August Onken, now living in Gibson City, was in former years closely associated with the agricultural interests of Ford county. He is a self-made man and he deserves credit for what he has accomplished, for he started out in life empty-handed. He was born in Ost Friesland, in northern Germany, October 21, 3840, a son of Welki and Elizabeth (Hoyne) Onken. The father was in limited financial circumstances and provided for his family by strenuous effort at farm labor. The opportunities which his son August enjoyed in youth were rather meager. He had the advantage of only three years' training in the schools and afterward worked on different farms in the vicinity of his birthplace for thirteen years until twenty-six years of age, when he determined to seek a home and fortune in America, believing that he might have better opportunities in the new world. When he crossed the Atlantic his possessions consisted of little more tlian the clothes which he wore. The middle west was his destination and he made his way direct to Jacksonville, Illinois, while later he went to Tallula, Menard county, west of Petersburg. It was in the year 1867 that he crossed the Atlantic as a passenger on a sailing vessel, which was forty-two days in completing that voyage. Mr. Onken worked as a farm hand for two years and nine months in Menard county and then began farming on his own account on rented land.
In the year 1871 he was married to Johannah Harms and unto them were born two daughters, but both died in infancy, and the wife and mother passed away in 1873. In 1876 Mr. Onken was again married, his second union being with Tcany Elizabeth Weakman, of Ford county. They had four children: Louis, who is now a broker of Spokane, Washington; John, who is also located in Spokane; and Henry and Emma, who died in childhood.
After cultivating rented land for several years, Mr. Onken, as the result of his unwearied industry and careful expenditure, was enabled in 1882 to purchase one hundred and sixty acres, for which he paid forty dollars per acre. From that time on he has steadily progressed in the business world and as his financial resources have increased he has from time to time added to his property holdings until he became the owner of seven hundred and eighty acres in Ford and Champaign counties. He gave three hundred and twenty acres of this to his sons and the remainder he now leases for general farming. Two years ago he removed to Gibson City and bought a fine home, which he occupies in the enjoyment of well earned rest. He is a member of the Lutheran church and gives his political allegiance to the democracy. Well known throughout this section of the state, he has a wide and favorable acquaintance and enjoys in large measure the esteem and confidence of his fellowmen. Arriving in the United States with no capital save a stout heart and willing hands, he realized the fact that while in this country labor is unhampered by caste or class it is only by unfaltering diligence, guided by sound judgment, that success can be secured. By the exercise of these qualities he has made steady progress and is now one of the substantial residents of Gibson City.

Extracted 16 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 2, pages 460-461.

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