Sleeter-Fahrenhorst

In 1823, great-great grandfather Wilhem Heinrich Schlichter was born in the German state of Hanover. He emigrated to the US around 1845, entering through New Orleans (like the Jockisches before him), coming up the Mississippi River, probably by steamboat, to St. Louis, then following the Sangamon River in Illinois to Blue Mound township, Macon County. His name had been recorded as William Henry Sleeter probably when he disembarked in New Orleans. Like many other German immigrants, this was the name he continued to use legally, but according to records of the church he helped to found in 1855, he and his family retained the name Schlichter within the German community for several years. All we know about Wilhelm’s family is that he had a brother Charles, who immigrated with his wife, two daughters (Dora and Augusta), and another child to St. Louis. In a 1931 newspaper interview, Augusta Sleeter Albers recalled that on the death of her mother in 1857, the family moved to Macon county, but they were too poor to make ends meet, so the children were sent to live with different families.

Great-great grandmother Amelia Louisa Fahrenhorst was born June 19, 1828 in Westfalen (a German state); she was one of four children of Hannah (born 1794 in one of the German states) and Johann H. Fahrenhorst (born 1804 in Westfalen). (I thought I saw in a note somewhere that Hannah was a Neintker.) According to Fran Collord, Johann Fahrenhorst and a friend Friedrich Nientker immigrated to Blue Mound township in 1939; four years later the rest of the Fahrenhorst family joined him. He met them in New Orleans and brought them up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, then by ox team to Blue Mound township. In 1846, according to Illinois marriage records, William Sleeter married Amelia Fahrenhorst.

Many arrivals to Macon County during the 1840s were from German states, often coming in a group from the same place, traveling with a leader. They left for a variety of reasons. German states were in the throes of revolution. While liberals were pressing for unification of all German states under a democratic government, conservatives wanted unification of fewer states under the Prussian monarchy. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia had cracked down on the liberals. Burgeoning industrialization allied a growing middle class with the monarchy, putting artisans out of work and squeezing farmers. On-going war meant that young men faced the possibility of conscription into the military. Massive harvest failures in 1846 and 1847 led to famine. By 1848, several German states were in revolution. Hanover was an independent kingdom until being conquered by Prussia in 1866, but according to Frizzel shared the general conditions of political turmoil, poverty among peasants, and military conscription.

America offered a compelling contrast. German writers who had been to America were publishing glowing accounts of opportunity available in places like Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin, and letters written by German immigrants to family members back home reinforced this perception. . The best-known and most widely published account, Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerikas, written by Gottfried Duden and published in 1829, eloquently romanticized the bounties and freedoms of farm life in Missouri. Tolzmann, in his history of the German-American experience, notes that some idealistic Germans wanted to establish a new Germany in the U.S., where they attempted to concentrate German settlement; Texas was the main place where this was attempted. In addition, individual states worked with transportation companies to recruit immigrants, mainly farmers. German immigrants seem to have come in groups with a leader; Jonathan Wagner in A History of Migration from Germany to Canada, 1850-1939, briefly notes that German immigrants went mainly to the U.S. rather than Canada because of how U.S. states worked with transportation companies to publicize, recruit, and create transportation packages. Eventually Germans became the largest ethnic group in the U.S.

But let’s back up a bit historically, since the general area these German immigrants entered had not been uninhabited. The land where the Sleeters came was located in what had been Kickapoo territory until 1822. (Macon County, Illinois, is indicated by a star on the map to the right). The Kickapoo (Kiikaapoi), an Algonquin tribe that is related to the Fox, Sac, Potawattomie, Menomonie, and Shawnee, had moved from around Ohio and Michigan to Wisconsin due to wars with other tribes, which was fallout of westward pressure due to European invasion, according to Kickapoo tribal history

Around 1700 the Kickapoo moved south into northern Illinois. By 1770 they had moved to central Illinois near Peoria. The map at the right superimposes a map of Kickapoo settlements (red squares) over a map of Illinois.

In 1816, according to John W. Smith’s History of Macon County, Illinois, the Lorton brothers built a trading post near what is now Decatur, not far from where my great-great grandparents set up farming thirty-something years later. The trading post conducted a thriving trading business with the Indians for several years, until the Indians left.  Actually, Indians didn’t just leave -- the U.S. government pushed the Kickapoo (and other tribes) out. In 1818, Illinois became a state. When states were admitted into the Union, government activity in expelling indigenous peoples and replacing them with people from Europe or of European descent went into high gear. In 1819, the Kickapoo signed a treaty ceding their land to the U.S. government, having lost battles with the U.S. This particular treaty was one of twelve treaties the Kickapoo made with the U.S. government between 1765 and 1862. After signing it, they retreated to Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas; many fled the U.S. altogether, relocating in Mexico. By 1822, only about 400 Kickapoo were left in the state. In 1834, following the Fox and Sac Black Hawk Wars in Wisconsin, the U.S. military forced the remaining few Kickapoo out of Illinois, in order to ensure the state’s attractiveness to whites.

In 1824, the first white residents (the William Warnick family) arrived in what would become Blue Mound township. Whites continued to arrive in expanding droves throughout the 1830s; in 1830 Macon County had 195 residents (all white), and by 1840 that number had increased to 531. During the 1830s (prior to the Homestead Act of 1862) the U.S. Government General Land Office opened millions of acres of land for purchase. In addition, the Preemption Act of 1841 was a U.S. federal law approved law that permitted squatters on government land who were heads of households, widows, or single men over 21; citizens of the U.S. or intending to become naturalized citizens; and people who had lived there for at least 14 months to purchase up to 160 acres at a very low price (not less than $1.25 per acre) before the land was offered for sale to the public. Land in Illinois was available only to whites; the significance of this is discussed in more depth on this website elsewhere. To help enforce the Fugitive Slave Law, in 1853 the state legislature passed a law prohibiting Negroes from moving to Illinois. (Over the years, the prohibition wasn’t enforced consistently, and it was eventually repealed in 1865.)

The town of Boody is located on the St. Louis and Pacific Railway, in the eastern portion of the township, southwest of Decatur. It was named after William Boody, president of the Decatur and East St. Louis Railroad. Boody was fairly isolated. Although it is close to Decatur, during its early years travel to Decatur was difficult and roads were often impassable. Frederick Nientker and Reverend John Smith laid out the town in 1870, and Nientker became the first postmaster and erected the first general store in Boody.

By 1850, twenty years before Boody itself was established, William Henry Sleeter had started to farm on the 40 acres he purchased (with cash) from the U.S. Government. (I suspect that he arrived in America with some economic means.) He and Amelia had two children at the time. Her family (the Fahrenhorsts) lived in the next 40 acre lot, and the Nientkers lived on another adjoining lot, as shown in an  excerpt from an 1874 plat map to the left. Jim Pistorius, a descendent of John Pistorius who came to Boody from Germany in the mid-1850s, wrote that the land was fairly wet; draining it was a chore. As native prairie, however, the land was richly fertile. Farmers initially planted potatoes, then corn, which they were unsure what to do with (corn is not native to Germany), so they made whiskey with it and took it to St. Louis to sell. Wheat turned out to be a very good crop. The farmers also raised livestock.

In 1853, William Henry purchased an additional 160 acres from the U.S. Government, again paying cash. According to agricultural economist Folke Dovring, in 1850 average farmland value in Illinois was $8 per acre, which in 2007 terms would be $197 per acre. Using that estimate, William H. Sleeter had paid about $39,400 for the 200 acres he purchased. The Civil War (1861-1865) turned out to be an economic boon for grain farmers in the Midwest by boosting demand. Crop prices and land values in Illinois rose throughout the war.

The Sleeters eventually had ten children. Four died of typhoid in between January and May of 1862 (including their oldest child Hannah, who was 13 when she died). Apparently, according to McAndrew, the winter of 1862 was particularly cold and epidemics including typhoid, swept through Civil War Camp Butler in Springfield, Illinois, that winter. Two years later, another child died in infancy. However, five children survived to adulthood, including great-grandfather William Phillip, who was born in 1858.

During the 1850s, William Henry Sleeter helped to establish two important community cultural institutions: a German Methodist church and a school. In 1830 the first Methodist Church in Blue Mound township had been established. By the 1860s, according to Smith’s History of Macon County, Macon county had 13 churches, including 7 English and 2 German Methodist churches and circuits, all with regular pastors.

In October, 1855, according to the Zion Methodist Church centennial records, Rev. Peter Hehner, sent by the St. Louis Conference of the German Methodist Church, came to Boody where, with 18 German residents (including Wilhelm Schlichter and John H. Fahrenhorst) the Zion Church of Boody was established. On November 24, 1855, in William Sleeter’s home, plans were made to buy a lot in Decatur for the congregation there, and also to build a church for the Boody congregation on land that William Sleeter granted to this church. The one-room church, pictured to the left, was completed in 1862, costing $1629.80 to build. Until it was built, the German Methodist congregation met in members’ homes. In September, 1856, church records tell us that “the first Sunday school was established with ten pupils, four officers and teachers, and with a library of thirty-five books.” At the beginning it was customary that men sat on one side of the church and women on the other; however Pistorius recollection has it that in the early 1900s, Mrs. Henry A. Jockisch informed the church board that she would not attend unless she could sit with her husband. The board decided to change the seating policy.

By 1881 the church had 90 members. Initially most church services were in German; only one per month was in English. In the earliest church records, which were written in German, members’ names retained German spelling, even though many names had been anglicized and remained that way in legal documents. Gradually English gained ground, becoming bimonthly, then every Sunday evening, and eventually German was discontinued. The church is still standing, and as the picture to the left shows, renovations have not changed it much.

Shortly after founding the church, William Sleeter, Ira Warnick and William Evans organized the first local school, according to the Daily Review in Decatur. Apparently the curriculum was in English (early teachers' names were Augusta Wood, John Lynch, and Miss Jeremy Cotton, and Mrs. Smith), even though German language schooling was becoming common in the Midwest. Augusta Sleeter Albers attended the school in October - February of 1857-58, and 1858-59, graduating at age 13. She recalled much about it. About 31 children attended with her, ranging in age from 6 - 20. At the time, reading was less important to survival that knowledge gained through farm work; only the “more fortunate” children attended school. Children, and particularly the older boys, were needed for work on the family farm, so they attended only when they could. The curriculum came from the “Blue-Black” speller and McGuffey’s readers. Since there was a long gap between terms (mid-February through mid-October, when children worked on the farm), children returning in October had usually forgotten most of what they had learned the year before. According to Augusta Sleeter Albers, until the church was built, a little one-room building on the Sleeter farm housed the church, the school, and community social activities. It was constructed of rough boards turned out in a local sawmill. It had small windows since glass was expensive, and consequently was always dark. The room was furnished with a teacher’s desk opposite the door, two rows of backless benches fashioned from logs, and a large heating stove.

Apparently William was an accomplished woodcarver. In a book of family memories of the Pistorius family, who arrived in Boody a few years later and eventually had many children who stayed in the area, William carved a large wooden elephant that children liked to climb up onto, and that served as a landmark for a period of time.

John Fahrenhorst died in 1859. Hannah Fahrenhorst moved in with William and Amelia. William died (probably of a heart attack) in 1866 at the age of 43, and was buried in Salem cemetery. (The Zion church that he helped to establish did not establish its own cemetery right away; in January 31, 1882, William’s two adult children John and Charlotte granted a strip of land for a road connecting the church and the cemetery.)

Amelia, pregnant with Lillie, found herself a widow. In March 29, 1873, a year after her mother died, she married Philip Pinger, a lumber merchant and widower in St. Joseph, Missouri, taking the youngest children (Charlotte, Charles and Lillile) with her. Son John Henry Sleeter married Anna Harmel in March of 1872 in St. Joseph, which could have been the event through which Amelia and Philip met. While living in St. Joseph, daughter Charlotte married George W. Hauck (in 1874) of St. Joseph, who may have been Philip Pinger’s nephew. Amelia died in 1884; she was brought back to Boody and buried with William Henry in Salem cemetery.

Augusta Sleeter Albers, pictured to the left a year before she died at the age of 97, married Henry Albers of Boody. Her father Charles lived with her and Henry for several years, presumably until he died in 1881. His headstone is shown below; we are not sure why his name is spelled Shleeter. According to Augusta, her sister Dora Sleeter eventually married a Bowman; this could have been John Bowman of South Wheatland, Macon County, Illinois.

One of Amelia Fahrenhorst Sleeter’s sisters, Henrietta, married Fred Bailey of Boody. Their picture, taken at their 50th wedding anniversary, is shown below.


The children of William and Amelia Sleeter were:
  • Amelia Hannah (b. Dec. 28, 1848, d. May 10, 1862)
  • John Henry (b. Jan. 14, 1850, d. Dec. 19, 1897)
  • Charlotte (Lottie) Elmina (b. April 18, 1852, d. Feb, 2, 1894), married George W. Hauck
  • William Louis (b. March 13, 1854, d. May 13, 1962)
  • Henrietta (b. March 3, 1856, d. April 28, 1862)
  • William Phillip (b. Dec. 19, 1858, d. 1898), married Lydia Jockisch
  • Laura Augusta (b. August 20, 1861, d. March 2, 1864)
  • Charles Franklin (b. Oct. 16, 1863, d. March 2, 1864)
  • Charles Wesley (b. March 13, 1865, d. 1946), married Pauline Minna Jockisch
  • Lillie Alice (b. March 11, 1867, d. 1948), married Julius B. Fick


Sources:

100 Years to the Glory of God. (1955). Zion Chapel Methodist Church. RR 2 Macon, Illinois.

n.a. (1931). Augusta Sleeter Albers. Newspaper article, copied with out citation, in the collection of Ronald T. Sleeter, Decatur, IL.

Boody School. (1913). The Daily Review, September 19.

Collord, F. (date). letter to Ron T. Sleeter.

Dodd, J., Liahona Research. Illinois Marriages 1790-1860. Provo, UT. Retrieved May 28, 2008 from http://www.ancestry.com.

Dovring, F. (1977) The farmland boom in Illinois. Illinois Agricultural Economics 17 (2), 34-38.

Duden, G. (1829). Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerikas. J. W. Goodrich (General Editor), G. H. Kellner, E. Nagel, A. E. Schroeder, & W. M. Senner, Eds and Translators. University of Missouri Press.

Frizzell, R. W. (2007). Independent immigrants: A settlement of Hanoverian Germans in Western Missouri. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.

Kansas Kickapoo Tribe. http://www.ktik-nsn.gov/home.htm

McAndrew, T. M. (2008, May 15). Camp misery. Illinois Times. Retrieved September 27 from http://www.illinoistimes.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A7575

Pistorius, J. A. (Ed.) (1990). The Pistorius family memory book. Unpublished, original located in the Zion Chapel Church library, Boody, IL.

Smith, J. W. (1876). History of Macon County, Illinois, from its organization to 1876. Springfield, IL: Rokker’s Printing House.

Tolzmann, D. H. (2000). The German-American experience. New York: Humanity Books.

U.S. Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880.

U.S. General Land Office Records 1796-1907. Provo, UT. Retrieved May 27, 2008 from http://www.ancestry.com.

Wagner, J. F. (2005). A History of Migration from Germany to Canada, 1850-1939. University of British Columbia Press.

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