JOHN H. PESTEL is now living retired in Oakford and well does he merit the rest which has come to him, for in former years he lived a most active business life, devoting his attention at different times to agricultural pursuits and merchandising. He was born August 4, 1845, in Menard county, on the family homestead, between Athens and Springfield. His father, John Pestel, was born in Germany, attended school in that country and in accordance with the laws of his native land also served his time in the German army. When about twenty-six years of age he bade adieu to friends and native land and sailed for America, landing in New York, whence he made his way to Pennsylvania. There he formed the acquaintance of Miss Hannah Hailer and they were married. The lady was born in the Keystone state. After his marriage Mr. Pestel followed carpentering in the east for a time and later he removed to Springfield, Illinois, where he worked at his trade for about a year. He then rented a small farm and engaged in the tilling of the soil in connection with his carpenter work. Subsequently, however, he removed to Athens, where he was employed in a tan yard for about a year. Later he bought thirty-six acres of land adjoining Athens. He was actively identified with early progress and improvement in this portion of the state, contributing through his building operations to the substantial development of Menard county. He was an early settler and reliable business man and all who knew him respected him. About 1852 there was a cholera epidemic at Athens and he and his wife assisted materially in the care of the sick. There were many deaths from that disease and many people were afraid to nurse the sick for fear of contracting the cholera, but Mr. and Mrs. Pestel, with marked unselfishness and heroic sacrifice, did what they could for their neighbors and friends. They lost one of their sons from cholera. After living upon their farm near Athens for four years Mr. Pestel lost his wife and becoming despondent on account of his great bereavement, he left home and was never heard from again. It was in February, 1856, that Mrs. Pestel was called to her final rest. They were the parents of five children, two sons and three daughters; Louis C., who died in infancy; John H.; Emeline, who married James Hall and is now living near Athens; Mary, who died in infancy; and Annie, the wife of Charles Buchanan, who resides near Springfield.
John H. Pestel, when eleven years of age, went to live with D. J. Hichinson in the vicinity of Petersburg and remained with him for nine years. He then began working by the month for George Kirby in the year 1865, and he continued in that employ until 1873. Soon after his marriage he removed to a farm of one hundred acres and began the development of his land, transforming it into highly cultivated fields. He continued to carry on general agricultural pursuits until 1892, when he rented his farm and purchased the Samuel Watkins drug store in Oakford. He was thus identified with mercantile interests until 1895, when he sold the drug business to M. O. Atterberry. He was then retired for a time, but later again took up business life. Since his second marriage, however, he has lived retired in the enjoyment of a comfortable competence, which he has won through persistent and honorable effort.
On the 5th of December, 1872, Mr. Pestel was married to Miss Nancy J. Atterberry, a daughter of Christopher and Nancy (Kirby) Atterberry. There were no children by this marriage. On the 9th of December, 1896, Mr. Pestel was again married, his second union being with Mrs. Tillie Kendall, a daughter of Morris and Sophia (Atterberry) Lownsberry. Her father was born in Menard county where the town of Oakford now stands and her mother's birth occurred near the town of Atterberry. They were the parents of eight children, five sons and three daughters, namely: Mrs. Pestel; J. C., who is married and lives near Oakford; C. W., who is married and resides in the same locality; Addie and Curtis, twins, who died in childhood; one who died in infancy; Collie, who is married and resides on the old homestead; and Freddie, who died in childhood. The father of Mrs. Pestel was reared as a farmer lad, attending school until the time of his marriage, when he purchased a farm and began its further cultivation and development. He also engaged in stock-raising and as his financial resources increased he extended the boundaries of his property until he had about four hundred acres of fine farming land. He has been a prosperous buyer and feeder of cattle and hogs, selling many carloads of stock in his day. At the present time he is living retired from further labor, having turned his farm over to his three sons, who are now operating it. He has been influential and active in public affairs, has served as a member of the school board for ten or fifteen years and has given earnest support to many public measures that have benefitted his locality. He votes with the Democracy and he has been a faithful church member for eighteen years, taking a very active and helpful part in the work of the Methodist Episcopal church at Oakford until failing health caused him to leave these duties to others. Mr. Pestel has been solicited to accept public office, but has always refused, save when he served as mayor of Oakford and as a member of the town board several times. Prompt and faithful as a public official, he rendered to his town capable service by the manner in which he discharged his duties. He belongs to the Modern Woodmen camp and is a member of the Baptist church, while his wife belongs to the Methodist Episcopal church. They are both highly esteemed people of Menard county, enjoying the friendship and favorable regard of many with whom they have been associated and in its history they well deserve mention. The life record of Mr. Pestel proves the value of activity and honesty in a business career and his example is in many respects worthy of emulation.