Franz Meisenbach was born on the Rhine, near Cologne, Germany, February
19, 1826. His parents never emigrated to this country. His father, also
named Franz, was a tanner by trade, which art was learned also by him. At
the age of twenty-three years our subject emigrated to the United States. He
spent the first two years in St. Louis, Missouri, engaged in the trade of
tanner and currier. In 1851 he came to Peru, followed his trade there two
years, then came to Mendota, just as this place was starting into existence,
on the completion of the two great railroads to this point. He was therefore
a pioneer here and one of the fathers of the city.
The previous year, 1852, in Peru, he married Miss Helen Reck, who was born in Germany and died in Mendota in 1876, aged forty-two years. She was brought to America by her parents when she was about eleven years of age. On his arrival here in Mendota Mr. Meisenbach opened a hotel on what is now Main street and boarded the railroad men employed in the construction of the tracks. Later he entered mercantile business, in the lines of groceries, boots and shoes, clothing, dry goods, etc., and for a short time also conducted a tannery, and in all was successful. He had meanwhile great ambition for the growth of the new town, and did much to enhance the value of property here. For the last twenty years of his life he was retired from active business. He established the first German newspaper in Mendota, or in LaSalle county — a paper by the name of the Mendota Democrat, in the columns of which the doctrines of the great statesman Stephen A. Douglas were ably advocated. He continued to edit this paper to the time of his death, which occurred February 16, 1889. He was a very charitable man, a zealous friend of the church, though not a member, contributed to the erection of church buildings and was an exemplary citizen in all respects. His religious predilections were in favor of the German Lutheran church. He was not an aspirant for office, though he served for three years as alderman in Mendota. Being a great reader, he was a well informed man.
He had eleven children, namely: Helen, the first child born in Mendota, who is probably the oldest continuous resident of the city; Frank and Charles, twins, the former of whom died at the age of twenty-eight years and the latter at the age of thirty-eight; Laura, deceased; Emma, the wife of John Schmitz; Bertha; Emil, a resident of Mendota; Mathilda, the widow of R. S. Knouer; Louise, the wife of Robert Wylie; and Otto and Henrietta, both of whom died in infancy. Frank married Minnie Grancow and died leaving three children; and Charles was never married.
Extracted 22 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois, published in 1900, volume 2, pages 527-528.