This prominent and well-known resident of Thompson Township is of German birth and lineage, and was born in the village of Holmhein, in the Province of Hesse-Darmstadt, March 1, 1838. His father, also named John Boell, was a native of the same place, and was a wagon-maker by trade. He emigrated to America in 1843, with his wife and children, settling on a claim in Guilford Township, Jo Daviess County, but he did not live long to enjoy his life in the New World, as he died two weeks after coming to this county, when but thirty-five years old. The mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Young, continued to live on the homestead farm, keeping her children with her. Subsequently she became the wife of Valentine Schoenhard, and died Feb. 9, 1887, at the age of seventy-six years. By her union with our subject's father she had five children, and one child came to bless her later marriage. The first children were: Catherine, John and Jacob (twins), Philip, and an infant who died in Europe. Of this family John is the only survivor, the others having died within a year after settling in Galena, except Philip, who died in 1846. The child of the second marriage is Ernest Schoenhard, who is now living on the old homestead.
Although he was but young when his parents brought him to this country, the first recollections of our subject are of lands beyond the sea. Especially well does he recollect the voyage across the ocean, which was made in a sailing-vessel. He and his twin brother Jacob were as much alike as could be; both were playful and handsome, and both were dressed exactly alike by their parents, so that it was almost impossible outside of their own family circle to distinguish one from the other. They soon became great favorites on the ship, especially with the captain, who often took them to his cabin, and treated them to all manner of dainties, to give them pleasure and to win their affections. The only way the captain could tell one from the other was that one of the twins had a button torn from his jacket, which had been replaced by another of a different kind. The captain had a large Newfoundland dog, with which the boys were playing one day, when, at its master's command, the animal seized both of their knit caps and tossed them into the ocean, and then the captain set some of his lady passengers to work to knit a better and more costly pair for the lads.
On arriving in this country the family came direct to Jo Daviess County, going down the Ohio River to the Mississippi, and thence up the river to Galena, which was then but a small village. The early life of our subject was passed on a farm in Guilford Township, where his father died. He was brought up in the Presbyterian faith, and received his education in the common schools. August 21, 1860, he was united in marriage with Miss Frederika, daughter of Joseph and Catherine (Armbruster) Snyder, both of whom were natives of Baden, Germany, where also their daughter was born. She was sixteen years of age when she came to America with her parents, who settled in Galena, and she was a young lady of twenty years when she first met our subject. Their marriage took place on the old homestead in Galena Township, and their wedded life has been blessed by the birth of eight children: Elizabeth died in infancy; Ernest J., John C., Rebecca A., Benjamin F., Edwin A., Albert E., and Hannah L. Ernest J. is a graduate of the Northwestern German Theological Seminary, of Dubuque, Iowa, and is now serving a congregation at the Presbyterian Church of Prairie Dell, Ogle Co., Ill., and is married to Miss Lizzie Stecher; John C. is living with his parents; Rebecca A. is the wife of the Rev. W. J. Rosenaw, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Franklin Center, Iowa; they have two children, John Calvin and Walter Joseph. Benjamin F. is twenty years of age, and is attending the Theological Seminary at Dubuque, and will graduate in the class of '90; the rest of the children are at home.
John Boell, the subject of this sketch, has been an industrious man, whose labors have been guided by good judgment, and have brought him an ample competence. He is the owner of a fine farm of 420 acres in Thompson Township, 128 acres being on section 7, and 292 on section 18. He has taken a prominent part in the public affairs of this county, having the well-being of his fellow-townsmen at heart, and serving them most of the time in some position of trust and responsibility. He has been very much interested in school affairs, and for twenty-one years past has been School Director. Five years he served as School Trustee and for three years was Supervisor of the Township. For three years he gave his services as Commissioner of Highways, and he has done his duty as a citizen on both the Petit and Grand Juries. He was one of the originators and charter members of the Guilford and Thompson Township Fire and Lightning Insurance Company, and for two years served as its President; for one year was its Treasurer, and is at present a director, and has ever been zealous in support of the institution, which is today on a more solid basis than ever before. Thirty-three years ago he helped to build the old German Presbyterian Church at Schapville. Since his marriage himself and wife have been members of the church at Scales Mound, and he was on the building committe (sic) at the time of its erection, and has served as one of its Elders for twenty-three years. In politics he is a Republican.
In every relation of life, both public and private, Mr. Boell has shown himself worthy of the trust reposed in him. A man of the strictest probity, he is a true representative of the best class of the citizens of the county. It has been suggested by some of those who know him, that he should be selected to represent the county in the State Legislature; and should that suggestion be made a reality, the citizens of Jo Daviess County would have as their representative a man able and faithful, and one who would have the true interest of his constituents always at heart.
We take pleasure in drawing the attention of our numerous readers to the elegant litographic (sic) view of the handsome home, stock, and farm of Mr. Boell which is given on another page of this volume.
Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Daviess Co., IL (1889)