Richland County


This land of ours owes a debt of gratitude to the stalwart and hardy European races whose sons came in large numbers in the early "twenties" and "thirties" when there was a crying need of fearless men to assist in the work of winning the western states from their primitive wildness. The people of Switzerland who came at that time formed a goodly contingent and numbered in their ranks the present subject of our sketch and his parents.

Frederick Seiler, son of Olrich and Anna Seiler, was born on the 15th of December, 1830, in Switzerland. In 1852, his parents, his brother John, and himself, bidding adieu to the Fatherland, sailed for the United States. Upon landing they settled in Illinois, and the subject of this biography lost no time in getting down to the work of making a living. For some time he worked as a farm hand on different farms, covering corn with a hoe for twenty-five cents a day and board. He also helped his brother for some time, assisting him in his trade as carpenter. For this work he received fifty cents per day and his board. He again returned to farm work. He next became an employe of the old Ohio & Mississippi Railroad (now the Baltimore & Ohio) where his rate of wages was one dollar and twenty-five cents per day and board. Here his industry and frugal habits permitted him to save some three hundred dollars, which enabled him to make his first start in life on his own account. In August, 1856, he married Mrs. Barbara Biber (nee Friedley), in Preston township. She was the daughter of Lawrence and Barbara Friedley, her mother's maiden name being Stingley. Like her husband, Mrs. Frederick Seiler was born May 30, 1830, in Switzerland, coming from there to the United States with her parents when but thirteen years of age. The family settled near Mansfield, Ohio, upon a farm, where they remained for twelve years. In 1848, she (Barbara Friedley) married Caleb Biber, remaining in Ohio till May, 1852, when, together with her husband and her parents she came to Richland county, Illinois, the journey being made overland in wagons. In Richland county, they settled on a farm of one hundred acres, obtaining same from government at one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre. Caleb Biber died in 1854, having had two children born to him, namely: Mary and Lawrence. Mrs. Seller's parents died on the farm, her father in 1861 and her mother in 1864.

On his marriage Frederick Seiler settled in 1856 upon his wife's farm of two hundred acres, where they lived for about ten years, when Frederick Seiler much improved the property, building a house, etc., on forty acres adjoining which he now lives, which he had previously bought. The family then moved into the new home where they lived until 1902, when they moved to Dundas, where they lived until the death of Mrs. Frederick Seiler in 1904, at the age of seventy-four. She closed a happy married life and is buried in Preston township in the Lutheran church cemetery.

In this short period up to 1904, Frederick Seiler had acquired altogether two hundred acres of very choice land, one hundred and sixty acres of this being mostly timber, sixty-five was cleared and cultivated. In the early days wild deer and other game existed in large quantities in the township; harassing wolves and wildcats infested the timber.

Eight children were born to Frederick Seiler and his wife, seven of whom grew to maturity and one died in infancy. Their names are: Frederick H., lives on a farm in Oklahoma; John F. lives on the home farm in Preston township; Lucy D. is in Pennsylvania and is the wife of a Presbyterian minister; Christian R. lives in Evansville, Indiana, where he has been for twenty years; Louise E. lives at Newton, Illinois. Henry E. and Charles are both deceased.

Frederick Seiler, on the death of his first wife, remarried, July 26, 1906, his second wife being Mrs. Sadie Austin (nee Crane), the widow of James Austin. She was born in 1843, at Bridgeport, Lawrence county, Illinois, and was the daughter of Ishmael and Mrs. Crane. They were Easterners, the father being born in New York and the mother in New Jersey. Frederick Seller's second wife had one daughter, Laura (Austin) Hollingsworth, by her first husband; Mrs. Hollingsworth lives in Ohio. The second Mrs. Seiler died in Sumner, Illinois, February 11, 1907, and was buried in the county cemetery southeast of Bridgeport, where her parents were also buried.

The subject of our sketch received a good education in the canton in which he lived in Switzerland, and it may surprise many to learn that at that early time the laws of the country compelled all children up to the age of sixteen to attend school for the period of eleven months in each year. He is well versed in the German language and his early training has been of much advantage to him. As he was not tall enough in his youth in Switzerland to drill as a soldier, according to the constitution of the country he should have paid the sum of one dollar and serve a conscriptive term in the home guards. He was able to evade this law through coming to the United States.

In politics Frederick Seiler has been a consistent Democrat. At one period of his life, however, he voted the Prohibition ticket during the McKinley administration. In his younger days he was very active in the township and county political affairs. For a period of twenty years he was a School Trustee of the township. He was also formerly active in fraternal and social affairs, being at one time a member of the Grange lodge in Dundas, Preston township. He is a member of the Lutheran Evangelical church. He has 'himself taken a very active part in church work during the twenty-four years he has been connected with it. He was for twenty years or over an elder in the church. His wife during her long life belonged to the German Reformed communion.

Frederick Seiler is now in his seventy-ninth year and is enjoying the fruits of a very successful though arduous life. Starting life and making it a success in a new country, the language and customs of which were foreign to him, was not an easy task. He has been through the mill, he suffered many hardships and many privations at the beginning of his career, he has been for many years a prosperous farmer. He has reared a large and intelligent family, and now in his retirement the memory of those early years of struggle makes his leisure years all the more appreciable.

Extracted 21 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 456-458.

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