Switzerland is a small country, but no foreign nation has sent to the
United States a larger number of law-abiding and industrious citizens in
proportion to its size. They are almost without exception, progressive,
honorable, thrifty and among our best citizens. The subject of this sketch,
one of Preston township's substantial farmers, is a worthy representative of
this type, having spent many years in Richland county, during which he has
not only benefited himself, but also those with whom he has come in contact.
John Seiler was born in Bern, Switzerland, September 12, 1833, the son of William and Anna Seiler, also natives of Switzerland, where they were reared and where they married. They emigrated to the United States in 1851, crossing the Atlantic in an old sailing vessel, encountering a severe storm on the way which delayed them and they were seven weeks making the voyage. The lives of all on board were imperiled, the waves having washed over the vessel, and the baggage was thrown from one side to the other of the ship and members of the Seiler family narrowly escaped being injured by coming in contact with the baggage, etc. Many times the passengers thought that it was impossible to save the ship, but it finally arrived at New Orleans on Christmas day, 1851. The Seilers soon afterward took a boat up the Mississippi and Wabash rivers to Vincennes, Indiana. The first week in January they secured a four horse team to carry their effects to Richland county, where William Seiler bought one hundred and twenty acres of land in Preston township, on which the family located. The trip from Vincennes was a very difficult one, the roads being poor and very muddy. The older members of the family walked to their destination. It cost one thousand dollars to bring the family to this country under the most trying conditions and poor conveniences in transportation. The land on which the Seilers located was prairie, a few acres of which had been broken, and on it stood a log house and stable. These improvements had been made by the predecessor of Mr. Seiler, the former having lived on it two years. The new comers at once began work on the place and improved it, building a comfortable home and making a good living. William Seiler did not live long after coming to the United States, having died on his farm at the age of fifty-seven years. His wife survived until she reached the age of seventy. They were the parents of seven children, all of whom grew to maturity, John being the fourth in order of birth. One son, Peter Seiler, served in the Civil war a short time before the close, and continued in the regular army for three years.
John Seiler, our subject, was reared in his native land, in which he remained until he was nineteen years old and there received a good common school education. He came to the United States with his parents and continued to reside on the homestead after his father's death for several years. In the meantime he began buying land, at first securing fifteen acres which is a part of the present farm. He later added to the same and built a good frame house on the place on which he located in 1861. Here he has continued to live ever since, having prospered from the first as a result of his good management. At one time he owned five hundred acres in Richland and Jasper counties, but in late years he has sold much of it to his children, now owning two hundred and sixty acres. His is one of the model farms of Richland county. He has been enabled to live well all these years and to give his children a good start in life. He is now living in retirement from the active working of his lands.
Mr. Seiler was united in marriage November 22, 1855, to Mary Zerbe, a native of Stark county, Ohio, the daughter of Amos and Susanna (Klingman) Zerbe, the former a native of Maine, and the latter of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. Her father came to Ohio when a small boy and was reared in Stark county, where he was married and in 1848 he came to Richland county, settling in Preston township. He later returned to Ohio, but died in Preston township at the age of seventy years. His widow survived for several years and died in Richland county when seventy-five years old.
Mr. and Mrs. John Seiler are the parents of twelve children, namely: John, who died at the age of seven years; Susan, Anna, Christian, Peter, Elizabeth, Mary, Rosetta, Henry Amos, Emma Louisa, William Charles, Ernest Wesley. They have been educated in the home schools.
In politics Mr. Seiler is a Republican, but has never taken a very active part in his party's affairs. He and his family are members of the Methodist Episcopal church in Preston township.
Since coming to this county Mr. Seiler has lived to see great changes, towns and villages have sprung up and fertile farms have been developed from the wild prairie and the wilderness, and marked progress has been made along educational, social and moral lines. What has been accomplished for the substantial benefit and material improvement of the county has been of much interest to our subject and the active cooperation which he has given to measures for the general good is worthy of notice in the reckoning of what has been accomplished here.
Extracted 26 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 356-357.