Chicago, sustained by her separate inheritance. The Chestnut St. residence is now Rux Funeral Home; its third floor, once a ballroom is a coffin showroom.