America is the melting pot of the world. People have come from England, France, Russia, Germany and Spain, just to name a few countries. They bring with them their talents, skills and trades. They know how to do every thing.
The Kornahrens family of Summerville, South Carolina can trace their history back to 1542 and Drangstedt, a small village in northern Germany. Drangstedt is located about 17 miles from the port city of Bremerhaven which is located at the Weser River, just before it flows into the North Sea.
In 1801, Gerd Hinrich Kornahrens was born in Drangstedt. He grew up and married, Anna Caterina Lohmann who had been born in 1805. Gerd and his wife Anna Caterina raised a large family of 15 children. As the children grew up they were given their inheritance. Since Gerd had a huge farm there in Germany, his oldest son inherited the farm, the home property. The 14 other children, would receive other inheritance. The children had talked about coming to America. During the 1850s, eight of the children in Drangstedt did leave and came to America.
In the mid 1850s, John Nicholas Kornahrens came to America with two of his brothers. They all got jobs and started working in Charleston.
In the late 1850s Charleston was in the heat of the battle over states’ rights. Abraham Lincoln had just been elected president. In January 1860, South Carolina seceded from the union. The first shots of the Civil War were fired in Charleston Harbor at the Union troops in Fort Sumter. The war was on! John Kornahrens knew that he would fight for the Confederacy. He joined the US Confederate Army, Company A, German volunteer 18th Regiment “C”. Four Kornahrens brothers were in the Confederate Army. At first, things went well for the Confederate Army, but after months and then years, things were looking down. Then in 1865 General Lee surrendered his sword to General Grant at Appomattox, Virginia. The South had lost the Civil War. The South was in turmoil; their way of life had changed. It seemed everything was different.
John Nicholas Kornahrens came back to Charleston. The town had received so much damage from the war! Even if all the buildings were still there, it wouldn’t have made a difference. John started thinking about Drangstedt, Germany and his dad. His mother, Anna Catherina Kornahrens, had died in 1856. She had lived, a little over 51 years. His dad, Gerd Heinrich Kornahrens was getting close, to 70 years old. John decided to go back and visit his dad, along with his brothers and sisters who still lived in Germany.
After some time, John did come back to Charleston through Philadelphia and started working. John Nicholas became a US citizen on May 15, 1867. John Nicholas Kornahrens was listed as a grocer in Charleston at that time.
In 1870 John Nicholas, aged 28, met a wonderful girl. Her name was Catherina Henrietta Schlighting. He found out she had been born in Germany and had come to Charleston. She was 21 years old. They started seeing each other and decided to get married. On January 2, 1871, the wedding took place, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Charleston. After they were married, John went back to work and Catherina set up housekeeping in Charleston. John knew that Catherina had a respiratory health issue, so in 1878 they bought 7 acres of land in Summerville where it was healthier. It was described, “As an open field behind Main Street.” The first thing John Nicholas did was have a two-story building built. The downstairs would be a shop; the upstairs would be the family living area. It was built on the corner of 2nd South Street (now W. Richardson Avenue) and Blackjack Street (now Cedar St.). The building was built as a large Victorian home, like they were in Charleston, with the side facing the street. The building is still standing today. The address is 140 W. Richardson Ave. John and Catherina built several other buildings on the block encompassed by Central, Cedar and Richardson. During the early years, they continued to have family and business contacts in Charleston. The railroad in those times made it easy to travel, to and from down town Charleston.
John and Catherina Henrietta Kornahrens had six children. Of the six children, only two, Arnold and John Jr., have surviving offspring. Both are from Summerville. The oldest daughter Matilda, was born in Charleston January 29, 1872, and died in Summerville, May 24, 1917. Ida was born September 15, 1873, and died in 1930, she had no children. Dora was born February 14, 1876 in Charleston, and died June 14. 1952. Their first son, Arnold Waldemar, was born February 14, 1879 in Summerville, and died January 5, 1927. Fred was born March 21, 1884, and he died on November 10, 1912. Their sixth child, John Nicholas Jr., was born September 27, 1886, and died May 5, 1938.
John Nicholas Kornahrens had owned a grocery store in Charleston, but upon completion of his building in Summerville, he opened a dry goods store. In 1901 John asked his son Arnold to start working in the store. John was 59 years old. John and his son, worked together for 18 years. In 1911, John turned the store over to his son Arnold. John Nicholas Kornahrens passed away in 1921 and is buried in Bethany Cemetery in Charleston. Arnold did take charge. He changed the store from a general merchandise establishment, into a strictly hardware enterprise. It was called, “Arnold W. Kornahrens Hardware Store”. Shoppers were impressed with the quality of merchandise, carried in stock. Hardware from nails to machinery, including wagons, paints, oils, glass and household utensils were offered. Some of the best brands of merchandise, to be found anywhere could be found here. Arnold Kornahrens was the agency for the “International Harvester Co.” farm implements. You knew that if you bought a tractor, or anything else, you would get a fair deal. He also handled the paint products of “Sherwin-Williams”, since 1902. Arnold Kornahrens was servicing people for over 20 miles. He had a very good and growing business here in Summerville.
Arnold Waldemar Kornharens married Annie Fischer of Charleston, on his birthday. February 14, 1906. They were married at St. John’s Church in Charleston. Annie Fischer Kornahrens was born June 19, 1884. Arnold and Annie had nine children. Eight children lived to marry and provide for a large family. Arnold and his wife were committed to their church, located one block away on Central Ave., Saint Luke’s Lutheran Church. Arnold and his father, John Nicholas, were founding members of St. Luke’s in 1893. Arnold served as sunday school superintendent for 28 years.
Arnold passed away January 5, 1927; he was one month shy of being 49. Annie Fischer Kornahrens continued to live above the store. In 1937 she sold the land across the street to the government, for the new Summerville post office. They began building the post office which was completed in 1938. Since John Nicholas Kornahrens purchased the seven acres of land, buildings and homes had been built. In fact it didn’t even look the same.
Annie Kornahrens passed away on May 21, 1981, she was 96 years old. She was laid to rest beside her husband in Bethany Cemetery. During her life, Annie and Arnold gave birth to six children. One of her sons, Edward Fisher Kornahrens, was born August 27, 1913. Edward married Pauline Ballentine, who had been born August 5, 1915. After they were married they lived in Summerville. They had four sons and a daughter. The oldest son was Edward Jr. Then Donovan Paul or “Donnie” was born. After that, Bryle was born, named for his uncle. The only girl born in the family was Paula. Then the last boy was born, Clarence Arnold. Clarence lived only 2 1/2 years, dying on September 30, 1940.
In the beginning of 1982, Kenneth Plexico of Summerville bought the building at 140 W. Richardson Ave. He kept it until selling the building to Cas Danielowski who owns “Summerville ERA LLC” on April 10, 2006. Many people know the building because in the 1980’s it was home to “The Huguley Co.”
The building is still standing today and is in great shape. Now you know its rich history.
Donavan Paul Kornahrens interview
- Hill, Barbara Lynch. Summerville, SC 1847-1997 Our History. Wentworth Printing, West Columbia, SC (1998)
- McIntosh, Beth. Beth’s Pineland Village. The R.L. Bryan Company, Columbia, SC (1988)
- Kwist, Margaret and others. Porch Rocker Recollections of Summerville, South Carolina. Linwood Press, Inc. Summerville, SC (1980)