Arenzville's Founder

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Francis Arenz and Louisa Boss Arenz
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Dated 1854. Painted by P. Dresback, a German artist. Photos owned by Mr. and Mrs. Arenz's grand-daughter, Mrs. Marie Finney Douglas. Reproductions here donated by John Arenz, 6465 Canyon Edge Road, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.

Francis Arenz: Born October 31, 1800, in Prussia (present-day Germany.) Came to America in 1827. Arenzville was named for him in 1852. He died April 3, 1856, in Arenzville, Illinois. Francis Arenz's active participation in the pioneer life of Arenzville covered a period of 20 years, from 1833 when he bought the grist mill on Indian Creek, to 1853 when he sold the mill and Arenzville was organized as a village. The village had been laid out by Arenz in 1849.

Information below is from "History of Arenzville, Illinois," By Judge J. A. Arenz, in History of Cass County, Illinois, edited by William Henry Perrin, Chapter XIV, Chicago, O.L. Baskin & Co. Historical Publishers, 1882.

Francis Arenz was born in Blankenberg, Province of the Rhein, Prussia, October 31, 1800. While yet very young he engaged in mercantile business, and in 1827 emigrated to the United States, making his home for two years in the State of Kentucky, following the business of merchandising. In the year 1829, he went to Galena, Illinois, and was for a short time engaged in the lead trade, and then came to Beardstown, where he again followed the business of merchandising and dealing in real estate. He very soon foresaw that Beardstown, on account of its favorable situation and surroundings, was destined to have a prosperous future, and used every means in his power to draw attention to this place and invite emigration. He expected the best mode to accomplish this purpose to be the establishment of a newspaper, and he accordingly, 1834, commenced the publication of The Beardstown Chronicle and Illinois Bounty Land Advertiser, of which he became the editor and proprietor, with John B. Fulks, as publisher. This paper was then the only newspaper west of Jacksonville and Springfield. It could not be expected that at this early day such an undertaking would prove profitable, and having been published for nearly two years at considerable loss, its publication was abandoned, after having accomplished, however, its object. Beardstown, a very good landing point on the Illinois River, had become the port of entry for all the goods designed for Springfield, Petersburg, Rushville, McComb, and other places, and from here were also shipped the produce and pork of the surrounding towns and country. Heavy loaded teams with merchandise and produce, could daily be seen on the roads leading to and from Beardstown, and there was no point in the West where more hogs were slaughtered than here. During the Black Hawk war, Beardstown was the general rendezvous for the State troops, and Mr. Arenz furnished supplies for the army at the request of Gov. Reynolds, and also a portion of the arms, which had been purchased by Arenz, and originally destined for the South America service.

New roads were surveyed and opened, and the plan was conceived by Mr. Arenz, that the construction of a canal from Beardstown to the Sangamon River, to a place called Miller's Ferry, and then by slackwater navigation to continue to the neighborhood of Springfield, whereby also the bottom lands of the Sangamon valley would become drained and useful for agricultural purposes, would be of great benefit to Beardstown.

An act of the Legislature was obtained in 1836, for the incorporation of Beardstown and Sangamon Canal Company, of which company Mr. Arenz was elected President, and Mr. O. M. Long, Secretary and Treasurer; William Pollock, as Engineer, and John A. Arenz, as Assistant Engineer, commenced the survey on September 1, 1836, and in December following a very favorable report was made; but for want of sufficient means and on account of the hard times soon following, this project failed.The citizens of Beardstown, and the northern portion of Morgan County had become aware that their interest would be better promoted by a separation from Morgan, because every public improvement, and particularly the contemplated railroad, running from Springfield, by Jacksonville to Quincy, which in their opinion, ought to have been located by way of Beardstown, being the nearest and best route between Springfield and Quincy.

Morgan had at that time six and Sangamon nine members in the Legislature, and the two counties combined, could carry most any measure, and Jacksonville and not Beardstown, would be the recipient of its benefits, for all the members from Morgan were either citizens of Jacksonville or vicinity. For these and other reasons, a division of the county was agitated, and continued until 1837, when the county of Cass was formed. In all these matters Mr. Arenz was the leader and main worker. In the year 1835, he gave up his mercantile business in Beardstown, and took up his residence on his farm, about six miles southeast of Beardstown, which he named "Recluze." Here he had a house built, which had a good sized room in the center, surrounded by shed rooms and a porch. It was covered by shingle roof, weather-boarded and painted, and was built on the brow of a high hill, near the edge of the timber, commanding a very fine view. It was certainly the hottest place in the summer and the coldest in winter, and the house appeared from a distance very much like a good sized tent. Here he resided until 1839, when he made his permanent home at Arenzville.

In 1833 he purchased of a Mr. Smart, who had a little mill on Indian Creek, that mill and a large tract of land in Section 31, Township 17, North of Range 11 West, where now Arenzville is situated.

Indian Creek forms here a considerable bend, and to increase the volume of water, a large ditch was cut between said bend, and at the upper end a dam was constructed. A new saw mill was built on said ditch, Mr. John Savage, afterward Sheriff of Cass County, being the builder. It was a difficult matter to keep up the dam, which was constructed of timber and earth, not stone being at hand. The soil being rich and alluvial, the minks, musk-rats and crawfish in some way undermine or work around the edges of the dam, so that at times of high water it would be damaged or carried away entirely, which required the time of low water for making repairs.

When the timber yielding saw-logs had been consumed, the saw-mill was turned into a flouring mill and rebuilt; but the dam still proved a failure, until finally steam power was applied. These drawbacks would have discouraged most men, but not him, although he had several times either sold or leased the property, but it always came back to his hands, like counterfeit money.

Mr. Arenz was pretty successful in his many enterprises, but in the milling business he proved to be a complete failure, and by it sunk a great deal of money. In 1838 he engaged also in the mercantile business, and took in partnership his brother, J. A. Arenz, and the name of the firm was F. Arenz & Co. This partnership continued for about six years, when his brother withdrew from the firm. Finally in 1853 he sold the mill and store with a tract of land, to Herman Engelbach and Peter Arenz, in whose hands the concern proved very profitable.

arenzhome.jpg (23844 bytes)It seemed to be a great relief to Mr. Arenz, when he got rid of his business and obtained more leisure time for other matters. He was very often absent from home, attending meetings of all sorts, having an object for the improvement of the country. He was very fond of politics and a member of the Whig party. He liked company, was of a very generous and social disposition, and his house was scarcely ever without visitors. There was no session of the legislature, when he failed to go to the capital of the State, to be on hand whenever anything could be accomplished for the benefit of Cass County. He was acquainted with the leading men of the State, and many of them were his warm friends.

In 1852, he was the bearer of dispatches from the Secretary of the United States, to the embassadors at Berlin and Vienna. He was one of the organizers of the State Agricultural Society at Springfield, on January 5, 1853, and was elected one of its vice-presidents, which position he continued to hold to time of his death. He also organized, on January 5, 1855, the Cass County Agricultural Society, and was elected president thereof.

Men of the stamp and character of Francis Arenz, gifted with power to look ahead, and shaping matters for paving the way to accomplish praiseworthy results, have to encounter and overcome a great many obstacles; such men necessarily have and gain many friends, but they will also have envious, bitter enemies. This was also the case with him.

Mr. Arenz died April 2, 1856.

The executive committee of the State Agricultural Society, then in session in Springfield, adopted April 3, 1856, the following resolutions:

Resolved, That in the death of Francis Arenz, late member of this board, it lost a co-worker, kind, courteous and able, and always in his place; the society, one of its most talented, energetic and ardent friends; the State and community at large, one of its most honorable, respected, and revered citizens; and that while we bow in humble humility and awe before Almighty god, we tender our most sincere and heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased, hoping that their loss and our loss is his gain.

Resolved, That a copy of these proceedings be sent to the family and friends of the deceased, to the Prairie Farmer, and to the papers in Beardstown, Jacksonville and Springfield, with the request that the same be inserted in the papers indicated.

There are now [in 1882] eight children of Mr. Arenz living, four boys and four daughters, all of whom are married.

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Above,Harry Allen Arenz (grandson of Francis Arenz) and his wife Julia May Ptacek, 1904, Denver.
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Above, Standing: Henry H. Arenz (youngest son of Francis Arenz) with three of his four sons. L to R: Roland, Harry and Cecil Arenz (absent, Walter) c.1912, Denver.

Click here for information about the book, The Arenz Familyi of Arenzville, Illinois - a Compiled Lineage, and purchase details.

All reproductions of the photos on this page were graciously donated by John Arenz of Pollock Pines, CA. Mr. Arenz welcomes correspondence from persons interested in Arenz family history. We also gratefully acknowledge assistance from Allene Carmen Arenz (great-granddaughter of Francis Arenz through his youngest child, Henry H. Arenz) and Allene's daughter, Marcia Joyce Boyle, in identifying the persons in the photos.

Persons looking for family history information of persons who once lived in Arenzville are encouraged to visit the Cass County GenWeb at http://www.rootsweb.com/~ilcass/cass.htm. Inquiries can be posted there by clicking on one of the links for "Cass County Queries."

Arenz Family Members Visit

Arenz family in 2013

Robert Ray Arenz, a descendent of Francis Arenz's son Oscar, visited Arenzville during the 2013 Burgoo with his wife and some of his children and their spouses. Shown above are, back row, from left: George Mars, Nancy Arenz Weible, Sharon Arenz Northcutt, and Catherine Arenz. Front, from left: Nina Scopetti, Robert Wayne Arenz, (seated, left), Robert Ray Arenz (seated, right.) Family members traveled from Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri to gather in Arenzville. They are shown here on the porch of the Arenz house, where they were welcomed by Neal and Dianna Hart.

The Village also welcomed more than a dozen members of the Arenz family for across the country for its 2014 anniversary celebration.

Allene Arenz, Marcia Boyle and Tom Casper
Allene Arenz (left) who traveled from Texas, and her daughter Marcia Boyle (center) who traveled from California, meet their cousin, Tom Casper, who traveled from southern Illinois, at the 2015 Arenzville Burgoo. All of them are descendants of the town's founder, Francis Arenz, but met for the first time in Arenzville.
Hart family members and Arenz descendants

Members of the Hart family welcome descendants of Francis Arenz to the 2015 Arenzville Burgoo. From left, front row: Karla Weldon, Marcia Boyle, Allene Arenz. Back row: Neal Hart, Bob Weldon, Tom Casper, and Sam Frazier.

Allene, Marcia and Tom -- all descendants of Francis Arenz -- honored our village with a visit to the Burgoo this year. We were happy to have them and hope they will come back again!


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This page last modified: 08/25/2023