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Zee and Schober families papers

Identifier: UA-17.144.1

Scope and Content

This collection consists of memorial books, correspondence, diaries, notebooks, school materials, scrapbooks, Elsie Zee’s teaching materials, family photographs, and genealogical papers. James Wilmer Zee and Elsie Schober Zee’s courtship love letters are also included. There are also post-World War II letters to Elsie Schober Zee and William (Wilhelm) Schober from family members in Germany and from former German P.O.W.s who worked for the Zees. The letters are in German. Many were translated into English by William Schober, who dictated the translations to his daughter, Elsie. Later translations were done by another family member.


  • Creation: 1908 - 1987


Language of Materials

Some of the materials are in German.


Collection is open for research. A portion of the collection is restricted. Archivist should see the processing note for details.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.



James Zee was born July 23, 1868 in Gloucester County, New Jersey. He was the son of Irish and German immigrants. On June 15, 1907 he married Mary Cassaday. Together they had two children, James Wilmer Zee and Rebecca C. Zee (born August 24, 1911).

Zee operated a dairy farmer on New Freedom Road in Monroeville, New Jersey. He was a member of the Bible Protestant Church of Hardingville, Upper Pittsgrove Board of Education, P.O.S. of A., and Zelo Lodge No. 149, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) of Elmer, N.J.

James Zee died June 27, 1951.

Mary Cassaday Zee was born on February 14, 1873. Her ancestors emigrated from London, England to Rhode Island in 1640. In 1685 they settled in Cumberland County in southern New Jersey. Her family also had farm land in Salem County, New Jersey

She died on June 13, 1956.


James Wilmer Zee, son of James and Mary Cassaday Zee, was born in Hardingville, New Jersey on July 2, 1908. He took over the family farm but soon decided he did not want to be a dairy farmer. In 1944, he began a farming operation (Zee Orchards) in Gloucester County, New Jersey. Zee started with 64 acres of fruit trees and eventually expanded it to 700 acres. He designed and built cold storage buildings and a hydrocooler for the orchard without assistance from architects or engineers.

During the Great Depression, Zee performed many odd jobs, including growing tomatoes for the Campbell Soup Company and delivering fuel oil. He had contracts with the United States for Prisoner of War labor. German P.O.W.s assisted with the fruit harvests. After returning to Germany, some of the P.O.W.s wrote letters to the Zees thanking them for their kindness and requesting care packages.

Zee was a member of several local organizations, including Richwood Church (1945-1987), New Jersey Farm Bureau, New Jersey Apple Institute (trustee), N.J. Horticultural Society, Mullica Hill Grange, Pomona Grange No. 51, National Peach Council, Upper Pittsgrove Board of Education, Board of Directors, Elmer Community Hospital, and the Monroeville Fire Company.

James Wilmer Zee died December 24, 1987.


Elsie Emilie Schober, daughter of William and Gertrude Schober, was born on September 16, 1909 in Monroeville, New Jersey. She was their only child to complete high school. After graduation from Glassboro High School, she attended Glassboro State Normal School to obtain a teaching degree. While at GSNS, Elise began a courtship with James Wilmer Zee. Following graduation in 1929, Elsie began teaching seventh grade at Aura School in New Jersey. In July 1931 Elise married James Wilmer Zee. Together they had four children, including Margaret Eileen Zee (Jones).

In addition to teaching, Elsie supervised packing at the Zee orchard, was a member of the PTA and the Gloucester County (N.J.) African Violet Society, and taught Sunday school. Elsie kept meticulous diaries, documenting her life in rural New Jersey and trips taken to California and Florida.

Elsie S. Zee died October 15, 1989.


William (Wilhelm) Frederick Schober was born March 2, 1872 in Rechau, Germany, a small town near Oschatz. In 1891 he immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There he met Gertrude Marie Noll (born September 8, 1873), a fellow German immigrant. The two were married in 1893 and, in 1897, relocated to Monroeville, New Jersey. Eight children were born of the union. All of their children were born in their Monroeville, New Jersey home.

Schober planted his first orchard in 1915. Over the decades, it grew from 40 to 235 acres, spread over Salem and Gloucester Counties. In 1930 he was named Master Farmer of the State of New Jersey, an honor bestowed on few people. Throughout his life he was an active member of the Monroeville Methodist Church and in many organizations, including the New Jersey Farm Bureau, the N.J. Horticultural Society, and the Grange. From 1946 to 1949, Schober kept in close contact with his relatives in Germany and frequently sent care packages.

William Schober died June 27, 1949. He was proceeded in death by his wife, Gertrude (August 12, 1941).


7.5 Cubic Feet

Related Archival Materials

See also: Margaret Zee Jones papers (UA 17.144).

Legal Status

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to Michigan State University but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Copyright restrictions may apply.

Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Processing Information

The record group was changed from 00215 to UA 17.144.1 to reflect its connection to the Margaret Zee Jones papers (UA 17.144). September 2019, M. Badgley Malone



Zee and Schober Families Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
M. Badgley
January 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US