Macoupin county now contains an enterprising German population who have contributed greatly to the material growth and prosperity of this part of the state. One of these pioneer German settlers was JOHN C. NIEMAN, of Staunton township, who became a resident of the county in 1841. He was born at the village of Borgholzhausen Amt Ravensburg, B. B. Minden, Halle, Prussia, April 12th, 1817. Casper Nieman his father, was a farmer. Mr. Nieman was the oldest of seven children. According to the German custom he attended school from the age of seven to fourteen, and afterward worked on a farm until twenty-one years old. Seeing small opportunity for a poor man to make any advancement in that country, he resolved on coming to America. He sailed from Bremen, and after a voyage of seven weeks, landed at Baltimore on the 13th of May, 1839. When he reached Baltimore five thalers in Prussian money, worth, in American coin, about three dollars and eighty cents, comprised his whole fortune. He had no friends and acquaintances, was ignorant of the English language, and had no definite plan by which he expected to make a living.
After staying a few days in Baltimore, he started on foot on the turnpike for Cumberland, Maryland, with the intention of working his way west. The canal along the Potomac was then being built, and at Cumberland he found employment as a laborer, and worked part of a year at digging this canal at a dollar and a quarter a day. His purpose was to go to farming as soon as he could secure enough money to buy a little land. Early in the year 1840 he went to Hermann, Missouri, where there were some German settlers from the same neighborhood in the old country as himself. He found it difficult to find profitable employment there, and after a short stay went to Louisville, Kentucky. He worked on a farm near Louisville for a couple of months without getting any pay, and was then taken seriously sick. His illness lasted for five months, and for half that time he was unable to leave his bed. His situation was very unfortunate and distressing. He was entirely without money; with no claim on any one for their assistance; and it was only by the help fo some good friends who providentially came to his aid that was enabled to pull through. After recovering in the fall of 1840, the succeeding winter he found employment on the farm of William Edwards, near Louisville. In the spring of 1841 Mr. Edwards moved from Kentucky to Macoupin county, and settled near Carlinville. Mr. Nieman came to Illinois with him, and was in his employment on his farm near Carlinville for three years. At the end of that time he had saved about two hundred and fifty dollars and concluded he would go to farming for himself on some government land in Township 7, Range 6.
He began his operations here in a small way. He had little money, and he was obliged to get along as best he could. The first wagon he used was a "truck wagon" of his own make. He worked hard and constantly, and was determined to get along in the world if it was in any way possible. In 1846 he bought forty acres of land on which he had already settled, and which, up to that time, had belonged to the government. This land he still owns. As soon as he had saved sufficient money he forwarded it to Germany and brought his younger brother to this country. As he was able he bought more land, and soon began to find his circumstances growing better. Thinking that a store in that vicinity would prove a profitable investment, in 1859 he put up a building and engaged in the merchandising business where Mt. Olive now stands and thus began the growth of that town. He has since become one of the leading citizens of Staunton township. He has owned considerable quantities of land, some of which he has sold. His home farm is composed of three hundred acres. Part of the mines of the Mt. Olive coal company extend under his land, and he is also one of the stock holders in that company.
His first wife was Margaret Stulken, who was a native of Oldenburg, Germany. He married her in 1847, and she died in September, 1854. He married his second wife (formerly Anna Stulken), born in Oldenburg, Germany in April, 1858. His oldest daughter, Mary Catharine, is the wife of C. J. Keiser, of Mt. Olive. The next daughter, Sophia, married William Niemeyer. The oldest son, Henry Nieman, died in January, 1876, in the twenty-fifth year of his age. These were children by his first wife. The others, Matilda, Lydia, Louisa, Edward, William and Anna, are by his second marriage. He was a democrat till 1859, then becoming convinced that the position of the democratic party was wrong on the slavery question he became a republican. He has been an earnest, hard-working man, who has gained his present position in life by means of his own energy and industry. Wherever he is known he has the reputation of a plain and honest man, and is respected for his good heart and his sterling integrity. When he first came to Macoupin county he was the only German living between Edwardsville and Carlinville, and has lived to see the county develop far beyond his expectations; to see it become wealthy and well-improved, and the home of a large number of his countrymen. He is a member of the Lutheran church, and might appropriately be called the "father' of the German colony at Mt. Olive.