CORNELIUS JANSSEN, whose name has been anglicized so that he is known as C. S. Johnson in Menard county, was born in Strockhold, Germany, on the 24th of October, 1854. He is today one of the leading business men of Menard county, having valuable farming interests and at the same time conducting coal mining operations with excellent success. His parents, Frank F. and Jantze (Junje) Janssen, came to America in 1865 and landed at New York city on the 8th of November of that year, after which they made their way to Petersburg, Illinois, which was then the terminus of the Chicago & Alton Railroad. In Menard county the father turned his attention to farming and here reared his family.
Cornelius Janssen was a youth of eleven years when his parents crossed the Atlantic. He is truly a self-made man, for at the early age of seven years he began earning his own living and was employed until eleven years of age at herding cows for his board. He received only rye bread and milk that had been skimmed. The bread was broken into a bowl and milk poured over it and handed him out of the door of the house. In that country the cows are not housed until late in November, at which time the weather was often very cold. Mr. Janssen would frequently force a cow to rise from the ground where it had been lying and he would then stand on the spot which had thus been warmed in order to warm his bare feet, for he had no shoes at that time. After coming to America Mr. Janssen earned his first money by carrying water for the men at work on the Chicago & Alton Railroad. Later he worked for the Old North Shaft Company, in which C. B. Lanning was a partner, and during five years of the sixteen years that he followed that business he had a contract to do all the driving for the company. In this way he gained an intimate and practical knowledge of mining. On leaving the employ of that company he removed to his present place of residence. He owned property in Petersburg, which he traded with Mr. Shipp for the home where he now lives, having here one hundred and forty acres of good farming land, worth one hundred and fifty dollars per acre. He has placed his fields under a very high state of cultivation and annually harvests good crops. He also has fine stock upon his place, the sale of which brings to him a good financial return. He likewise has other business interests, having in 1902 sunk a coal shaft, called the Janssen Valley coal shaft, from which he sells on an average of about six hundred tons of coal per month. He and his sons superintend and work the mine, Mr. Janssen being a practical miner, having a state license, such as is required by all managers of mining property. His son Harman has passed the state inspection examination for hoisting engineers, his license being issued at Springfield, June 17, 1904. Mr. Janssen received from J. H. Meyers the money that enabled him to sink his coal shaft and that gentleman also furnished him with all funds necessary to continue the business, and Mr. Janssen gratefully acknowledges his indebtedness to Mr. Meyers and his deep feeling of gratitude to him.
On the 17th of October, 1874, occurred the marriage of Mr. Janssen and Miss Helkelina Junker, a daughter of Roelf C. and Ahrends (Von Mark) Junker, both of whom were natives of Germany, whence they came to America in July, 1871. The mother died of smallpox nine months after her arrival here. Mr. Junker died in Dawson county, Nebraska, in 1898. Mrs. Janssen was born at Groswolderfeld, Hanover, Germany, December 10, 1853, and by her marriage has become the mother of eleven children, all sons: Theodore, aged twenty-six years, is the eldest; Harman, twenty-four years of age, having passed the examination of the state board as a mining engineer, is taking charge of the mining interests of the firm of Janssen & Sons; Jerry is nineteen years of age, Willie sixteen years, Cornelius fourteen years and Luther twelve years of age. The other members of the family are deceased. The parents hold membership in the German Lutheran church and are prominent and influential people in their community. In his political views Mr. Janssen is a stalwart Republican, but has never had time or inclination to seek office, preferring to give his entire attention to his business affairs, which are capably conducted. He certainly deserves great credit for what he has accomplished, for he started out in life with no assistance at the early age of seven years, and all that he has since possessed and enjoyed has been obtained through his perseverance and untiring labors. He is now one of the substantial citizens of Menard county and well deserves representation in this volume.