GEORGE R. AHRENS. — The enterprising and honored president of the First National Bank of Belle Plaine has been identified with this institution from the initiation of his business career, and his advancement to the position of chief executive has been gained through faithful and effective service and through his well proved administrative ability and his discrimination as a financier. Mr. Ahrens finds a due mede of satisfaction in adverting to Benton county as the place of his nativity and he is a scion of one of the well known and highly honored pioneer families of this county. Here he has found ample scope and opportunity for productive and well directed effort in connection with normal lines of business activity, and he is numbered among the representative business men and progressive and public-spirited citizens of his native county, where his course has been such as to fully justify the unequivocal confidence and esteem accorded him by the people of the community.
George R. Ahrens was born on the old homestead farm of the family in Iowa township, Benton county, on the 18th of June, 1871, and is a son of Christian and Amelia (Schroder) Ahrens, the former of whom was born in Mecklenburg, Germany, and the latter in LippeDetmold, Germany. The father was reared and educated in his native land, whence he immigrated to America when a young man. He had no financial reinforcement or influential friends in the United States, but he was equipped with invincible courage, determination and ambitions, and these attributes, combined with strong physical powers and sterling integrity of purpose, constituted no mean equipment with which to face the problems of life as a stranger in a strange land. He first took up his abode in the state of Illinois, where he remained until 1854, when he came to Iowa and numbered himself among the pioneers of Benton county. Here he worked for a time at the carpenter's trade, and finally he purchased the farm where he developed a valuable property and became one of the substantial and independent agriculturists and stock-growers of the county. His energy and industry brought to him a goodly return and no citizen measured up to a higher standard of integrity and honor in all the relations of life, so that he ever held secure vantage ground in popular confidence and regard. He contributed his quota to the material and social development of this favored section of the state and his name merits an enduring place on the roster of the honored pioneers of Benton county. He continued to reside on his homestead farm until his death, at the age of sixty-six years, and the estate still in the possession of the family and comprising one hundred and fifty acres, is one of the best improved and most valuable in the county.
In politics Christian Ahrens maintained an independent attitude, but his influence was invariably cast in support of good government and of measures and enterprises tending to advance the best interests of the community. He was affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and both he and his wife were devout members of the Evangelical Association, to the support of which religious organization they were liberal contributors, ever mindful of their stewardship.
Mrs. Ahrens came to America with her parents when she was a girl and her marriage was solemnized in the state of Illinois. She survived her husband and was summoned to eternal rest in 1896, at the age of sixty-six years. Concerning the six children of this worthy pioneer couple the following brief data are entered: Amelia is the wife of John L. Fisher, of Sac City, Iowa; William is a resident of Plainview, Nebraska; Ernest L. resides in Sac City; Christian A. maintains his home at Marshall, Minnesota; Samuel owns and operates the old homestead farm near Belle Plaine; and George R., subject of this review, is the youngest of the children.
George R. Ahrens was reared under the environments and influences of the home farm and early began to assist in its work, the while he was afforded the advantages of the public schools, including the village schools of Belle Plaine. He continued to be associated in the work of the home farm for some time after leaving school, and in 1891, when twenty years of age, he secured a clerical position in the First National Bank of Belle Plaine, with which he has since been actively identified in executive capacity. From the position of bookkeeper he was promoted to that of assistant cashier and in 1900 he was elected cashier of the institution. Of this position he continued incumbent until January, 1909, when he was chosen president of the bank, in which exacting and responsible office he has since continued to serve with marked ability and discrimination. The First National Bank of Belle Plaine is recognized as one of the solid and well managed financial institutions of this section of the state, and it business, handled with due conservatism, shows a constantly cumulative tendency. For the details of its growth and present status the reader is referred to the chapter on banking.
Mr. Ahrens has not only made an admirable record as a practical and reliable business man but he has also exemplified high civic ideals and has ever stood ready to lend his aid in support of all objects and measures projected for the general welfare of his home village and county. Though never desirous of entering the arena of "practical politics," he is a stanch supporter of Democracy. He has long served as secretary of the board of education, his predecessor in this office having been the late S. S. Sweet, who held the incumbency for thirty-one consecutive years. Mr. Sweet was the founder of the First National Bank and was president of the same until the close of his life. A special memoir is dedicated to him on other pages of this work. Mr. Ahrens is one of the three interested principals in the ownership of the electric light plant and system of Belle Plaine and is a stockholder in other local enterprises. He is an alert and progressive business man and loyal citizen, and is thus well entitled to recognition in this history of his native county.
Mr. Ahrens is affiliated with Belle Plaine Lodge No. 151, Independent Order of Odd Fellows; Hope Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; is also a Mason of high standing, a member of St. Bernard Commandery and of the Mystic Shrine, Cedar Rapids. His wife was formerly Miss Gertrude DeLancey, daughter of a representative business man of the city of Des Moines, and they have one daughter, Gayle.