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Christian F. Koch
McLean County, Illinois
HON. CHRISTIAN F. KOCH. There is no element which has entered into our composite national fabric which has been of more practical strength, value and utility than that furnished by the sturdy, persevering and honorable sons of Germany, and in the progress of our union this element has played an important part. Intensely practical, and ever having a clear comprehension of the ethics of life, the German contingent has wielded a powerful influence, and this service cannot be held in light estimation by those who appreciate true civilization and true advancement.
Among Bloomington's most popular citizens is Mr. Koch, its present mayor, who was born in Eslingen, Wurtemburg, Germany, March 17, 1849, and when a child of three years was brought to this country by his parents, John F. and Caroline T. (Deininger) Koch, also natives of the Fatherland. His maternal grandfather, Johan Fredric Deininger, was of old French Huguenot stock, his ancestors having been driven from France by the edict of Nantes and taking refuge in Wurtemburg. The Deininger family can be traced back to 1600.
John Koch, father of our subject, belonged to a family of very extensive mill owners, and he himself was a millwright by trade, being one of the first in Bloomington. On coming to the new world the family first located in Cincinnati, Ohio, but five years later took up their residence in Bloomington when its population was not over two thousand. For a number of years the father was foreman in the old marble furniture factory in this city, and here he died in 1876. The mother is still living and makes her home in Bloomington. Both were faithful members of the German Methodist Episcopal church.
Christian F. Koch began his education in the public schools, and for two years was a student in the Wesleyan University of Bloomington. Having learned the millwright's trade, he worked with his father for four or five years and then embarked in the grocery business on West Front street, where he still carries on operations with marked success.
In 1892 he assisted in organizing the German National Loan Association, of which he has been president from the start, and is also a director of the Equitable Loan Association, now the leading association of the kind in this part of the country. He is also connected as president with an insurance order, known as the Pioneer Reserve Association, which now has a membership of one thousand, largely Bloomington people, but subordinate branches have been started at Peoria, Lincoln, Pontiac, Normal and other places, and so rapidly is it growing that its membership will undoubtedly number between two and three thousand before the close of the year.
Mr. Koch married Miss Katie L. Feisel, a daughter of Rev. Jacob Feisel, a prominent pioneer Methodist Episcopal minister of this state, who had charge of a German congregation in Bloomington at an early day, and was a presiding elder for a number of years. He died about three years ago in Quincy.
To Mr. and Mrs. Koch were born two daughters: Lulu C, now the wife of H. W. Peters, of St. Louis, Missouri; and Emma K., who died in June, 1896.
Since attaining his majority, Mr. Koch has been prominently identified with the Republican party, and served as alderman from the third ward from 1883 until 1887. In the spring of 1890, he was urged to accept the nomination for mayor on the Republican ticket, and though he made no particular effort, he was elected by a handsome majority over a prominent man in the Democratic field. Never were the reins of city government in more capable hands, and one noteworthy feature of his administration was the final settlement with the Jenney Electric Light Company, which had established a plant here and taken advantage of the people in various ways. It was necessary to annul the contract with them, and it finally resulted in a settlement under which the city came into absolute possession of a plant at a cost of nineteen thousand dollars less than the original contract price.
He was not re-elected at the succeeding election as it was his intention to withdraw from politics. In the spring of 1897 a reorganization of the city under the general law was strongly agitated by business men and citizens in general as there had been some dissatisfaction with the special charter and the preceding administration. There seemed to be a general disposition on the part of the people to turn over a new leaf to the extent of getting under the general law and a broader government, better adapted to the advanced needs and wants of the city, and a general change in the council and administration of the city. This resulted in Mr. Koch being again strongly urged to enter the field as the Republican nominee for mayor. His nomination was uncontested and he was triumphantly elected. He has since worked under the new form of government, and during this administration many improvements have been made in the city, including the erection of a new city hall. It is one of the best paved cities of its size in the country, having now about twenty-four miles of paved streets and having expended for paving twenty-five thousand dollars, the property owners fifty thousand, making a total of seventy-five thousand dollars, during the two years of Mr. Koch's incumbency of the office.
Mr. Koch and his family hold membership in the German Methodist church, of which he is a trustee and treasurer, and in which he has also served as superintendent of the Sunday school. Socially, he is quite prominent; is a member of Mozart Lodge. F. & A. M; and is past chancellor of Blucher Lodge, K. P., of which he is one of the founders, having been a member of the mother lodge — Damon, No. 10. He is president of the Bloomington Colliseum Association, which has erected a building at a cost of about twenty thousand dollars. He is emphatically a man of enterprise, positive character, indomitable energy, strict integrity and liberal views, and is thoroughly identified with the growth and prosperity of his adopted city and state.
[The Biographical record of McLean County, Illinois - S.J. Clarke Publishing Company - (1899)]
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