Henry and Theresia Soeder

The following biography was taken from the book; History of Ohio, written around 1928.

The finest advice a man can give is to practice what he preaches and this is what the late Henry Soeder of Cleveland, Ohio, did, with the result that his life is an inspiration of courage, perseverance and poise, which should make others realize how one can go forward under adverse circumstances if true to the ideals of manhood and just dealings with one's fellow-man. He was the son of Laurence and Frances  Soeder, who were natives of Bavaria, the German Empire, and lived there as farmers. They were parents of four children: 1. Valentine. 2. Agnes, who is deceased. 3. Ernst, a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, and for many years associated with the American Steel and Wire Company, now retired from business. 4. Henry, of this record.

Henry Soeder was born in Bavaria, on November 16, 1859, where he spent his boyhood on a farm, receiving a good common school education in the local schools. He learned farming naturally and was always fond of it, but in addition to this knowledge, he learned the trade of linen and carpet weaving. When he came to military age, like many other young men of his country, he sought to avoid the compulsory military training, and came to America. His brother, Ernst, came with him and the voyage across the ocean which consumed seventeen days, brought them to New York City. Young Soeder found himself in a strange land, without money, without work, and without knowledge of the language. The time came when he was also hungry and, passing a restaurant where he saw other people appeasing their hunger, he went in and took his place among the rest and ordered a meal. When he finished eating and had no money with which to pay for the food, he was thrown out bodily and severely beaten by the waiters. The fracas drew a crowd of spectators and when it was learned that he was a stranger, and could not speak the language and was without work, a collection was taken for his benefit and he was sent to Cleveland, where he arrived with only sixteen cents in his pocket. He was not long in finding employment as a weaver with Joseph Damm, who was a prominent man in Cleveland in those days, and had a shop on Wine Street. Mr. Soeder worked here for a while, but having his mind set on farming he went to Iowa to gratify his desire. At that time a farm worker received only fifteen dollars a month, so Mr. Soeder remained in Iowa only a short time when he returned again to Cleveland. He went to service at St. Joseph's church, where he met for the first time (Theresia) the sister of his former employer, Joseph Damm, and this meeting culminated in a very happy marriage. Later he often laughingly joked about this meeting, stating that at the time she had a saving account of fifty dollars while he was fifty dollars in debt. After his marriage (November 20, 1881 at The Church of the Holy Trinity on Woodland Avenue), Mr. Soeder worked for a time in a foundry and then ventured in business on his own account, opening a grocery store at No. 944 Payne Avenue, now the corner of Thirty-eighth Street. This section, at that time, was without improvements, and the street was not paved, but later, horse-drawn street cars were installed, to be subsequently replaced by cable cars, and these in turn by electric cars. As Mr. Soeder's pioneering in this section of the city of Cleveland was a successful venture, he saw it grow and witnessed many improvements. He at first, rented the store for three years, and at the end of that time found himself in a position to purchase it. He conducted his business here for thirty-five years and when, at the end of that time, he retired, he gave every customer a receipt for payment in full, whether they owed him anything or not, and his friends said there were many who owed him considerable amounts.

Mr. Soeder was a man of generous heart, kindly and sympathetic. During the early days of his business life, he went bond for a contractor who was doing much work for the city, and the man failing, Mr. Soeder made good on the bond by assuming the indebtness which amounted to twenty-nine thousand dollars. His friends advised him to go into bankruptcy himself, but he refused to do it and set about to carry on the unfinished work. He soon had a force of men, sixty horses, and his own special design of dump-cart at work. He turned his attention to the business of contracting, while his wife (Theresia) ran the store for several years, and when he gave up the contracting business he was able to show a profit. Among the public works to his credit are the leveling of West Park Cemetery; building the Wade Park Bridge; excavating for the present Post Office building and for the St. Clair Hospital, donating the last work, and paving a number of streets and other important contracts. During the time he was giving his attention to contracting, Mrs. Soeder was an able partner in his business affairs, running the grocery store, in such an able and efficient manner that the business continued to prosper, Mr. Soeder often remarked that for every dollar that he had earned, his wife should have credit for making half of it.

When his sons were old enough to begin business, Mr. Soeder began looking about for a business expansion in order to take them in with him, and started a milk business by driving around with one can of milk. His family and friends looked upon this venture more in the nature of a joke than the beginning of a business, but it was the beginning of a successful milk business now known as the Soeder Sons Milk Company.

On November 20, 1881, Henry Soeder married Theresa Damm, a native of Germany who, when a young lady, come to this country with her brother, Joseph, and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. They were the parents of ten children: 1. Emma, wife of James Murphy, and mother of two children, Irvin and Agnes. 2. Frank, married to Iva Dawes: they have one child, Eugene. 3. Anna, wife of Henry Feichmeier, is the mother of one child, Helen. 4. John married Mary Wiersch, and has one daughter. 5. Emil (deceased). 6. Edward. 7. Henry Jr. (deceased); married Pauline Fort, and they had one child, Arleeen. 8. Theresa (nicknamed Daisy). 9. William, married Catherine Connors. 10. Isabelle. There are also one great-grandchild who was a favorite and a joy to Mr. Soeder.

Henry Soeder died January 16, 1928, and his passing away caused profound grief in the entire community, for he had done so much towards the general progress of this city. He was a man who lived a purposeful life and one that was filled with kindness at every turn. He found great satisfaction in the fact that his sons never used tobacco or intoxicants in any form, as he had advised them not to do. He was very generous with his family, though firm, and was greatly loved and respected by each member. He was a man of great self-respect, which commanded respect from others. He was well versed in many subjects, and noted as an expert with figures and in making estimates. He had a remarkable memory for names and faces. He was liberal to a fault, and every ready to help those in need. He brought his parents to this country and cared for them in their old age. He made three trips back to Bavaria, taking with him his wife and some of the children. In Europe, he visited his brother Valentine, who once came to this country but not liking it, returned to Bavaria, where he lived in the old home, which Henry Soeder had purchased from his parents. Mr. Soeder was a member of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, and one of the largest contributors to that organization. His death is looked upon as a decided loss to this community.

Postscript added by Henry Soeder's Great Granddaughter:

The Soeder Sons Milk Company, founded in 1910, sold many dairy products but the one that made them famous was their Fresh Ice Cream. The Soeder family sold their famous ice cream cones at Euclid Beach Park and the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  The Soeder Sons Milk Company closed in 1964. The family decided not to sell the Soeder Sons Milk Company business. They just closed the dairy and took their memories with them.