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Biography - Leo Essenpreis

LEO ESSENPREIS is one of the oldest settlers of Bond County, and one of those who have made much of its unwritten history. He came here poor, and by the energy of his character and the perseverance of an honest man, he has won his way to the front rank in the wealth and influence of his section.

The subject of this sketch was born in the city of Baden, in Germany, February 2, 1827. His father, John Essenpreis, was also a native of the same place, and there grew up, lived his quiet, unostentatious life as a farmer, and died, after settling his family in America, at the age of seventy-three years. The mother of our subject was named Elizabeth Greilick, and was born in Baden, where she lived with her husband, the careful mother of nine children, and the frugal "hausfrau" of her home. When she had passed her seventy-third year her life ended, and both she and her husband passed away under the comforting ministrations of the Roman Catholic Church. The family came to America, and the names of the children were: Mary A., Elizabeth, Anton, Sophronia, Leo, Helen, John B. and Louisa. They are now scattered, and their descendants are in many places.

Our subject was reared on the farm in Germany and came to America in 1841, being then fourteen years old. His schooling was obtained in his native country, where, if the methods were old-fashioned they were thorough. The ocean trip of the Essenpreis family covered forty-seven days in an old sailing-vessel, and after landing they made their way to Madison County, Ill., and there the father purchased a farm in the wilderness. At that time there were plenty of deer yet in the belts of timber, where they remained on account of the water, but our subject was no hunter, and did not molest them. He had a short season at school after coming to America, but there was too much work to be done, and at the age of twenty-one he took the responsibility of his own life upon his shoulders.

There was no difficulty then in securing work, and as Mr. Essenpreis was most modest in his demands, he soon found employment, and for six years worked by the month. For the first four years he was the possessor of $2 at the end of every thirty days, but when he began on his fifth year his wages were raised to the munificent sum of $8 per month. The ceremony which joined Miss Elizabeth Knebel to him, for better or for worse, took place March 31, 1850. The young lady was a native of Baden, Germany, and came to this country in 1848. She was a true and faithful wife, and the mother of seven children. Her death occurred in 1879, and her family were Henry, John, David Baptist, Anna Clara and Charles Leo, all of whom are deceased, while the living are Philip and Fritz.

Our subject married a second time, February 2, 1880, and his wife was Miss Emma Wise, a native of Bond County, Ill. One child, William, has been added to the family by this union. After his first marriage, our subject located in Madison County, where he rented land for two years and then came to this county, where he bought ninety acres, and this was the beginning of his landed possessions. There were no improvements upon it, and he went to work to build a house, and to make the place into something like a home. As his means increased, he bought more land, and at the present time he has six hundred and forty acres, and has given his two eldest sons four hundred and fifty acres for a home of their own. Our subject has probably done more hard work than any man in Bond County. He raises stock and grain, and has found that the wisest plan is to raise feed and put it into stock and hogs, and to sell them.

Mr. Essenpreis moved here in 1880, and since that time he has lived retired and rents out his land. He feels that he has done enough hard work in his life. Both he and his estimable wife are members of the Roman Catholic Church, and he has contributed liberally of his means to the support of the church as he has prospered. Our subject is a Democrat now, although he voted both, times for Lincoln, because he was opposed to human slavery. He is now pleasantly located at Pierron, Bond County, and is a man who commands and deserves the respect of the whole neighborhood.

Extracted 04 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from 1892 Portrait and Biographical Record of Montgomery and Bond Counties, Illinois, pages 179-180.

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