The facts concerning the Arenzville of sixty years ago are known to but few, very few of its residents today. There are some who can tell of these things but their number is limited and they are fast passing away. About our home town, its early history and the lives of its pioneers, there is much of interest, much that arouses curiosity, and investigation reveals volumes of facts worth knowing. It is refreshing to converse with those who out of the hidden past can bring forth an array of facts and present them in such a manner as to form stepping stones in the progress of the community. As the result of an interview with the subject of this sketch we are able to tell something of Arenzville as it was when it was composed of less than a baker's dozen of small huts; when it was but a scattered settlement in a clearing in a hazel and locust thicket.
Elizabeth Goebel, daughter of John and Christina Goebel, was born in Stundorf, Hessen Darmstadt, Germany, March 21, 1835. For the first ten years of her life, or until 1845, she remained in her native land. Her parents then concluded to try their fortunes in the new world and in December, 1845, the family landed in Baltimore, Maryland, where they remained until July, 1846, when they came to Illinois, and settled in Arenzville.
At the time the Goebel family landed in Arenzville there was hardly enough of the place to be called a town. There were but two roads (afterwards dignified by the name of streets) in the little settlement. They were what are now known as State and Frederick streets - the one forming a part of what is now the Arenzville and Beardstown road and the other leading from the residence of Valentine Walter to the cemetery. There were two stores here at that time. They were located on the properties now owned by Miss E. H. Cire and the estate of Mrs. Eva Marie Bode. J. L. Cire and Kircher & Goedeking were the merchants. Jacob Heinz had a grist mill down on Indian Creek; it was a water mill and, as he had considerable trouble keeping a dam, it was in operation but little of the time. A man by the name of Clark had a saw mill, (a horse affair) about where the telephone exchange now stands. Added to these industries Christian Lovekamp had a little blacksmith shop which stood in what is now Valentine Walter's garden, and Philip Yeck, grandfather of Dr. C. W. and Edward Yeck, and Mrs. J. M. Swope, had a wagon shop which stood near his residence located near where Pfeil Bros. store now stands. The above mentioned constituted the sum total of the diversified business interests of Arenzville at the time the Goebel family arrived here. The residence were equally scattering. There was the Francis Arenz property (now the Engelbach homestead), a little house where Squire Rahn lives occupied by Chas. Vogel, a small frame residence )now forming a part of the old hotel property) occupied by Peter Arenz. The residence of Dr. Philippi, (now occupied by Horace Cooper) and the homes of Christian Lovekamp and Philip Yeck. There was also a small frame building, used both as a church and a school house, standing near the cottonwood tree at the northwest corner of what is now the village park. (The park at that time was a locust grove covering the entire block in which THE INDEPENDENT is now located.) Soon after coming to Arenzville Mr. Goebel built a small frame residence on the lot now occupied by the Arenzville house, and just to the north of it Dr. Glass built a similar structure, which has recently been remodeled and is occupied by J. A. Way. The Goebel house was afterward moved away and Mrs. Adaline Bridgman now occupies a portion of it.
Mr. Goebel was by trade a tailor and for a couple of years followed that vocation after coming to Arenzville. He then established the first brick yard, making and burning brick, in Arenzville. (There was a small yard here at that time but its product was simply "sun dried".) The Goebel yard was along the branch back of H. A. Bridgman's implement store. Mr. Goebel manufactured brick here for a number of years.
In 1848 or '49 Francis Arenz built the first steam grist and saw mill. It now forms a part of the Arenz-Roller Mills owned by McElroy & Treadway.
At this time and for a number of years after the only good water in town was obtained from a public well which had been sunk just back of the Goebel residence property (The well is now the property of Batis & Wessler).
Along in about 1850 John Adam Herbert, who was one of the first settlers built the brick residence now owned and occupied by Chris Triebert. A year or two later he built for Herman Engelbach the property now occupied by B. F. Graham and a few years later the Schaefer residence.
In 1856 or '57 the Goebel family moved to Mason county and settled on a farm (near Chandlerville) in the neighborhood of Fairview church. Here the subject of our sketch remained until 1859, when she returned to Arenzville and on July 16 became the wife of Herman Engelbach. To this union seven children were born. They are: George, Christina, Henry (deceased), Herman, Frederick, William and Marie (deceased). After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Engelbach moved into his residence, where they lived for a number of years and until he purchased the Francis Arenz property, the present home of Mrs. Engelbach. Mr. Engelbach died December 16, 1880, and since that time Ms. Engelbach has managed her business affairs and cared for her many and diversified interests.
During Mrs. Engelbach's residence in Mason county very little improvement had taken place in Arenzville. In fact it was about the same when she returned in '59 as it was in '56. So it may be truthfully said that step by step she has watched the growth and development of Arenzville. With the possible exception of two or three buildings now standing, she has seen the rest of the town put here, and there is, possibly, not a soul now living here who was here when she came here, while the "God's Acre" at the top of the hill holds the army of workers of whom she is the sole survivor.
Through the years of struggle in Arenzville her life was one one continuous round of pleasure and her lines did not always lie in pleasant places. She knows what it is to brave the storms - to endure the burden in the heat of conflict. She helped to make the way. She has done most kinds of work; has helped about the house and on the farm, and today, aged though she may be, she still has the same mother's love and care for her children as she manifested when they were tots at her knee and keeps about as close watch over them.
Through the years of her life here she has proved a generous neighbor and a faithful friend. In sickness and in health she has remained the same. Her hand, her heart and her home have always been open, and the Arenzville of today owes much to the efforts, the encouragement and the advice of Mrs. Engelbach.Submitted by Sheila Neuenfeldt