William H. Uhl

Auto Biography

Nelson Twp.
Lee County IL

My father, Daniel Uhl, was a wheelwright by Trade, but soon added farming to his trade, to support a large and growing family. There were born to my sainted parents 10 children, and I was the third in the family. In that early day we had no schools worth naming, so that I grew up to be 21 years old without any knowledge of books, except the spelling book, by catechism, and some portions of the New Testament. My father and mother were both pious, and labored hard to instruct their children in christianity and when I was 14 years old, they placed me in the instruction of their pastor Rev J. Winecoff who, after I attended his lectures for six months, confirmed me as a member of the Ev. Luth. Church. My parents taught me to pray, from a child, and I have never ceased praying to God ever since. When I was 19 years old, my father sold his land in Pa., and bought a farm in Md., four miles north of Cumberland. On this farm I lived with my father, until I was 23 years old. Nov. 5th 1840, I married Lucinda Cook, my present wife, and mother of our four children. Jonathan and Mary Ellen were born in my father's house and both were baptized by Rev. J. Winecoff, when infants. The first real change of heart which I experienced, was in the spring of 1841, whilst plowing corn on my father's farm. So great was the light and joy, that burst into my soul, that the recollection be never be effaced from mind, and I have had more or less of this feeling ever since. I had a desire to enter the ministry, when only a boy of some 10 or 12 years old, but could see no possible way to get there, until after I was converted. By hard and constant labor, and great economy, my wife and I laid by, during the two years I farmed for farther $350.00 and Father had given me a horse which I sold for $50.00 making in all $400.00, with which, I now commenced to prepare for the ministry. I moved my family to Gettysburg, to attend school at that place, in Oct. 1842, and attended school uninteruptedly until May 1846. As my father was still in debt on his farm, I would not ask him to assist me, but fought my way through as best I could. My hours of recreation at school, I spend in sawing wood for the professors, and my vacations in working among farmers at from 40 to 50 cts a day, and my wife, would make and _ linen for the students. In this way we made the $400.00 reach, to finish my prescribed course of four years study. Our last year at school was a trying one. We had now three children, Emanuel being born at Gettysburg and my wife's health was very poor, and my money nearly all.

During this year I bought but one barrel of flour and two pounds of butter. We ate mostly corn bread and potatoes. We used no coffee or tea, only what little Mother had to use. We were now so poor in worldly goods, that all we had including our clothing, would not have brought $30., except my library, which cost me about $100.00 yet we never dispaired or felt discouraged, as I knew we could always make a living by hard work and economy. I was licensed to preach by the Pittsburg synod, convened at Greensburg, Pa. In May 1846, and was sent to a mission field in Clarion and part of Armstrong Co's Pa., without any aid from Missionary societies, but to labor for what the propel saw fit to give me, which amounted to about $300 the first year and $400 for the second year.

I commenced with two feeble congregations and two houses of worship in this extensive field, and after laboring two years in it, left it with four houses of worship and six congregations of some 300 members. Nearly half of my time in this field, I was in the saddle, and preached, on an average, five times a week, besides catechising, and marrying many couples. Here Joanna Eliza was born. When I left this field in 1848, the charge was divided into two pastorates, and two ministers supported in it. In May 1848 I received a call from the Somerset pastroate, in Somerset Co., Pa., my native county, and commenced work here at once. This was, at one time the best pastorate, in the Alleghany Synod but my predecessor, Rev. P. Reiser, was very unfortunate here, in creating trouble and discord among the members until, finally, he had three lawyers in court, with those who opposed him. His pastorate had three churches, and the same amount of congregations, but was now reduced to less than 100 communicants. I labored here four years with great success, and the people became so attached to me, that it did seem cruel to break away from them. But owing to hard and constaint study my health failed me, and my physician advised me to quit preaching for a time and devote all my time to out door exercise. During these four years, I organised three more congregations, and built two houses of worship, and had a membership of over 400 souls. Owing to failing heath, and the necessity of vigorous exercise in the open air I resigned the Somerset pastorate and people whom I dearly loved, and moved my family to Peru, Ills. This was in the spring of 1852. I did not intend locating at Peru, when I left the east, but as I left the boat at St. Louis, I came on my own conveyance over the vast prairies, by land to Peru. But when I came within two miles of Peru, the river had overflowed the banks, so that the ferry could not run. Hence, I had to leave my team, with a farmer on the south side, of the river, for a week, but brought my family to Peru on a skiff, and engaged boarding with Mr. Lininger. As soon as Mr. and Mr. L. found out that I was a Lutheran minister nothing would do but I must preach on the coming Sunday. When Sunday came, it seemed to me, that the whole city was moving forwards Brewster's Hall to hear the new Luth. Preacher. No sooner than the morning service closed, the german portion of my hearers, demanded german preaching in the afternoon, and the english people asked me to preach again in the evening, which I did. Although I fully resolved to come on to Dixon, and open a farm for exercise, but such was the inoportunity of the people at Peru to remain and preach for them, that I finally consented to labor among them for one year, which I did. As in all my preaching, East and West I never asked for a stipulated salary, but took what the people saw proper to give me, I soon found out, that I would have to depend on the work of my hands to support my family. As I brought two young horses with me, I bought a wagon and commenced to do some teaming, which I soon found very advantageous to my health, as well as support my family. But as I soon had invitations to preach, at four other places besides in Peru, I had to devote from two to three days each week top preaching and catechising, which again reduced by income from teaming, as these five preaching places did not yield me over $100., for pastoral labors, and I had seven mouths to feed and bodies to clothe. During this year in Peru, I organized three congregation of some 175 persons and built one house of worship. Two thirds of my preaching in this field was in german. I had much hard labor, little gratitude, and less pay in dollars and cents. Yet I felt I was doing the Lord's work, and saw some fruits of my labor.

During this year the cholera raged in Peru, and I was almost constantly among the sick and dying. One day I helped to bury 16 who died with cholera, some of whom I helped to put in coffins and lower in graves.

In the spring of 1858, in June, I moved into what is now Nelson township, four miles south of Dixon and opened a farm, with the intention of not preaching for a year, and so recover my health again. Bro. Young (Charles) had then commenced to preach at the Burket School-house, three miles east of Dixon. We attended his ministry. This at once led him to insist on me preaching for him occasionally, which I did. But before ten months had passed, his congregation gave him to understand that they preferred a change and he quit preaching from them. Although I still lived in a little stable, that I first put up on my land, the little band of Lutherans at Burket's school-house, pressed me again into the ministry, and having a good stock of well prepared sermons on hand, I yielded again to preach at this one place. But before winter came on, I was urged to preach at Sterling, Grand-Detour, Forreston, and a member of small country places, so that before the close of my first year in Lee county, Ills, I was preaching from four to five sermons each week. In this way I continued to labor for seven years, and organized four congregations and prepared the way for St. James and Zion's churches in South Dixon and Nelson. I built the first church in Dixon, Sterling, and Franklin Grove, and helped to build Zions, St. James, and our second fine church in Dixon. Our dear sainted pastor, Rev. A. A. Trimper, was pastor of the Dixon pastroate, when we built this church at a cost of $17000.00 towards our two churches in Dixon, and parsonage I paid over $5000, in money besides much hard work. During the seven years I was pastor of this large field, I literally labored day and night to build up the charge and support my family. During these seven years, I did not receive over $500 and paid out for building our churches in Dixon and Sterling, over $1000 in money, besides hauling most of the stone for foundation and lumber for the first church from the Mississippi river. After I moved into Dixon in 1860 (I still continued to preach in Franklin, until 1870 which no longer able to endure so constant a strain on my mental and physical nature, I resigned Franklin and have ever since preached only occasionally. I always loved to be in the ministry, and if I could have had good health, and but a meager support would still be in the field, to work for the Master. All my labor in the west has been at my own expense, and has been a source of great enjoyment to me, as persons could never intimidate me from speaking the whole truth as I believed it. Eternity must show whether I done the Lords work, and this I will soon find out.

Signed: Wm Uhl

Letter From William Uhl to His Son Jonathan, dated 6 March 1885
Dixon, Lee County, Ills. March 6th 1885

Copied from the original at Shenandoah, Apr 27th 1885, by Katie Tremper Uhl. Note: Rev. A. A. Trimper was the father of Katie Tremper Uhl, (Mrs. Jonathan Uhl) the daughter-in-law of Rev. William Uhl.

Contributed and Copyrighted by Margaret Gagliardi


Lee Co Bios

Illinois - "Our Way"