Henry E. ZILM, one of the most successful and prosperous agriculturists of Marshall county, is today the largest taxpayer in Belle Plain township. He is a native of Germany, born in Mecklenburg-Schwerin on the 9th of April, 1842, and is a son of Daniel and Minnie (MEVIS) ZILM, who were also natives of Mecklenburg, the former bom in 1804 and the latter in 1809. It was in 1857 that the father crossed the Atlantic and became a resident of the new world. Locating in Henry, Marshall county, Illinois, he purchased a farm near that place and turned his attention to agricultural pursuits. He subsequently lived on the ROLLAND place for a time and from there removed to Belle Plain township, where he continued to make his home until his death, which occurred in 1896. He was a supporter of the republican party and religiously was identified with the German Lutheran church, to which his wife also belonged. She died in 1888. In the family of this worthy couple were seven children, namely: William, now deceased; Charles, a resident of State Center, Iowa; Louis, of Benson, Illinois; Henry E., of this review; Frederick, a resident of La Rose; Mrs. Alwina SPECK, of Lacon; and Mrs. Minnie COOK, of La Rose.
Henry E. ZILM spent the first fourteen years of his life in his native land and there acquired a good education prior to the emigration of the family to America. It was in 1856 that he and his brother Louis took passage on the sailing vessel Rhine and after a stormy voyage of forty-nine days landed in New York on the 1st of November. Locating in Henry, Illinois, he began to learn the wagonmaker's trade with William HANNA, with whom he remained for seven months, and for the following year worked on the farm of Steven ECKLEY, on the west side of the river. At the end of that period he returned to the parental roof and was employed on his father's farm for the greater part of the time until he started out in life for himself as a farmer. During his minority he gave the money that he earned to his parents and in return received only his board and clothes, but at the age of twenty-one his father gave him an old team and, renting a farm in Belle Plain township, he engaged in its operation for two years prior to his marriage, in the meantime boarding with his brother.
In 1866 Mr. ZILM was united in marriage to Miss Johanna VanHOVE, who was born in New Amsterdam, Holland, in April, 1845, and died in this county in 1881. Four children were born of this union, namely: Lena, who married John PHILLIPS and lives in Elgin, Illinois; Anna, deceased; Matilda, the wife of William HARRIN, a resident of Chicago; and Oscar, who married Carrie MADDOX and lives in La Rose. For his second wife Mr. ZILM married Miss Theresa ERINGER, March. 15, 1883. She was born in Hanover, Germany, May 15, 1859, and was twenty-three years of age when she came to the United States. Unto Mr. and Mrs. ZILM were born three children, Carrie, Adolph and Ernest, all at home.
For two years after his marriage Mr. ZILM lived on the William Spangler farm and engaged in its operation. He then made his first purchase of land, consisting of one hundred and. sixty acres on the southeast quarter of section 9, Belle Plain township, belonging to Nicholson and Stevenson. As time has passed he has steadily prospered in his undertakings and has added to his landed possessions until today he is the owner of twelve hundred acres of rich and valuable land under a high state of cultivation and improved with excellent buildings. He has worked persistently and energetically and the success that has come to him is due entirely to his own indefatigable labors, good judgment and careful management. He is a man of excellent business and executive ability and usually carries forward to successful completion whatever he undertakes. His political support is given to the republican party and religiously he affiliates with the German Lutheran church, to which his family also belong. His life has been one of earnest, persistent endeavor and he well merits the success that has come to him and also the esteem in which he is uniformly held.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, 1907.