Biography - Michael Ohlman

CAPT. MICHAEL OHLMAN. This in brief is the sketch of a man whose present substantial position in life has been reached entirely through his own perseverance, and the facts connected with his operations and their results only show what a person with courage and enlightened views can accomplish. His reputation for honesty and integrity has been tried and not found wanting; his financial ability has been more than once put to the test, but never without credit to himself; his social qualities are well known and appreciated, and he has hosts of friends, whose confidence and esteem are his highest eulogium. He is a wealthy farmer of Audubon Township, Montgomery County, and is an important factor in Third Party politics.
Born in Strausberg (then in the domain of France but now in the German empire) in September, 1822, our subject is a son of Michael and Gertrude Ohlman, with whom he emigrated to America in 1832. They landed at Baltimore, Md., and as the little means the father had accumulated had been used in the journey to this country, he was at once compelled to look about him for employment. Soon afterward, he and his son, the subject of this sketch, who was then a lad of ten years, obtained work at breaking stone for the paving of the streets in Washington, D. C. In this way, they saved a small amount of money, and, being anxious to reach the West, purchased a poor old broken-down stage horse and a rickety old wagon, into which all their earthly possessions were loaded, and started out on their Westward journey. At Wheeling, W. Va., their horse died and other means of travel had to be found. They built a flatboat, in which they loaded their goods, and after many hardships and trials reached Cairo, where they stayed for a short time, but eventually they removed to St. Louis, where the father and young Michael labored until 1838.
By this time, they had accumulated considerable means, and with it Mr. Ohlman purchased a large tract of land in Missouri, on which Michael labored cheerfully and faithfully until he was seventeen years of age, when he began working on flatboats on the Mississippi River. At the end of two years, he commenced to work on steamboats, and was promoted until he became pilot of one of the boats. He was economical in his expenditures, and although he had little or no education he had an object in life, and he invested his money judiciously in river-boat stock and in time became the owner and commander of the "Star of the West." With this boat, a small fortune was made, but it was finally sunk in the river. Later, after spending a large amount of money, it was raised and refitted, only to be burned a short time after.
Subsequently, Mr. Ohlman became commander of the "D. A. January," in which he owned a five-eighths interest, and for five years commanded it and did a most successful business. With this boat alone, it is said, he made a fortune. He sailed it on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and during the first part of the Civil War his profits were enormous. In 1862, he secured a contract from the Government, but the operation of a private boat at this time, on account of its doubtful nature, was a risky calling and a proposition was made to sell it to the Government, which was accepted.
Capt. Ohlman then came to Montgomery County and made large investments of his fortune in land, and here he has quietly lived ever since. He has one of the finest farms in this section of the country. His estate comprises about eight hundred acres, and upon it he has a beautiful mansion, from which a fine view of the country can be had for many miles around. Mr. Ohlman has not been actively engaged in farming for many years, but has placed the management of his magnificent estate in the hands of his sons, while he looks after the finances. He was reared a Democrat, but some three years ago cast his lot with the Third or People's Party, and has devoted much of his time and money in furthering the interests of what he believes to be the coining great party. He attends all of the conventions of his party, and his voice is often heard in its councils. Starting in life with little or no education, he has been a close student and but few men in his locality are more thoughtful readers or better posted on the general topics of the day than is he.
Capt. Ohlman was married in 1859 to Miss Theresa Buebach, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, of German parents. Their union resulted in the birth of nine children, six of whom are living: Cecil, who is the wife of Alfred Wyand, of Pana, Ill.; William, who is a graduate of the St. Louis University, also of Notre Dame of South Bend, Ind.; Ida, who is the wife of Joseph W. Wild, the talented newspaper editor of Nokomis; Alexander and James, who are in charge of the farming and stock-raising interests of their father's large estate; Lizzie, an intelligent young lady, is now receiving her education.

Extracted 10 Jan 2017 by Norma Hass from 1892 Portrait and Biographical Record of Montgomery and Bond Counties, Illinois, pages 319-320.

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