Carroll County IL Biography


Nicholas Stebler, capitalist, is a man of wealth and standing in the city of Savanna, whose growth and material prosperity he has greatly promoted by his liberality, enterprise and public spirit. He was born in the Canton of Solothurn, Switzerland, Jan. 5, 1822. His father, Frank Stebler, and his grandfather, John Stebler, were natives and life-long residents of the same canton, as were their ancestors as far back as known. The grandfather of our subject was a farmer, and the father a shoemaker, following that trade in his native land through life, his death occurring in 1840.

The subject of this sketch commenced to learn his father’s trade under parental instruction when he was only eleven years old, and continued to work with his father until the latter’s death. He then carried it on alone in Switzerland until 1849. Anxious to better his financial condition, he determined to seek his fortune in the United States of America, and in the month of September he went to Rotterdam, from whence he sailed to England, and, going by rail from Hull to Liverpool, he there embarked on board an American-bound vessel, and, after a voyage of seventy-two days, landed in New Orleans in the month of December. He found himself a stranger in a strange land, almost penniless, having but three dollars in his pocket. But his heart beat high with courage and hope, and, as he wished and was willing to work, he at once found employment at his trade in that city. He lived there until 1851, and then left the South for a more northerly and bracing clime, and coming to Galena, made shoes in that city until the following year, when he came to Savanna. There was no railway nearer than Elgin, and Savanna was then a small village of but a few hundred inhabitants, giving no indications of its present size and prosperity. Mr. Stebler at once commenced to work at his trade in the employ of another man, for whom he made shoes for three years. He then bought his employer out, and continued to work at his trade on his own account until 1863. In that year he went to California by the way of New York and the Isthmus, and, locating in San Francisco, established himself in the shoe-making business. In 1864 he returned to Illinois by the way of the Nicaragua route, and has since made his residence in Savanna. By shrewd investments and careful management, Mr. Stebler has accumulated quite a large property, and is regarded as one of the solid men of the city.

He is the owner of two store-buildings on Main street, one of them 25 x 70 feet, three stories in height; the other, 29 x 70 feet, three stories in height both buildings being of brick. He also owns a fine, commodious dwelling, beautifully located on the corner of Chicago avenue an Fourth street, and two other houses on Fifth street.

Mr. Stebler has been twice married. His first marriage, in 1844, was to Miss Mary Spellman, who was born in the same canton as himself. After a happy wedded life of nearly twenty years, she died in 1868, leaving three children – Lena, Rose, and Edward. The second marriage of our subject was to Miss Lydia E. Kehl, a native of Pottsville, Pa. Her father, Anton Kehl, was a native of Baden Baden, Germany, and, when a young man, came to the United States, and located in Pennsylvania. He was there married to Miss Hettie Oyster, a native of that State. They continued to reside there until 1847, when they came to Jo Daviess County, Ill., and were among the pioneers of Derinda Township. Mr. Kehl made a claim to a tract of Government land, built a log cabin, and at once commenced to improve a farm, and as soon as he obtained the money, he walked to the Land Office at Dixon, and entered the land at the Government office. In the years of hard labor that followed he improved a fine farm, which remained his home until his death, in 1865. His first wife, mother of Mrs. Stebler, died in 1856. His second wife is still living.

Mr. Stebler is virtually a self-made man, he having had to work his way up to his present prosperous circumstances with no other capital than his own stalwart manhood, sound judgment, and good capabilities. He is a straightforward, plain-dealing man, and, as a good citizen, has the confidence and respect of his fellow-men. In 1874, accompanied by his wife, Mr. Stebler revisited the beautiful scenes of the land of his nativity, and under far different circumstances than when he left there a quarter of a century before, in the prime of early manhood. They sailed from New York, and after a voyage of thirteen days landed in Hamburg. They then visited Frankfort-on-the-Main, the City of Mines, and Strasburg, going from there to his native Swiss canton. They had a delightful time visiting among his relatives and old friends, who were glad to see him once more and to talk with him about the old times. It was a melancholy pleasure to revisit the haunts of his boyhood, to recall incidents that had happened to him then in that far-off time, and to remember old friends and neighbors who had passed beyond the ken of mortal sight since he was last there. On their return trip Mr. and Mrs. Stebler remained awhile in Paris and Havre, and arrived in Savanna after an absence of six months

Contributed by Carol Parrish - Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Daviess and Carroll Counties, Illinois (1889), Pg 827

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