Putnam County


one of the prominent and representative citizens of Princeton, belongs to a family of German extraction, and in tracing the genealogy we find that five brothers came to America in colonial times, four of whom settled in the southern states, while the fifth, the great-grandfather of our subject, located in New York state, but later settled in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and served as a soldier in the Revolutionary war.

Our subject was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, November 13, 1834, and is the oldest of four children born to Lewis and Anna (Brenneman) Mesenkop, also natives of the same place, the former born April 23, 1798, and the later April 12, 1812. In 1835, the father removed to Wayne county, Ohio, where he carried on a farm for ten years, but previous to this time he had carried on the harness business. On leaving Wayne county, he went to Cuyahoga county, Ohio, and in 1854, removed to a farm in Bureau county, Illinois, and engaged in farming; but after ten years removed to Princeton where his death occurred, in March, 1875, at the age of seventy-seven years. He was a prosperous and highly esteemed citizen, never caring for official position, and was a worthy member of the Lutheran church, to which his wife also belongs. She is still living, and enjoys excellent health for one of her years, having the full use of her faculties, although she passed through all the hardships and privations of pioneer life, both in Ohio and Illinois. Of the children, Mary is the widow of William Whittle, and resides with her mother in Princeton; John enlisted in 1861, for three years as a member of Company H, Twelfth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served with the western army, taking part in the battles of Forts Henry and Donelson, Shiloh and Corinth. Being taken ill, he was brought home by our subject, where he died a few weeks later, in the fall of 1862, at the age of twenty-five years. He was never wounded nor taken prisoner; Sarah A., widow of S. A. Penfield, is engaged in the music business in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In the common schools of Ohio, W. H. Mesenkop acquired his education, and at the age of seventeen began teaching, which profession he followed for six winters, while his summers were devoted to agricultural pursuits. He began the newspaper business at Hennepin, Illinois, in 1858, as editor of the Putnam County Democrat, which he carried on for one year, and then came to Princeton, where he purchased the Bureau County Democrat, which he owned and edited for eight years, when he sold the paper. In 1872 he established the Bureau County Tribune, which he conducted for one year, and 'which is still in existence. He next owned a half interest in the Princeton Gas Light company, being its president for fifteen years. In 1863, while engaged in newspaper work, he began the insurance business, and for the past sixteen years has given his attention almost exclusively thereto, and to the loaning of money. He is a persistent worker, an able manager, sagacious and far-sighted, reliable and energetic, and his success is well deserved, as he has attended strictly to his business interests. Mr. Mesenkop can read, write and speak the Swedish and German languages as well as his mother tongue, and is believed to be the only American in Bureau county who has mastered the Swedish language, which has been of great assistance to him in a business way. He has done much to promote the varied interests of his adopted city, serving as city treasurer nine years, and alderman twelve years. His support has always been given to the democratic party. Mr. Mesenkop has been a member of the county central committee for twenty years, of the state central committee four years; has been a delegate to six state conventions, and was a delegate to the national convention at St. Louis, in 1876, that nominated Samuel J. Tilden.

On the 11th of August, 1858, Mr. Mesenkop led to the marriage altar Miss Kate E. Pelton, who was born October 11, 1841, in Cuyahoga county, Ohio, and was left an orphan when quite small. Their home has been blessed by the birth of six children, namely: Jennie V., wife of Prof. Samuel T. Bowlby, of Rock Island, Illinois, by whom she has one son. Earl ; Luna E., a milliner, of Princeton; Kate M., Minnie M., an invalid, now at Denver, Colorado; Alta, wife of Dr. H. D. Steele, of Moline, Illinois, by whom she has a son, William H.; and William L., who assists his father. The mother is an Episcopalian in religious belief, while Mrs. Bowlby is a Presbyterian, and Mrs. Steele is a Congregationalist. Socially, Mr. Mesenkop is a member of the Masonic lodge of Princeton.

Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois  published in 1896, page 275.

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