Cottonwood County MN Biographies--Jacob Balzer
"History of Cottonwood and Watonwan Counties of Minnesota, 1916"
One of the useful, versatile and many-sided men of Cottonwood county is Jacob J. Balzer, of Mountain Lake, who was born at Gnadenfield, Russia, October 14, 1860, a son of Jacob and Susan (Edgar) Balzer, both natives of Prussia, Germany, but who located in Russia about 1852, and lived twenty-one years at Pass Fik. The father was a joiner and farrier. He engaged in manufacturing fanning mills for some time and employed a number of men. He removed with his family to America in 1877, arriving at Mountain Lake, Minnesota, on July 3 of that year, and the following day they helped celebrate their first Fourth or Independence Day. They made their advent here in a box car. Jacob Balzer well remembers how he burned his fingers with the first firecracker he ever saw, which was upon his arrival at Mountain Lake. The father bought a farm four and one-half miles northeast of Mountain Lake, purchasing a homestead at twelve dollars and fifty cents per acre. He established a comfortable home here through his industry. His death occurred on April 9, 1912, at the age of seventy-seven years. His widow is still living in Mountain Lake, being now advanced in years.
Jacob J. Balzer spent his boyhood in Russia and attended school there. After coming to Minnesota he was a student at the German College at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, also at the Methodist Episcopal University at the same place. However, prior to attending college he had taught a private school at Mountain Lake, and after his return from the university he took up school work for a time in Mountain Lake, which he continued until 1888, when he turned his attention to the ministry and to establishing a German-English school, a private school, or to a certain extent, a Mennonite parochial school. A building was rented until 1901, when the present commodious structure was erected. Mr. Balzer accomplished this useful and necessary work in thirty-six days. There was not one cent in the treasury when he began. He was the only instructor when the school was first started, but in due course of time several Others were added, and he became superintendent. English, German, Latin and theology were taught, and are still the principal branches. There are now over twenty alumni who are useful missionaries, doing excellent work in foreign lands.
In 1888 Jacob J. Balzer began Sunday school work. I. I. Bargan was the first superintendent. Out of this movement the Bethel church was built in 1888 and Mr. Balzer has been the active pastor of the same ever since. He was a teacher for a period of thirty-four years, the last four years of which period he was principal of the Mennonite Educational Institution, at Altoona, Manitoba, Canada, which school was under government supervision, and it turned out many capable teachers. He was principal of the school he established in Mountain Lake until 1910. He remained at the head of the Canadian institution until 1914, when he retired from educational work, in which he had won a wide and envied reputation. He has remained a wide student and is a man of profound learning: For a period of twenty-four years he was secretary of the general conference of the home missionaries of the Mennonites of North America, a position he filled in a manner that reflected much credit upon himself and to the satisfaction of all concerned, retiring from that office in September, 1914. He has traveled quite extensively in the interest of the evangelistic department of the above named conference.
Jacob J. Balzer, although a very busy man with his school and church work, has proven himself to be a capable business man, and in 1889 he entered the general mercantile field, under the firm name of Balzer & Hiebert, at Mountain Lake, which store is still operated, having been very successful, enjoying a good trade all the while, the style of the firm now being Balzer, Hiebert & Company.
On May 4, 1884, Jacob J. Balzer was united in marriage to Susan Franz, a native of Russia, who came to Mountain Lake, Minnesota, July 5, 1878, with her parents, John Franz and wife. Her father was a merchant tailor. The following children have been reared by Jacob J. Balzer and wife: Jacob S., now a senior in the pharmaceutical department of the University of Minnesota, is president of his class; Marie Ennis is the wife of Dr. H. R. Basinger, of Chicago, an instructor in Rush Medical College and also in the University of Chicago, his wife is a capable music teacher, having decided natural talent in music; Marie Gortz Balzer lives at home. These two girls were both adopted by Mr. Baker and wife.
Mr. Balzer has taken an interest in public affairs and has served as city clerk, also as road master in his earlier years. He has done much to encourage a taste for music in this locality. He had to fight a religious prejudice against music. He is a capable music director. He is an earnest, logical and eloquent speaker, and is a man of true culture and progressive ideals.