Germantown/Germanville, Illinois History

This township is very appropriately named. It is strictly a German town. Three-fourths of its population, perhaps, are from the "Faderland," and have sought the prairies of the New World, and homes where all are free and all are equal. No more honest and enterprising farmers, or quiet and peaceable citizens exist in Livingston County, than these hard-working Germans of the township heading this chapter. They move on in the " even tenor of their way" without ostentation or display, quietly enjoying their pipes and their lager beer, and very rarely interfering, to their credit be it said, in the affairs of others. Germantown occupies the extreme southeast corner of the county, and is described as Township 25 north, Range 8 east of the Third Principal Meridian. It is a fractional town, and is almost entirely prairie, with but very little native timber, and a small quantity of what was in the earlier days of settlement, termed "swamp lands." Until 1867, Germantown was included in Chatsworth Township, as noticed in that part of this work. At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors that year, Germantown petitioned to be set off, and thus became an independent town. 

Thomas Y. Brown made the first actual settlement in Germantown Township in 1855. He came from Jefferson County, N. Y., and located as noticed above, in Germantown, where he lived until a few years ago when he retired from active business and removed to the village of Chatsworth. He still owns his farm in Germantown, which is cultivated by tenants, while he resides in the village enjoying the competence his life of industry and perseverance in business has won for him. A son of Mr. Brown's is engaged in the banking business at Chatsworth. and is one of the honorable business men of the place. 

The next year after the settlement of Mr. Brown in Germantown witnessed the arrival of Nicholas Froebe and P. Goembel, from the "Black Forests of the Rhine." They settled here in the Fall of 1856, and were soon followed by others from " Deutschland," until today, as stated a little space ago, nearly the entire town is settled up with Germans, many of whom cannot speak a word of English, and among whom the mellow accents of Germany alone are heard. Dr. R. B. Wilson, who came from Ireland, but lived in Washington, Tazewell County, owned a section or two of land in this township. He sold the most of it to Germans, who, through his instrumentality came here and made their settlement within a few years from the time of the first opening made by Brown. 

Hon. Samuel T. Fosdick is from New York City, and was induced to come West by his physician, with a hope of restoring his feeble health. He settled in Germantown in 1858. At that time, he informed us, there were living in the town Thomas Y. Brown and a few German families; the remainder of the lands were unoccupied. A few years ago Mr. Fosdick removed into Chatsworth village, where he at present resides. He is a lawyer of merit, and a member of the State Senate, from the district composed of the Counties of Livingston and Ford. But a more complete history of him is given in the chapter devoted to Chatsworth. This includes the first settlements made in this township, and brings its history up to a period when immigrants came in, mostly from the " old country," with too much rapidity for the historian to keep trace of them. 

Germantown has no church edifices, nor a store or post office, within its territorial limits. There are, however, several church societies of the German Lutheran, Ormish and Evangelical Association, who hold their religious meetings in the school houses, and at the people's residences but of them, we were unable to obtain much definite information. Their mail is received from Chatsworth, Strawn and other offices around its borders, and their trading is likewise done at these places. 

The schools of Germantown are in a very flourishing condition, and well up to the standard of public schools in any other section of the county. The first school was taught in 1859, but the name of the teacher is forgotten. We find from the records that in 1866 there were three school districts in the county, and thirty-five scholars in attendance. White persons under 21 years of age were forty-five, and the school fund was $146. In 1873 there were five schools ; 161 children between the ages of 6 and 21 years, and the number at school 101. Two male and six female teachers were employed, and the district tax levy for support of schools was $947. The following figures are taken from the last annual report of A. B. Minnerly, School Treasurer of the township, to the county superintendent of schools : 

Number of males in township under 21 years 168

Number of females in township under 21 years 158

Total 326

Number of males between 6 and 21 years 101

Number of females between 6 and 21 years 118

Total 219

Number of males attending school 76

Number of females attending school 60

Total 136

Number of male teaohers employed 6

Number of female teachers employed 4

Total 10

Estimated value of school property $4.600.00

School fund for support of schools 8,790.60

Highest monthly wages paid any teacher 46.00

Lowest monthly wages paid any teacher » 26.00

Whole amount paid teachers 1,237.75

There are at present in the township, which is fractional, five school Districts, in all of which there are good, comfortable school houses, and schools maintained for the usual term each year. 

We have stated that Germantown 'was without churches, stores and post offices, and we may add, without mills, railroads, mighty water courses or great forests. In fact it has little history beyond the settlement of its quiet citizens. It is well supplied with good roads; but these are of too modern construction to be an interesting matter of history. Its political faith is pretty evenly divided between the two great parties of the day, and indeed, it is stated that the Presidential contest in 1876 between Hayes and Tilden was a tie vote. The present township officers of Germantown are A. B. Minnerly, Supervisor; John Leggate and A. B. Minnerly, Justices of the Peace ; F. C. Dassan, Town Clerk; Charles Roedel, Collector, and John Leggate, Assessor. 


Source:The History of Liviningston County, Illinois

                W.E. LeBaron & Co. , 1878



Germanville Lutheran Church

The Lutheran Book - 1872-1972


This is from the Chatsworth Plaindealer August 26, 1976 on the German Evangelical Church.

Written by Katherine Rupple


In the early days of Germanville Township (1862-1865) there were a group of German speaking people who felt the need of a place of worship. There being no church in the community at that time, meetings were held in the homes. The group met in the Henry Ruppel home for their first meeting. On the 15th of August 1865 they officially became members of the Evangelical Association of North America. The document recording  this association was then put on file in the County Records at the county seat, Pontiac, Illinois. Rev. Stuwig was appointed chairman and Phillip Ruppel, secretary. Trustees were: Phillip Ruppel, Henry, Ruppel, Adam Kopp and Phillip Goembel. At first a circuit rider who served the Evangelical church southeast of the town of Roberts came to hold services in Germanville. The services were at first held in the homes but as the group became larger, meetings were held in the schoolhouses. Carl Wisthuff was the first class leader. The families of the congregation walked to church in all season and in all kinds of weather. If light was needed, a lantern was carried. From 1890-91 a church was built on the land of the adjoining farms of Phillip  and Henry Ruppel. The land was donated to the association for as long a time as there was a church on it. The church was built by Henry Wisthuff and Sebastian Glabe with the assistance of all the men in the congregation. It was a white modern frame church with a tall steeple. The church was heated by a furnace in the basement and it was lighted by large brass kerosene hanging lamps. 

The first children baptized in the new Germanville church were Clara Schade (Game), Luella Glabe (Oliver), Lydia Hornickel and Fred Glabe. Services were in the German language until about 1900 when for a while some of the sermons were in German and some in English until about 1910 when all services were in English. Members of the congregation were the following families: Berlet, Dassow, Glabe, Kopp, H. Hornickel, A. Grosenbach, Goembel, Ruppel, Schade, Shafer, Stein, Wisthuff. 

In those early days the minister made the long drive from Chatsworth by horse and buggy, or by horseback. He was entertained in the homes Sunday noon and many times stayed over until the next day to make the long trip back to town. Services were held in the morning and evening and sometimes in the afternoon. 

The men sat on one side of the aisle and the women on the other. Two communion cups were used, one for the men and the other for the women. Men and women knelt at the alter, each group on its own side of the church. In the Sunday school, children were taught to speak German until 1904. Some English speaking children attended in order to learn the German language. 

Until 1918 Germanville Evangelical church was part of a circuit of three churches; the other two being Chatsworth and Charlotte. In time many of the original members moved to other communities with few new members moving in; the membership dwindled until those few remaining felt a minister should not be asked to make the long trip from Chatsworth to Grmanville and the church was closed in the spring of 1918 and the remaining congregation merged with the Chatsworth Evangelical church. The church building was sold and dismantled. Now all that remains is a dent in the ground between the two farms. 

The Germanville  Lutheran Church later became the Community Hall.


American Aerial History  Series" 1955 

Read the biography of Charles Froebe 
See picture of Charles Froebe family 
 Read the biography of  Henry Hummel


Old Pioneers of Germanville

DAVIS, Henry, b. Nov. 9, 1846, farmer, 1888

DENNEWITZ, Christopher, b. May 8, 1842 in Howtroder, Germany, (unsure of Township, placed here due to nationality) 1888

FROEBE, Nicholas, b. May 26, 1826 in Hesse-Cassel, Germany, farmer, Township Clerk, 1878

GOEMBEL, William Philip, b. Aug. 20, 1856 Hesse-Cassel, Germany,  farmer, 1878

HORNICKLE, Nicholas, b. Aug. 14, 1843 in Germany, farmer, 1888

HORNICKLE, Henry, b. June 15, 1839, farmer, 1888

KOESTNER, George, b. March 23, 1816 in Germany, Supervisor of Germanville Twp., farmer 1888

KNIGHT, Marshall R., b. April 5, 1831, Farmer, 1888

LEGGATE, John, b. Aug. 25, 1816 in Larnarkshire, Scotland, weaver, farmer, 1888, 1878

LOCKNER, John G., b. June 24, 1840, Civil War Vet., farmer, 1888

MINNERLY, Albert B., b. Dec. 3, 1815 in NY, farmer, blacksmith, 1878

MOORE, Daniel D., b. Sept. 19, 1849 in Indiana,  miller by trade, farmer, 1878

NETHERTON, Henry, b. Feb. 12, 1838 in Cornwall County, England,  stock raiser, 1888

PHILLIPS, Edward, b. Aug. 1, 1843, farmer, civil war, 1878

RUPPEL, Philipp, b. Aug; 5, 1825 in Germany, farmer 1878





Germanville Cemetery

Photo from "American Aerial History  Series" 1955 





This cemetery has been photographed and many posted at this link:

Find A Grave 


Germanville Cemetery today





This Bible published in 1873 has been donated to the Germanville Women's Club. The only individual name found written in the Bible was that of Minnie Holmes, with the date of 1898. This is the biography of her father Christian Holmes.
From:The biographical record of Livingston County, Illinois (1900)
Christian Holmes was born in Denmark February 19. 1842. He was educated in his native land and at the age of twenty-five years emigrated to America. He was a carpenter by trade, having served his apprenticeship in the land of his birth. When he  came to this country he first located in Nashville, Washington county. Illinois, where he worked at his trade a few years, when he removed to Normal. Illinois, where he also worked at his trade until he was obliged to discontinue it on account of failing  
health, in 1875. At this time he concluded to engage in the more healthful pursuit of tilling the soil. He accordingly purchased eighty acres of land in Brenton township, Ford county, Illinois, where he immediately moved with his family and still resides on this farm of his first purchase. He also has purchased one hundred and ninety-two acres more since that time, which is under a fine state of cultivation and which ranks Mr. Holmes among the extensive land owners of that prosperous community. He was  
married, at Chicago, Illinois, in April. 1869, to Miss Maria Hansen, who was also a native of Denmark. She came to this country in 1869 and they were married upon her arrival here. They reared a family of nine children, seven of whom are living, viz. : Hannah C. ; Mrs. I. M. Knight: Louis, who resides near Piper City. Illinois ; George, same place : Minnie, at home ; John, at home :  Freddie, at home; Willie, at home. Mr. Holmes has never aspired to political office, but has served his township on several occasions as school director. He is a stanch Republican, and the family are adherents to the Presbyterian faith.