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Biography - WILLIAM D. GRUBER

There is a saying that "a prophet is not without honor except in his own country." Soldiers, however, as such always have honor in their own country; and everywhere in this country the man who risked his life in defense of the Union is held in honor, and when a veteran dies the whole community is moved by one common feeling of sorrow LaSalle county has its proportion of these old heroes, who have fought for their country as young men and have given the best years of their subsequent lives to its development, and none of them is more highly regarded than William D. Gruber, who is not only a veteran of our civil war, but also an early settler and prominent citizen of Farm Ridge township.

Mr. Gruber was born in Preble county, Ohio, March 21, 1837, a son of Rev. Jacob Gruber, who was for forty years, until his death, one of the most influential and most highly respected citizens of Farm Ridge township, LaSalle county. Mr. Gruber's ancestors came from France to Pennsylvania in 1670, on account of the cruel persecutions to which the Huguenot Christians were subjected after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Christian Gruber, father of Rev. Jacob Gruber, was born in Berks county, Pennsylvania, August 3, 1767. He married Catharine Metzsger, a native of Union county, Pennsylvania. They were the parents of fifteen children, - eight boys and seven girls: John, born March 8, 1800; Jacob, November 10, 1801; Henry. December 22, 1803; Philip, June 5, 1806; Elizabeth, May 26, 1808; Mary, June 23, 1810; Joseph, December 31, 1812; Catharine, April 29, 1815; George, September 17, 1817; Susanna, March 9, 1819; Sarah, October 27, 1820; Christena, October 25, 1822; Christian, December 29, 1824; Daniel, April 12, 1827; and Samuel, April 12, 1829. George, Samuel and Daniel were soldiers in the Mexican war, George being killed at the storming of the city of Mexico. Samuel was wounded in the same battle, and died before he reached home. Daniel is the only survivor.

In 1804 Mr. and Mrs. Gruber removed to Pickaway county, Ohio. (He served in the war of 1812.) Jacob Gruber having been born in Berks county, Pennsylvania, November 10, 1801, was at that time three years old. He lived in Pickaway county, Ohio, until 1856, when he came to LaSalle county, Illinois, and settled on a farm of two hundred and sixtytwo acres, much of which he improved and placed under profitable cultivation: and that he retains most of it will be apparent when it is considered that this same farm is the one upon which he spent his declining years, containing two hundred and ten acres of land. He married Susan Emrick, a native of Montgomery county, Ohio, March 4, 1830. Mrs. Gruber died April 17, 1878, leaving- seven children: Amanda M., Melusena E., William D., Sarah Victoria, Milton L., Joseph L., and Samuel H. Mr. Gruber was married a second time July 15, 1879, to Elizabeth Runbarger, who was born in Montgomery county, Ohio, January 9, 1826. He was ordained a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran church in 1828. He was a Democrat and a Freemason and a man of much public spirit. His death occurred in Grand Ridge, January 19, 1895.

William D. Gruber, the eldest son of the Rev. Jacob and Susan (Emrick) Gruber, received a good education and has been a student and a diligent reader all his life, as well as a close observer of men and events. He has much artistic and mechanical talent and acquired knowledge of, and for some years devoted himself to, the marble-cutter's trade. In 1862 he enlisted in the Eighty-eighth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, for service against the south in the civil war, and participated in the battles of Perryville and Stone River and in other engagements and skirmishes of less note and in the siege of Vicksburg. He lost the sense of sight in one eye and the sense of hearing in one ear and for a time was detailed to duty as a clerk at headquarters, for which his education and experiences fitted him. When, September 7, 1864, he was mustered out of the service, he had taken part in twenty-six engagements, some of them among the most notable of the war, and had an excellent record as a soldier.

Mr. Gruber interested himself in education, and was for some time one of the most popular teachers in his part of the country. Since he left the school-room his interest in public education has not diminished, and he has been a life-long advocate of and worker for improvements in the schools of his township and county. His home is one of the most inviting in its vicinity and he and his family have always dispensed a most generous hospitality. His farm abounds in fruits and vegetables in great variety, including many varieties of strawberries. The lawn surrounding his large residence is shaded by many ornamental trees and beautified with shrubs and flowering plants of various kinds, including forty kinds of roses alone.

Mr. Gruber was married in 1867 to Miss Caroline A. Von Forell, who was born at Buffalo, New York, October 26, 1848, a daughter of Captain Adolph Von Forell, a German military officer and a member of one of the noblest families of Desseldorf, who married Augusta Schmeiding, a lady of good family and thorough education, and soon afterward came to America and took up his residence in Buffalo. Later he removed with his family to Illinois and still later to Nebraska, where he died aged sixty-nine. His wife, now seventy-three, lives in Thayer county, Nebraska. They were lifelong members of the Lutheran church. Of their nine children eight are living: Adolph, Fredrick, Henry, Ernest, Mrs. Gruber, August, Charles and Julius. Bertha is dead. Mr. and Mrs. William D. Gruber have nine children: Oscar, who married Miss Louisa Schurer (now deceased), lives near Fort Dodge, Iowa; Augusta, wife of C. I. Woodward, a well known farmer of Farm Ridge township; Charles, who lives at Iowa Falls, Iowa; Milton, not married, who is living in Farm Ridge township; Florence, of Grand Ridge; Arthur, at home; and Susan, Sarah and Mary, at their parental home.

Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 379-381.

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