Germany has contributed to America one of the best elements of its population. The industry, thrift and progressiveness of the German character are well known. Germans were loyal, as a class, in the long, dark hour of our nation's peril, and German troops under German generals fought and died on many a southern field. In commerce, in finance, in manufacture, in art, music and literature, the German people excel, and they have manifested a capacity to adapt themselves to changing circumstances that some have thought was possessed only by Yankees born and bred. From mechanic to farmer was a step which was taken easily and with success by William Hess, one of the substantial citizens of the district near Shannon, Atchison county, Kansas.
William Hess was born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, April 23, 1827, a son of Adam and Christine (Schaeffer) Hess. Of their eleven children he is the youngest and the only one of them, except his sister, Mary, who came to America. Mary married Mr. Aelband, and lives in Buffalo, New York. William attended the public schools and learned the cooper's trade in his native land, and remained there until he was twenty-one years old.
In 1848 he started for the New World, going by way of London, England. He made his next stop at Buffalo, New York, where he began his career In the United States as an employe in a cooper shop. In 1849 he started on what proved to be a working and observation tour of the country. He went to Cincinnati, Ohio, and from there, taking in other places on his way, to New Orleans, from which point, after three years residence, he traveled through the west in the same way, ultimately reaching Ottawa, Illinois. This point and the surrounding towns proved to be his permanent abiding place, or rather, he ceased to be a wanderer after reaching that locality. He served some of the prominent concerns in his line in Ottawa, LaSalle and Utica, and removed from Illinois only when he decided to locate in Kansas.
In 1868 he bought a tract of land in Atchison county. He readily transformed himself from cooper to farmer and seemed to possess as much talent for the latter occupation as for the former. Industry and perseverance are the key to success in farming, as in all other branches of business, and the application of these characteristics is what brought prosperity to Mr. Hess. He is the owner of a half-section of land in the "garden spot" of Kansas, as Atchison county is frequently termed, and is surrounded by all the comforts necessary to bless his declining years.
Mr. Hess early became a Republican. He is proud of the fact that he voted for General Fremont for president, and has voted for every Republican presidential candidate since. He has always been in accord with the predominant principles of the Republican party. So long as the Abolitionist had a mission in America he was an Abolitionist. The theory and practical operation of a protective tariff have always had his approbation and support. The policy of the party in dealing with the southern question after the war and the payment of the national debt incurred by the war had his hearty approval, and President McKinley's policy of national expansion accords with his ideas as to the means by which America's future greatness may be secured.
Mr. Hess was married in Ottawa, Illinois, in 1855 to Victoria Schwein, an Alsatian lady of French and German parentage. Their children are William; Dena, who resides in the state of Washington; Anna, the wife of Harry Young, of Davenport, Iowa; and Mrs. Frank Schletzbaum, of Lancaster township, Atchison county, Kansas.