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History of Adair
County, Iowa, 1915.

Biographical.  Volume 2.


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Ernst Funke.

Although Ernst Funke is now a resident of Alhambra, California, he was for many years one of the foremost farmers and stock-raisers of Adair county and still has extensive property interests here.  His birth occurred in the province of Brunswick, Germany, April 8, 1847, and he is the son of Ernst and Louisa (Seavers) Funke, likewise natives of the fatherland.  The father was a well-to-do merchant, but met with reverses when his son Ernst was about seventeen years of age.  The mother died in Germany, but the father eventually came to the United States.  He visited our subject in Adair county, but passed away in New York at the home of a daughter.

Ernst Funke received a common-school education in his native land, where he remained until he was seventeen years old, but in 1864 he emigrated to the United States with an older sister.  For two years he clerked in a store in New York city and as he was a good salesmen he received excellent wages for those days.  He was given a chance for rapid advancement and even opportunity to engage in business for himself, but he left the city and went to Bureau county, Illinois, where he had a sister living whom he was very anxious to see again.  For four years he worked by the month as a farm hand in Bureau county and was then married.  In 1872 he removed to Adair county, Iowa, and bought eighty acres of unimproved land in Summerset township at ten dollars per acre, but he only paid two hundred dollars down, although at that time he had a capital of eleven hundred dollars.  He erected a one room house, fourteen by fourteen feet, hauling the lumber from Casey.  At that time dimension lumber sold for twenty-five dollars per thousand and finishing lumber for fifty dollars per thousand.  Coal was twenty-eight cents per bushel and when, as frequently occurred, it could not be obtained at all, the early settlers burned corn, which was very plentiful and brought only thirteen cents per bushel.

Mr. Funke brought his land under cultivation as soon as possible and worked diligently, his well directed labor bringing him increasing prosperity.  He was quick to recognize and take advantage of opportunities for financial advancement and was not afraid to take some risk in his transactions.  However, he was at all times scrupulously honest and his credit was always good.  He attributes his success chiefly to his integrity and his reputation for square dealing.  As opportunity offered he purchased additional land and in time became the owner of five hundred and sixty acres in a body in Summerset and Prussia townships.  Still later he purchased three hundred and eighty-seven acres in Lee township, on which he lived for a number of years, although during the greater part of the time he made his home on the first eighty acres which he purchased.  He carried on agricultural operations on a large scale and as he was at once practical and progressive he received a handsome income from his land.  In addition to growing the usual crops, he fed cattle extensively and was the second man in the county to engage in raising thoroughbred shorthorn cattle, the first man being Henry Wallace, now the editor of the well known agricultural paper, Wallace's Farmer.  Mr. Funke found sale for his blooded cattle not only in many parts of this country but also in Canada, and gained an enviable reputation as a stock breeder.  In 1909 he decided to retire from active life and removed to Alhambra, California, where he has since made his home.  His energy and vigor, however, have made it impossible for him to retire from active life altogether and for the past two years he has been secretary and treasurer of the Alhambra Feed and Fuel Company, of which he is the majority stockholder.  He is also a member of the Alhambra & Los Angeles Express.

Mr. Funke was married on the 17th of February, 1869, in Bureau county, Illinois, to Miss Katherine Erbis, a daughter of Daniel and Kauner (Kunegunde) Erbis, natives of Germany, who, however, became residents of Bureau county, Illinois, in an early day in its history.  To Mr. and Mrs. Funke have been born fourteen children, all of whom are still living, namely:  Benjamin, who is operating one of his father's farms in Prussia township, this county;  Henry, a stock dealer residing in Greenfield;  Philip, a farmer of Summerset township, who devotes considerable attention to raising thoroughbred stock;  Emma and Mary, who are with their father in California;  Lizzie, the wife of J. E. Petry, of St. Louis, Missouri;  Nellis, who is teaching in California;  Frank, a farmer of Prussia township, this county;  Harry, who makes his home with his brother Benjamin;  Gertrude, who is living with her father;  Clara, who is bookkeeper for a Los Angeles wholesale grocery house;  Lena, who is employed by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company in Chicago;  John, who is attending the agricultural college at Davis, California;  and Arthur, who is a student in the Alhambra (Cal.) high school.  The wife and mother passed away on the 21st of December, 1904, and her demise was the occasion of much sincere regret, for she possessed many admirable qualities of heart and mind.  In early womanhood she was a member of the Evangelical Association, but on removing to Lee township became a member of the Methodist Episcopal church of Greenfield.

Mr. Funke was a member of the Evangelical Association, was one of the organizers of the church of that denomination in Summerset township and helped to erect the house of worship of that congregation.  He took an active part in various phases of church work and was superintendent of the Sunday school and class leader for some time.  His business ability has enabled him to gain a large measure of financial success, but he has never forgotten that there are other important interests in life and has been a factor in the civic and moral advancement as well as material development of the communities in which he has lived.  He is highly esteemed wherever known and there are many who are his warm personal friends.



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