GERHARD WESTENBERGER - Gerhard Westenberger was born in Nassau, Germany, on the 19th day of October, 1835, his parents being Peter and Eva (Boll) Westenberger. He attended school in his native country until twelve and a half years of age and then accompanied his parents on their emigration to America in 1848. The father was a cabinetmaker by trade and in his native country he also followed contracting and building. After coming to this country he continued to work as a cabinetmaker. In the family were five children, of whom three are now living.
Gerhard Westenberger is the fifth in order of birth. He did not consider his education completed when he left the schools of his native land and after arriving in Springfield he attended evening school. He began learning his trade under the direction of his father and in 1853 he apprenticed himself to a cabinetmaker, with whom he continued to work for two years. Subsequently he was employed as a journeyman in Taylorville, Illinois, where he worked for a year, and at the end of that time he began building railroad cars at Bloomington, Illinois, for the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company. There Mr. Westenberger resided for a year and a half and built property for himself there. He next went to St. Louis where he was employed for six months in the shops of the Missouri & Pacific Railroad Company in the construction of passenger coaches, but when the hard times of 1856 came on he returned to this city and soon afterward went to Magnolia, Illinois. There he worked at cabinetmaking for a short period, but again came to Springfield, where he followed cabinetmaking for two years. In 1861 he opened a furniture store, carrying on business on South Sixth street, while later he removed to South Fifth street, between Monroe and Adams streets, being there located for a year. On the expiration of that period he came to his present place of business, 417 East Adams street, purchasing the ground and erecting a fine brick business house, twenty by seventy-five feet and three stories in height. Since that time he has added another story and now carries a complete line of house furnishing goods, his being one of the oldest and best furniture stores in this part of the state.
On the 7th of February, 1860, occurred the marriage of Mr. Westenberger and Miss Mary Louisa Bretz, a daughter of John and Jane (Philcher) Bretz. Her father was a native of Hesse, Germany, and her mother's birth occurred in Kentucky. Mrs. Westenberger is their eldest living child and was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, July 29, 1842. She began her education in the schools of that state and completed her studies in Ursuline Convent of Springfield. By her marriage she became the mother of thirteen children, of whom twelve are living. Laura is the wife of Henry Thoma and has five children living, their home being next to her father's residence. Eva is the wife of Ernst H. Helmle, of Springfield, and they have four children. Peter married Nettie Mulready and they have six children. Marie is the wife of P. P. Powell, of Springfield, and they have one child. John C., of Springfield, wedded Mary Gallagher. Katherine is the wife of P. M. Bartelme, of Springfield, and has two children. George L. is at home. Frances is now the wife of Thomas W. Allen. Gerhard H. is assisting his father in the store. Louise, Anna and Marguerite are at home. The second child was named Gerhard and died at the age of nine years. The living children were all given good school privileges and four are graduates of the high school of Springfield.
Mr. and Mrs. Westenberger are members of St. Peter's and St. Paul's Roman Catholic church. He has sung in the choir of the Immaculate conception church for twenty years and his two daughters, Mrs. Powell and Mrs. Helmle, are members of that choir and are highly accomplished musicians, as is also Miss Louise. All of the family possess considerable musical talent and the three daughters just mentioned studied under Professor Barnaby. Mr. Westenberger is a member of St. Vincent Society. He was elected a member of the board of supervisors of Springfield and served for two terms. He is now one of the enterprising and prosperous merchants of the city, a position to which he has attained through careful, fair and capable management. His success is largely due to the fact of his persistency in the trade in which he embarked when a young man and he thoroughly mastered it in every detail and his experience and excellent workmanship proved the foundation upon which to build