Biography - David Zepp

HON. DAVID H. ZEPP. Among the many prominent names that make up the strength of the Illinois Bar is that of Hon. David H. Zepp, who possesses solid, substantial talent and is an example of what may be accomplished by push and energy. He is one of those men. too few in number, who fully recognize the truth so often urged by the sages of the law, that, of all men, the reading and thought of the lawyer should be the most extended. Systematic reading gives a more comprehensive grasp to the mind, variety and richness to thought, and a clearer perception of the motives of men and the principles of things. This he has found most essential in the prosecution of his professional practice. He is one of the prominent attorneys and capitalists of Nokomis, and is a true type of the self-made man.
Born in Carroll County, Md., August 5, 1845, Mr. Zepp is a son of Samuel and Caroline (Zimmerman) Zepp. Our subject's great-grandfather, Leonard Zepp, was a native of Switzerland and came to America just at the close of the Revolutionary War. Settling in Frederick County, Md., he reared his family, and in that State the grandfather of our subject, Leonard Zepp, Jr., was born. The father of our subject, Samuel Zepp, was born in Frederick County, Md., in 1822. The Zimmermans were of German extraction, and the first one of the family to settle in America was our subject's great-grandfather, who located in Adams County, Pa., about the year 1750. In this county, Mrs. Zepp's father, Christian Zimmerman, was born about 1780, and in 1800 he moved to Maryland. He settled in that part of Frederick County now included in Carroll County, and there Mrs. Zepp was born in 1824.
Samuel Zepp and Miss Caroline Zimmerman were married in 1843, and on their plantation the original of this notice grew to manhood. He generally attended school three or four months during the year, and the balance of the time was devoted to the arduous duties of the farm. This continued until he had reached his eighteenth year, when he started out as a school teacher in his native county. After teaching one term he was engaged as Principal of the public schools at Taneytown, Carroll County, Md., and the following year was made Superintendent of the public schools at Westminster, on a salary of $50 per month, that being the highest salary paid in the county up to that time. He continued in that position for two years, and during this time he commenced to read law in the office of Judge John E. Smith, with whom he remained two years, and in November, 1868, upon motion of Judge Smith, he was admitted to the Bar. In the winter of 1868 and 1869 he was Superintendent of the schools at Union Bridge, Md., but in May, 1869, he determined to seek fame and fortune in the great West. Accordingly, he left his native heath and journeyed toward the Prairie State, first stopping at Mattoon, Coles County. When starting out for himself, Mr. Zepp's cash capital was by no means large, and when he arrived at Mattoon he was almost penniless, in fact, in balancing up his cash account he found he had just thirteen cents. He was in a strange land, among strangers, and something had to be done.
After remaining at Mattoon for one month, he went to Bunker Hill, where the harvest was just commencing, and he being a strong and able-bodied man, hired out at $3 per day, and in this manner accumulated considerable means. He began teaching school in Palmyra, Macoupin County, and the following harvest found him again in the field, for in his ambition to get a 'start in the world he was determined, for the time, to do any work that would bring him money, providing it was honorable employment. While working in the field he learned that the Board of Education at Hillsboro wanted to secure a new Superintendent, and he at once went to that place to make application. A week later he received word by mail that he had been appointed to the position at a salary of $80 per month for ten months. At the expiration of this time, or in June, 1871, he formed a partnership in the law business with T. A. Walls, a prominent attorney of Nokomis, but the following October his partner died and he succeeded to the thriving business of the office. His reputation as an educator caused the Board of Education at Nokomis to secure him as Superintendent of the public schools at this place, which position he occupied for one year. He was then out of school for two years, when they again made a proposition that if he would accept $125 per month, they would allow him to have time to attend to his law practice and be present during the sessions of court. This he saw fit to accept, and the arrangement lasted one year. Then on account of his constantly increasing business, he was obliged to give up the place.
Soon after this, or on the 8th of September, 1874, he was married to Miss Ella Beaver, of Westminster, Md., who was reared, like her husband, in a slave State. Early in life our subject learned to detest the institution of human slavery, and as he grew older he became a pronounced Abolitionist, It would be only natural therefore to expect to find him after the abolition of slavery a pro. and ardent Republican, as he is, In 1876, his party, recognizing his true worth and great ability, elected him to the State Legislature, a position he filled in a most satisfactory and capable manner. He was a member of the house when the great fight was made against Logan for the United States Senate, and, being a great admirer of the soldier and statesman, he supported him from first to last. Even when defeat stared him in the face he never wavered. While a member of the Legislature his ability was recognized by his being placed on many of the important committees, and he was Chairman of the Committee on Executive Departments, which brought him in contact with Gov. Cullom. Our subject was also a member of the Committee on Judicial Departments, as well as on the Committee on Corporations. He has been in all the Republican county conventions since he came to Montgomery County, as well as many of the State conventions, and has also been a member of the Republican Central Committee.
In 1892, Mr. Zepp was elected a delegate to the National Convention at Minneapolis, and was an ardent supporter of Gen. Harrison for re-nomination. As a financier he has few equals and no superiors in his locality. Quick to see an opportunity, he instantly grasps it, and one incident is given to show this: Just prior to the resumption of specie payment, and when great depression in value spread over the land, Mr. Zepp could see that the depression was at its lowest point, and that improvement was sure to come in the near future. The vacant lots in Nokomis, and about two hundred acres of land adjoining, were for sale at panic prices. He saw his opportunity, and, interesting some capitalists in the scheme, they made the purchase, as well as a tract of four hundred acres of valuable land in Shelby County. The change came as he had predicted, and this master stroke brought him his fortune. In 1884 he stocked the large farm in Shelby County with blooded stock and spent two years on the farm looking after this interest. This was his only absence from his office since locating in Nokomis. About 1880, he organized the Nokomis Building and Loan Association with a capital of $100,000, and has been its President from the start. He is a prominent and enthusiastic Mason, joining the order in Maryland, having sent in his petition to the first meeting held after he was twenty-one years of age. He is a member of the Blue Lodge of Nokomis, of which he has been Master, Hillsboro Chapter and Council, and also of St. Omer Commandery at Litchfield. Mr. Zepp is a true type of the Southern-bred gentleman, and it is a great pleasure to make his acquaintance.

Extracted 04 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from 1892 Portrait and Biographical Record of Montgomery and Bond Counties, Illinois, pages 236-238.

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