One of the prominent business men of Trenton, was born near Aussig, Bohemia, January 30th, 1820. His parents were Francis and Maria Ann (WALTER) HANKE. He went to school from the age of six to twelve, and when fourteen was apprenticed to the mercantile business at Aussig. He was employed for several years as clerk and having accumulated a few hundred dollars, went into business for himself at Warnsdorf, a village in Bohemia, close to the borders of Saxony. In 1850 he came to America, reaching New York on the 30th of June. He went to work on a farm on Long Island, with the object of learning the English language, but after a few weeks came West, stopping three weeks at Rochester, New York. From Chicago he came by canal to LaSalle, and from there by boat to St. Louis, where he lay in the hospital for several weeks sick. After recovering, he worked at fifty cents a day for a farmer in the American Bottom, but after a few weeks determined to go into business on his own account. He bought a horse and wagon, purchased a stock of goods, which he sold through St. Clair and Clinton counties. During the winter of 1850-51, he made his home in the prairie on the old Vincennes and St. Louis road, about a mile west of the present town of Trenton, and kept there for sale a small stock of goods. At first he lost money, but during the construction of the Ohio and Mississippi road the condition of the country improved, money became more plentiful, and he carried on business with profit. In 1854 he moved to Trenton, that place then consisting of only a post-office and a few houses. The town had not yet been laid out. He opened a store at Trenton, which, with the exception of intervals, he has carried on ever since. From 1856 to 1858 he was engaged in farming, two miles south-east of Trenton. Previous to this he had entered and sold several tracts of land, and in 1855 laid out an addition to the town of Trenton. In 1859 and 1860 he built his present store-house. In 1865 he sold his stock of goods, but in 1868 resumed the mercantile business, which he has carried on uninterruptedly from that time to the present.
He has been an enterprising and public-spirited citizen, and has been active in advancing the interests of the town of Trenton. In 1859 he contributed money to bore for coal, but after getting down two hundred feet the experiment was abandoned. In 1863 a company, in which Mr. HANKE had a one-fourth interest, was formed to open a coal mine. After sinking a shaft one hundred and twenty feet their capital of two hundred dollars was exhausted, when the shaft was sold, and Mr. HANKE and two others became the purchasers. Hoisting machinery and steam power were secured, but the undertaking proved much more difficult and expensive than they anticipated. The last sixty feet were sunk at a cost of one hundred dollars a foot. By 1867, at which time the mine was ready to work, the capital expended amounted to forty thousand dollars. In June, 1869, Mr HANKE became the sole proprietor of the mine, which is now the only one in operation in Clinton county, though a shaft is now being sunk at Breese. He also owns land in the vicinity of Trenton, and has a vineyard of seven acres, which one year produced four thousand gallons of wine. He was married in 1860 to Catharine WEBER, who died in 1875. His present wife, Elizabeth KUPFERLE, daughter of Charles L. KUPFERLE, he married in September 1877. He has two children by his last marriage, Erwin Julius and Emma.
In his politics he is a republican. He was a member of the firs Board of Trustees of the town of Trenton. From 1861 to 1865 he was post-master at Trenton. In 1871 he was elected a member of the Board of Supervisors, and has been supervisor for Sugar Creek township from that time to the present. He was made chairman of the finance committee, and has thus been intimately connected with the financial affairs of Clinton county. At the time township organization was adopted the county finances were in a bad condition, but under the management of the board of supervisors the county has been brought to a first-class standing in this respect. He was elected justice of the peace in 1860, and filled that office one term. Since 1865 he has occupied the position of police magistrate of Trenton. These positions, to which he has been chosen, show the estimation in which he is held as a man of business ability and personal integrity. He came to Clinton county with small means, but by business enterprise has succeeded in reaching an honorable position in the business community.
Source: History of Marion and Clinton Counties, Illinois, 1881, Brink, McDonough & Co., Philadelphia
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