JOHN J. CLESS, who is engaged in general farming on section 30, Brenton Township, has had a varied life. He was born in Germany, has shared in the hardships of piooneer life in Illinois and the experiences of gold mining in California, and is now living quietly as a farmer. His birth occurred in Wurtemberg on the 10th of July, 1827. He is one of ten children born to Gotlieb and Catherina (Buckenberg) Cless. His father was a stonemason and spent his entire life in his native land. When eighteen years of age, he served in the army against Napoleon and was wounded at the battle of Lille on the return of the French Emperor from Russia. The children of the Cless family are Gotlieb, now a resident of Newark, N. J.; Conrad, who came to this country and died of sunstroke; John, of this sketch; William, who is living in Newark, N. J.; Gustaf, who died in Germany, and Fredericka, who is living in Newark, N. J. The others of the family are all deceased and those who still survive are residents of America.

At the age of fourteen, our subject began learning the carpenter's trade, which he followed until twenty-two years of age, when he determined to seek his fortune in the United States and in 1849 sailed from Havre to New York. The succeeding three years of his life were spent in New Jersey, where he worked for a time at cabinet-making at low wages, and followed any other pursuit whereby he might earn an honest living. Attracted by the discovery of gold, he sailed for California in the spring of 1852, going by the Isthmus route, and spent three and a half years in the mines on the Pacific Slope, meeting with a fair degree of success. He returned in 1855 by the way of the Nicaragua route and remained in Newark, N. J., until 1856, when he removed to Wisconsin and purchased a farm in Waukesha County, upon which he made his home for ten years. He then sold out, and in 1866 came to La Salle County, Ill., where he spent two years.

In September, 1856, at the age of twenty-nine, Mr. Cless was married, in Newark, N. J., to Barbara Stadler, who was born in Baden, Germany, and when a maiden of nine summers came with her parents to the United States. They had seven sons and two daughters: William, a barber of Chicago; George, a policeman of the same city; Jacob, who operates the farm; Samuel, who is living in Chicago, where he is employed as a sign-hanger; Henry, Charles, Edward; Louisa, wife of Dan Millgrain, a farmer of Brenton Township, and Emma, wife of .John Burger, who is engaged in agricultural pursuits in Brenton Township.

The year 1868 witnessed the arrival of Mr. Cless and family in Ford County. He purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land, upon which he has since made his home, with the exception of five years which he spent in Chicago just after the great fire, his farm being rented during that period. He has made many good improvements, has erected a comfortable house and barns and planted hedges and shade trees, which add both to the value and attractive appearance of the place. He is now living retired while his sons operate the farm. When he came to America he had only $50 in his pocket, and he certainly deserves great credit for the success which has crowned his efforts and made him one of the substantial citizens of the community.

Mr. Cless cast his first Presidential vote for Franklin Pierce in 1852. He voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and on questions of national importance affiliates with the Republican party, but at local elections votes independently. He has held the office of Overseer of Highways in his district but has never sought for public preferment. In religious belief, he is a member of the Lutheran Church, as is also his wife. In the community where he has made his home for almost a quarter of a century, he is widely and favorably known and is recognized as a valued citizen.

Extracted 14 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Record of Ford County, Illinois, published in 1892, pages 200-201.

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