John M. Ahrens is now living a retired life in Staunton. Of the citizens whom Germany has furnished to this county none are more worthy of a representation in this volume than the gentleman whose name heads this sketch. He was born in the Province of Holstein, Germany, November 30, 1828, and in that country his parents, John and Antje (Lucks) Ahrens, spent their entire lives. They were hard-working yet respected German people and both lived to about the age of four-score years. Throughout their lives they were members of the Lutheran Church, and to gain a livelihood Mr. Ahrens followed farming. The family numbered seven children, four sons and three daughters, and five of that number came to the United States. Matilda, now Mrs. Runge, was the first to cross the water and is now living in Nokomis, Ill., where her husband, Fred Runge, now deceased, followed blacksmithing for some years. Peter is now married and resides in Gillespie, where he is engaged in merchandising. John M. was the third to cross the water. Lena was married in Germany to Fritz Barnholdt, who died after they came to America and she is now the wife of John Sievers, of Grand Island, Neb. Catherina was married in Holstein to John Muller, who there died, after which she came to America. Her home is now in Cleveland, Ohio.
Our subject is a self-made man and whatever success he has met with in life is due to his own efforts. Since the early age of sixteen he had been dependent upon his own resources. He then began to learn the cabinet-maker’s trade and when he had mastered the business he sailed from Hamburg in June, 1855, on the vessel “Christian VIII,” which after a voyage of forty-two days dropped anchor in the harbor of New York. He entered upon his business career in this country as a cabinet-maker, following that trade until 1862, when he embarked in other pursuits.
In 1858 Mr. Ahrens formed a matrimonial alliance with Miss Elizabeth Ruther, who was born in Hanover, Germany, December 14, 1841, and when a child of six summers was brought to America by her parents, Frederick and Dora (Grim) Ruther, who took passage from Bremen, sailed to New York, and thence came to Illinois, settling on a farm near Alton. In 1851 the family came to Macoupin County, locating in Staunton Township, where Mr. Ruther is still living at the age of eighty-two years. His wife died in Fosterburg in 1848, at a comparatively early age. She was a member of the Lutheran Church, with which her husband has always been identified. Mrs. Ahrens remained with her parents until her marriage. She has proved a true helpmate to him and has made for him a pleasant home. Their union has been blessed with twelve children, two of whom are now deceased. Dora, who became the wife of Edgar Golightly, died at the birth of her first child, a son, when twenty-six years of age. Louis died in April, 1872. The surviving members of the family are John C., who married Cora Gray, of St. Louis, and is now a lumber merchant of Riverdale, Ill. Peter, who wedded Gertrude Jacobs, and is now operating the lumber yard at this place with his brother. Henry A. operates a lumber yard in Effingham, Ill.; Albert E., a partner of Peter; Mary E., Emma M., Ada L., Sophia C., Walter L. and Carrie B. Mr. and Mrs. Ahrens have also given a home to their grandson, Lester E. Golightly who has resided with his grandparents from infancy.
No family in Staunton has been more prominently connected with the business interests of the place than the Ahrens. Our subject, in 1862, opened a furniture store and about the same time established a lumber yard, the first in the place and these two lines of business he successfully carried on until April 24, 1874, when he sold out the furniture store to Jacob Moehrman, the present proprietor. He continued the lumber business and afterward associated with him his son, P. F., while in connection with another son he established a lumber yard in Worden, Ill. Soon John C. became sole proprietor and sold out in 1888, removing to Effingham, where he again established business in the same line. The lumber yard in Staunton became under the control of P. F. and A. E., in 1887, and they are now doing a good business. In July, 1888, H. A. Ahrens and W. I. Gates purchased a stock fo general merchandise continuing business until March, 1889, when Mr. Gates sold out to our subject, who continued a member of the firm until September, 1890, when he turned over the business to his son. Mr. Ahrens came to Staunton when it was a small town and with its development and growth he has been prominently identified. His business interests have been extensive and he has thereby acquired a handsome property, yet he has also found time to devote to public interests and has frequently served his fellow townsmen in official positions. He filled the office of Councilman, was one term President of the Board, for four terms was Township Clark and for the long period of fifteen years has served on the School Board. In politics he is a stanch Republican and the duties of the offices he ever faithfully discharged. Both he and his wife are leading members and active workers in the Methodist Church in which he has served as Class Leader, Sunday School Superintendent and is now Trustee. His upright life has been such as to win the confidence and regard of all and the prosperity which has crowned his efforts is but the just reward of a well-spent life.
Source: Chapman bros. Portrait and biographical record of Macoupin county, Illinois. Chicago: Biographical publishing company, 1891.