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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography - Henry To Aspern

SOURCE: "History of Champaign County, Illinois with Illustrations," 1878


HENRY TO ASPERN - Henry To ASPERN was born at Altona, Holstein, Germany, on November 24th, 1828. His father, whose name was also Henry To ASPERN, was an officer with the rank of colonel in the German army, and commanded the Ninth Regiment of Cavalry. His mother, Helen DE BEZE, was born near Avignon, France, and was connected with a French family which removed from France during the Revolution of 1792 and settled in Germany.

Mr. ASPERN was educated for a military career. At the age of eighteen he entered the military school at Copenhagen (Holstein his native province at that date belonging to Denmark), and was a student in that institution at the time of the breaking out of the German Revolution of 1848. In March of that year he left the school, then not yet twenty years of age, and entered the army of the revolutionists as lieutenant. He fought through the war, was wounded, and was once taken prisoner. The cause for which he and his comrades had struggled was hopelessly lost, and Mr. ASPERN was compelled to leave Germany. He spent some time in France; in May, 1851, went to England; and the following August sailed from that country to the United States.

The first year after his arrival in this country was spent in New York city and other points in the state of New York. For a period he taught French in an academy at Cambridge, in Washington county of that state. January, 1853, he left New York, and spending a few weeks in Cuba, proceeded to New Orleans where he remained until March and then came to Illinois. He had secured a position as civil engineer on the Illinois Central railroad, which was then being constructed through the state. He was connected with the Illinois Central road until 1856. For part of the time he acted as civil engineer; subsequently constructed part of the road on contract; and in the last position which he held, had charge of moving the freights at Cairo. In the year 1855 he bought six hundred and forty acres of land in Champaign county, embraced in section 12, township 20, range 8, now composing his present farm. At the time of making this investment he had no intention of engaging in farming himself, but coming to a different determination he moved on the place the following year (1856) and began making improvements. At the time of building his house, no improvements had been made or houses erected between his residence and Champaign, except an improvement on section 24 which was made about the same time. This was his first experiment at farming: he previously had comparatively little knowledge of agriculture, but went to work with earnestness and intelligence, and has made a successful farmer.

Mr. ASPERN's marriage occurred in April, 1860. His wife was formerly Miss Catharine McCORKLE; she was born in the city of Philadelphia; her father, Joseph McCORKLE, emigrated to Illinois in the year 1854, and settled in Champaign, engaging in the hardware business, and at his death, which took place in January, 1877, was one of the oldest residents of that city. Mr. and Mrs. ASPERN have four children; Harry, Helen, Benjamin and Kate.

When Mr. ASPERN first came to America his sympathies attached him to the Democratic party. His first vote for President was cast in 1860 for Stephen A. Douglass, the candidate of the Union Democracy. During the war which followed the secession of the Southern states, he maintained the position of a war Democrat, sustained the administration and favored a vigorous prosecution of the war. At one period he had fully determined on the acceptance of a colonelcy of an Illinois regiment, which had been offered him, but was prevented by private personal matters. He maintained an intelligent interest in public affairs, but took no active part in politics until 1873, when he warmly advocated the election of Horace Greeley as President. He had thoroughly acquainted himself with the wants of the agricultural classes, and was president of the Champaign County Farmers' Club at the time the farmers' movement spread over the West as a protest against the monopolies from which the agricultural and producing classes suffered.

In his political action he has since been independent, believing that in neither of the two parties which formerly divided the suffrages of the American people could be found an adequate and complete relief against the exactions and encroachments of rich and powerful corporations. In the last presidential campaign he supported Peter Cooper for the presidency, and the same year the National Greenback men of Illinois made him their candidate for state treasurer. To this position he had no expectation of being elected, but consented to bear the standard of the party whose principles he had firm faith would be finally triumphant. To such intelligent, thinking men as Mr. ASPERN is largely due the awakened interest which the producing classes have recently taken in their interests. In the campaign of 1878 Mr. ASPERN received the National Greenback nomination as representative in the legislature.

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