Biography - H. H. Kohn

H. H. KOHN. The flourishing, prosperous cities and villages of Union county, Illinois, have furnished a field for the successful development of the careers of some of the foremost citizens of Southern Illinois, and this fact has been demonstrated in no uncertain manner in the life of H. H. Kohn, a prominent business man and able public official of Anna, whose activities have also served as an example of what may be accomplished by the man of industry, perseverance and ability, no matter how humble his start in life may be. Mr. Kohn is a native of Europe, and came to America as an orphan boy in 1874, when only thirteen years of age. He had no relatives in this country, nor even acquaintances, but on arriving in Boston managed to secure employment as a cash boy at a salary of $2.50 per week, on which he supported himself. Later, by his industry and good habits, he was advanced to $3.00 per week, and after a year was given the position of bookkeeper with the same concern, his wages being again increased. In all Mr. Kohn spent two years in Boston, and in 1876, deciding there was a better future for him farther West he went to St. Louis, Missouri, and for three years was employed as a clerk.

In 1879, having saved between $300 and $400, Mr. Kohn came to the conclusion that he was ready to enter the business field on his own account, and subsequently located in Jerseyville, Illinois, where, with a friend from the old country he established himself as a general storekeeper. This business, however, did not prove such a successful venture as had been anticipated, and the partnership was dissolved, Mr. Kohn returning to his duties as a clerk. About fifteen months later, having established a good line of credit, Mr. Kohn was able to secure backing from Mr. A. W. Cross, of Jerseyville, Illinois, and opened a store at Chesterfield. Here he was again met by discouraging circumstances, for the mine failed, and the town thus losing the industry upon which all business depended, he was forced to close out his stock. These several disappointments would have caused some men to lose heart, but Mr. Kohn was made of sterner stuff and, nothing daunted, started all over again as a commercial traveler for a wholesale house, being given the Southern Illinois territory. When twenty-seven years of age, on his first trip, he had occasion to visit the village of Anna, and was quick to recognize the fact that this was to be some day a prosperous community. Two years later, therefore, he opened a business here, and it was successful from the start. He is a director of the Anna National Bank, and president of the Commercial Club, having been the only incumbent of that position which he has held for two years.

In 1886 Mr. Kohn was married to Miss Peebles, who was born at Chesterfield, Illinois, in 1860. She is a member of the Presbyterian church. Mr. Kohn belongs to Lodge No. 520, A. F. & A. M., R. A. C., and Knight Templar No. 13, Cairo. Politically a stanch Republican he has been active in the ranks of his party, is present secretary of the Congressional Committee, and for ten successive years was chairman of the County Central Committee. He was first appointed a member of the board of trustees of the Southern Illinois Hospital for the Insane by Governor Tanner, and has since received appointments to the same office from Governors Yates and Deneen, being an incumbent thereof for twelve years up to the present time. In May, 1910, he was appointed by Governor Deneen a member of the commissioners to dispose of lands on Kaskaskia Island. Mr. Kohn's activities have always been along lines of progress, and while developing his own interests has always been ready to assist in anything that would be of benefit to his adopted locality. He bears a high reputation among his business associates, and his advice is often sought on matters of commercial importance. As a man who has worked himself up from a poor emigrant boy, without friends or means, in a strange country, to a position among the most substantial men of his locality, Mr. Kohn merits the respect in which he is held by his fellow townsmen, and as he has been successful in making his fortune, so has he been equally fortunate in making friends, who are to be found all over this part of the county.

Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 640-641.

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