History of Arenzville, IL
By Judge J. A. Arenz, Chapter XIV, History of Cass County, Illinois, edited by William Henry Perrin, Chicago, O.L. Baskin & Co. Historical Publishers, 1882.
Some of the Prominent Men of the Time
At the northern edge of the town of Arenzville was a nice locust grove, wherein generally the political meetings were held. Men, who afterwards became distinguished in the State and national councils, have made speeches in this grove. Among the name mentioned are: Stephen A. Douglas, Jas. A. McDougal, John J. Hardin, Newton Cloud, John Henry, Richard Yates, Murray McConnell, Thos. M. Kilpatrick.
Morgan County then had two Senators and four members in the House. In 1836 it was customary that the candidates for office of both political parties, at an appointed day and place came together to address the people, speaking alternately, the bank and the tariff questions furnishing the main subjects, the speaker's stand being a large box or table.
At such a meeting, in 1836, Mr. McDougal, who was somewhat of a dandy, always neatly dressed, in his speech anathematized the Whig party, calling the Whigs bankworshipers, monopolists, aristocrats, silk stocking gentry, etc. Mr. Hardin, who was slovenly in dress, and cared nothing whether his shoes had any strings to them or not, and who had taken his seat on a corner of the speaker's table, seized one leg of Mr. McDougal, held it up, pointing out to the crowd the fine prunella shoes and silk stockings which he wore, saying that the silk stocking gentry strutted upon Democratic legs, which raised a tremendous laughter.
The first funeral at Arenzville was that of John Fuschka [Zuschka]. He was an old bachelor without any living relatives, had drifted about in the world from place to place, never receiving any kind words or treatment, as he told it, until he came to Arenzville, and found employment with Francis Arenz. By industry and frugal habits he had saved his wages and acquired possession of eighty acres of good land near the town. His last will and testament was written by J. A. Arenz, to whom he offered to bequeath one half of his land, and the other half to his brother Francis. It was pointed out to him, that neither of them needed any such gift, and that he would perform a generous act of benevolence, and perpetuate his memory, by bequeathing his farm to the school at Arenzville, to which he cheerfully assented. Mr. Fuschka [Zuschka] was not captivating in appearance, small in size, but he possessed a large soul, full of honesty and trustworthiness. The citizens of Arenzville should honor his grave and remember his generosity. The farm is now cultivated by Casper Becker, and the annual rent goes to the school fund.
John L. Cire came with Henry Kircher, Frederick Diekel, Charles Coupor, Dr. Englebach, H. Lippert, and others, in the latter part of 1834, having finished his education in the seminary of Fulda. He built the first frame house in Arenzville, where he kept a little store, increasing his business from time to time, as circumstances would permit. He was Postmaster, Justice of the Peace, Town and School officer, for many years. At the time of his death, in 1881, he held the office of County Assessor and Treasurer, to which he had been elected for the second time. He left seven children.
Dr. George Engelbach came here in 1834, and bought the farm of Peter Taylor, where he resided till his death, in 1844. By profession he was a doctor of medicine, but gave up his practice and devoted his energies to farming. Having lost his wife by death, he brought with him to this country his only child, a boy about four years of age, named Herman, and his aunt Link. Although unused to farming, by his iron will and industry he became in time a pretty good farmer.
In 1840, he was elected to the office of County Commissioner of Morgan County, which place he filled with honor to himself, and the approval of the people. He was the only person of the so called "Latin farmers" who held out, all the others having arrived at the knowledge that farming was not profitable or pleasant, in the long run, and had chosen other employments.
At the death of Dr. Engelbach, his son was left under the care of Henry Kircher, as his guardian, and exceedingly well and faithful was this trust performed. Young Engelbach received a very good education, and when he had become of age, he made a trip to Europe, visiting his relatives there. Upon his return, in 1853, he associated himself with Peter Arenz, and they bought the mill store, and a tract of land of Francis Arenz, and did a very successful business until 1859, when that firm was dissolved, and H. Engelbach carried on the business thereafter in his own name, until his death, on December 16, 1880, caused by being caught in the machinery of his elevator.
He was a very honorable man, of exceedingly industrious habits, ever idle for one moment from morning till night. He left a widow with six children, and a considerable estate.
In the board of trustees he has filled for several years the offices of President or Clerk.
Francis Arenz was born in Blankenberg, Province of the Rhein, Prussia, October 31, 1800. While yet very young he engaged in mercantile business, and in 1827 emigrated to the United States, making his home for two years in the State of Kentucky, following the business of merchandising. In the year 1829, he went to Galena, Illinois, and was for a short time engaged in the lead trade, and then came to Beardstown, where he again followed the business of merchandising and dealing in real estate. He very soon foresaw that Beardstown, on account of its favorable situation and surroundings, was destined to have a prosperous future, and used every means in his power to draw attention to this place and invite emigration. He expected the best mode to accomplish this purpose to be the establishment of a newspaper, and he accordingly, 1834, commenced the publication of The Beardstown Chronicle and Illinois Bounty Land Advertiser, of which he became the editor and proprietor, with John B. Fulks, as publisher. This paper was then the only newspaper west of Jacksonville and Springfield. It could not be expected that at this early day such an undertaking would prove profitable, and having been published for nearly two years at considerable loss, its publication was abandoned, after having accomplished, however, its object. Beardstown, a very good landing point on the Illinois River, had become the port of entry for all the goods designed for Springfield, Petersburg, Rushville, McComb, and other places, and from here were also shipped the produce and pork of the surrounding towns and country. Heavy loaded teams with merchandise and produce, could daily be seen on the roads leading to and from Beardstown, and there was no point in the West where more hogs were slaughtered than here.
During the Black Hawk war, Beardstown was the general rendezvous for the State troops, and Mr. Arenz furnished supplies for the army at the request of Gov. Reynolds, and also a portion of the arms, which had been purchased by Arenz, and originally destined for the South America service.
New roads were surveyed and opened, and the plan was conceived by Mr. Arenz, that the construction of a canal from Beardstown to the Sangamon River, to a place called Miller's Ferry, and then by slackwater navigation to continue to the neighborhood of Springfield, whereby also the bottom lands of the Sangamon valley would become drained and useful for agricultural purposes, would be of great benefit to Beardstown.
An act of the Legislature was obtained in 1836, for the incorporation of Beardstown and Sangamon Canal Company, of which company Mr. Arenz was elected President, and Mr. O. M. Long, Secretary and Treasurer; William Pollock, as Engineer, and John A. Arenz, as Assistant Engineer, commenced the survey on September 1, 1836, and in December following a very favorable report was made; but for want of sufficient means and on account of the hard times soon following, this project failed.