The Sueppel Family – Iowa City Pioneers.

Like so many other pioneers during the 1850’s, young John B. Sueppel left his home in Erie, Pennsylvania, and on January 1, 1855, arrived in Iowa City. Born in Miesbach, Bavaria (today’s southern Germany) on October 8, 1836, John’s parents immigrated to America in 1853, and at age 18, John headed west to make a new life in Iowa. This biographical overview from historian C. R. Aurner (1912) tells us more…

John’s parents – Nicholas & Mary Urala Sueppel – and one surviving brother – Nickolaus Sueppel – eventually followed him here as well, moving to Iowa City in 1868.

So, here, on this post, let’s follow the Sueppel family line here in Iowa City – as it unfolded over six generations! Above is Generation #1 – Nicholas Sueppel (1809-1878) and Mary Urala Sueppel (1804-1880). While we don’t have many details about their lives prior to the time they came to Iowa, we do know that they finished up their life journeys here, both being buried in the older section of St. Francis Cemetery in Iowa City.

John B. Sueppel – who came to Iowa City, as we said, in 1855 – married Catherine E. Rohret (see her family story below) in 1859, and together they had nine children – Frank N. (1860-1925), John W. (1862-1938), George A. (1864-1935), Mary C. (1866-1935), Joseph W. (1870-1934), Alaysius (1873), Carl E. (1874-1875), Agnes E. (1876-1931), and William (1879-1881) – six of whom survived into adulthood.

Interestingly, the 1860 U.S. Census (below) shows John Sueppel as a saloon keeper, while Catherine, from what we just read, seems to be the rather devout Catholic matron of high esteem here in Iowa City!

Though he might have started out as a saloon keeper, John Sueppel certainly became a solid business man in Iowa City over a forty year period, focusing primarily on dry goods and the grocery business. In 1875, he was elected Iowa City City Treasurer, and then, became Johnson County Treasurer in 1887 – holding that office for four years.

In 1857, a new Johnson County Court House, replacing its burned-down predecessor, opened on South Clinton Street – the same location where our current Court House stands today. Read more here.

Both John & Catherine were actively committed to their faith – and served in many capacities at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Iowa City. Read more about St. Mary’s here.

(JP-022) This rare postal cover (above) and letter (below) comes from the RCMPS office of John Sueppel, Secretary and is dated March 30, 1887. John was one of the founders of the Roman Catholic Mutual Protective Society (RCMPS) of Iowa – serving as Secretary/Treasurer for ten years (1881-1891), and was a national board member at the time of his death in 1905. The RCMPS was first organized at Iowa City in 1873, and expanded when others outside the city joined in 1879. The organization provided “mutual assistance to the members and families and aid in the support of widows or heirs of deceased members.” By 1899, the state organization had 3,447 members and a reserve fund of $26,734.85, and during the twenty years of its existence, the RCMPS of Iowa paid $600,000 to the families of deceased members. The national Catholic Mutual Group has now grown to be the largest provider to Catholic dioceses, religious orders and other Catholic institutions, including schools, retirement facilities, counseling centers and human service programs, in North America.

Pictured below is the Sueppel home located at 425 East Jefferson Street in Iowa City.

Long-time Iowa City pioneers – John B. Sueppel (1836-1905) and Catherine E. Rohret Sueppel (1835-1915) are both buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in Iowa City, and below are several articles covering the Sueppel’s Iowa City story. Without a doubt, John & Catherine both made a huge impact during their 50+ years in Iowa City…

As we mentioned earlier, George Albert Sueppel was the third son of John & Catherine Sueppel – born on December 27, 1864. He received his education at St. Joseph’s Institute In Iowa City, and was a lifelong member of St. Mary’s, a member of the Holy Name Society, and for years, was the leading tenor in St. Mary’s choir.

George A. Sueppel, at age 30, married Anna A. McCarthy on June 20, 1894 in Keokuk, and together, they had two children – John Francis Sueppel (1895-1980) and Gretchen Mary Sueppel (1897-1987).

The Sueppel Marriage Records from 1894.

In the mid-1880’s, George made a name for himself, playing second base for the city’s famed baseball club – The Iowa City Neversweats (pictured below in 1885). Read more details here.

For many years, George was the general manager of Sueppel Clothing Company in downtown Iowa City, and was active in countless civic activities.

But apparently, soon after getting married (1894), George & Anna settled down for a short season in her hometown of Keokuk. Sadly, Anna A. McCarthy Sueppel (1868-1897) died at age 28 on April 29, 1897, three months after giving birth to their daughter, Gretchen. She is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Keokuk.

According to U.S. Census records of 1900 (below), George and his two children – two-year-old John Francis, and three-month-old Gretchen Mary – returned to Iowa City after Anna’s death, where they lived with his parents – John B. & Catherine E. – in their home at 425 E. Jefferson Street. According to family records, it was grandmother Catherine who raised the Sueppel children over the next ten years before George remarried to Louise Gibbons in 1907.

The 1900 U.S. Census shows the Sueppel family living at 425 E. Jefferson in Iowa City. John B. (age 43 – grocer) is shown as the head of the household with wife – Catherine E. (age 44). Four adult children are living at home – Frank N. (age 39 – bookkeeper), George A. (age 35 – clothier), Mary C. (age 33 – grocer/salesman), and Agnes E. (age 23), Also shown are the two Sueppel grandchildren – John F. (age 5) and Gretchen M. (age 3), with housekeeper Mary Flattery (age 22) from Ireland.

George A. Sueppel (1864-1935) died on April 3, 1935 at age 70, and is buried, like his parents, at the Old St. Joseph Cemetery in Iowa City.

At this point, I’m going to turn our narrative over to Renée Sueppel – Iowa City’s own herstorian – since we are now talking about her grandfather & grandmother…

My Grandpa – John Francis Sueppel was born on May 30, 1895, and married Margaret Cecilia Teefy (born July 20, 1900) on June 26, 1923 at Saint Patrick’s Church in Iowa City – Grandma’s home church. After marrying, John & Margaret attended Saint Mary’s, and settled into a new house at 602 Dearborn Street, a one bedroom home where they raised four children – Margaret Mary Wierman, Patricia Ann Yoder, John Joseph Sueppel, and James Francis Sueppel. Sadly, a fifth child – Georgie – died at a young age after falling on a screw driver.

Grandma had an 8th grade education. She left school to help out her family and put her sister, Pauline (Teefy) O’Conner through nursing school. My grandmother worked at SUI Press where she stitched the binding of books by hand. She would sing to us the song, “Look for the Union label.”

Grandpa served in the Army and Navy (in the Iowa National Guard (see above), and he served as a Border Patrol in Brownsville, Texas — on horseback. He told me that he didn’t approve of how the U.S. government treated the poor Mexican people at the border, and regularly reminded us not to judge a person by the color of their skin, but on quality of their character.

Grandpa worked at Sueppel’s Clothing Store early on, and after the depression, the store went bankrupt. Eventually, he retired as the night janitor at the old Post Office. He loved to play cards – euchre and bridge – and during the depression, he would give the family’s meat rations to the hobos, saying their back door was marked as a place where the poor could go for food.

The best man at Grandpa’s wedding was his first cousin, Francie Sueppel, but Grandpa and Francie were more like brothers. Francie sold life insurance and coached basketball for Saint Mary’s (26 years), taking the boy’s teams to two consecutive state championships, and is in the Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame.

Cousin Francie (Francis W.) & his wife, Katherine C. Sueppel.

Francie is father to most of the Sueppel’s in town: William Sr., Marilyn, Pauline, Robert, Francis (Bud), Paul, Anna M., and Alice. A big Hawkeye fan, Grandpa, Grandma, Francie and his wife, Katherine, would often take the train to Chicago for Iowa football games.

This pillow (below left) was made by a Sueppel family member who lived at 425 E. Jefferson Street – one of my great, great aunts I think, who never married. It commemorates the 1900 SUI football team, and we were told that it was displayed in the front window of Sueppel’s Clothing Store during the football season. Read more about Iowa Homecoming celebrations in downtown Iowa City here.

Sadly, John F. Sueppel (1895-1980) died, age 84, on January 24, 1980, while Margaret C. Teefy Sueppel (1900-1987) passed, at age 86, on June 19, 1987. Both are buried with the larger Sueppel family in the newer section of St. Francis Cemetery in Iowa City.

All this brings us, now, from 1855 down to present day Iowa City. Over these last 165+ years, the Sueppels have continued to live here in Johnson County, making a positive impact on our community. On another post, I introduce you to Renée Sueppel – Iowa City’s Own Herstorian. Interestingly, on that page we cover Renée’s family line on her mother’s side – Iowa City’s Fink family. And there, we find the stories of five generations of Iowa Citians who have made their impact on our city, including Renée’s mom – Carralee A. Williams Sueppel.

So, in closing, here’s Generation #5 & #6 of the Sueppel family. We’ll start with James Francis Sueppel – the youngest son of John F. & Margaret C. Sueppel – born in 1936. On July 2, 1960 (see pics above), James married Carralee Ann Williams (born in 1935), and together they had four children – James, Renée, Stephanie, and Stacy. You can read more about Carralee here, and as we said, you can learn much more about Renée by visiting our webpage – Iowa City’s Own Herstorian – Renée Sueppel.

From Nicholas & Mary, to John B. & Catherine E.; from George A. & Anna A, to John F. & Margaret C. to James F., Carralee A. & Renée – here’s a big thank you for your on-going Sueppel contributions to Iowa City! Godspeed!

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Miesbach, Germany, Wikipedia

John Sueppel Answers Call, Iowa City Republican, March 2, 1905, p 7

John Sueppel Memory Service, Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 10, 1905, p 5

Roman Catholic Mutual Protective Society of Iowa, EncyclopediaDubuque

Catholic Mutual Group,

Nicholas Sueppel, Find-A-Grave

Mary Urala Sueppel, Find-A-Grave

John & Catherine Sueppel, 1860 Census,

John Sueppel, Find-A-Grave

John Sueppel, C. R. Aurner, Leading Events in Johnson County, 1912, pp 141-145

John Sueppel, St. Joseph’s Society, History of Johnson County, 1883, p 671

John Sueppel, Treasurer, History of Johnson County, 1883, p 678

Sueppel Clothing ad, Iowa Citizen, October 21, 1903, p 3

Catherine Sueppel, C. R. Aurner, Leading Events in Johnson County, 1912, p 24

Catherine Rohret Sueppel, Find-A-Grave

Sueppel Household, 1900 Census,

George Albert Sueppel & Anna A. McCarthy Marriage Records,

Geo Sueppel Dies Tuesday, Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 3, 1935, p 2

George A Sueppel, Find-A-Grave

Mrs. Sueppel’s Death, Iowa State Press, May 5, 1897, p 8

Anna McCarthy Sueppel, Find-A-Grave

John Francis Sueppel, Find-A-Grave

Margaret Teefy Sueppel, Find-A-Grave

Francis Sueppel, Boy’s Basketball – St. Mary’s, Iowa High School Sports

Carralee Ann Sueppel, Prabook

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