LaSalle County

Biography - GEORGE JUST

Every employer of men and every observant person in general has noticed that there are two totally different kinds of workers: those who perform, more or less grudgingly, the duties assigned as their share, thinking most longingly of the time when freedom shall be theirs again; and that much rarer class, those whose work is a pleasure to them and who find their chief interest in figuring out some mechanical or financial problem, and in their busy zeal find the hours of labor all too quickly slipping away. To the latter class belongs George Just, who for long years has been a faithful and trusted employe of the Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Company, of LaSalle.

A son of Adolph and Julia (Michaelis) Just, our subject was born in Ostrowo, province of Posen, Germany, December 7, 1843. The father, who was a surveyor in the employ of the government, died in his native land when seventy-eight years of age, and the mother departed this life at the ripe age of eighty-one years. They had six children, three sons and three daughters, and George was next to the youngest of the family.

In his boyhood George Just attended the public schools and gymnasium for six years, gaining a fair education. When sixteen and a half years of age he went to Breslau, where, as a clerk in a grocery, he served a hard apprenticeship of four years. He received no wages during this
period, and his only hours of freedom were from two to six o'clock of every fourth Sunday afternoon! He remained another year, receiving one hundred and fifty dollars and his board that year, and was allowed from two to ten o'clock in the afternoon and evening of alternate Sundays. Then he went to Berlin, where he learned the drug business, and spent a portion of his time in the mixing and compounding of paints. Here he was given two hundred dollars a year and his board, and had his evenings after seven o'clock at night; but he was not content and finally persuaded his father to allow him to come to America.

On the 17th of June, 1868, George Just embarked for New York city, where he spent three days and then continued his westward journey. Landing in Chicago, he searched for work for some ten days in vain, and was then advised to go to Mineral Point, Wisconsin. There he was unable to obtain employment, and, bethinking himself of an acquaintance who was at Peru, Illinois, he wrote to him and was urged to come to this county. His father had given him two hundred dollars, but it had melted away for necessary expenses until he had but seventeen dollars left at the time that he applied to the firm of Matthiessen & Hegeler for a position as bookkeeper. He had reached Peru and for a short time had worked at house and fence painting, but he wisely decided that it would be better for him to seek for steady employment in the service of a well established, prosperous business concern. At first he was given a place as a shipping clerk, and at the end of eighteen months he was promoted to the more responsible post of night foreman in the rolling-mill. On the 5th of May, 1871, he was made general foreman of the rolling-mill department, and from that time until the present he has faithfully, punctually and creditably performed every duty devolving upon him, and no more trusted employe is on the pay-roll of the company. The habits of steadiness, sobriety and uprightness in word and deed which were formed by him during his long and severe apprenticeship in Germany have been the habits of his entire life. During the thirty-one years of his connection with the zinc-works company he has taken not more than three weeks altogether for his own pleasure and recreation, and by frugality and wise use of his earnings has acquired a competence.

In 1873 Mr. Just married Mrs. Bertha Fleischer, a widow with one child, Otto. Mrs. Just came to LaSalle in 1866. Her parents were Peter and Bertha (Rose) Remmong. She was born in Stelle, Rhine, Germany, May 30, 1847, was left motherless at ten years of age, and when fourteen came to America with a family the head of which, Mr. Pagenstecher, came to LaSalle to build the rolling mills for the Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Company. He was here five years, in completing the work. Mrs. Just, came with the family as a maid in their service. In 1868 she was first married, by which union she had a son, now residing in Chicago, named Otto Fleischer. Mr. and Mrs. Just's daughter Harriet is the wife of Harry Eickoff, of Peru; and their other children are Julia and George. Their pleasant home is the abode of peace, content and happiness.

Extracted 17 Jul 2017 by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois, published in 1900, volume 2, pages 464-466.

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