DEARBORN - Schneider Brick Company was responsible for constructing some of the oldest Ford buildings in history, and the bricks that laid the foundation are still intact today. Don Schneider, climate control engineer, holds up one of the bricks proudly as he tells his greatgreat- grandfather, Nicholas’, story. “This particular brick came from the old Rouge plant,” Don said. “We can still go there today and find bits and pieces.”
In 1906, Schneider Bricks, owned by Nicholas and his brothers, were used to build the Wayne Automotive Plant, also known as the Studebaker Plant.
“There’s a family tale that Henry Ford owed our family U.S. $75 for those bricks and instead offered us shares in the automotive company. Since Ford had had several unsuccessful attempts at the car business at that time, Joseph, Nicholas’ brother, told him, ‘No, I want my $75!’ In hindsight, the shares might have been the better idea,” Don said.
Nicholas’ background with Henry Ford is extensive, extending back to when he was a child. Nicholas married Mary Theisen who lived near Ford’s boyhood home. Since his mother was bedridden, Mary’s mother would send her over to help the Ford family by baking breads, cleaning the house and other chores.
Don recalls a story his family told him regarding a day Mary’s mother sent Ford to grab firewood. He began “fooling around” instead and when he came inside he endured a hearty spanking from her mother. Ironically, Ford brought it up years later at a dinner party, but her mother didn’t recall the incident.
Shortly after Nicholas died in 1913, Ford was purchasing property along Miller Road and the Rouge River in Dearborn for his new automotive plant – Mary sold their 40-acre farm to him.
“My great-great-grandfather worked for Ford through the depression so at the time they had one of the original Ford houses,” said Don. “Eventually, the Rouge was built on the farmland, but our family home was still standing.
“There’s a definite sense of loyalty to the company,” said Don. “It’s been putting food on the table for so long that my family wouldn’t even consider anything but Ford. Not only that, but my family’s connection to Henry Ford makes it so that it’s not just a company, but more like a family.”
It’s obvious where the loyalty stems from considering most of Don’s family has worked here, too. Even better, several of them have contributed greatly to the company.
“My maternal grandfather worked here in prototype engines where he helped to develop the first fuel injection systems and my great uncle invented the hazard lights on vehicles, which helped him to receive accolades from Henry Ford II,” said Don.
Don followed in his family’s footsteps by submitting a few patents himself and after 15 years of working for Ford, he continues his family’s legacy.
“After five generations, we plan to hopefully continue the path by having my daughter become sixth generation,” said Don.