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Wernwag, William H.

Born: 1800-09-29 Reutlingen, Baden-Wuttemberg

Died: 1839-07 Indiana

William Wernwag immigrated to America with his family, arriving in Philadelphia in 1818. He apprenticed with Lewis Wernwag, his uncle, who was a celebrated civil engineer and bridge builder. Lewis Wernwag was known for his long-span wooden truss bridges, and William worked with him on a bridge across the Brandywine River at Wilmington, Delaware, in 1819, and another bridge across the Susquehanna River from 1819-1822. William Wernwag built and designed covered bridges, and the purchase of 15,000 acres of coal and timber in northwestern Pennsylvania secured the family fortune. William married Anna Mararetta Besserer, who had emigrated from Heidelberg, and the couple had four children. In the early 1830s, Wernwag went west, constructing bridges in Indiana and in Illinois. During the construction of a bridge over the Sangamon River, Wernwag, perhaps to check on his business concerns, went to Indiana, leaving unpaid creditors behind. Abraham Lincoln represented three of those creditors in suits against Wernwag in Sangamon County Circuit Court. With the bridge still uncompleted and with law suits pending against him in Illinois, Wernwag died in Indiana, after which, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to relieve his creditors, who had contributed to the building of the bridge, which was an important public works project.

Leland M. Williamson et al., eds., Prominent and Progressive Pennsylvanians of the Nineteenth Century, 2 vols., (Philadelphia: The Record Publishing Co., 1898), 1:489-90; Henry Hall, ed., America's Successful Men of Affairs: An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography, 2 vols., (New York: The New York Tribune, 1896), 2:849; Hoffman v. Wernwag, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=139347; Lockwood v. Wernwag, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=139695; Marsh v. Wernwag, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=139755; A Bill for the Relief of the Creditors of the Late William Wernwag .