The subject of this sketch has been actively identified with Arenzville and its interests for better than a half-century. He came here long before the railroad made its advent, when the little settlement was a struggling ___ on a post-road and when all merchandise had to be freighted in from Beardstown. He knows much of the hardships and privations (of which we know nothing) endured by those who blazed the way and opened up this country. Crude and primitive as it was when he came here, he had faith in the country, faith in its future, and though not gifted with prophetic vision he felt, he believed that it was destined to grow and develop, to undergo transformations and changes, so he cast his lot with the strugglers here feeling that it was good to be among them.
Valentine Walter, son of Adam and Kungunda (Zinn) Walter, was born in the village of Marr, province of Hessen Darmstadt, Germany, August 9, 1828. His father was a believer in education and when Valentine was five years of age he was sent to the common schools and continued his attendance there until he was fourteen years of age, receiving a pretty thorough practical education. His religious training was also looked after and in 1842 he was confirmed a member of the Lutheran church. At the close of his school days he was put to work on the farm at home, where he remained two years, and he was then apprenticed to a cabinet maker with whom he remained three years serving time at his trade.
About this time there came around a smooth-tongued agent who told such wonderful things of America and pictured its possibilities in such glowing terms as to completely win the father and it was decided and arranged that Valentine and his brother, Henry (now a resident of Jacksonville) should go and try their fortunes in the new world. Accordingly they set out and on the 20th day of May, 1849, landed in Beardstown, direct from Europe. There being no cabinet shops in Beardstown, and not having the means with which to establish one, Mr. Walter looked around and soon found work with a carpenter named George Ginder. In 1851, after a couple of years residence in Beardstown, work began to get slack there so Mr. Ginder came to Arenzville and bought the farm now owned by Charles Silcox. He told Mr. Walter at the time that if he would come to Arenzville with him they would engage in the carpenter business together and Mr. Walter did so and since 1851 has been a resident here.
Four years later, June 7, 1855, Valentine Walter and Miss Anna Katherine Beier were married. Three children were born to them. There were twins, daughters, Margaret and one who died before it was christened, and a son, George Valentine. In 1859 Mrs. Walter died and Mr. Walter was left with his two small children. He took a family into his home to care for his children, and he went out to work and make the living. November 21, 1861, Mr. Walter the second time embarked upon the sea of matrimony, Miss Sophia Weber, of Beardstown, being the woman of his choice. To them seven children, six sons and one daughter, were born. They were Frederick, who is now a prominent physician at Perry, Balls County, Missouri; Mary, wife of Benjamin Crawford (deceased); Henry (deceased); William (deceased); George, who is now a resident of East St. Louis, being employed by one of the interurban railway systems there; and Charles and Edward who died in infancy. The surviving children by the first wife died a few years after his second marriage. On January 23, 1884, Mr. Walter was again bereaved and was left with five children; the youngest being about nine years of age. He employed help to assist his daughter and kept house, endeavoring to keep his family together until he could rear and educate his children. His daughter married and Mr. Walter was left dependent entirely on hired help in the management of the household. After a few years of this sort of life, and the sacrifice of considerable money, he concluded to again try his fortune in a matrimonial venture and on March 16, 1893, he was married to Miss Mary Gephardt, with whom he is now living. Mrs. Walter is a sister of Andrew, Martin and Ameal Gephardt, who are all well known here. By this union there were no children.
Throughout Mr. Walter's life there has been a touch of the speculative, or rather of adventure. It manifested itself when he left the Fatherland and came here; again when he left Beardstown, a place in touch with the outer world, and came back into the interior. The spirit seems to have abided with him and in 1863, when the gold craze was raging in Idaho, he made a trip overland to that country and when he arrived there, seeing that he had but little show, faced about and returned straightway to Arenzville. He felt that the chances for making a living here were greater than they were there. That little trip seemed to have removed that trait and since that time he has been content here.
Mr. Walter has been a good manager and as the years have gone, from each of them he has managed to gather a little and store it away. He believes in owning a home and while he was yet a single man (before his first marriage he purchased, for $30 a lot and built the house now occupied by Prof. F. H. Craven). At the time of his marriage he purchased the Chris Lovekamp property, where he now lives, and never, himself, occupied the residence he had built. In 1866, in partnership with Uncle John Kircher, who lives near town, he embarked in the brick making business. The yard was located on Mr. Walter's property. This partnership continued for three years, when it was dissolved, Mr. Kircher moving to a farm in the country. Mr. Walter continued the business for six years after that, but there being three yards here at the time, and prices being rather demoralized, he quit. He bought the lots and built the residence where John Wessler now lives, trading it to Dr. Rigler for forty acres of land a little northeast of town, paying $300 to boot. He afterwards purchased of Wm. Hackman eight acres adjoining it, in order to secure an outlet. He farmed this place for a number of years, but never lived on it, and finally sold it to the late Wm. Paul.
Mr. Walter has been honored by the citizens among whom he has lived. On his seventieth birthday anniversary his neighbors gathered and made it pleasant for him. On the fiftieth anniversary of his landing in this country he was honored by his friends and presented with a handsome token. He has been school director and village trustee and discharged his duties faithfully and honorably. He is now living a retired life, resting in the comfort and quiet of his home, enjoying the fruits of his years of toil. He has his friends, and they are many, and in his intercourse with them he finds pleasure. He has done much for the town, has assisted in many ways in making it what it is. With the exception of some trouble with his limbs he is a well preserved man and his friends hope and wish that he may yet enjoy many years of peace and comfort in his old age.Submitted by Sheila Neuenfeldt