Montgomery County Illinois History

  On  Monday of next week, October 23rd, Louis Welge, the veteran furniture dealer of this city and one of our most highly respected old citizens will celebrate his eighty-fifth birthday.  He belongs to a group of three of our oldest residents, namely Burrell Phillips and James Taylor who are 86 years old.  

     This is a short sketch of Louis Welge and the business which he established here forty one years ago and which in now being conducted by Fred W. Welge, a son of Louis.  This store is located west of the courthouse and is today one of the oldest stores in the county.  Fred Noterman has been conducting a jewelry store here for fifty-five years and his store is the oldest establishment to be conducted by one man and the Welge furniture store is next.  This store was located here about 1870 and it first occupied the old building at the top of Seward street, east of the court house, which later was used as a mill and was finally destroyed by fire.

     The Welge retail furniture store was established for the purpose of selling the furniture which was made in the Welge furniture factory.  This factory was located in the valley north of Seward street and was built in 1866 [began making furniture 1868] by a stock company composed of William Welge and his brother Louis and Captain Armstrong.  The latter withdrew [died in 1868 without a will, so his share was sold to settle the estate] from the business after it had been established only a few months.  The factory was conducted for nine years and then was shut down because it could not be conducted profitably in competition with the big furniture factories which then dotted this country in every town of any size.  At the Hillsboro factory everything in the furniture line was made and walnut was the principal lumber used as it was most in demand and there was a generous supply of this wood found in the timber adjoining this city.  Many of the old fashioned pieces of furniture made in this factory can now be found in the homes of old residents of this city.

     Louis Welge, was born in the province of Hanover, Germany, October 23, 1826, and he grew to manhood in that country following the calling of a shepherd, as had his father and grandfather before him.  He secured a flock of sheep there and herded these on the public commons together with flocks of ten other men who paid for caring for their sheep.  He met with misfortune for two consecutive years, however, when his sheep ate a short grass which grew after heavy fall rains and which poisoned them and he determined to seek his fortune in America.  He sailed for this country with his sister who was then engaged to Henry Haake, late of Fillmore township and who was then living in Macoupin county.  Louis was then twenty-seven years of age and he and his sister landed in New Orleans on November 10th, 1853 and came to Carlinville the following year.  While on the streets of Carlinville, soon after his arrival there, he met Christian Welge, father of the late Henry Welge, of Butler Grove township, who knew Louis as a boy in Germany and who recognized him.  He advise him to get away from the town and into the country with a flock of sheep, and he secured work for the boy with a farmer living near Springfield.  Mr. Welge followed his calling as shepherd until 1857 when he moved to Hillsboro and went into business here.  He had prospered during this time and had moved to Montgomery country in 1855, settling on the prairie east of town on the farm now owned by Frank spinner.  He had purchased and paid for a large tract of land in that vicinity and when his brother William came here from Germany in 1865 he persuaded Louis to help him establish the furniture factory here and this factory was the rock on which the small fortune which Louis had accumulated, was wrecked.  Many me would have been discouraged when they met with the reverses which Mr. Welge suffered when he had to close his factory here at a heavy loss, but this was not the case with Louis Welge.  He set bravely to work to pay off his indebtedness and to provide for his family.  He was honest, energetic and thoroughly trusted by everyone and he prospered.  His furniture store here grew and in 1898 he built the brick structure on the north side of his old building and in this he placed his furniture stock, using the old building for novelties, carpets and wall paper.  Mr. Welge conducted the business until 1903 when he retired and his son Fred took charge of the business and is now at the head of affairs.

     Fred W. Welge was born and raised in this city and is well known to everyone.  He is a young, energetic business man, raised in the business and is a fine judge of goods and a good buyer as well as a good salesman.

     Louis Welge was twice married.  His first wife was Augusta Karsten [spelled: Kasten on their marriage certificate, Macoupin County, Illinois] and two children survive this union namely Mrs. Pauline Dammann of this city and Mrs. Joseph Beeler of Hamilton, Ohio.  Mrs. Welge died in 1871 and the following year he married Miss Mina Schorlimmer and the following children survive this union; Miss Bertha Henrietta, who is librarian of our city library; Frederick William, Mrs. Leonora Henrina Hicks, wife of Elvis L. Hicks of St. Louis; Miss Louise Wilmina of this city and Oscar Lynn, the youngest son who is now a student at Carthage college.

     Mr. Welge has been a prominent member of the Masonic Lodge of Hillsboro since 1870 and he is today probably the oldest in the county.  He is exceedingly well preserved for a man of his advanced years and is seen on the streets of Hillsboro visiting with his old cronies every day.  The editors of the NEWS want to join the host of friends who will extend birthday greetings to Mr. Welge on his eighty-fifth birthday and we hope he will live to celebrate many more birthdays.

Posted in: Hillsboro
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