Biography - FREDERICK RICHARDS
One of the most extensive land-owners in LaSalle county is Frederick Richards, whose possessions aggregate twenty-two hundred acres. The life history of such a man well deserves a place in this volume, for his example should serve as a source of inspiration to young men who are forced to enter upon a business career without capital. Strong determination, great diligence and unfaltering perseverance brought to Mr. Richards the splendid success which now crowns his efforts and which makes him one of the wealthy men of his adopted county.
A native of Prussia, Germany, he was born in September, 1828, and in the schools of the Fatherland he acquired his education, pursuing his studies until fourteen years of age. He then entered upon an apprenticeship to the cooper's trade, serving a four-year term, during which time he thoroughly mastered the business, becoming an expert workman. On the expiration of that period he came to America, believing that in the New World better opportunities and advantages were afforded young men than in the older countries of Europe. After a voyage of forty-seven days he landed in New York city, and thence proceeded to Illinois, making the journey by way of the canal to Buffalo, New York, and thence by the Great Lakes to Chicago. He completed the journey to Ottawa by the Illinois and Michigan canal, arriving at his destination in the summer. Soon afterward he secured employment with a Mr. Hoffman, who was engaged in the coopering business, his work being to make pork and flour barrels and butter firkins. Engaged in that service, Mr. Richards spent two years in Eagle township, LaSalle county, and subsequently turned his attention to farming, devoting his energies to the cultivation of the fields through the day, while in the evenings he worked at his trade.
In 1851 Mr. Richards made his first purchase of land, consisting of one hundred acres, in the township of Bruce. In 1852 he began the development of the tract, and in addition carried on work at his trade. His energy and ability enabled him to so prosecute his labors that he derived therefrom a good income, and as his financial resources increased he extended the boundaries of his farm until it comprised one hundred and forty acres. In 1861 he made an additional purchase of two hundred and forty acres, and upon his farm, then comprising more than half a section, he began feeding cattle and hogs. The new branch of business also proved a profitable one, and, as stock brought good prices through the war, he made considerable money and invested it very judiciously. In 1863 he purchased another tract, of one hundred and sixty acres, in Bruce township, making five hundred and forty acres in all, and at different times he has added to his landed possessions until he now has twenty-two hundred acres of valuable land. His last purchase was made in 1894, when he became the owner of what is known as the Payne farm - a tract of two hundred and seventy-six acres. His home farm comprises five hundred acres, and is one of the most desirable country residences in this section of Illinois, being improved with all the accessories and conveniences of the model farm. A good residence, spacious barns and large cattle sheds are found upon the place, and the well tilled fields yield to the owner a golden tribute in return for his care and labor. One of his purchases consisted of eighty acres, a part of which was within the corporation limits of Streator. This he has laid out in town lots, and it is known as the Richards addition. One of his valuable farms is situated in Livingston county. He has been one of the successful cattlefeeders of Bruce township, LaSalle county, feeding as high as five hundred head of cattle in a year and about one thousand head of hogs. His business interests have been well conducted. He follows progressive methods, his practical common sense readily selecting what is best in the new theories that are advanced in regard to farming and stock-raising. He has ample shed room for the shelter of cattle and hogs through the winter and during inclement weather, which insures good animals, well fitted to be placed upon the market.
In addition to his extensive agricultural interests Mr. Richards has also carried on other lines of business, and is to-day the owner of a good grain elevator at the town of Richards. He handles all kinds of grain and is doing a large and profitable business in that way. He has been a stockholder and director in the Union National Bank, at Streator, since its organization, and his sound judgment has contributed in no small measure to its success. His systematic methods, his unfailing energy and his reliability, which is above question, are the characteristics which have brought to him wealth and gained him a position among the leading business men of LaSalle county.
In 1851 Mr. Richards was united in marriage to Miss Leah Croty, a native of Germany, but at that time a resident of LaSalle county. They had one son, William, now a prosperous farmer of Otter Creek township, LaSalle county. The mother died in 1856, and Mr. Richards afterward married Mary Graham, by whom he had the following named children: Thomas, Mary, Alexander, Louis, Walter, Charles, and two who died in infancy, named James and Fred.
In his political views Mr. Richards is independent, voting for the man of his choice, regardless of party affiliations. He has served as commissioner of highways for a period of twelve years, his long continuance in office well indicating his fidelity to duty. In 1897 he was appointed postmaster of Richards. His duties of citizenship have ever been faithfully performed, and in all life's relations his well-known integrity has won him confidence and respect.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 188-190.