Transcribed by: Ellen Booth.
J. W. WERNSING, one of the prominent pioneer merchants of Menard County, whose enterprising spirit and business foresight largely advanced commercial conditions in Petersburg, was a native of Hanover, Germany. He acquired his education there and remained in the fatherland until 1828, when he determined to come to America. Reports from the new world presented a story of business conditions and possibilities that attracted him, and thinking that he might win more rapid advancement in a country with livelier competition where results were more quickly secured, he came to the United States and located in Springfield, Illinois, where he entered the employ of John Taylor, who then had charge of the land office. Later he formed a partnership with James Taylor, a son of his employer, for the establishment of a dry-goods store at Petersburg, and they opened their stock of goods in a wooden building in what was known as the old town, this being one of the pioneer mercantile enterprises of the place. Prosperity attended the efforts of the new firm, the business keeping pace with the growth of the town and the settlement of the surrounding district, and later they erected a brick store building now occupied by the First National Bank and the store adjoining it on the north side. For a number of years Mr. Wernsing was actively connected with the conduct of this business.
In public affairs Mr. Wernsing was also prominent and his efforts contributed to the general upbuilding and improvement of his city and county. He had been a resident of Illinois for only a few years when he enlisted for service in the Black Hawk war, going to the scene of hostilities under command of Colonel Merriman and serving until the Indian uprising was well quelled. He was at one time circuit clerk for a term, and his influence was always given on the side of improvement and progress, and proved a potent element in the substantial upbuilding of Petersburg.
On the 8th of May, 1845, Mr. Wernsing was united in marriage to Miss Minerva L. Smith, and his death occurred May 10, 1858, but he is yet remembered by many of the pioneer settlers of Menard county as a man and citizen of sterling worth. His wife, now Mrs. Fisher, is one of the oldest living settlers of Menard county, having located here with her parents in 1830, when a young girl of eight years. They came from Indiana, but her father and mother were originally from Kentucky. After losing her first husband Mrs. Wernsing was again married, becoming the wife of Dedrich Fisher, in 1861. Their married life covered about a third of a century, Mr. Fisher passing away on the 12th of April 1894. Mrs. Fisher is now in her eighty-fourth year. She has property in Menard county and also in San Diego county, California, and for the past thirteen years has made her home in the latter place, but during that time has made twenty-two trips to Menard county, and at this writing is now visiting relatives here. The memory of few, if any, of the residents of this locality dates back to a more remote period in the history of Menard county, and she has intimate knowledge of the events which have molded its policy, promoted its growth and shaped annals. She occupies a foremost place in the regard and warm esteem of a very large circle of friends in Menard county.