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Gustavus Köerner



Of the German-American leaders in Illinois politics none deserves more general recognition than Gustav Koerner. Coming to Illinois in 1833 as a result of the revolutionary uprising in Frankfort, he never lost his affection for his fatherland. Yet he was equally loyal in the service of his adopted country. He insisted always that it was the duty of the German-American to work with his neighbors for the promotion of sound ideals in politics and higher standards of civilization. This attitude won him the respect of the community in which he lived and he held a series of important public appointments. He was successively a member of the legislature, judge of the State Supreme Court, lieutenant governor, and United States minister to Spain.

During his long public career he gained a wide acquaintance among the public men of his time in Illinois and elsewhere. He was an active correspondent and left to his family an interesting collection of letters, some in English and some in German, written by many of his most prominent contemporaries. Through the courtesy of his daughters, Mrs. R. E. Rombauer of St. Louis and Mrs. Henry Engelmann of Lakewood, Ohio, I have been able to present for the annual volume of the transactions a few of the letters written to Koerner in English. The copies were carefully prepared for this purpose by his grand-daughter, Miss Bertha E. Rombauer, of St. Louis.

Brief accounts of Koerner's life may be found in Ratterman, Gustav Koerner, Ein Lebensbild; in the Illinois Historical Society's Transactions, 1904 (article by R. E. Rombauer); in Deutsch-Amerikanische Geschichtsblätter, April, 1907, (article by E. B. Greene); also in Koerner's Deutsche Element, Chicago, 1884. Koerner's autobiography, which contains much matter of great interest, still remains unpublished.



Letter from G. Trumbull.

BELLEVILLE, ILL., May 4th, 1863.

I was pleased to receive your favor of 23 March. The letter to my brother I forwarded to Springfield where he has been for some four weeks. His two youngest children have been very sick — are now commencing to get better. Our troubles are being too prolonged. I presume you find your position more embarrassing and unpleasant that it would be in a time of peace. We have not obtained such decided victories as I had hoped, we would have done before this. The news we are now getting from Gen. Hooker's army is very encouraging. I should think the rebels at Vicksburg would find it difficult to get supplies. I regret that Lincoln did not change his cabinet. The actions of our people in this country have undergone I think but little change since you left. But few of the American Democrats are to be relied upon when it comes to the matter of voting. I think the German Democrats, who are for the Union, are more to be relied upon. The prejudice of some people seems much stronger than their love of country. The result of our city elections was very gratifying.


Jehu Baker has been engaged for months in getting up a speech which he has delivered at Springfield, Bloomington & Belleville, and has just had it printed. It is a good speech. Judge Underwood is still making speeches at Nashville, Chester, &c with a little Union and a good deal of the Copperhead. He has not undertaken to make a Union speech here since his return from Springfield. I think all Union men lost confidence in him last winter.

Considerable property has changed hands lately Gen. B. Short sold his farm at $50 per acre and has moved to Macon County. John Ruddock has sold his place and bought in Macon County. J. Miller sold his 100 acres near West Belleville for $10,000. The Thomson Coal Mines 80 acres were sold the other day for $16,000. Robt. G. Afflick has sold his farm for $15,000. Money is plenty. As to law business, it has fallen off one half — Your old cases have been mostly disposed of. The Reichert cases will be tried next winter. We beat Baker in them last fall. The Breiner case, owing to the death of Mrs. B. has not yet come on for trial. Judge Underwood assisted me in the G— case but we lost it. I never had as much confidence in the case as you had. Baker has not yet got ready to take up the V— case. It only involves a matter of costs. In a few of the old cases of partition, the parties neglect to attend to them and they remain on the docket. I did not hear as much complaint of Judge Gillespie at the last term of court. J. B. Underwood is not improving any in his habits, the temptations at Springfield are too great for him.

Col. Jarrot was in town a few days ago, looking as well as ever. I am glad the St. John suit is settled. I did not succeed in getting Gillespie to make a decision on the exceptions to the answer of Miss St. John. Should be pleased to hear from you often.

Truly yours