The most predominant family surname in the Fairbury area is Steidinger. According to Graceland Cemetery records, at least 65 family members are buried there.
The Steidinger family story began with the birth of Matthias Steidinger in 1797 in Germany. In 1819, Matthias Steidinger married Miss Susanne Weisser. Both Matthias and Susanne were 22 years of age when they married in Baden, Germany. Matthias and Susanne Steidinger had nine children. These children were born between 1820 and 1838 in Germany.
Three of Matthias' and Susanne Steidinger's sons decided to emigrate from Germany to the Fairbury area.
John George Steidinger (1825-1906) was one of Matthias and Susanne Steidinger's three sons who emigrated from Germany to Fairbury. John G. Steidinger was born in Baden, Germany, in 1825. He married Miss Anna Mary Yackley in 1844 in Germany. John was 19, and Anna was 17 years of age when they married. They had 16 children in Germany.
In 1875, the John G. Steidinger family decided to emigrate from Germany to the Fairbury area. The two parents and 11 of their children traveled across the Atlantic Ocean on a ship named the Amerique. In that era, the trip usually took seven to nine weeks. On the ship's manifest, George gave his age as 50, and his wife Anna gave her age as 48. Their 13 children ranged in age from seven to twenty-six. John listed his occupation as a farmer.
As listed on the 1875 ship's manifest, the children of John and Anna Steidinger included Christian, Ursula, Salomie, Elise, Marie, Mathias, Jacogues, Martin, Alexander, Anne, and Bartolome Steidinger.
John G. Steidinger purchased a farm in Avoca Township, north of Fairbury. John lived on this farm until his wife died in 1902. Anna was 72 years of age when she died. John G. Steidinger died in 1906 at the age of 81. John and his wife Anna were buried in Graceland Cemetery.
Another son of Matthias and Susanne Steidinger, who chose to emigrate to the Fairbury area, was Andreas "Andrew" Steidinger. He was born in Baden, Germany, in 1831. Andrew Steidinger married Miss Maria "Mary" Agatha Heinsman in Germany in 1853. Andrew and Mary were both 21 years of age when they married. They had eight children in Germany. Their children's names were Gottlieb, Andreas "Andrew," Mathais "Mathew," Johann "John" George, Maria Agatha "Mary," Bartholomaus Ernest "Barthol," Christian, and Jons Albert "John" Steidinger.
The Andrew Steidinger family decided to emigrate from Germany to the Fairbury area in 1885. Andrew decided to come to America ten years after his brother John G. Steidinger came to the Fairbury area. Andrew and his wife Mary were both 54 years of age when they made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to America. All of the seven living children of Andrew and Mary Steidinger accompanied their parents in emigrating to the Fairbury area.
A third son of Matthias and Susanne Steidinger, who chose to emigrate to the Fairbury area, was Mathias Steidinger (1829-1882). Mathias married Miss Brigitta Haas in Germany in 1854. Mathias was 24, and Brigitta was 21 years of age when they married. They had three children, with one son who died at just one-year-old.
Unfortunately, Brigitta died in Germany in 1858 at the age of 25. Mathias and his two sons continued to live in Germany after the death of Brigitta. At some point, Mathias Steidinger emigrated from Germany to the Fairbury area. His two sons remained in Germany for the rest of their lives. Mathias Steidinger was buried in Graceland Cemetery when he died in 1882 at the age of 52.
Benjamin Nussbaum wrote two pamphlets about the history of the Apostolic Church. In 1973, he wrote his South Side history, and in 1975, he wrote his North Side History. In his 1973 pamphlet, Nussbaum recounted the North Side church was the oldest of the two rural churches by several years. Rudolph Leuthold was the Elder for the North Side church. In 1875, the South Side church was built. John G. Steidinger was awarded the Eldership of the South Side church. The John G. Steidinger family emigrated from Germany to Fairbury in 1875.
A few notable members of the Steidinger family in Fairbury history include Martin Steidinger (1863-1957). He was one of the sons of John G. and Anna Steidinger. Martin became an Elder in the Apostolic Christian church for many years.
Another well-known member of the Steidinger family was Gottlieb Steidinger (1853-1933). He was the son of Andrew and Maria Steidinger. Gottlieb Steidinger ran a blacksmith shop in Fairbury for many years.
Between 1890 and 1892, Joseph G. Swing and Alexander Steidinger (1865-1960) were in business together. They ran a hardware and farm implement store known as Swing & Steidinger on the south side of Locust Street between Second and Third Streets. Alexander Steidinger was another son of John George Steidinger and Anna Mary Yackley. The old building advertising sign on the front of the Swing & Steidinger building was repainted in 2017.
The Steidinger family has played a critical role in the history of Fairbury for almost 150 years. They played an essential role in the early Apostolic Christian church, and family members have owned and operated many businesses over the years.
(Dale Maley's local history article is sponsored each Monday by Dr. Charlen Aaron and Antiques & Uniques of Fairbury)