No history of Peach Orchard township would be complete without mention of Mrs. Fannie A. Koestner, who was the first white child born within its borders and is today its oldest resident, having remained here for a longer period than any other of its citizens. She was born May 29, 1857, a daughter of William B. and Eliza Holmes. Her grandparents in the paternal line were William and Mary (Womack) Holmes, the former an agriculturist of Derbyshire, England, where the Holmes, family had owned a farm for more than four centuries. It was upon this farm that his children were born and reared. They were John, who died March 9, 1881; Lizzie, the wife of Aaron Fletcher; Jane, the deceased wife of William Greene; Charles, who was a carpenter but afterward lived retired in Danville, Illinois; William, the father of Mrs. Koestner; and Henry, deceased. William Holmes, Sr., died December 15, 1859, having for a number of years survived his wife, who passed away in 1842. They were consistent Christian people, holding membership in the Methodist church.
As stated, it was at the old ancestral home of the family in Derbyshire, England, that William B. Holmes was born, his natal day being September 23, 1820. There he spent his boyhood days and when fifteen years of age was apprenticed by his father to a coachmaker for a term of six years, his labors being given for his instruction, as he received no wages in compensation for his services. He continued to work at his trade in England until 1849, when he took passage on a sailing vessel that weighed anchor at Bristol and in due course of time reached New York harbor. He was accompanied by his brother Charles and after a voyage of forty-nine days they landed in the eastern metropolis, whence they made their way to Albany, to Buffalo and by the Great Lakes to Milwaukee. There William B. Holmes was employed for a brief period in a sash and door factory but determined to give his time and energies to agricultural pursuits and located upon a tract of forty acres of heavy timber land in Fond du Lac county, Wisconsin, which he purchased from the government. Not a furrow had been turned nor an improvement made and in the midst of the forest he built a log cabin and began breaking his land with ox-teams. Thus he cleared and placed under cultivation several acres but in 1852 sold that property preparatory to removing to Georgetown, Vermilion county, Illinois, where his brother Charles, with whom he had come to the United States, was then living. Together the brothers engaged in carpenter work until 1855, when William B. Holmes purchased from the government three hundred and twenty acres of land in that section of Vermilion county which has since become Ford county, the tract being located on section 27, Peach Orchard township. Mr. Holmes there built a house, broke ten acres of the land and made other improvements, after which he returned to Georgetown. In 1857 he brought his family to the farm which he had prepared and they made the first permanent settlement in Peach Orchard township. The experiences of pioneer life were theirs and all of the difficulties and hardships which fall to the lot of the frontier settler became familiar to them. As the years passed, however, the labors of Mr. Holmes wrought a change in his financial condition and the settlement of the county made it possible for the family to enjoy many of the comforts and some of the luxuries of life known to the older east. About the time the Holmes family established their residence here Joshua Nicholson also settled in the locality, bringing with him about one thousand peach sprouts, which he set out on his new farm and thus the name of Peach Orchard was given to the township.
It was on the 26th of December, 1844, that William B. Holmes was married to Miss Eliza Wrenn, a daughter of William and Sarah D. (Bennett) Wrenn. Her father, who was a professor of music, was born in Gloucester, England, and was a descendant of Christopher Wrenn, the great architect of London, who built St. Paul's cathedral and many other noted buildings. In the Wrenn family were eight children. The father died in 1855 and the mother in 1844, both being laid to rest in Bristol, England. It was there that Mrs. Holmes was born October 5, 1820, and by her marriage she became the mother of ten children: Henry, who died in 1845; Bartholomew, a farmer of Monticello, Indiana, and a native of Crewe, Cheshire, England; Lizzie, who died in 1852; Henry C, who died at the age of twenty-one years; William S., an attorney practicing at Effingham, Illinois; John W., a farmer residing at Phillips, Nebraska; Mrs. Fannie Koestner; Mary, who died in 1887; and Sarah E. and Alfred L., who died in infancy.
The children were all reared on the old homestead farm in Peach Orchard township, where Mr. Holmes continued to successfully carry on general farming until 1888. As the years passed he transformed his property into a valuable tract of land but at length retired from active farm work and took up his abode in Melvin, where his remaining days were passed. His political allegiance was given to the democracy and he filled a number of local offices in a most creditable manner entirely satisfactory to his constituents. He was one of the first supervisors of Peach Orchard township, was also township assessor, highway commissioner and school trustee, while for fourteen years he served as justice of the peace, rendering decisions which were strictly fair and impartial. He resided in Peach Orchard township for ten years before there were settlers enough there to organize a board of directors. Both were members of the Congregational church. They were most highly esteemed throughout the community in which they so long resided and in their death the county lost two of its most honored, worthy and respected pioneers. Mr. Holmes passed away in Melvin, July 18, 1897, and his wife on the 9th of December, 1903.
Their daughter Fannie spent her girlhood days in the parents' home, being reared upon the farm where her birth occurred and a part of which she now owns. She has always resided in Peach Orchard township, her residence here antedating that of any other citizen. In early womanhood she gave her hand in marriage to Paul Koestner, who for some years was a well known and prominent farmer of Ford county. His birth occurred in Bavaria, Germany, August 20, 1851, his parents being John and Catherine Koestner, who were also natives of that country and had a family of eight children. The year 1866 witnessed the emigration of Paul Koestner to the new world. He was then but fifteen years of age and after arriving in New York City he made his way to Henry, Marshall county, Illinois, where he began providing for his own support by work as a farm hand, spending several years there. In 1871 he arrived in Ford county, where he continued to make his home until called to his final rest. For two years he was employed here at farm labor by the month and then rented land in both Wall and Peach Orchard townships. He devoted considerable attention to the raising of stock and therein met success. It was while on his way to Chicago with a carload of stock that his death was occasioned by a railroad accident January 11, 1888. His remains were brought back to Ford county and interred in Melvin cemetery. He was then a comparatively young man of thirty-six years and his death was the occasion of deep and wide-spread regret to many friends as well as his immediate family. He was reliable as well as enterprising in business and progressive in citizenship, and his many good qualities won for him the confidence and respect of all who knew him.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. Koestner were born three children but they lost their first, Henry E., in infancy. Frank is now operating the home farm for his mother, while Wiliam, the youngest son, is a student in the State University at Champaign, pursuing a course in civil engineering. Mrs. Koestner resided upon the old homestead farm formerly belonging to her father until twenty-eight years of age, and after her husband's death she removed to Melvin, where she resided for sixteen years. Four years ago she returned to the farm, owning here eighty acres of rich and productive land, together with town property, from which she receives a good income. She is a lady of excellent business ability, who has capably managed her private interests and reared her children, her sons being now a credit to her name. Mrs. Koestner has most intimate knowledge of the history of Ford county and especially of Peach Orchard township, and it is with pleasure that we present her record to our readers. She has seen the wild prairie land converted into rich farms, roads laid out, the streams bridged, and churches and schools built until the county today bears little resemblance to the district in which her girlhood was passed, for then the settlers had to endure many of the hardships incident to pioneer life. Today money can secure all the advantages and comforts of the older east and Ford county has been transformed into one of the richest agricultural districts of this great state.

Extracted 17 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 2, pages 790-797.

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