Biography of John Frederic Hessel

John Frederic Hessel. There are many avenues of honorable business open to men of education, initiative and talent, and it is a claim proudly made by the great University of Illinois that from her halls go out graduates thoroughly prepared for any career. Many of these young men of the thousands who have hopefully crossed her doorsill undoubtedly have proved the truth of this claim, and many have settled down under her walls, as it were, and through their achievements have reflected credit on their alma m#ter. In this connection may be mentioned a prominent business man of Champaign, John Frederic Hessel, who is a worthy representative of one of the sterling old pioneer families of Champaign County.

John Frederic Hessel was born at Champaign, Illinois, September 18, 1866. His parents were Gustavus Edward and Mary (Davorn-Dixon) Hessel, the latter of whom survives. She was born in Dublin, Ireland, of Irish and Scotch parentage, on April 4, 1841. In 1856 she was married to Gustavus Edward Hessel at Brooklyn, New York, and five children were born to them, of whom John Frederic is the only survivor. The others, who bore the names of Frank L., Cora Mae and Emma H., all died of scarlet fever on April 24, 1878, aged respectively six, ten and fourteen years. This heart breaking domestic affliction was one that from lack of medical knowledge at the time was repeated in many a bereaved home.

Gustavus Edward Hessel was born at Freiburg, in the province of Saxony, Germany, October 6, 1836, and died in Illinois, August 10, 1881. His father, Frederick Hessel, owned vineyards and followed an agricultural life. Gustavus Edward came to the United States at the age of sixteen years and he found employment on a farm in the northern part of Champaign County. He found but little time to attend the public schools, but studied at night and found teachers to help him, and in that way acquired a fair knowledge of the English language. In 1855 he began the business of manufacturing harness and saddles at Champaign, then known as West Urbana, and through his industry, enterprise and good judgment developed a large concern that was known $11 over central Illinois. He was an active member of the Republican party in the county and always gave support to worthy movements of all kinds. He was one of the early members of the Order of Odd Fellows in this section and was a devout and generous member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

John Frederic Hessel attended the public schools and completed his education with two years in the University of Illinois, soon afterward embarking in the land and loan business, in which he has been interested ever since. He operates quite extensively in Northwestern lands and maintains offices at Champaign. At present he has a project of great public value in view, it being concerned with connecting the University of Illinois with the city of Champaign by means of a boulevard system and a high grade residential district. If this plan or another he may find more workable, should be successfully carried through, Mr. Hessel will have done a great thing for Champaign, for it would bring numberless benefits in its train.

While Mr. Hessel has never been particularly active in politics, he has felt a citizen’s responsibility at all times. He is a Republican. In fraternal life he is identified with the Elks and the Knights of Pythias, and a wide acquaintance has given him many agreeable social connections.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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