It is almost unnecessary at this time to speak of the part played by
European exiles in the upbuilding of this nation. They came here prior to
the Revolution, the stream grew larger and more constant at its close, and
they have still continued to come in large numbers. We have always plenty of
room for them and they pay us back, and have paid us back, by their
industrious and frugal lives and by their contributions to the prosperity of
our United States.
The subject of this sketch comes of a mid European race - the hardy Swiss mountaineers. Jacob Burgener was born in the Canton of Bern, Switzerland, on June 3, 1845, the son of Jacob and Anna Burgener. His parents were both natives of Switzerland, where his father was born. In. April of the year 1847 the subject of this sketch came with his parents to the United States, landing in New York harbor. The voyage across the vast stretches of the Atlantic ocean was a tedious one in those days and their trip in a sailing vessel was of forty-six days' duration having been beaten out of their course several times by storms; many hundred sharks followed at times in the wake of the ship; and many of the emigrants died at sea, their bodies being sewed in a sack in lieu of a shroud and then thrown overboard to make food for the sharks.
On their arrival in New York they set out for Richland county, Ohio, where they rented a farm and remained for two or three years. In the year 1850 they migrated overland in wagons from Ohio to Illinois, where they settled in Richland county, Preston township. Here they worked on the farm of an old inhabitant named Jacob Yoggy, and some few years later they entered eighty acres bought from the government at the current price of one dollar and a quarter an acre in Preston township, and later added forty acres. Eighty acres of this land was mostly prairie land, and forty acres contained timber, and there was not even a fence or a well on the property. Jacob Burgener began at once to improve his holding and built a log house with a long shed on the side running the full length of the house. In this shed the cows were kept and the noise of the cow bells ringing every night sounded almost like alarm clocks to the family. A log stable was also built and fences were put up, and in this work the family were helped by an uncle, William Van Alman, who broke many an acre of the ground. At this time the subject of our sketch was nine or ten years old. His grandfather Burgener was also with them, having come from Switzerland. He also settled in Preston township where he lived until his demise, being buried in the German Reform cemetery, Preston township, aged eighty years.
Jacob Burgener was about fourteen or fifteen years old when his mother died. She is buried in the German Reform cemetery in Preston township. Her mother and father were born in Switzerland, when mother died father came to the United States, and she had two brothers and three sisters who helped to swell the tide of emigration to the United States. Some time after his mother's death his father married again, his second wife's name being Margaret Stucchi. She died in the year 1903 and is also buried in the German Reform cemetery in Preston township. Jacob Burgener remained with his father on the farm until about twenty-two years of age. During his years on his father's farm rattle snakes abounded there. Herds of wild deer, wolves and wild game were also in evidence, the wolves, especially, being so numerous and ferocious that they did not dare let the sheep out at night.
At the age of twenty-two Jacob Burgener left his father's farm and went to work for some neighbors, obtaining a wage of about thirteen or fourteen dollars per month. In December 1871, he married Anna Combs, who was born in Claremont county, Ohio. She was the daughter of Abner and Elizabeth Combs, her mother's name being Elizabeth Smizer, natives of Ohio, who came to Illinois and settled in Preston township in the year 1860, where they built a fine house and barn and spent about two thousand dollars in improvements upon their farm of over three hundred acres. Mrs. Burgener's father died in 1884 and her mother still survives, living in Preston township at the age of ninety-two years.
On his marriage Jacob Burgener settled on a farm of forty acres in Olney township, which his father-in-law had given him, and there he remained until his removal to his present farm of two hundred acres in Claremont township in the year 1881. While living in Olney township his wife died on February 23, 1878, in her thirty-first year, and was buried in Olney. Three children were born of the marriage, two boys and one girl, all of whom are now married and have families of their own. Their names are: William A., Harry L., and Winona. William A. lives in Olney township on a one hundred and sixty acre farm. Harry L. lives in Claremont township on forty acres of fine improved land. Winona is the wife of Charles Elliott and lives in Montana.
Jacob Burgener re-married on October 15, 1881, Sophia (Fritchle) Garber, widow of John Garber. She was born September 2, 1845, in Olney township, Richland county, Illinois, being the daughter of Jacob and Lydia (Strathe) Fritchle. Her father was a native of Germany and her mother of Pennsylvania. They were married in Ohio and lived for some time near Canton, Ohio, afterwards, about the year 1839, coming to Richland county, Illinois, and settling on the farm on which they lived until their deaths. Her mother died in the year 1857 and her father in 1899, at the age of eighty-one or eighty-two years. Both lie buried in the Lutheran cemetery in Claremont township, situated near where the old log church used to stand. By her first marriage the second Mrs. Burgener had four children, only one of whom is living. They were: Jake P., Daniel, Charles, all deceased, and Mary E., who is living and is married to William H. Haulterman, the owner of a splendid farm in Jasper county, Illinois.
Jacob Burgener in his young days attended about two winter terms at the free school in Preston township. His work at home on the farm interfered with his school attendance and he consequently did not receive much education. He was quick to learn, however, and became proficient in reading, writing, spelling, and some arithmetic. He has been active in the life of the township and county, is a Democrat in politics, and has served a term on the county grand jury at Olney. He and his wife and the members of their family all belong to the Lutheran church, his first wife being a Methodist. The Burgeners have always been known to take an active part in church affairs.
During his lengthy life Jacob Burgener has worked hard and prospered and as a result has two hundred acres of fine farm land well improved. He is now past his sixty-second year, with his present wife the same age, and he enjoys fairly good health. He is an influential man in the township and well known and respected by his neighbors.
Extracted 26 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 329-332.