Michael Stoskopf, Freeport, is one of the most prominent members of the Stephenson county bar, and takes high rank among the leading lawyers of the northwest. He is thoroughly rooted and grounded in the fundamentals, understands profoundly the great principles of justice and equity on which human society rests and sees with the eye of a master the application of these basic principles to all the details of business and commerce. He knows what he has to say before he is on his feet, and when he stands before a jury there is an energy and a force in what he says that comes only from knowledge and belief. He has a clear and analytical mind, and reasons out a proposition in law with all the clearness and force with which he would demonstrate a theorem in Geometry. Step by step he leads the way, and the jury cannot refuse to follow. As an orator he is convincing and wins his case, not only by mastery of the law and argument, but by his candid and earnest manner.
Leonard Stoskopf, the grandfather of Michael, was a blacksmith and farrier by trade and spent his entire life in his native Alsace, then a province of France. He taught his business to his son, Valentine, who was born in Engenheim, Alsace, March 8, 1817. Valentine attended the local school until he was fourteen, and had very good instruction in the more common branches and in the French and German languages. His mother died when he was nine years old, and at the age of seventeen he went to Paris to seek his fortune. He worked a year in a carriage factory and attended night school, but the more acquainted he became with the industrial conditions of the French capital, there seemed the less likelihood of his finding what he came after, a fortune, or even a competence in life. He knew what might be done in the United States, and in the month of December, 1835, he sailed for this country. He was thirty-six days on the ocean, and landed in New York in January. He soon secured work with the manager of a carriage factory in New Jersey, and in the same year he went to Stratford, Canada, to make his home for a short time with an uncle living in that city. That fall he opened a shop of his own at Glasgow, Canada, which he conducted for some three years with considerable success. During this time he was married. In May, 1841, with all his possessions in two canvas covered wagons he started with his wife and infant son for northwestern Illinois. They entered the States at Detroit, passed through Chicago when it was a town of four thousand people, and entered Freeport when it was a hamlet of a dozen houses. Here he was ready for any kind of labor. He put up a shop near where the Illinois Central depot now stands, and securing a fine tract of land near the city, made farming and shop work his joint occupation for the next three or four years. He had a discriminating sense of land values, and secured a number of large tracts of prairie land at the time of purchase seemingly worthless, but which are now among the choicest farms of the county. In 1846 he opened a wagon shop in Freeport to which he gave his undivided attention, and was able to gradually enlarge it from time to time until it became one of the largest establishments of the kind in the west. In 1859 he disposed of it by putting it into the hands of a brother whom he had trained to the work, for the purpose of devoting his entire attention to the development and improvement of his extensive real estate holdings, which were rapidly becoming valuable. He has erected a large number of substantial buildings in Freeport, and houses, barns and other buildings on his different farms in Stephenson county, and has dealt with the utmost equity and fairness with all who have had anything to do with him as a landlord or an employer.
Valentine Stoskopf was married to Miss Catharine Schaub October 6, 1839, the Episcopal service being used, at Glasgow, Canada. They had a family of five boys and four girls, all of whom with one exception, attained maturity and several have risen to prominence in business and professional circles. Leonard is a brilliant member of the Stephenson county bar; Louis deceased, became a popular physician before he died; Michael is an attorney of good reputation and has been a member of the State Legislature. John is a prosperous hardware merchant of Freeport. The four girls were Mary, Sarah, Emma and Luella.
Michael Stoskopf was born in Silver Creek township near Freeport in Stephenson county, June 7, 1845 and was liberally educated in the public schools of the city. When he had attained his majority he engaged in insurance work for five years and then began reading law in 1870 in the office of the late Judge Bailey. He was admitted to the bar January 11th, 1873, and has had remarkable success. He began practice in Freeport and was soon elected Justice of the Peace. He held this position four years when he was appointed master-in-chancery. He served the court twelve years in this capacity. In 1889 he was elected to the State Legislature and reelected in 1895 and again in 1897. In 1895 he was an important and influential member of various committees such as those on judiciary, civil service reform, revenue, appropriations, elections, federal relations, libraries, to visit state charitable institutions, rights of minority and joint committee on joint rules. In the session of 1897 he served on the committees on judiciary, appropriations, railroads, revenue, federal relations and judicial apportionment. He is a man of character, popularity and has a wide acquaintance throughout the state that is bringing him in a large and profitable business. Fraternally he is a thirty-third degree Mason, a member of Excelsior Lodge No. 97, of Freeport Chapter, Commandery and Consistory and a member of Tebala Temple of the Mystic Shrine of Rockford, Ill. He is also a member of the Knights of the Globe and has served as attorney for the order.