August Schell was born in 1828 in Durbach, Germany, located in the heart of the famous German "Schwarzwald," otherwise known as the Black Forest region. August received an early education as a machinist/engineer but after a short time, became intrigued by the opportunities overseas. In 1848, August bid farewell to his mother and father, leaving his homeland in search of success in the United States.
August arrived in New Orleans and continued up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to Cincinnati where he worked as a machinist in a locomotive factory. It was here that he met the love of his life, Theresa Hermann. Theresa, also a German immigrant, and August wed in 1853.
In 1856, August, Theresa and their two baby daughters headed to Minnesota along with a group of fellow Germans known as the Cincinnati Turner Society. The Turner Society had heard from a group of German settlers in Southern Minnesota that their settlement was struggling to succeed. The two groups merged and formed the town of New Ulm.