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John Michael Surbeck


(Reprinted from the History of Macon County, 1910)


Although a native of the land of William Tell and Arnold Winkelreid, and proud of its inspiring history, majestic scenery and pure and progressive government, John Michael Surbeck of Elmer, this county, is earnestly devoted to the land of his adoption and profoundly grateful for the opportunities it has given for the exercise of his rare faculites of aggression and good judgment in business and his lofty and exemplary characteristics as a citizen. He believes in American institutions and does all in his power to raise and keep them up to the highest standard of excellence. All of the sixty-five years of his life that have passed have been spent in this country, and he may thereforebe classed almost wholly as an American product. Mr. Surbeck was born in Switzerland on October l2, 1844. His parents, Jacob and Elizabeth (Ochnar) Surbeck, were also natives of Switzerland, and their forefatliers lived in tliat country for many generations. They brought tlieir family to this country in 1852 and took up their residence in Toledo, Ohio. The father engaged in farming in that neighborhood, winning his way to prosperity and worldly comfort, rearing his family with a view to the enduring welfare of all its members, and gaining the confidence and respect of the people in a marked degree. He died in 1875 and his widow passed away in 1883. She also was highly respected by everybody who had the benefit of acquaintance and association with her. They were the parents of seven children, all of whom are living: John C, Jacob, Elizabeth, John Michael, Barbara, George and Samuel.

John Michael Surbeck was brought to the United States by his parents when he was eight years of age. He grew to maturity and was educated in Toledo, Ohio, and for a time conducted profitable farming operations in the vicinity of that city. In 1868 he came to Missouri, where the ravages of the Civil war were still visible and the country was just beginning to show the first fruits of its rejuvenating spirit. He believed that with the increasing prosperity and growing greatness of the state his own fortunes might be profitably linked and share the same benefits. On his arrival in this section he located in Macon county, buying land near Elmer in Walnut township, and here continuing extensively the farming and stock-raising industries he had begain on a small scale in his former American home. He is still pushing his progress iu these lines of production and steadily expanding his enterprise to larger dimensions and more considerable returns. At this time he owns more than 1,800 acres of good land, tlie greater part of which is in an advanced state of cultivation, and is considered the most substantial and progressive citizen of Elmer.

All the fiscal, industrial and economic interests of the township enlist his cordial attention and have his effective assistance for their promotion toward the highest and most fruitful development; and the moral, intellectual and social agencies at work in the community look to him for aid with confident expectations and are never disappointed. He was one of the founders of the Elmer Exchange Bank and has served as its president from the beginning of its history. Under the impulse of his enterprise it has thriven, steadily increased its business and more and more firmly established itself in the confidence and regard of the people. Its wise and liberal policy has made it a source of great benefit in the improvement of the town and township and given it an excellent name and a host of friends in other parts of the county.

Mr. Surbeck adheres to the Republican party in political affairs and does yeoman service in its behalf. He is averse to official life and has no desire for either the honors or the emoluments of public station, but he believes firmly in the principles of his party and feels that it is his duty to do all he can to help them to supremacy iu the control of the government, local and general. Still, he never allows partisan interests to darken his vision or stay or direct his hand in reference to local matters in which the enduring good of his community is involved, but looks to that alone in determining his course in connection with them. 

In June, 1868, Mr. Surbeck was united in marriage with Miss Eva Dorothy Sorge, a native of Ohio. They have seven children: Elizabeth, Villa, Frank K., George M., H. C, Tress and John L. In their several localities, pursuits and stations in life they are all exemplifying in their daily lives the lessons given them by admonition and example around the family hearthstone, and doing their parts as progressive and productive citizens of the country. The parents are not known where they are not esteemed, and the number of their admiring friends is coextensive with that of their acquaintances.