John Funk, one of the leading and public-spirited citizens of Ottawa, LaSalle county, is a native of Germany, his birth having occurred in the town of Coblentz, on the river Rhine, August 1, 1838. When he was five years of age he accompanied his parents, Francis J. and Elizabeth (Burger) Funk, to America, taking passage in a sailing vessel, the Victoria, at the port of Havre de Grace, France. After a long, tedious voyage of many weeks the little party landed at their destination, New Orleans, and proceeded by steamer up the Mississippi river. At first the family lived in LaSalle, but later removed to the vicinity of Rutland, where the father purchased a tract of land of John Green. The wife and mother was summoned to her final rest in 1847, and soon after that sad event the father bought a lot and built a house near the old Fox River Hotel, in Ottawa, making his home here until 1852.
The year mentioned was a notable one to John Funk, for though but fourteen years of age, his father permitted him to become his companion on a trip across the plains. They started with an ox team on April 1, and reached Shasta, California, on the 8th of September following. For eleven months they prospected, being at the placer mines of the Pitt and Grace rivers chiefly, and at the expiration of that time they returned to this state, better satisfied than ever before with its advantages. Francis J. Funk married Esther Morton, a native of Massachusetts, and two children were born of their union. Eliza, their daughter, was reared in the family of a Mr. Reddick, by whose surname she was called. The death of Francis J. Funk occurred in 1880, when he was in his eighty-second year, at his homestead adjoining the town of Streator.
Upon his return to this state from California John Funk resumed agricultural pursuits, to which he gave his attention until he reached his majority. Then, going to Streator, he embarked in the lumber business, selling out his interest in the same in 1870. His next venture was to become a member of the firm subsequently known as McCormick & Funk, grain dealers, and in this enterprise he met with great success. At the close of a year and a half he bought his partner's interest and moved the buildings and business to Long Point, Livingston county, Illinois. He remained there for eighteen months, then leasing the property and returning to his father's old homestead near Streator. He assisted in the management of the farm during the last years of the elder man's life, and continued to carry on the place until 1888. For the last eleven years he has lived in Ottawa, and has occupied the residence on Columbus street which was formerly owned by his sister, who died a number of years ago. He is the owner of one thousand acres of excellent farm land in Valley county, Nebraska, and of a valuable improved homestead of two hundred and forty acres near the town of Wallace, LaSalle county. Many of the leading industries of Streator found an influential friend and supporter in Mr. Funk. One of the founders of the Streator Coal Company, he was a stockholder and a director of the organization for years, and was a director and vice-president of the Streator Bottle and Glass Company for several years. In political principles he is clear-minded, and, though he never sought or desired public office, his friends and neighbors frequently brought forward his name as a candidate for local positions, with the result that he was elected and served as one of the trustees of Streator, as assessor of the town, and as assessor of the town of Bruce, and held various other offices, acquitting himself in a creditable manner.
In the autumn of 1864 Mr. Funk and Miss Mary Rich, of Streator, were united in marriage at the home of the bride's parents, H. and Mary (Strockbien) Rich. Eight children bless their union, namely: Elizabeth, now the wife of E. S. Kempton, of Adams, Livingston county, Illinois; Amelia, Mrs. William H. Hendricks, of Sandwich, Illinois; Ella, who married Frank Egan, of Ottawa; Mary, wife of R. H. Smith, a member of the firm of Funk & Smith, grain dealers of Streator; Lydia, Fannie and Sylvia, who are at home; and Frank, who is a high school student.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 170-172.