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Born in Bavaria, Bollenbacher emigrated with his parents and his brother Peter Bollenbacher in 1832. Learning the trade of shoemaking, he opened a shoe shop in Bloomington around 1846.
In 1848, he married the former Margaret Shawver, daughter of early Monroe County settler Christopher Shawver, and they had thirteen children: Lizzie, George W., Mary, Kate, Julia, Martin C., William P., Caroline, Sallie, Samuel N., Jacob I. and Fannie.
Along with his shoe store, Bollenbacher opened a tannery in 1859 and, in 1874, he purchased a third of a wagon spoke factory owned by Howe Ryors and George P. Bollenbacher. A few years later, Ryors sold his share and the firm became known as Bollenbacher & Sons. The firm thrived, employing as many as eighty men, opening branches in Gosport and Guthrie, and turning out 13,000 spokes a day.