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Champaign County, Illinois
Biography of William Breiner
SOURCE: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Champaign County, Illinois," Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1887
SURNAMES: AHLERT, BREINER, DARSHAM, DUNBAR, HOLTZ, LOGSDON, OVERPECK, SHUMAKER, TAYLOR
Mr. Breiner is the representative of an excellent old family and sent his early life, until a boy of thirteen years, in the township of Bethlehem, Hunterdon Co., N. J., where he was born on his father’s farm, Sept. 6, 1839. The family included thirteen children, of whom our subject was the second born His parents were Francis J. and Anna (OVERPECK) BREINER, the father a native of Strasburg, Germany, and the mother of Pennsylvania. Margaret, the mother of Francis J. Breiner, was born in the same old German city as her son. Strasburg, the capital of Alsace-Lorraine, famous for its historic interest, and one of the points of attack by the Germany army in 1870, during which many of its most important buildings sustained great injury, but were afterward restored as far as possible to their original condition. Among the other public institutions is the library, containing nearly 400,000 volumes, and the famous University which is the admiration and ambition of the intellectual German youth. Its railways and canals connect it with all the great rivers of France, and with the Danube, are important aids to its commerce. Its lofty houses, spacious squares and streets, intersected by branches of the Ill, form a scene exceedingly picturesque and over which the American traveler lingers with deep admiration. The father of our subject, however, only retains faintly in his mind’s eye the picture of his native city, as his parents emigrated to America when he was a child of six years.
After the Breiner family had landed on American shores they proceeded to a point near Philadelphia, where they located and spent the remainder of their days, the father being occupied in weaving. The mother of our subject was the daughter of Jacob and Catherine (SHUMAKER) OVERPECK, and was born in Pennsylvania, of which State her parents were also natives. The father died in middle life and the mother was afterward married to Ira Cline. Of this latter union there were born seven children.
After their marriage Francis and Anna Breiner, in 1852, came to Illinois and located in Fairview, Fulton County, where Mr. B. followed his trade as a carpenter, and upon accumulating sufficient means purchased, first, 152 acres of unimproved land on the northwest quarter of section 5, in what is now Prairie City Township. He took possession of this in the spring of 1857. One of his first duties was to put up a house for the shelter of his family, which proved quite a pretentious structure for those times, being 16x26 feet in area with two stores and a basement. It was very substantially built, and with his estimable wife, he still occupies it. He subsequently added to his original purchase of land 135 acres, so that the farm now contains 287 acres and is one of the most fertile tracts in that section. Francis Breiner is now a hale and hearty old man, seventy-four years old, active and energetic as many men a quarter of a century younger. The mother has kept even pace with her husband and is in the enjoyment of good health. They have performed their part in life in a quiet and unobtrusive manner and now, surrounded by many friends and all the comforts of life, are spending their declining years amidst the peace and plenty so justly earned.
William Breiner, of this sketch, spent his youth and early manhood with his parents, being trained to habits of industry, but receiving only a limited education. After reaching his majority he rented a tract of land adjoining his father’s homestead, where he began farming for himself while he boarded at home and assisted his father when not busy with his own concerns. There was little comfort in working for himself alone, and on the 22d of August, 1861, he secured a partner to share his fortunes, being married to Miss Elizabeth DUNBAR, whose acquaintance he had made years before. This lady was the second child of Warder and Elisabeth (LOGSDON) DUNBAR, natives of Kentucky, who occupied a farm on the same section as our subject. Mr. Breiner, abandoning the land upon which he had been working, rented a tract near by, in Warren County, where he remained eight years with satisfactory results. He was then enabled to purchase forty acres of this, and continued his occupancy of the log cabin which he had previously built until he could put up a more pretentious dwelling. This latter structure was 16x24 feet in area, with one story and basement, to which he afterward added a kitchen 10x16 feet. This he occupied with his family a little more than eight years, being prosperous, as usual, and then commenced to look about him for something still better. There was a tract of 160 acres on section 22, in Harwood Township, which he very much desired and of which he soon managed to secure possession after selling his Warren County farm. Upon this was a house already begun, which he finished, and into which he removed his family in August of the same year (1870). He afterward added to his landed estate by the purchase of eighty acres in Kansas.
Mr. Breiner for several years afterward was continuously engaged in farming and stock-raising, but in the winter of 1876, imagined he would like to change his occupation, and engaged in merchandising. This he tried to his satisfaction for one year and then returned to the farm, drawing a long breath of relief after he had been reinstated as a member of the rural community.
Of the three children born to Mr. and Mrs. Breiner, a little son, Willie T., died in infancy; Emma Iola became the wife of John DARSHAM, of Rantoul, and they have one son, Earnest Esel. The youngest son of our subject, also Esel by name, remains on the homestead assisting his father. Mr. B. was married the second time, Nov. 14, 1881, to Mrs. M. M. TAYLOR, she is the daughter of Charles F. and Mary (HOLTZ) AHLERT, natives of Germany, who emigrated to the United States when their daughter Mary was but six years of age. They located in New York where they remained several years and until after the first marriage of their daughter, who then took up her residence with her husband in New York City. After the death of the latter she went to Chicago with her sister, where she met her present husband.
Mr. and Mrs. Breiner have continued on the farm since their marriage, enjoying the respect of the community around them, ad filling their places worthily in life. Both are members of the Christian Church, with which our subject has been connected for a period of twenty-seven years. He cast his first Presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln, and has supported the Republican nominees for that office since that time. He served his township as School Trustee and Road Commissioner for three years, and was then elected School Treasurer, which position he holds at the present time. He has been an earnest worker in the Church and Sunday-school, being Superintendent of the latter in Harwood Township for five years, and at present occupies the same position in the Pleasant Vale Sunday-school. During the last fourteen years he has labored as a Christian teacher among the young, and nothing pleases him better than to see a houseful of bright young faces listening with interest to the precepts of the Master.
Mr. Breiner, in 1886, was elected Justice of the Peace, which office he still holds, and the duties of which he is discharging in a manner creditable to himself and satisfactory to his constituents.
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