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George Stephan

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George Stephan

Huntington Volunteer (View posts)
Posted: 1072910208000
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Stephan, Vought, Rourke, Bickel, Groeble, Grueble, Maddux Schenkel, Bechtold

From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, 1901, pages 360-365

It has been left to modern civilization to perpetuate by written record
the lives of those who have been potent factors in the upbuilding of
communities, towns, cities, states and nations. Deeds of battles have
been the theme of story and song from the earliest ages, but the man who
quietly remained in the ranks of business, trade or agriculture,
performing each day's duty as it came to him and promoting the general
prosperity through his individual efforts and close attention to his
vocation, has been unnoticed by the muse, poet, and historian. To-day,
if we would know who are the founders of our great national prosperity,
we must find the biography of the substantial farmer, the intelligent
artisan, the individual in the busy marts of trade, in the shop, on the
train, behind the counters, at the desk and in the many other places of
honorable endeavor, and study well their characteristics and not the
salient features of their lives when making record of their

Everywhere in our favored land are found men who have worked their way
from comparatively humble beginnings to leadership in commerce, in the
great productive industries and to positions of trust as custodians of
the people's interest. Such an one is the well-known gentleman whose
name is the caption of this article. Not only has he been signally
successful in the prosecution and management of his own affairs, but as a
public official his name is inseparably connected with Huntington county,
throughout which he is widely and favorably known, while in the discharge
of every duty of citizenship he lends his active support and hearty
co-operation to every movement having for its object the public good.

George Stephan, whose portrait appears on the opposite page, is the son
of Henry and Catharine (Vought) Stephan, natives respectively of the
Kingdoms of Baden and Wurtemburg, Germany. The father was born in the
year 1826, and at the age of fourteen accompanied his parents to the
United States, settling in Stark county, Ohio, where he carried on
agricultural pursuits in connection with blacksmithing. He was a man of
substantial worth, highly respected by all who knew him and dying in the
year 1868, left as a priceless legacy to his children a character above
reproach, and a reputation to which no unworthy motive was ever attached.

Catherine Vought first saw the light of day in 1828, and in 1832
immigrated with her parents to the United States. Her father settled in
Tuscarawas county, Ohio, where, in the year 1847, she was united in
marriage to Henry Stephan. In the fall of 1853 Henry Stephan and family
came to Huntington county, Indiana, by way of the Wabash & Erie Canal,
landing late on the evening of their arrival at the "Cheesboro Lock,"
Dallas township, from whence they attempted the same night to reach their
destination, a new settlement about three miles to the northwest.
Starting in the right direction, they traveled for several hours through
the dense forest and gathering darkness, but failing to arrive at the
place sought they prepared a resting place as best they could and,
sitting down, passed the remainder of the night in weary watching. With
the morning's dawn imagine their great and agreeable surprise to find the
settlement within less than half a mile from where they spent the long,
tiresome hours of night waiting for the return of day.

Their arrival being announced, they were joyfully received by the friends
who had preceeded them to the new country, and a happy reunion,
accompanied with appropriate festivities, followed the cold, cheerless
November night in the forest with nothing but the branches of the trees
for shelter. Mr. Stephan at once purchased forty acres of land on one of
the picturesque bluffs of Silver Creek, near the new settlement, where a
small clearing was soon made, a little cabin built and a blacksmith shop
erected. Additional land was bought from time to time until the farm
included one hundred and twenty acres, and it is a fact worthy of note
that the spot where the good couple were forced to camp subsequently
became a part of their old homestead. Here Mr. Stephan lived and
prospered; and, "Life's fitful fever over," he here calmly passed into
the other life from which no traveler e'er returns.

Henry and Catherine Stephan reared children as follows: John, born
January 7, 1850, a farmer and stock-breeder of Polk township, living
three miles southwest of the town of Andrews; Martin, born August 18,
1853, lives on a farm in Wabash county near the western boundary of
Huntington; George, the subject of this sketch, is the third in order of
birth; William, born February 3, 1863, was a fireman on the Wabash
Railroad until his death, which occurred on April 1, 1893 ; Emanuel, born
May 7, 1867, lives on the old homestead; the only daughter, Caroline,
born October 13, 1858, is now the wife of James Rourke, a boiler-maker in
the Chicago & Eastern shops at Huntington.

George Stephan was born on the old farm in Dallas township, May 28, 1856,
and spent his life within the present boundaries of Huntington county.
From the age of six to his eighteenth year he attended, during the winter
season, the district schools of his neighborhood, assisting the family
the rest of the year with the labors of the farm. The training received
in the public schools was afterward supplemented by a course in the
seminary at Antioch, which he attended the winters from 1874 to 1876
inclusive, and in the fall of the latter year pursued his studies for one
term in a normal school, conducted at the same town. Meantime he engaged
in teaching, a work for which he seemed peculiarly adapted, and he
followed that profession for a period of eighteen years with most
encouraging success, earning a reputation as one of the most skilled,
efficient and popular instructors in the county of Huntington. He took
his first examination in 1876, at the earnest solicitation of Prof. R. A.
Kaufman, principal of the Antioch Normal, and succeeded in getting a
twelve months' license. He taught his first term in Rock Creek township
in the winter of 1876-77, after which, feeling the need of professional
training, he took a course of instruction in the Teachers' Training Class
at the Northern Indiana Normal School and Business College at Valparaiso.
His success and popularity as an educator is attested by the fact of his
never applying for any school except the first, and never leaving a
district without being earnestly importuned to return for the succeeding

Mr. Stephan's wide reading early led him to take a more than passing
interest in economic and political subjects, and in due time he became
one of the Republican leaders in his township. He selected agriculture
for his life work and, believing thoroughly in the dignity of the
calling, became one of the most scientific and successful farmers of his
community as well as one of the county's most energetic and progressive
young men. He was one of the chief promoters of the Farmers' Institute
of Huntington county, and added greatly to its interets (sic) by his many
excellent and schollarly (sic) papers bearing upon agriculture and
kindred subjects. One of these productions, under the caption of
"Intensive Farming," read in 1895, exhibits profound research and
literary ability of a high order. It was passed on and accepted by the
state board of agriculture and appeared in the published annual report of
that body, eliciting favorable comments from all parts of Indiana, and
bringing the author's name prominently before the public as a man
thoroughly familiar with the subject treated and as an agriculturist
taking advanced grounds on matters pertaining to that useful calling.

As already stated, Mr. Stephan's marked intellectuality and evident
fitness for leadership called him a number of years ago to prominence in
political affairs, and in 1894, in recognition of party service
efficiently rendered, he was nominated by the Republican party for
township trustee. At the ensuing November election he received a
handsome majority over his competitor, and in August, 1895, entered upon
the duties of the position which he discharged in a manner highly
creditable to himself and satisfactory to the people, irrespective of
party ties. So well did he acquit himself in this station, together with
increased fidelity to the party, in 1898 he was the Republican choice for
the higher and more responsible position of county treasurer. He
received the nomination in April of that year, and on the 8th day of
November following entered the office by a majority of ninety-two votes
over a very competent and popular opponent. Resigning the trusteeship
November 30, 1898, Mr. Stephan prepared to assume his duties as custodian
of the public funds, and, removing to Huntington, took charge of the
office on the 1st day of January, 1899. His record as treasurer is part
of the history of the county, but suffice it to say that he proved a most
courteous, painstaking and able official, discharging his duties in such
a manner as to win the good will of the public, which he still retains.
On the 23rd of May, 1900, he was complimented by a renomination, and
after an animated contest again defeated the rival candidate, this time
by a greatly increased majority, although his competitor was considered
to be the most popular man on the Democratic ticket for that year. It is
a matter of record that at his second election he received the highest
number of votes ever cast in the county for treasurer, a fact which
attests the high respect in which he is held, not only by his political
adherents, but by many in the opposing party.

Financially, Mr. Stephan has met with a success commensurate with the
ability and energy displayed in the various undertakings to which he has
addressed himself. He has accumulated a comfortable competency of this
world's goods, owning a finely improved farm in Polk township and a neat
and comfortable home in the city of Huntington, besides other property,
all of which is the result of individual effort, directed and controlled
by sound judgment and wise foresight.

On the 30th day of March, 1882, Mr. Stephan was joined in marriage to
Miss Mary Barbara Bickel, the daughter of Charles F. and Susan C.
(Groeble) Bickel, both parents being natives of Germany.

Charles F. Bickel was born in the Kingdom of Baden in the year 1828, and
in 1850 came to the United States, settling in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,
where he worked at the shoemaker's trade. He was a single man when he
came to this county, but left behind a young lady to whom he had pledged
his troth before bidding farewell to the Fatherland. As soon as he had
earned sufficient money to pay her passage to America he sent for
Susanna, and in due time the two lovers were reunited on this side of the
waters with a marriage as the result. Susanna Grueble was born in the
Province of Wurtemberg in 1830 and in 1858 accompanied her husband and
family to Huntington county, Indiana, locating originally in the township
of Jackson and later removed to Huntington, where Mr. Bickel resumed his
trade. After a residence of some years in that city Mr. Bickel purchased
a farm of one hundred and ninety-three acres in Dallas township, three
miles north of Andrews, upon which he passed the remainder of his days,
dying there in 1896. His wife preceded him to the silent land, departing
this life in the year 1881.

Mr. and Mrs. Bickel reared a family of eight children, whose names and
dates of birth are as follows: Wilhelmina, wife of H. L. Maddux, born
1853; Charles W., farmer of Warren township, born 1855; Mary B., wife of
subject of this sketch, born 1858; Katie, now Mrs. Henry Schenkel, of
Wabash county, born 1860; John, living on the old homestead, born 1862;
Emma, born 1862; Eliza, wife of P. J. Bechtold, born 1864; and Amanda,
born 1866.

The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Stephan has been blessed with seven
children, namely: Leon, born March 12, 1884; Lewis Eldon, born July 13,
1886; Alvin Ellis, born March 7, 1888; Freda Susanna, born September 25,
1890; Ralph Waldo, born January 5, 1894; Charles Harrison, born October
6, 1895; and Henry Burton, whose birth occurred on the 9th day of
October, 1898.

In the language of another, "the history of George Stephan is an open
book to our people, and there is not a page which they would blot out. A
representative farmer, wide awake and progressive, he is well known
throughout the county. His life has been a constant struggle, but he has
made for himself a good name, and the people of Huntington county have
honored themselves by electing him custodian of the public funds." This
is a deserving tribute and may be taken as an indication of the high
esteem in which he is held by his fellow citizens. In the broadest sense
of the term, he is the architect of his own fortune, and from the early
age of twelve years has been compelled to make his way in the world and
carve out his own destiny. But the turning point in his career was shown
in his home life, where the influences of a helpmeet in those hours when
shadows overcast the hopes and fears from out the gloom almost seemed
real, his inestimable wife, with an instinct born of true womanhood,
rendered more than a helping hand. Her wise counsel was always sought,
and when the problem seemed beyond the possibility of solving, her ready
wit, her keen perception and unbounded confidence in his ability were
potent factors to a successful issue. As he has often been heard to
remark--"Whatever of success may come to a man is largely due to the
influence of his wife; and no man owes more to a wife's devotion and
timely help by word and deed than I." Mr. Stephan's character throughout
has been above criticism, and he stands to-day among his compeers a
clean, noble, splendid type of the successful self-made man, and a
notable example of what may be accomplished by high moral resolves and a
resolution of purpose, though oppressed by adverse circumstances, which
to the majority would have insured defeat. He is a man of the people; a
product of our splendid institutions, and his career is worthy of
emulation by young men with fortunes yet to be realized. He is public
spirited and stands for all that tends to promote the industrial
interests of his city and county, and all movements for the moral
elevation of the community find in him an earnest advocate and liberal

In the most exacting of all professions, teaching, which he followed
continuously until 1894, he displayed tact and ability rarely combined in
a single individual; and as a public servant, keenly alive to the
interests of the people and appreciating the great responsibility of the
trust reposed in him, he has been weighed and found not wanting. Mr.
Stephan in a Christian. For a number of years he has been an earnest,
able and devout member of the Evangelical Lutheran church, striving day
by day to make his life conform to the divine ideal as exemplified in the
"Man of Galilee," and earnestly endeavoring to do the right as he
understands the right. His home in Huntington is a center of genial
hospitality. Kindly and sociable, with a nature overflowing with charity
and good will to all men, he is universally beloved and respected, and
his many virtues have made him an object of esteem alike in public and
private life.

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