George Onken belongs to that class of representative American citizens who are known as self-made men and his success has been built upon the substantial qualities of unfaltering energy, determination and honorable business methods. He is now numbered among the substantial farmers of Drummer township, living on section 10, where he owns one hundred and sixty acres of land, while farming interests elsewhere in the county and state also pay tribute to him. He is a son of Wilke Onken, who spent his entire life in Germany as did also the mother of our subject. He had three brothers who w^ere soldiers in the German army.
At the age of twenty-five years George Onken came to America, crossing the Atlantic in 1869. Making his way into the interior of the county, he settled first in Menard county, Illinois, where he worked by the day for three years. While he had no capital, he possessed laudable ambition, which prompted him to Work steadily and save his money with the hope that he might later engage in business on his own account. When three years had passed he rented land at Petersburg, Illinois, and subsequently, about 1872, rented a farm of two hundred acres in Ford county, upon which he lived for two years.
On the expiration of that period Mr. Onken was married in 1875 to Miss Wilhelmina von Brethorst, a daughter of L. L. von Brethorst, of Ford county. Five years later he purchased a quarter section of land for twenty-five dollars per acre. Year after year the work of plowing, planting and harvesting is carried on, with the result that the place is today valued at two hundred dollars per acre. Many substantial improvements have been made on the farm and in addition to this property Mr. Onken also owns one hundred and seventy-four acres north of Gibson City, which he rents, a quarter section in McLean county, which is also rented, and a half section in North Dakota. His home is one of the finest residences of Ford county and stands as a splendid monument to his life of thrift, enterprise and unwearied industry. He has been very successful and now makes a specialty of the raising of corn and oats. In all of his farm work he is practical and progressive and is numbered among the leading agriculturists of this part of the state.
As the years have passed Mr. and Mrs. Onken have reared a family of sons and daughters who do credit to their name. Minnie, their eldest child, now Mrs. Emminger, is a widow and has one son. Elizabeth is at home. Deana is a teacher in the ninth room of the Gibson public schools. Ida is the wife of Merton Gilmore and has two daughters. George is in the second year of the Illinois University. Alice G. is also under the parental roof.
In his political views Mr. Onken is a republican, with firm faith in the principles of the party yet without aspiration for office. He belongs to the Presbyterian church and his life has been guided by its principles and its teachings. While he has won notable success as an agriculturist, he has at the same time followed methods that have been most honorable, his life record proving that prosperity and an untarnished name may be gained simultaneously. His example, too, should serve to encourage and inspire others who have to start out as he did — empty-handed — placing their dependence solely upon their own labors.

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 585-586.

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