More than half a century ago Henry Gehner, Sr., who is now living in Cahokia township, began making his way against heavy odds as a farmer. he allowed no difficulty to stand long in the path of his advancement and one obstacle after another was conquered until he became one of the most prosperous farmers of the township, being now the owner of two hundred and seventy-eight acres of highly productive land, the value of which is yearly increasing. He has reared a large family and by his example of perseverance and energy has encouraged many to persist in well doing.
He is a native of Prussia, Germany, both August 13, 1830, and is a son of John Frederick and Ann Elizabeth (Steinberg) Gehner, both of whom spent their entire lives in the old country. Reared under the paternal roof, he secured his preliminary education in the common schools and continued at home until twenty-three years of age. On the 12th of September, 1853, he went aboard a sailing vessel at Bremen, bound for New Orleans, and after a voyage of about twelve weeks landed in the Crescent city at the mouth of the Mississippi river. He proceeded up the river in a steamboat to St. Louis and from that place went to Frederick, Missouri, where he worked for three months upon a farm. At the end of the time named he returned to the city and was for a year and a half employed about the premises of one of its wealthy men. having decided to devote his attention to farming, he then came to Illinois and for three years worked as a farm hand on a place near Jacksonville. Having prepared to assume larger responsibility he rented land until the spring fo 1865, when he removed to Montgomery county and continued renting for another year. In 1866 he bought eighty acres of raw prairie land in Cahokia township, Macoupin county, and there established his home. Two months after arriving here he purchased sixty acres additional and after ten or twelve years of successful application to agriculture and stock-raising he acquired a tract of one hundred and sixty acres adjoining, making in all three hundred acres of which he was the owner. He has, however, disposed of twenty-two acres and still holds two hundred and seventy-eight acres. he is recognized as a representative man who has nobly performed his part in the development of the resources of this region.
In 1857 Mr. Gehner was married to Miss Wilhelmina Mary Schweppe, who was born in Germany, and they have had eight children, seven of whom survive: Mary, the wife of Louis Eickmeyer, a farmer of Cahokia township; Henry and William, both of whom are engaged in farming in the same township; Fred, a merchant of Garrison, North Dakota; Charlotte, who married John Arkebauer, of Downs, Kansas; Herman, who is engaged in teaching in the schools of Shawano, Wisconsin; and Ludwig, who is now in charge of the home place. The mother of these children died in 1878 and in the year following Mr. Gehner was married to Miss Caroline Sophia Weisbrodt, also a native of Germany. by this union five children have been born, namely: Edward, a farmer of Ireton, Iowa; Minnie, the wife of Fred Miller, of Montgomery county, Illinois; John, who is a teacher in the schools of Champaign, Illinois; Caroline, who married Edward Wrede, of Harcourt, Iowa; and Catherine, a resident of Alma, Missouri.
Mr. Gehner is justly proud of the fact that he cast his first vote after arriving in his adopted country for Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States and he has never wavered in support of the party with which the name of Lincoln will ever be connected. In religious belief he adheres to the church of his parents - the Evangelical Lutheran - and his children were reared in this faith. When he arrived in America Mr. Gehner had about eight dollars in German money in his pocket. It represented his entire financial resources. he possessed, however, two strong arms and a courageous heart and through their aid he attained financial independence. He truly deserves the confidence and respect which is accorded him by all who have the honor of his acquaintance.