Lee County Biography

Lafayette Reitz

Whiteside & Lee Counties


Lafayette Reitz is connected with the agricultural interests of two counties of Northern Illinois, Lee and Whiteside, having valuable farming property in each, and making his home in the first named on his well ordered farm on section 2, Nachusa Township. As a representative and honored citizen we are pleased to present his portrait and biography. He was born December 3, 1828, on the banks of the beautiful Susquehanna River, in Columbia County, Pa. His parents, John H. and Elizabeth (Fry) Reitz, were natives of Lehigh County, Pa., their parents also being natives of that state, and of Dutch ancestry.

After their marriage in the county where their childhood had passed, Mr. and Mrs. Reitz established a comfortable home there, and he carried on the trade of a carpenter. After the birth of four of their children, they took up their abode in Columbia County, and a few years later he turned his attention to tilling the soil on the banks of the Susquehanna River, and improved a good farmupon which his death occurred in 1852, at the age of sixty-eight years. His wife survived him for nearly a quarter of a century, spending her last years in this county, and dying at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Thomas Clayton, in Nelson Township, in 1876, at the age of eighty-eight years. She retained the vigor of her mind and body until the last. Both she and her husband were life-long members of the Lutheran Church, and were very worthy people.

Mr. Reitz is the youngest of a family of three sons and five daughters, of whom the only ones now living are himself and three of his sisters; Mrs. Thomas Clayton; Mrs. Benjamin DeFraine, of Dixon; and Mrs. Abraham Detwiler, of Clay County, this state. Lafayette Reitz attained his majority in his native county. In the year 1856 he came Westward to Illinois, as he was convinced that the prospects for acquiring a competency were better in a newly settled country where land was cheap and remarkably fertile, than in the older states where the soil had been tilled by successive generations for many years. He sought a suitable location in Whiteside County, lived one year in Jordan Township, then spent three or four years in Lee County, but subsequently returned to Whiteside County in 1860, and bought a tract of land in Genesee Township.

By the exercise of unremitting toil, Mr. Reitz placed his land under good cultivation, obtaining abundant harvests from its two hundred and six acres, and putting up good buildings, besides making other admirable improvements. He lived upon it nearly twenty years, but in 1881 removed to his homestead in Nachusa Township, which is an eighty-acres farm complete in all its appointments, and a very pleaseant place of residence. He is one of our self-made men and has accumulated a fortune since he became a resident of the state, his business methods, foresight, and close attention to his affairs contributing to this end. He is well known in both Whiteside and Lee Counties, and bears a high reputation among his acquaintances for personal worth and good citizenship. He has mingled much in the local public life of his community, and has held all the township offices. In politics he is a straightforward Republican. In their religious associations both he and his wife were identified with the Lutheran Church for many years, but now attend the Methodist Episcopal Church.

In the early years of his manhood, Mr. Reitz was married in his native county to Miss Abby Mensch, their union taking place in September, 1853. She was born April 7, 1834, in the same county as her husband. Her parents, John and Catherine (Heimbauch) Mensch, were life-long residents of that county, living to be very old, Mr. Mensch being ninety years of age when he died. They were members of the Lutheran Church. Of their nine children, all of whom married, two sons and three daughters are yet living. Mrs. Reitz came to Illinois with her husband, aided him in getting a good start in life, and died in their home in Genesee Township in 1873, when nearly forty years old. She was a member of the Lutheran Church, and was very highly regarded for her many virtues. She was the mother of eleven children, of whom these four died young; William 0., Harriet E., Cora J., and C. Elmer. The surviving children are Anna E., wife of Jacob Winters, of Sterling; John L., who married Miss Lizzie Meyers, and resides on his father's Whiteside County farm; Mary M., wife of Homer Drinkwater, of Chicago; S. Alice, wife of Charles Minning, of Lincoln, Neb.; Joseph E., a farmer in Nachusa Township, who married Miss Ada H. Heckman; Lavina K., wife of George Garrison, a farmer in Nachusa Township; and Edward L., who assists his father in the management of his farm.

Mr. Reitz was a second time married July 1, 1875, in Hopkins Township, Whiteside County, Miss Sophia Seidle becoming his wife. Their marriage has been blessed to them by one son, Frank A. W., who is at home with them. Mrs. Reitz was born in Kline Kiopa, Wurtemberg, Germany, March 28, 1848, and is a daughter of John G. and Barbara (Waggoner) Seidle, who were also natives of Wurtemberg, and of the old German stock. After their marriage at Sieventing, where they lived on a farm until the birth of eleven children, they came with their family to America in 1853. They landed at Baltimore, Md., forty-eight days after they left Bremerhaven, and from there proceeded to Columbus, Ohio, and began their new life in that country on a farm six miles from that city. In the fall of 1860 they came thence to Illinois, and in 1864 located on a farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Hopkins Township.

In 1875 Mr. and Mrs. Seidle retired to Sterling, and there both died, the former in 1885, and the latter in 1883, aged respectively seventy-eight and sixty-eight years. They were members of the Evangelical Association, were prominent in their community, and had many friends in Sterling and in Whiteside County generally. Mrs. Reitz was well trained for her present position in the home of her parents, with whom she remained until her marriage. She makes a good wife and mother, and her neighbors always find her kind and pleasant. She is one of eleven children, all of whom are living, and all but two are married.

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