Biography of Ernst A. Bechtel

Proprietor of the Staunton Nursery, which is located on section 29, in the town of Staunton, is numbered among the early settlers of the county of 1856, his residence here comprising a period of thirty-five consecutive years. Of German birth, he first opened his eyes to the light of day in the city of Bremen, January 24, 1830, and before he had attained his majority he came to this country. His father. Cornelius Bechtel, was also a native of Bremen, and became a leading wholesale merchant of that city, where he successfully carried on operations, becoming a wealthy man. He grew to manhood under the care of an elder sister, for his father had died when he was ten years of age. In Aldenburg, Germany, he wedded bliss Sophia Gether, a native of that city. His death occurred in 1850, at the age of sixty-three years. She long survived her husband and died November 30, 1887, when nearly eighty-three years of age. Both were members of the German Reformed Church and were people of prominence in Bremen, where they occupied a high social position. By their marriage were born two sons-our subject and his brother Henry, who died in Germany when a young man. By a former marriage Mr. Bechtel had become the father of six children, three daughters and three sons. The latter all came to America and two became prominent merchants of New York City. The other son returned and succeeded to his father’s wholesale business in Bremen. He died some years ago.

As his father was well off, our subject was enabled to secure a good education, and was thus fitted for life’s duties. At the age of nineteen, in 1849, he bade goodbye to home and friends, took passage upon the sailing-vessel “Gaston,” commanded by Capt. Blanke, and at length arrived in New York. He spent one year in the eastern part of the Empire State and then went to Washington, D. C., where he lived until he had attained his majority and wedded Miss Mary L. Gildemeister, who was born in Prussia, January 17, 1835, and comes of a very prominent and cultured family. Among her relatives was one famed for his literary productions. He was also a diplomat and served as State Ambassador. He was killed by the hand of an assassin. Otto Gildemeister, a cousin of Mrs. Bechtel, is a prominent German author and translator, who has translated into his native tongue the works of Shakespeare and Byron. Mrs. Bechtel is a daughter of Henry and Wilhelmina (Simonetti) Gildemeister, natives of Germany, and they were descended from families of note and worth. Among their relatives were those who held high positions under the Government. The mother was the daughter of an Italian musician who became the leader of a celebrated orchestra.

Mr. and Mrs. Gildemeister began their domestic life its Bremen and after some time he accepted a position as professor in a leading agricultural college of Prussia, his situation being for life, but, desiring to give his children better opportunities, he decided to come to America and in 1848, with his family, sailed across the Atlantic. He purchased a farm in the District of Columbia and nine years later, with his wife and children, some of whom were already married, came to Macoupin County, Ill., locating in Bunker Hill Township, where they resided until their removal to Bunker Hill to live retired. Mrs. Gildemeister died in 1870, at the age of sixty-five years. Mr. Gildemeister is still living in Bunker Hill, at the advanced age of ninety-seven years. His mental faculties are still unimpaired, but he now suffers from a paralytic stroke. He belongs to the German Reformed Church, of which his wife was also a member.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Bechtel have been born five children. Willielmina Minnie became the wife of John W. Turk, who died in Staunton Township, in 1885, leaving his widow and a daughter, Bertha, to mourn his loss. They now reside with her parents. Henry C. is engaged in the wholesale grocery business in Springfield, Mo.; August R. is extensively engaged in business as a nursery-man; Mary L. is the wife of Samuel Payne, an attorney-at-law residing in Greenfield, Mo.; Theodore is assisting his brother in the nursery business. The Bechtel family is numbered among the prominent people of Macoupin County and well deserve to occupy that rank.

Mr. Bechtel, the subject of this sketch, is a Republican in politics, and in all that pertains to the welfare and upbuilding of the community he has ever borne his part. He made farming his business until he engaged in his present line of trade. On coming to this county, he located upon a farm in Dorchester Township, about half way between Staunton and Bunker Hill, where he carried on agricultural pursuits for six years. He then established a nursery and vineyard, and has since carried on that business. His home is now on section 29, where eight years ago he established the Staunton Nursery. He carries all kinds of nursery plants, shrubbery and vegetables of excellent varieties, and has now a large wholesale and retail trade. The home comprises fifteen acres of fine land and is beautifully adorned with trees and shrubs. With Mr. Bechtel in business the sons are associated, and they now do the principal part of the work, relieving their father of the more arduous labors.

Source: Chapman bros. Portrait and biographical record of Macoupin county, Illinois. Chicago: Biographical publishing company, 1891.

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