PAST AND PRESENT
OF
MENARD COUNTY, ILLINOIS - 1905

Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company

Page 169

REINHARD ONKEN. Among the citizens that Germany has furnished to the new world is numbered Reinhard Onken, who has many of the sterling characteristics that have always been notable among the German people - the energy, capability and strong purpose. He was born January 11, 1846, his parents being Herman and Mary (Gerdes) Onken, who were also natives of the fatherland. The former died December 24, 1865, and the latter in February, 1860.

Reinhard Onken spent the days of his boyhood and youth in his native land, attended school in accordance with its laws and afterward, still in conformity with the rules that govern German citizenship, he entered the army, serving from November 1, 1867, until the 5th of September, 1871. A war broke out in 1870 and on the 4th day of August of that year he went with his command to the French line. On the 16th of the same month he participated in the battle of Marslatour, the engagement lasting from morning until eight o'clock at night, while the loss on each side was over twenty-five thousand. The next engagement in which Mr. Onken participated was that of Gravelotte, the fighting beginning at noon and continuing until night. He was in seven pitched battles altogether, serving with the cavalry forces.

Not long after his release from military service Mr. Onken determined to establish his home in America and arrived in Menard county on the 1st of April, 1872. Here he was employed by the month as a farm hand until 1880, when he rented the Alkire farm near Sweetwater for a year. He afterward rented the H. H. Marbold farm until 1888, when with the money that he had saved from his earnings and through his economy he became the owner of a farm of his own. In fact he had purchased this in 1886, but did not take up his abode thereon until 1888. Since that time he has continually and successfully engaged in general farming and in the raising and feeding of stock and has fine farm animals upon his place, dealing only in high grades of cattle and horses. He came to this country empty-handed, but has steadily worked his way upward and is today the owner of two hundred and seventy acres of fine land, splendidly improved with good buildings and equipped with all the accessories of a model farm of the twentieth century.

Mr. Onken was married to Miss Amelia Meyer, a daughter of Herman H. and Dorothy (Hackman) Meyer, both of whom were born in Germany. Mr. Meyer also came to this country in very limited financial circumstances, but through his energy and activity and by reason of his honorable conduct he became a representative citizen of Menard county. He was born February 16, 1826, and died April 27, 1902. His wife was born on the 7th of March, 1834. The year 1854 witnessed their arrival in America and for about a year they remained in St. Louis, where Mr. Meyer was employed in a brickyard and in driving teams. He came to Menard county in 1855 and for some time worked by the month in the employ of Mr. Marbold, and by his economy and industry he saved sufficient means to enable him to purchase two hundred acres of wild land near Salt creek. He then put forth every effort toward the improvement of this place that it might become a productive trace. Later he was enabled to purchase two hundred acres near by and also improved this.

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Onken has been blessed with four children: two having died in infancy. Those living are: Herman E., born May 26, 1881; and Margaret Maria, born August 7, 1887. The parents are members of the Lutheran Church and Mr. Onken has for twelve years been a member of the school board in his district in which capacity he does everything in his power to promote the cause of education. In politics he has always been a stanch Democrat and in his citizenship has been noted for his loyalty to America and her best institutions.


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