GEORGE P. BECHDOLT, son of Jacob P. and Catherine M. (Lenhart) Bechdolt, was born in Germany March 28, 1829. He learned to read, write and mastered the rudiments of mathematics in his native country, and after reaching the United States attended school in York, Pa., for about six months in the winter of 1838-39, where he learned to read English. When fifteen years of age he again attended school for one month, chopping wood on Saturdays to pay for his board and receiving only fifty cents a cord. At the age of eighteen he put in twenty-eight days at school and graduated, and from the age of fifteen was entirely dependent upon himself for support. He turned his attention to making staves, chopping wood, etc., and in the spring hired out to work on a farm in Calhoun Country, the place where Campsville now stands. He had also charge of Bushnell's Ferry across the Illinois River.
Mr. Bechdolt continued this kind of work and flatboating and steam boating until twenty-one years of age, at which time he bought land south of Bedford, in Pike County, and immediately took possession of it. The land was slightly improved, but he replaced the old log house with a new one, and remained there until 1855, when he rented out his place and in turn rented a farm south of Milton for a season. This property belonged to George Underwood. Our subject in 1855 purchased his present farm, and has continued to add to it from time to time, until it now contains two hundred acres, with one hundred and eighty tillable acres and one hundred acres under the plough, the rest being timber and wood pastures. He built his handsome residence in 1868 at a cost of $3,000, and a barn in 1882 that cost him $1,000. He carries on a general farming business, giving his attention to farming and stock-raising equally, and is peculiarity successful with hogs and corn.
Our subject was married in 1851 to Miss Frances S. Price, daughter of Robert and Polly (Kennedy) Price, natives of Kentucky. Her father was a blacksmith and removed to Illinois at a very early date. They both died many years ago, the mother passing away in 1865. Their marriage was blest with eleven children, three of whom are now living. Mrs. Bechdolt's birth occurred in Macomb, Ill., May 29, 1834, and she received a common-school education.
Mr. and Mrs. Bechdolt are the parents of eleven children, nine of whom are living, viz: Julia May, widow of Adam May, who has four children and makes her home in Milton; Helen, wife of William Patterson, whose sketch appears elsewhere in our Album; Theodore, who married Miss May Van Meter, lives in Florence and has three children. Mariah married Frank J. Goldelman; they have three children and live on a farm in Montezuma Township. Anna, single; Luetta, wife of Hardin Barnett, lives in Milton; Edith, single; Fred, single; and Esther, wife of Ed Anderson, of Ft. Paine, Ala. Both our subject and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Milton, of which he is Leader and Steward. He has always taken an active part in Sunday-school work, having served as teacher and Superintendent. He has also served as School Director and is Chaplain of the Grand Army Post at Milton.
The subject of our sketch once voted the Union Labor ticket and lately the Prohibition, but was originally a radical Republican. He enlisted in August, 1862, in Company K, Second Illinois Cavalry, as a recruit, and was assigned to duty with his regiment at Bolivar, Tenn. He took part in the following engagements: Brownsville scout, Coldwater, raid at Holly Springs by Gen. Van Dorn, and at the last-named place received a shot in the right breast ranging to the left breast, and the bullet is still in his body. He was taken to the hospital at Holly Springs, and then came home on a furlough, remaining there till March 10, 1863. He reported at the general hospital at St. Louis for duty and was sent to his regiment at Millken's Bend. He was honorably discharged March 21, 1863, owing to disability, and immediately returned home. He still suffers from the effect of that wound.
Our subject's parents were born in Bavaria, Germany. His father and mother were married at Cline Haebach, where they resided until 1837, at which time they emigrated to America. They landed at Baltimore, Md., and made the trip from that point to York. Pa., in a wagon. In the spring of 1839 they removed to Calhoun County, Ill., settling near Crater's Landing on a farm. The father died in the summer of 1839, and the mother, after making a brave struggle to help her children in their careers, died in 1867. She was the mother of eleven children, two of whom are living at the present writing, viz: our subject; and Caroline, who married T. B. Weber and lives in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents had at one time been in comfortable circumstances, but after coming to Calhoun County they found it a difficult matter to make a living. The children were compelled to work and our subject has hoed corn when the land had not been plowed, chopped wood and gone through the usual struggles that attend poverty in a new country, but to-day he ranks among the wealthy and influential citizens of Detroit Township and is a man highly respected and well liked in the community where he resides.
Extracted 23 Mar 2017 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Album of Pike and Calhoun Counties, Illinois, published in 1891, pages 656-658
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