Biography of Peter John Wagner
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Peter John Wagner has been for many years identified with the farming enterprise of Ogden Township, and still lives in a home and on a farm that are evidence of his hard work and intelligent care. This attractive rural home is in section 18 of Ogden Township, conveniently situated by the interurban road.
Mr. Wagner was born at Brownhelm in Lorain County, Ohio, a son of Berkhardt and Catherine (Hahn) Wagner. His parents were both natives of Germany. Berkhardt came to this country when twenty-seven years of age. His wife was a year and a half old when her parents crossed the ocean and found a home in America. Peter J. Wagner was one of three sons, the oldest being Charles H. and the youngest Henry Charles. The Wagner family lived in a splendid German community of Lorain County, and had many close and intimate friends there. The Wagners honored some of these good friends in naming their children, but Peter John was named for the two great apostles. The Wagners were active members of the German Reformed Church.
Peter John Wagner received his education in a district school, and at the age of twenty-two he married Anna Caroline Loeffler. She was born in Illinois, a daughter of George B. Loeffler. After his marriage Mrs. Wagner’s father sent for the young couple, inviting them to come to Illinois and settle in Ogden Township. Many attractive opportunities were described, but at first the young people became very homesick and it was some time before they accommodated themselves to the comparatively new country among strangers. They began as housekeepers for Uncle Chris Loeffler and rented forty acres of land. The next year Mr. Wagner paid $25 an acre for eighty acres and lived on that place a number of years.
Three children were born to his marriage, Minnie, Clara and Albert, the last dying in infancy. The mother was taken away by death, and Mr. Wagner was left with his little children, but with the aid of his mother and sister who came on from Ohio he reared them and kept the household together. Later he married a sister of his first wife, Elizabeth Loeffler, who came into the home as a Christian mother for his children. Three children were born to the second marriage, Edith, Charles and John. John died in childhood.
In the meantime Mr. Wagner bought forty acres of land in section 18 and later made the improvements which have resulted in his permanent home. He set out many trees and gradually accumulated other land until his estate consists of 160 acres. He also owns another farm of ninety-seven and a half acres, where he built a fine modern home, and it is now occupied by his son Charles. Charles married Grace Currie and has three children, Ralph, Peter and Merle.
Mr. Wagner also lost his second wife by death, and the daughter Minnie died at the age of nineteen, a lovable young woman who had gained a large circle of friends. Mr. Wagner’s daughter Clara married John Firebaugh, and they live on a farm at Kell,. Illinois. They have five young sons, true types of American boys, named Oral, Carrol, Clinton, Dale and Amel. The daughter Edith married Siegel Yeazle, a farmer, and their three children are Nellie, Glen and Helen.
For his third wife Mr. Wagner married Minnie Gregor who was born at Urbana, daughter of Joseph and Mary (Rambo) Gregor. There were also three children of this marriage, Roy, Elmer and John. Roy died at the age of seventeen. He was a tall, muscular youth, a fine specimen of manhood, but in spite of everything that could be done for him he became a victim of the grim reaper. Mr. Wagner’s last wife died of cancer, April 30, 1915. His son Elmer is still living at home.
All the children were given good advantages. Charles graduated from the high school at Ogden and was a successful teacher in the Clark School, and he also took special studies in the University of Illinois. He ranked first in the county in high school examination. The son Elmer attended the Urbana High School.
Mr. Wagner and family are active members of the German Reformed Church, a splendid old church that has stood as a beacon light for many years in that community. Mr. Wagner served six years as school director and for a number of years was ditch commissioner and school trustee. He is one of the men who has been most active in promoting a drainage system in Champaign County. A number of years ago drainage was looked upon as an extravagance, but the people have been gradually educated until they now feel that money invested in this way brings more returns than any other. It is said that Mr. Wagner has done as much in the building of drains in Ogden as any other individual. He is a man of high principles, of absolute integrity of character, and has enjoyed the friendship and esteem of a large circle of friends. Politically he is a Democrat, though his broad views have frequently led him to support the man rather than the party. It is well known in that section of the county that his word is as good as a bond, and higher praise for his commercial integrity could not be uttered. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Masonic order, Knights of Pythias, with the Eastern Star and Pythian Sisters.