HINRICHSEN, (HON.) WILLIAM HENRY , retired editor and ex-member of Congress, residing at Alexander, was born at Franklin, Morgan County, Ill., May 27, 1850, a son of Edward S. and Nancy Ann (Wyatt) Hinrichsen. His father was born in the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg, Germany, of Norwegian descent. In youth he became involved in some revolutionary movement among the younger generation, many of whom were executed for treason. He had fled to Hamburg to escape the punishment for his escapade, the importance of which from a political standpoint hitherto had not impressed him, and an attempt was made by the Mecklenburg government to secure his extradition. But his employers, sympathizing with him and realizing the innocence of his intentions, placed him aboard a ship in the capacity of supercargo and he embarked for a long voyage. After visiting various points on the Mediterranean, he sailed for New Orleans, La. His vessel was wrecked on the Unhappy Island, off the south coast of Florida, and after reaching the mainland he went to Philadelphia, Pa., from which point he communicated with his family in the fatherland. This was in 1835 or 1836. He afterward became court interpreter in that city, having become known as the master of several languages. While in Pennsylvania he assisted in building the Harrisburg & Gettysburg Railroad, and afterward was employed for awhile in Pittsburg, Pa. About 1839 he came to Illinois, and, settling at Franklin, soon became identified with the Wabash Railroad, then known as the Northern Cross. Forty years of his life were spent in the service of this company. In 1853 he removed to a farm south of Alexander which he had purchased, and in 1857 erected the residence in Alexander which is now occupied by his son, living there until his death in 1891. His wife died in 1900. Mr. Hinrichsen was well informed on all subjects of general interest, and was a man of public spirit. He and his wife became the parents of the following children: Mary Elizabeth, wife of Frederick George, of Los Angeles, Cal.; William H., of Alexander; Savillah T., of Lincoln, Ill.; Eugenia, wife of Dr. Harold W. Johnston, of Bloomington, Ind.; Edward S., Jr., of Alexander, who is connected with the U. S. Mail Service, and Mark F., who is engaged in mining in Mexico.
William H. Hinrichsen was educated in the public schools of Morgan County and the State University at Champaign, Ill., where he completed his studies in 1870. For some time after leaving college he was employed in various capacities at Alexander, principally as station agent for the Wabash Railroad and as a grain dealer. In 1871, at the age of twenty-one years, he was elected Justice of the Peace at Alexander. In the winter of 1874 he received an appointment as Deputy Sheriff under Irvin Dunlap and removed to Jacksonville to fulfill the duties of that office. For three terms of two years each he served in this capacity under Mr. Dunlap, and then, in 1880, was elected to the Shrievalty, holding the office for one term. In 1882, the last year of his incumbency, in company with George E. Doying, who was already a partner in the concern, he purchased the "Illinois Courier," a weekly newspaper published at Jacksonville. In the spring of 1883 they established a daily edition. In 1887, with Warren Case as a partner, they also purchased the "Quincy (Ill.) Herald," and founded the "Index," a legal publication issued from the office of the "Courier." In the meantime Mr. Hinrichsen removed to Quincy and edited the "Herald" of that city until 1890, when the partners sold the paper, and he returned to Jacksonville, intending to resume editorial charge of the "Courier." Just prior to his return, on the convening of the Thirty-seventh General Assembly (1891) he was elected Clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives, discharging the duties of the office for that term, about this time, having been chosen a member of the Democratic State Central Committee. In this capacity he actively participated in the campaign of 1892. During this period he visited every county in the State, engaged in the work of reorganizing the Democratic County Committees. In 1892 he was unanimously nominated by the Democratic State Convention for the office of Secretary of State, was elected, and served four years. After the election he disposed of his interest in the "Courier" to George E. Doying, who also bought the interest of Mr. Case. On January 1, 1895, Mr. Hinrichsen was chosen Chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee, of which he had been a member since 1888, and was at the head of the committee at the time when the Democracy of Illinois committed itself to free silver. It was Mr. Hinrichsen who invited William Jennings Bryan to Springfield for the purpose of addressing the convention of that year; and it was the speech that Mr. Bryan made on that occasion which resulted in the formulation of free silver principles by the Democracy of the State.
In 1896 Mr. Hinrichsen was elected a Delegate-at-Large to the National Democratic Convention at Chicago. The same year he received the nomination for Congress by the Democrats of the Sixteenth (now Twentieth) District, and he was elected by a majority of more than 6,000-about double the normal majority. Upon the expiration of his term in the House of Representatives he returned to his home in Alexander, where he has since devoted himself almost exclusively to literary work. In the meantime, however, he has had charge of the press bureau of the Democratic State organization nearly every year, having begun this work in 1888. In 1899, when John R. McLean was the Democratic candidate for Governor of Ohio, Mr. Hinrichsen was asked by Mr. McLean to assume editorial charge of the "Cincinnati Enquirer" during the campaign, which he did. In 1900 he acted as Traveling Manager of the National Democratic Committee, and in this capacity raised much of the funds for the conduct of the national campaign of that year.
Mr. Hinrichsen's literary work has attracted widespread attention in late years, especially throughout the East and Middle West. He has written a very large number of short stories, which have appeared in several of the magazines and leading city dailies. For four years he has contributed one short story to every Sunday issue of the "Chicago Inter-Ocean." He has also been a frequent contributor to the "Ten Story Book," "Wayside Tales," the "Red Book," the "Farmers' Magazine" of Springfield, Ill., the "Democratic Magazine," the "Chicago Chronicle," the "Chicago Tribune," and to various newspaper syndicates. He has also published a book of short stories, that have appeared of late years in the "Chicago Inter-Ocean"; a treatise on "Practical Politics," prepared for the "Globe Syndicate"; and a digest of the Australian ballot law (1891), the only publication of the kind in Illinois, which is now recognized as an authority by the courts of this State. Fraternally he is a member of the Odd Fellows, the Elks and the Knights of Pythias. He was reared in the M. E. Church, but his family are now identified with the Episcopal Church, in the work of which his wife is deeply interested.
On July 13, 1873, Mr. Hinrichsen was united in marriage with Louise Sparks, a daughter of John Sparks, one of the early settlers of Morgan County. Her mother was, in maidenhood, Elizabeth Bradshaw, a member of a prominent pioneer family of Morgan County. They are the parents of three children, as follows: Edward E., an engineer in the employ of the Inter-State Telephone Company, at Springfield, Ill.; Annie, residing at home, and Ernest in the employ of the Bell Telephone Company at Jacksonville. Miss Annie Hinrichsen possesses marked literary ability, and is the author of a large number of short stories which have appeared in leading magazines devoted to fiction. She is a member of the regular staff of writers for "Wayside Tales," and a regular contributor to the "Chicago Red Book."