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Biography - JOHN D. VETTE

Though now nearing the eighty-second anniversary of his birth, John D. Vette, an honored old citizen of Ottawa, is remarkably well preserved and has the use of all his faculties. He and his estimable wife celebrated their golden wedding day on the 2d of September, 1896, and the pleasant occasion will be long remembered by the participants, children, grandchildren, other relatives and family friends who were present, and who brought to the venerable couple substantial tokens of love and a multitude of kind wishes for their continued health and happiness.

A son of Charles and Angeline (Brindensek) Vette, both of whom were natives of Germany, the subject of this sketch was born July 2, 1817, in the province of Hesse-Schaumburg. Following in his father's calling, John D. served an apprenticeship of three years at the blacksmith's trade. During this period he was given his board but received no wages and had to furnish his own clothing. For some time he then worked as a journeyman, and the last place where he was thus employed was at Hanover. On the 15th of March, 1843, he embarked on a sailing vessel at Bremen and eight weeks later he landed at New York. Thence he proceeded by steamer to Albany, by the canal to Buffalo and by a sailing boat to Chicago, and was, altogether, six weeks in making the journey which can now be made in less than eighteen hours. He arrived in Chicago, June 29, 1843, and found the place but a scattering town, with little promise of the great future in store for her. In 1847 the parents of our subject came to this country and located on a farm in Cook county, not far from Chicago, at a place called Schaumburg, where many other families from the same neighborhood in Germany had settled. There the parents resided until their death. After coming to Chicago John D. spent about six weeks on farms in the vicinity, during the harvesting season, after which he worked at his trade as a blacksmith, in company with a man named S. Bainard.

It was in 1845 that Mr. Vette came to Ottawa, and for three years he was in the employ of the same man with whom he had been associated in Chicago. Our subject then started a shop of his own on a small scale, on Columbus street, near the Palmer wagon factory, and for several years his trade consisted chiefly of shoeing the horses used on the canal. As time passed he prospered, as he deserved to do, and in 1857 he erected a large two-story-and-basement brick building on Superior street, the cost thereof being six thousand dollars. The main wing was eighty by forty-five feet in dimensions. As soon as the building was completed the owner commenced to manufacture wagons and continued in this business for almost half a century. The workmanship, material used and everything connected with the Vette wagons was of the best, and all through this region and the surrounding counties the products of the factory managed by our subject came into great demand. Mr. Vette employed from ten to fifteen men steadily and was as faithful in the payment of their wages and in the recognition of their rights as he always was in meeting his larger bills and responsibilities. In 1896 he retired, having amassed a competence for old age, and having long since conquered the difficulties which he had at first experienced as a stranger in a strange land.

When he received his right of franchise Mr. Vette voted for James K. Polk, and sided with the Democratic party, but after the organization of the Republicans he identified himself with their political body, and has voted for its nominees down to and including McKinley.

Mr. Vette married Miss Wilhelmina C. Ghiske, a native of Germany, born August 16, 1825, the ceremony which united their destinies being solemnized in Cook county, September 2, 1846. Five children blessed their union, namely: Charlotte, wife of August Engel; John F.; Sophronia J., who married E. Engel; Amelia and Julia C. John F., the only son, a practical and skilled business man and mechanic, has been connected with the famous Peter Schuttler wagon factory in Chicago, in the capacity of foreman, for the past twenty years.

Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 363-365.

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