Charles A. Zollinger

Colonel of the American Civil War and longtime Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1839 - 1893

Charles Augustus Zollinger emigrated in 1848 to America from Wiesbaden, Germany with his parents, landing in New York on the 18th of May that year. He was one of seven sons, and the large family arrived in Sandusky, Ohio, on May 26th, 1848, where they lived until August 1849. Due to a cholera epidemic, the family decided to move to a farming community in Marion Township, near Fort Wayne. As Charles was expected to work with his father in the wood-turning workshop at a young age, he did not receive any further education in America. At the age of 17, he left home and lived in Minnesota for four years, but returned home again in 1859. He was then apprenticed as a blacksmith to Colonel Whitacker in New Haven, Indiana.

Charles was one of the first to volunteer in the Civil War, when he joined company “E” of the ninth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and by 1864 he was a first lieutenant in the 129th Indiana Volunteers. He fought at the great battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee under General Scolfield, saw combat at Shiloh and fought under General Sherman at Atlanta. Due to his poor health he was forced to return home during the war, in February 1863, but once he had regained his health, he organized his own company, and was commissioned lieutenant-colonel and then colonel. In this rank he took part in the Atlanta campaign in May 1864, and the colonel and his men were mustered out in Charlotte, NC on August the 29th 1865.

After his return home, he organized the town of New Haven, and became the first president of the town trustees. In 1868 he moved to Fort Wayne, where he became the agent for the railway, while also becoming a partner in a hat shop business. In 1870 he sold out his business interests in order to enter politics. In that year he was first elected as sheriff of Allen County, and then, in May 1873 he was elected mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Through seven re-elections (every two years) he held that position for a total of twelve years. In 1887 he purchased the "Journal", the local newspaper, and then sold it again in June of 1889. During his tenure the city hall of Fort Wayne was built, but his greatest achievement was the construction of a municipal drinking water system for the town. He died after a short illness while still in office, and his funeral was held on the 31st of December, 1893. In the funeral cortege all the honors of his military unit and his masonic order membership were present, as were thousands of citizens of Fort Wayne. His will declared that his the whole estate would go to his wife, and on her death to her two daughters Alice and Mamie. Today Charles Zollinger is remembered by a plaque near the front door of the city hall of Fort Wayne, and by his monument, which can be found in the Lindenwood cemetery of Fort Wayne.

It is unfortunate for the Zollinger family history, that his family had emigrated to the USA from Wiesbaden, Germany, and in Fort Wayne he is therefore seen as a German citizen. In reality Wiesbaden was only a stop-over of a generation or two for his ancestors who had clearly emigrated to Germany from Switzerland. But due to this stop-over in Germany his Swiss origin has been obscured, and has never been appreciated in Fort Wayne.


Reference: Colonel Charles A. Zollinger, Seven Time Mayor of Fort Wayne, Allen County Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana

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