The spirit of self-help is the source of all genuine worth in the individual. It is the man who comes to recognize his own powers and his own limitations and who understands the possibilities that are open in the business world that makes orderly progression along the paths of success. Such a man is John lehl, now successfully conducting a banking business in Melvin and also deriving a gratifying income from valuable farming property.
He was born in Baldenheim in the province of Alsace, then a part of France but now of Germany. His natal day was January 13, 1839, and he was the second in the family of three children whose parents were John and Barbara (lehl) lehl, who though of the same name were not relatives. They, too, were natives of Baldenheim, the father born in May, 1809, and the mother in April of the same year. They continued residents of Germany until 1850, when, hoping to enjoy better business opportunities in the new world, the father brought his family to America and established his home in Deerfield township, Lake county, Illinois, where for some years he carried on a farm, there residing until 1888, when he removed to Northfield township, Cook county, Illinois. The mother died in Deerfield township, Lake county, in April, 1852, at the age of forty-three years and the father long survived, passing away April 27, 1894. Of their children Barbara, the eldest, who was born March 17, 1836, is now the widow of Phillip Laesser and resides in Northfield, Cook county. The younger daughter, Salome, born July 28, 1842, is the widow of David Horenberger and a resident of Deerfield, Lake county.
John lehl, the only son, remained a resident of his native province to the age of eleven years, when he accompanied his parents on their emigration to the new world. They sailed from Havre to New York and reached Chicago twenty-one days after their embarkation. The voyage across the Atlantic was a short one for a sailing ship. As stated, the family home was established upon a farm in Lake county Illinois, and there John lehl remained with his parents until 1860, being trained to the work of the home farm, while as opportunity offered he also continued his education, begun in the schools of his native country, in the public schools near his father's home. When he had reached adult age he started out in life on his own account, working as a farm hand until his labor had brought him sufficient capital to enable him to engage in business for himself. He was employed at farm labor in Marshall county until 1868 and was in the employ of one man for seven years.
In 1868 he removed to Ford county, settling in Peach Orchard township before the railroad was built or the town of Melvin founded. He purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land, constituting the northwest quarter of section 28, and is still the owner of that property, on which he continuously made his home until 1874, when he rented his farm and engaged in the grain business in Melvin in partnership with William Frasius and George T. Arends under the firm style of Frasius, lehl & Company. They dealt in grain, seeds and coal, conducting a successful business until 1876, when the senior partner sold out. The firm name of lehl & Company was then adopted and the business was thus carried on until 1890, when they withdrew from the grain trade and established the private banking business that has since been conducted at Melvin, under the name of lehl & Company. Both partners are active in the management of the bank, which has long been recognized as a substantial moneyed institution, having back of it valuable collateral in the shape of fine farming property. In 1899 they built an attractive brick bank building, which is an important addition to the business houses of Melvin. As Mr. lehl has prospered in his undertakings he has from time to time invested in land until he is now the owner of seven hundred and twenty acres, all in Ford county. It is very rich and productive and returns to him a gratifying income.
On the 3d of June, 1871, Mr. lehl was married to Miss Mary Arends, who was born in Groveland, Tazewell county, Illinois, November 5, 1853, and came to Ford county in January, 1870, with her parents, Teis and Teda (Becker) Arends. She is also a sister of her husband's partner. Unto Mr. and Mrs. lehl have been born five children. Hannah is the wife of M. D. Townsend, a farmer of Peach Orchard township, living about a mile south of Melvin, and they have three children: Glenn I., Mary and John T. George T., who is employed in the bank in Melvin, married Bertha Shilts and they have three children, Ethel, Margaret and Clara. Clara M. is the wife of F. G. Ruff, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and has a daughter, Helen. Edwin A. is a student in the State University at Champaign. Walter C. is attending school in Melvin.
In politics Mr. lehl has been a stalwart republican since casting his first presidential vote for Lincoln in 1864. He has the notable and creditable record of serving as supervisor of Peach Orchard township for twenty-two years, having been a member of the board longer than any other supervisor during the history of the township. He was also village trustee for six years and in discharging his official duties is prompt, energetic and loyal, doing everything in his power to promote the public service. He attends the German Methodist Episcopal church and is a man whom to know is to respect and honor. His life proves conclusively that difficulties may be overcome by determined purpose and that the individual may secure success if he has but the will to dare and to do. His methods have ever been such as will bear close scrutiny and no higher testimonial of his worth as a business man and citizen can be given than is manifest in the genuine respect which his fellow townsmen and all who know him entertain for him.

Extracted 19 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 1, pages 358-360.

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