Silvester Schiele 29 June 1870 - 17 December 1945



Harris, Dodds and Brown


In April 2005, the Rotary Club of Brazil, Clay County, Indiana, erected a plaque to celebrate the birth of Sylvester Schiele. 

Photos by Rtn. Jim Cessna of the Bedford, Indiana RC, submitted by RGHF member

PDG Steve Leonard (submitted 31 May 2011 by RGHF senior historian Basil Lewis and posted by Jack Selway.



After Michael's first wife Mary died, he married Elizabeth Krieble from Montgomery, PA on February 12, 1867. Of their 9 children, Silvester was the second, born on June 29, 1870 (2). His obituary in 'The Rotarian' records, in 1946, that "He was born a log cabin in Clay City, Indiana. He had all the difficulties of a young pioneer." (3) . Since his parents , were certainly living there at the time, this makes sense. However, according to the IGI, the birth took place in Pennsylvania, but no record of this event has so far been found. The 1880 Census of Clay County in Indiana records that Silvester was born in Indiana and the I.G.I. attribution appears to be incorrect.


Silvester attended school in Terre Haute. Service in the military during the Spanish American war was followed by a move to Chicago. There Silvester involved himself in the coal trade, perhaps using contacts from the mining areas of Indiana. The story has often been told about how in 1896, he found himself unable to recover 20 dollars which he had loaned to a friend. Passing by his coal office frequently was a young lawyer, and one day Silvester asked this young lawyer to help him collect the money. The lawyer was Paul Harris and thus began a friendship between the two men which continued for the next 50 years.


Schiele and Harris even shared a hotel room in those early years of the century when both were still bachelors. They often dined together at Madame Galli's where, on February 23, 1905, the 'gang of four' met to discuss the formation of what later became the Rotary movement.


His work and life in Rotary is chronicled elsewhere, however it can be noted here that Silvester Schiele became the first President of the Chicago Club and remained involved in Rotary throughout his life. He did not take any international office until July 1945, when he was made International Treasurer. He was not to fill the post for long, dying in Chicago at the age of 75 on December 17, 1945. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Blue Island, Illinois, where, thirteen months later, Paul P. Harris was laid to rest next to Schiele.


1. The History of Clay County, Indiana by Battery, 1888

2 The History of Clay County, Indiana by Travis, 1909

3 The Rotarian February 1946 Obituary by Philip Lovejoy.


** Silvester seems to have preferred the spelling SILVESTER but SYLVESTER is also used.


For help in compiling this account, we are indebted to Rtn Amos Thomas of Brazil, Indiana.




Basil Lewis