J. A. R. Koch. “God’s finger touched him and he slept,” was the almost universal thought in St. Joseph Township upon the death of J. A. R. Koch, who died suddenly at the home of his son Frank in the Mayview community August 9, 1917. Mr. Koch was one of the county’s prominent, influential, useful and progressive citizens. Every activity in his life was employed directly or indirectly for the general welfare, and his every heart throb was in sympathy with the righteous aspirations and efforts for elevation and improvement among his fellow men.
His was the type of material success of which America is most proud. He came to Champaign County over half a century ago, poor and practically friendless, made a competence for himself, provided for others, and wrought a strong impress upon the moral and’ religious institutions of his community. He was born in Fairfield County, Ohio, September 21, 1844, a son of Adam and Mary Ann (Gigher) Koch. His father was a native of Adams County, Pennsylvania, and his mother of the city of Philadelphia. There were seven children, six sons and one daughter, Reuben, Malcolm, Adam, Alfred, Edward, J. A. R. and Mrs. Annetta C. Hudson, all of whom are now deceased. Alfred and Adam gave their lives to the cause of the country during the Civil War, the former dying in a Southern prison and the latter in a Southern hospital. Edward, the oldest son, was drowned. J. A. R. Koch was the youngest of the family and was twelve days old when his father died. His mother was subsequently married twice and she died in Ohio, leaving two sons, Benjamin Oyler and Fred Hulshy, by her other two husbands.
J. A. R. Koch had a strenuous career, beginning when he was between six and seven years of age. At that time he provided for his own support, working on a farm at $2 per month. He had industry and persistence, and through his early experience with hardship and difficulty he retained to the end of his life sympathy and kindly feeling for the poor and oppressed and in many ways helped them to better lives.
On November 3, 1864, Mr. Koch arrived in St. Joseph Township of Champaign County. He had left a sweetheart behind him in the old Buckeye State, and on January 19, 1868, he went back to reclaim her. When he left Ohio he was poor but too proud to ask the young lady to marry him until he could provide a home. On returning he told her of the splendid State of Illinois and of its many favorable opportunities, and she was glad to exchange her name from Suzanna Foor to Koch.
Returning to Illinois with his young bride Mr. Koch worked as a farmer, and in February, 1881, settled near May view, where he bought his first lands for $25 an acre. Later he paid $50 and $85 an acre for other lands, and in the course of time he found himself surrounded with ample prosperity. His home had always an atmosphere of Christian virtue and friendship. For many years Mr. Koch made it a rule to employ principally those who had no home of their own, endeavoring to make them feel that though deprived of home they could find Christian sympathy and kindness which goes so far toward smoothing out the rugged pathway of life. Many have gone in and out from the Koch home carrying the happy remembrance of the parental kindness of these two worthy people.
While in Ohio Mr. Koch was a member of the Evangelical Church. Among the valued possessions brought with him from that state was the letter from his church which he presented to the Methodist Episcopal organization at Mayview, which then worshiped in a schoolhouse. Being known as a young man of promising industry and of splendid religious faith, he soon found introduction into the hearts and homes of many of the pioneer families. He always kindly recalled the welcome he received in the homes of the Kirkpatricks, the Buseys, and other prominent families, and the friendship he thus formed endured to the end.
Mr. and Mrs. Koch went about the improvement of their home diligently and made it one of the most attractive spots in St. Joseph Township. They were always interested in the work of the community, and while they had no children of their own they found room in their hearts and home for three orphan children, whom they adopted and to whom they gave their own name. Mr. Koch had reared in his home Mary Oyler, daughter of his half brother. One other of his farm hands had lived with him for seven years. Christopher and Elizabeth McCrughen had died in Champaign County, leaving seven orphan children, and Mr. Koch was appointed guardian for them. He and his wife subsequently adopted two of the boys, A. F. and J. C., and the daughter, E. J. They legally assumed the Koch name in 1893. Thus a good home was provided for them, and the boys grew up industrious and capable citizens, handling the duties of their father’s farm for many years before his death.
Mr. Koch built a nice house and barn on the corner of his farm for his son Frank, and built also another one like it on his farm three and a half miles southeast of the old home for the other son J. C. Koch. A. F. Koch married Eva R. Smith, and they have three children, Raymond H., Elva Marie and J. A. R., Jr. He does a large business in raising Holstein cattle, and his “Black and White Dairy Farm” is widely known. His dairy products are shipped to Champaign.
The other son, J. C. Koch, has also inherited and is owner of a part of the Koch homestead in St. Joseph Township. He married Susie Alt, and their four children are Clifton A., Genevieve A., Frances A. and Clarence D.
Nearly ten years before his own death Mr. Koch was called upon to mourn the passing of his beloved wife on December 3, 1907. She was a woman of many virtues, kindly, sympathetic and charitable, and had been in sympathy with her husband in their love for orphan children. In fact so many fatherless and motherless and friendless found shelters in their home that it was often called “The Orphans’ Home.” The Koch homestead was the abode of hospitality in the best sense of the word, and it ia said that no needy person ever applied for help there who went away empty handed.
The late Mr. Koch was a public spirited citizen, and for thirty-six years served as a school director. He endeavored to secure the best of instruction for the children of the community. He was a personal friend of many of the best citizens of Champaign County, including the late Judge Cunningham and Colonel Busey.
His name is especially associated with the Mayview Methodist Episcopal Church, in which the funeral services were held preceding his interment in Mount Olive Cemetery. He was instrumental in building that church and was for many years a trustee and a member of its building committee. Many of his old neighbors said that Mayview would never have another church when the old one passed out of use. Mr. Koch assumed individually the responsibility for getting the congregation in a new home, and when he first proposed building he was told that it might be possible to build a house of worship but it would always be burdened with a heavy debt. He himself headed a subscription paper with a generous sum and then started around and found many loyal hearts to respond, so that as a result the church was dedicated not only free of debt but with more than $100 in the treasury. On the day of dedication the bishop who presided stated that never before in his experience had a country community accomplished a building program so successfully. Today this church stands as a monument to the enterprise and liberality of the late Mr. Koch.