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  • Dale C. Maley

Troehlers part of local history

(One of Phil Troehler's badges when he worked for the Fairbury Police Department)

The Troehler family history in the Fairbury area goes back almost to the founding of Fairbury in 1857.

The first members of the Troehler family moved to the Fairbury area in 1870. Descendants of the Troehler family became pioneer farmers, businessmen, World War II veterans, and served in the Fairbury Police Department.

The story of the Troehler family began in France. George Troehler was born in 1806 in Alsace, France. George married Magdalena Kleiber in France around 1830. George and Magdalena had three sons in France. Their sons were named Frederick, George Jr., and Philip Edward Troehler. In 1844, the George Troehler family emigrated from France to a farm near Chillicothe, Ohio. In 1847, George and Magdalena had their fourth child, Magdalena Troehler.

Frederick, the oldest son of George and Magdalena Troehler, married Elizabeth Whitler in 1855. They had one child in Chillicothe, Ohio. Frederick died in 1876 at the age of 44. The second oldest son of George and Magdalena, George Jr., enlisted in May of 1864 in Company F of the Ohio 149th Infantry to fight in the Civil War. In August of 1864, George Jr. died of disease and was buried at Antietam National Cemetery.

The youngest son of George and Magdalena Troehler, Philip Edward Troehler, also served in the Civil War. At age 20, Philip Troehler enlisted in Company E of the Ohio 37th Infantry in 1861. His unit fought in the Civil War at the Siege of Vicksburg, the Battle for Atlanta, and General Sherman's March to the Sea. In August of 1864, Philip received word that his younger brother George Jr. had died of disease at Sandy Hook, Virginia. One month later, Philip was mustered out of the Union Army. After the war, Philip Edward Troehler married Rosena Maria Denniwitz in Ohio. Philip and Rosena Troehler had four children in Ohio.

Magdalena Troehler was the youngest child of George and Magdalena Troehler. In 1865, she married Charles C. Dennewitz in Ohio. Mr. Dennewitz was born in Germany. He was the brother of Rosena Maria Denniwitz, the wife of Philip Edward Troehler.

Charles and Magdalena Troehler were the first members of the Troehler family to move to the Fairbury area. In 1870, they moved from Ohio to Avoca Township, near Fairbury, where they raised their family on a farm.

Six years after Charles and Magdalena Troehler moved to the Fairbury area, his parents, George and Magdalena Troehler, moved from Ohio to an 86-acre farm just east and south of Weston, Illinois.

Philip and Rosena Troehler also moved their family of four children from Ohio to Fairbury. They eventually had ten more children, for a total of 14. Many of these children married people from the Fairbury area and made their homes there.

Philip and Rosena Troehler eventually retired from farming and moved into a home at 104 West Cherry Street. Until his pneumonia death in 1923, Philip was one of Fairbury's most respected citizens. He was very active, and every day, he would take a walk through Fairbury to meet his friends for a social hour.

Levi Peter Troehler (1887-1969), one of the sons of Philip and Rosena Troehler, owned the Sanitary Cleaners on Locust Street. This business was the third building east of the northeast corner of Locust and Fourth Streets. The original building no longer stands and has been replaced by a tan sheet metal building.

Early Fairbury had many small, one-person businesses, including barbers, tailors, shoe repairers, lunchrooms, and bathhouses. These small businesses required little floor space and could not justify a large building. Renting space in the basement of a conventional business building was a perfect option for them. Most buildings on the north side of Locust Street were designed with basements that could be rented to small businesses.

Another of the 14 children of Philip and Rosena Troehler was Henry Troehler (1881-1965). He initially worked on his father's farm east of Weston for $20 monthly. At the age of 23, Henry learned the barber trade. He moved to Gridley and was a very popular barber in that village for many years. Henry moved his barbershop from Gridley and eventually to Fairbury. Near the end of his career as a Fairbury barber, Henry ran his basement business in the second building to the east of the northeast corner of Locust and Third Streets. This building is now part of the Bank of Pontiac complex.

Henry Troehler's barbershop was the last of the underground Fairbury businesses. Henry closed his barbershop in 1963. The high sidewalks on Locust Street worked great for horse-drawn buggies. Unfortunately, automobile front bumpers ran into the high sidewalk step. In 1971, the City of Fairbury filled all the basements and poured new sidewalks with two small steps from the street to the main sidewalk level.

Virgil E. Troehler (1920-1982) was the son of Grover Cleveland Troehler. Grover was a house painter and wallpaper hanger in Fairbury. Virgil, the grandson of Philip and Rosena Troehler, grew up in Fairbury and served in the Iceland Base Command in the Signal Corps during World War II. He received the European Theatre Ribbon, American Theatre Ribbon, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and Meritorious Service Badge. After the war, Virgil became the commander of American Legion Post No. 54 of Fairbury.

One great-grandson of Philip and Rosena Troehler was Phillip Troehler. Phillip was named after his great-grandfather. Phil served as the Fairbury Assistant Chief of Police. Phillip Troehler was also on the Board of Directors for the Fairbury Echoes Museum. Phillip Troehler passed away on May 21, 2022.

The Troehler family has been a part of Fairbury's history for 150 years. Family members include a Civil War veteran, a World War II veteran, a sign painter, an underground business barber, a clothing cleaner, and an Assistant Chief of Police. Their family provided many valuable services to multiple generations of Fairbury citizens.

(Dale Maley's local history article each week is sponsored by Dr. Charlene Aaron)

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