How proud a man must be when he can point to his own hands and say, "You,
together with that curious mechanism men call my brain, made me what I am!" Is
there any one so justified in displaying vanity as a man who has been the
arbiter of his destiny, who has had no one to interpose themselves between
himself and Fate, who has made his own decisions, fought his own fights, and
reached the top, unassisted by any human agency? Such a man is Max Prill, of
Centralia, Illinois. Coming of German stock, it is not surprising that he should
possess the industry and dogged perseverance of that race. He also inherited the
philosophical turn of mind which gave him the power of clear thinking and
logical reasoning. These traits, together with the knowledge that he gained of
men as he grew in years, have helped to make him one of the most successful
business men in Centralia and one of the leaders of the Democratic party in the
state of Illinois. He came to Centralia fresh from Germany, and the first
business enterprise that he put his hand to was a success. From that time on he
has steadily advanced until now he is not only a wealthy man, but, better than
that, the homesick young German has become one of the men upon whom Centralia
depends, one of those whom she trusts to rule, knowing that he will do so
honestly and wisely.
Max Prill was born in Germany, on the 25th of December, 1860. He was the son of Andrew and Matilda (Mueller) Prill, who were both natives of Germany. Andrew Prill was a successful mill-owner, and a man of sterling character, but he is only a vague memory to his son Max, for he died in 1869, when the boy was only nine years old. He served in the army three years, and both he and his wife were members of the Evangelical church. They spent all of their lives in Germany, and reared a family of eleven children, of whom all but three are dead. Mrs. Prill outlived her husband, dying in 1882. Of his ancestry Max Prill knows very little, for he lost both of his parents before he had reached the age where he thought of such things.
Max Prill received what knowledge he obtained at the hands of school masters before his fourteenth year, for at that time he began to support himself. For six years he worked at various occupations in Germany, and later served three years in the Emperor's Guards in the City of Berlin. Then, his mother having died the year before, he concluded to come to America. He came to Illinois in 1883, and settled in Centralia, where he opened a hotel. The honest business methods of the young German, and his warm and genial disposition, brought him many patrons, and business soon began to prosper. He managed this hotel until 1897, and then he was made agent for the Sehlitz Brewing Company, and he wholesaled beer for the above concern. He is now president of the Centralia Ice and Cold Storage Company, one of the most prosperous corporations in the city, and was also for several years a director of the Centralia Building & Loan Association. His business ability is unquestioned, and no matter what venture he undertakes it seems to come out successfully.
It is in the political field that Mr. Prill has gained the widest reputation. He is a Democrat and has been one ever since he arrived in Centralia. He began to take an active part in politics as soon as he became a citizen of the United States, and has never ceased since that time to fight for the success of the Democratic party. He is now an alderman, for fourteen years having held this office, and he was reelected for two more years. From this it is evident that his principles admit of no frauds being played on the people, for, though the people may be fooled for a few years, they cannot be fooled forever, and had he not played fair with his constituents they would have discovered it long ere this. In 1911 he ran for state senator but was defeated by one hundred and forty votes. In his own township he was victorious by over three hundred votes, whereas before the township had always polled a Republican majority of five hundred. Another evidence of his popularity. He is the present Democratic candidate for state senator from the Forty-second district of Illinois, and since receiving the nomination for this high position he has been the recipient of numerous letters of congratulation and endorsement from prominent men. For two years he has served as a member of the state central committee, for many years has been a member of the county Democratic committee, and is now the chairman of the Marion county Democratic central committee.
Mr. Prill clings to the memories of his Fatherland, and believes that one can be a better citizen of the United States if he does not forget the country of his birth. He, therefore, is a prominent member of the German order known as the Independent Order of Treubund. He is also grand secretary for the Illinois branch of this order, and also president of the Centralia Turn Verein, the leading German organization of the city. He is a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Eagles and also the Owls, and is interested in the work of the fraternal circles. He and all the members of his family are members of the Evangelical church. He was married in 1885 to Johanna Kiester, a daughter of August Kiester, of Shattuc. Illinois. He came to Marion county in 1858, and is now living on a farm near Centralia. Mr. and Mrs. Prill have two children; Frances, who is in school at Lindenwood College. St. Charles. Missouri, will graduate in 1912, and M. H., a student in the University of St. Louis, in the law department, from which he will graduate this year. It is Mr. Prill's intention that these children shall have every advantage in an educational way, for he knows from experience that a person without an education has a much more difficult time than has the one with an education. In addition to his business and political interests Mr. Prill has considerable property in the city, and this has to be cared for and managed. He is perhaps one of the busiest men in the city, but his popularity attests the fact that he is never too busy to stop his work to do a kindness for a friend or even a stranger.
Extracted 07 Nov 2017 by Norma Hass from History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, published in 1912, volume 3, pages 1558-1560.