John Peter Schatzell, businessman and United States consul in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, was born in 1776 at Kampden near Balingen, in Donau, Württemberg. He was apprenticed to his uncle at Gundershofen (Gundersblum), to learn tanning and harness-making, 1783–90. He opened a shop of his own, where he made saddles and tack, boots, and other leather goods and prospered but decided to migrate to the United States shortly after his eighteenth birthday. He arrived at Philadelphia on board the Columbia on May 31, 1794. He was naturalized at Philadelphia on October 13, 1806. Presumably he moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and opened a wholesale grocery and merchandise store. The first mention of his store implies that he as early as 1811 had obtained a shipment of British goods and was offering them for sale at Louisville. He prospered substantially during the War of 1812, importing manufactured goods to his store in Lexington, Kentucky. He was involved in an unfortunate partnership with Alexander Cranston and Company of New York; Andrew Alexander of Belfast, Ireland; and John Woodward of Lexington, Kentucky, which resulted in liquidation of J. P. Schatzell and Company in 1817. Though he prevailed in both the state and federal lawsuits growing out of the liquidation of his company, the business losses were substantial. At the center of the dispute was a twenty-two-year-old female servant named Chloe, property of the partnership.
Schatzell was fluent in French and made the acquaintance of Stephen Zacharie, a Louisiana financier and former cashier of the Bank of Louisiana. Zacharie's son, James W. Zacharie, at the time was principal of Zacharie and Company, which financed some of Schatzell's business ventures. James W. Zacharie encouraged and financed Schatzell in a commission import-export warehouse in Matamoros, beginning in November 1828. Schatzell was besieged by lawsuits growing out of the dissolved partnership in a number of South Carolina cases in 1822, 1823, 1830, and 1831. On the death of United States Consul Richard Heath Belt on October 12, 1844, Schatzell wrote to the State Department information of the death and disclosed what he was doing to continue operation of the consular office, though he was without official status. Schatzell was appointed consul at Matamoros, confirmed by the Senate on December 18, 1844. He loaned money to Texian Mier prisoners (see MIER EXPEDITION) in Mexico from his private funds, and the debts remained until his death. His attention to consular matters was careful, precise, and efficient. When Gen. Pedro de Ampudia warned that any Americans crossing the Rio Grande would be hanged, the seventy year old Schatzell carried the information through a fiercely cold, rainy norther to Zachary Taylor. His claims of $48,854.77 for damages by the Mexican forces during the Mexican War were never settled. Schatzell resigned his post as consul at the end of that war and moved to Corpus Christi, where he set up a modest saddlery. He invested in a variety of enterprises. Ever cautious, he loaned a small sum to William L. Cazneau to finance a trading expedition to California. On learning Cazneau intended crossing the Chihuahuan desert against advice of Jacob Snively, Schatzell obtained return of the money. The teamsters of the expedition learned of the discovery of gold in California when the wagon train reached Chihuahua, and the expedition broke up. Schatzell financed many of Col. Henry L. Kinney's schemes, including the 1852 State Fair at Corpus Christi. Though he spoke English and Spanish fluently, he enjoyed conversation in the German language with various residents of Corpus Christi, including Matilda and Edward Ohler, Georg Pfeuffer, and Georg Noessel. He traveled to New York with J. W. Zacharie and visited his godson, John Schatzell Zacharie, then enrolled in Mount Pleasant Academy (a military school for boys) at Ossining, New York, in 1851. John Schatzell Zacharie was made residuary legatee in Schatzell's will, and afterwards became a prominent lawyer and antiquarian of New Orleans. When Schatzell died on October 23, 1854, at Corpus Christi, his will and certain other papers in a leather satchel kept in the corner of his bedroom vanished so that he was declared intestate. A local lawyer secured appointment as administrator of the estate. Shortly thereafter, Capt. Samuel Fullerton and J. W. Zacharie introduced a properly attested will, confirmed by the surviving witnesses. Two claimants, said to be the niece and nephew of Schatzell, named John Schatzell of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and Anna Schatzell Schoenberg, of Sandusky, Ohio, appeared. The claimants were represented by the lawyers who had sought to have the administration of the estate presuming there was no will; their claims were denied by the court. Mrs. John Schatzell gave birth to a son, named John Peter Schatzell, while in Corpus Christi. The claimants lived about a year in Corpus Christi afterwards, not having obtained anything from the estate.