Molly Daniel of Charleston, Illinois was raised in Arenzville. Molly’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Robert Clark were active community members, and many of Daniel’s fondest childhood memories revolved around the town annual celebration, The Arenzville Burgoo. Like many sons and daughters of this small Midwestern farm town, Daniel grew up and moved away. However, Arenzville was never far from her heart and mind.
“After I went to college, I lived away from Arenzville, but it was during the short time that I lived overseas, that I really began missing home. I wanted so much to see pictures of home,” shared Daniel. “So when I moved back to the States, I started thinking someone really needs to put some pictures up on the internet of Arenzville, and, finally, I decided that someone was going to be me.”
During the year of 1998, Daniel met with Arenzville officials and offered to create a website on behalf of the village. She ensured them that she would upload photographs and collect local stories for the website at no fee to the city. Her only goal was to create a site for people, like herself, who missed their hometown, where they could look at pictures, read about the community and reminisce about days past.
The city accepted Daniel’s offer and the website commenced. She began visiting Arenzville frequently to conduct research on the history of the village and to gather stories from the local townspeople. “I quickly realized that there were many things that I didn’t know about my hometown,” said Daniel. One of the things she gained knowledge about was the early history of the town.
Arenzville was established in 1839 by Francis Arenz. Arenz came to the United States from his native country of Prussia (modern day Northern Germany and Poland) in 1827 and first settled in Kentucky. Arenz remained in Kentucky for two years, working in the merchandising business. In 1829 he moved to Galena, Illinois to work in the lead trade before moving to Beardstown, where he focused his entrepreneurial spirit on real estate sales.
Based on its appealing location between several major cities and close proximity to the Illinois River, Arenz decided to settle in Beardstown. In order to attract incoming immigrants to the area, he established the newspaper The Beardstown Chronicle and Illinois Bounty Land Advertiser in 1834. He remained the owner and editor of the publication for more than two years before the newspaper proved to be unprofitable for Arenz and its existence ceased.
Although the newspaper was financially unsuccessful, it served its purpose of attracting individuals and businesses to the area. During that time, Beardstown became a major shipping point for local farmer’s produce and pork. With the agricultural industry being profitable at that time, Arenz moved approximately six miles southeast of Beardstown and began farming. He remained living and working on that farm until 1839 when he mapped out the village of Arenzville and made his permanent home there.
Arenz was not only a businessman and farmer, but also an active political leader. He was one of the creators of the Illinois State Agricultural Society and in 1852 was appointed by President Fillmore to serve as a representative to carry dispatches to American diplomats in Vienna and Berlin.
After learning about the early history of Arenzville, Daniel was inspired to ask other questions about her hometown. Daniel went on to discover large numbers of young men from Arenzville had enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War. She also learned more about the integral process of making Arenzville’s famous Burgoo. These stories, as well as more information on the history of the village can be found on village’s website that Daniel continues to operate, www.burgoo.org.