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Matamoras Minute: The Machetanz Family

The Machetanz family was part of the German community in Matamoras.

The patriarch was Gottfried, born in 1808 in Saxony.

In Germany he and his wife Maria, who was born in 1814, had ten children. In 1858 the family, then consisting of eight living children, came to the United States and eventually settled in town.

A tannery, owned by Samuel Hutchison, stood on upper Third Street just above its intersection with Merchant Street. Gottfried bought the business along with Hutchison’s residence in 1863. He renamed it Machetanz and Son because his eldest, John, assisted his father in the enterprise.

The tannery was the only one in this part of the county and it became very successful. In 1880 at the age of seventy-two Gottfried retired. He passed his one-half interest in the business to the youngest son, Edward, and the name of the tannery changed to Machetanz Brothers. William’s “History of Washington County, 1881” wrote that they “tan all kinds of shoe and harness leather, and are doing a business from $15,000 to $20,000 (considerable amounts of that time period). They have a large and extended market demand which taxes their fullest capacity and energy. They employ six hands on full time, and the business is fast increasing.”

An interesting display kept in the tannery was the front section of a two-headed calf. The children of town at the time thought it a great sport to peek inside the front door of the tannery to view the circus-like attraction. Any new child to the area was introduced by their playmates to the display with the usual reaction of a scream and then a full inspection of such a beast.

Another business in which the family engaged was a vineyard located on the hillside that faces toward the former site of the tannery. William’s history notes that it contained “two acres of land and about 1,200 plants, and having a southeast front. It was first planted in 1875, and the first crop taken in 1877.

The plants are of many kinds, embracing some of the finest grapes. They have a press of 400 gallon capacity and they propose soon to establish a shipping business.”

The tannery closed in 1897 and reopened later on a smaller scale. It stayed in business until 1920.

The Machetanz plot in Matamoras Cemetery is centered with a monument spire inscribed “To the Memory of Gottfried and Maria Machetanz.” Graves of their children and grandchildren surround this stone.

John Miller is president of the Matamoras Area Historical Society. Membership dues are $15 per year single/couple. Life membership is $150. Contact the society at P.O. Box 1846, New Matamoras, Ohio 45767. Much of this column is built on the work of Matamoras’ historian, the late Diana McMahan.

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