Steinauer Family in the United States

Category: Interviews

MEMORIES OF STEINAUER from 1856 to 1910 and Later.

Writer unknown. Approx. 1940

Steinauer History 1940 approx

The Rock Island railroad depot was south of main street. There were four passenger trains daily, one at 7:30 A. M. going east, one at noon going west, one at 2:30 P. M. going east, and the last one at 8:00 P. M. going west to Fairbury. The two trains going east went to Horton, Kansas. Also had one freight train going each way daily, on Monday and Friday the ”0ld 98” freight train went east at 9:00 P. M. This freight train picked up stock shipped to St. Joseph, Missouri. The Farmers Union was then organized and the farmers brought their hogs in wagons to be shipped. The cattle they drove into the stock yard, along the track east of the depot.

The passenger trains brought in the mail, which was hauled to the post- office by Ed Chandler, the depot agent. Oscar Otten was Steinauer Rock Island depot agent from 1898 to 1903. The freight trains brought in groceries, lumber, coal, etc. These were delivered by Frank Conradt, who owned the dray line, until these commodities were delivered by truck.

On the west side of the street, north of the depot, was the section house where the section foreman lived. North of the section house was the Frey Carpenter Shop. Next was the Jake Grumbacker home. Jake did odd jobs around town and helped some farmers. Next was the pool hall, owned by a Mr. Woodruff, then owned by Henry Orth, who finally closed it. The last building was the post office. Joseph Steinauer was chosen first postmaster, but because of bad years, and leaving of settlers, the post office was discontinued. In 1874, Joseph Steinauer was appointed postmaster–the post office department objected to the settlement name of ”Linden” and named it “Steinauer” hence present name. The original post office was the first bank in town started by the Steinauer brothers. Later they built the brick bank building still in use.

Mr. William Huff was postmaster for many years. The “Steinauer Star”, a weekly paper, was edited in the back room of the post office.


  • Steinauer Post Office established – November 19, 1874
  • Joseph Steinauer appointed Postmaster November 19, 1874
  • Michael Stemper appointed Postmaster March 31, 1890
  • William Huff appointed Postmaster April 20, 1897
  • Catherine Conradt assumed charge November 18, 1933
  • Paul Wenzl assumed charge October 31, 1957
  • Charles Obrist assumed charge January 6, 1961
  • Agnes Siegel, Officer in Charge August 6, 1976
  • Louise Buman appointed Clerk January 20, 1961
  • Louise Buman appointed Postmaster November 17, 1979

Across the street east was a blacksmith shop owned by Mr. Stall, later by Ben Neugebauer. South of the blacksmith shop was the engine house for the city well–also the city fireball, which is still in use. South of these buildings was the ball diamond, rented from William Steinauer. There was usually a ball game every Sunday with a 35 cent admission. We had a real good team then and for many years. The 1926 tornado destroyed the ball diamond bleachers, so the diamond was moved to Nick Steinauer’s farm west of town.

The tornado did damage to the store, bank roof and several homes in town.

Nick Steinauer suffered the greatest loss. His barns, sheds and other buildings at the extreme west end of town were demolished.


Across the street, north from the post office, were two buildings, one a frame and the other brick, owned by A. F. Wenzl. The frame building stored furniture, the brick building was a general hardware store. Behind these buildings was a storage shed for implements, buggies, wagons, etc. from Dempsters in Beatrice. These were assembled there. Frank Wenzl did pump and windmill work, also tinning Which Was popular for porches and small buildings for roofs.


Next door north was the butcher shop, built by Ferd Wenzl for H. J.

Ullman. Ullman, a butcher, had just arrived from Germany. He sold the butcher

shop to Pete Wenner. Later Charlie Middleton was the owner. In 1925, Jerry Hoffman moved to Steinauer from Lincoln, bought the butcher shop and put in groceries. He was in business twenty years. The building is still standing.

Behind this was the ice house–the men in the area made ice in Turkey Creek and stored it in this building with sawdust. The ice was used in the meat market, and sold to patrons who owned ice boxes. North of the butcher shop was the first saloon. Anton Sacher was the owner. In 1904, he built the new brick buildings which is now in use as the Steinauer Tavern. After Mr. Sacher’s death, Chris Albers and Van Biscup were owners. Then prohibition became the law, the parlor was used for soft drinks, and owned for a short time by Ira Kinkade. After prohibition was repealed, the owner, Frank Norris had a variety of liquors. Later Charles Obrist was the owner; then in 1961 he was appointed Postmaster. (Joe Burger owned the tavern a short time before selling to Frank Morris.) Charles Obrist sold the tavern to Frank Davis, who moved here from Omaha. Davis died after a gas explosion in his home–his wife, Maude, kept the tavern a short time, and then sold it to Keith Bridges. Bridges sold it to Terry Wenzl. North of the saloon was a storage building–later used as a restaurant run by Hogans. When they left, the building was torn down. The next building was first a tin shop operated by William Gettle. He did all sorts of repair work. This building was sold to Nick Steinauer and he made it into a garage. After several years, and other owners, Maurice Wenzl bought it and extended it for a show room for new cars. Now this building is property of the Steinauer Fire department where the fire truck is stored. Also, the room north adjoining it is used for down meetings and where annual elections are held.


The next building north was the drug store, owned by Pete Uri. He sold it to Herman Vistuba. At one time, there was a pharmacist in the drug store, a John Gilstorf, who married Agnes Wenzl. Dr. Hollister was doctor– later Dr. Latimer was in the drug store and provided medicine for this area.

Dr. Lathier married Ida Frey. Another pharmacist was a Mr. Linderman. Then Dr. Prendergast came, Layle Steinauer was pharmacist. After Dr. Prendergast’s death in 1935, the drug department was discontinued. Hr. Vistuba sold only ”over the counter” drugs, and had soft drinks and ice cream. When he retired, Henry Borcher bought the store. Later Herman Kathe bought it and started a cafe. When this failed, Kathe sold the building and it was moved out of town.


The next building was a general merchandise store built by Emil Strahl.

He sold it to Albert Hinder who was in business for a number of years. It was then sold to the White Brothers of Lewiston and Joe Ullman. The White Bros. sold their interest to Henry Rucker. Merchandise in the store was all sorts of dry goods, shoes, overshoes, hats, overalls, piece goods, blankets, hardware and groceries. They also bought chickens and eggs, which was payment for goods bought. Edna Wenzl worked part time if 1912, then full time in the 20’s. Finally, the merchandise was sold to traders and the building was vacant a long time. The owner, Bill Ulrich’s father used it for a storage building. After the building deteriorated, Bill Ulrich had it torn down.


The next building on the corner a brick structure was built by Anton J. Rucker for a general store. After his death, Art Bentzinger bought the store. Matt Maser was the next owner, then it was discontinued until Ray Olberding bought the building in 1946. He sold it to Kenneth Kroll. The last owner was Kenneth Bellows, who finally wrecked the building.


Across the street east, the new brick bank was built and is still in use. South of the bank was the Kehmeier harness shop. He made and repaired harness–later he fixed shoes. The building is still standing. The next building was a small barber shop. Ben Johnson, barber, was in business for years. Shaves were 10 cents, haircuts 25 cents. Later Fred Davis owned it. Besides his barber work/he papered and painted. Ed Buman was the next barber then Halter (Hap) Klein bought the shop. He was barber a long time. Next south a frame building, built by Mike Stepper. There were living quarters in back, a restaurant up front; later groceries were stocked. When Farmers Union bought the building, it was used for a meeting place, and the first cream station run by A. F. Wenzl. The cert brick building was a hardware store owned by Mr. Reckaway, then a Mr. Pursel. The next owner was Henry Rocker, an Overland car salesman. He used it for a mortuary, and kept the glass hearse there. The building was torn down later.


Next was a family dwelling. Pete Klein repaired shoes when he lived there. At one time, Bill Ulrich had a cream station there. It was also the Fournell home. To the south was the large frame hotel. The John Hilbert family ran it for years, when a Mrs. Rice came and built onto the north side.

There were several owners until 1920. Thomas Ryan was the next owner and a telegraph line was installed there by the depot. The next owner, a Mrs. Johnson had a little business, so the hotel gas empty a long time. Walter Klein took over, lived there and had his barber business there. East of the hotel was two big livery barns. Operators were Gottlieb Steiner, Lou Wehrbein, John McClure, John Buman, John Spier and finally, Frank Conradt. Besides hauling freight, coal, etc., they would rent out horses for any use. There was a hitching rack on the south side of the street to tie the horses while in town. Also, there was a hitching rack west of the post office.


In later years, Leonard Pettinger bought the property and built a carpenter shop and room for living quarters. Across the street from the hotel was the city jail which still stands.


A lumber yard was on the corner northwest of the post office–it was built by one of the Sommerhalders, then a Mont Lum owned it and Will Clema finally bought it. He sold the yard to Landy Clark and Frank Morris was the manager. Another blacksmith shop in that area was owned by Frank Reuter, then Frank Wrench and finally it was sold to Chris Albers for a storage place.


The Steinauer mill was started by a corporation consisting of Jos. Steinauer, President, N. G. Steinauer, Vice President, and Charles Schroff, Sec.-Treas. It was managed by a Mr. Gieger. Charles Schroff bought the mill and operated it for many years. After he retired, his sons, Charles, Jr. and Clifford, ran the business. Charles Schroff, Sr.’s “Steinauer Best” flour sold for $1.75 for a 50 lb. bag. The ”Queen of the Valley” flour sold for $1.50 for a 50 lb. bag. After the milling machinery was worn out and not equal to making the enriched flour, the mill was torn down. South of the mill was a huge water tank where the trains were supplied. They all ran on steam.


East of the bank was Dr. Hollister’s office. Later it was used by Dr.

Prendergast. Now, it is the telephone office. East of the doctor’s office was Mary Hines dress making and hat shop. Later the Wherry Bros. used it for a mortuary. Later the girl scouts used it for meetings.


The first school was built on the lot where Christine Jasa lives. It was used until the first big two-story school building was built on the hill northeast of town in 1900. At that time, the school we: also used as a church for people who did not attend the Catholic Church.


The first telephone office was located in the back room of the bank.

There, Mrs. Maggie Bacus lived and took charge of the switchboard. In the twenties, the bank wanted the room for their own use, so the telephone office was moved to a building on the west edge of town. The building is now long gone. For some time, Ruth Middleton and Edna Wenzl were the telephone operators, and John Kinkade was manager and did night duty. He also lived there.

The next operator was Nora Dillworth, and later, Hrs. Fred Davis took over until the Telephone Company discontinued the office switchboard and went to the present system. This was in 1940.

  • First post office in 1874 in the Joseph Steinauer home.
  • First Church on Cemetery Hill in 1882–cost of $300.
  • First train through Steinauer in September, 1887.
  • First bank in Steinauer in 1888.
  • Second Church in Steinauer in 1889.
  • First mill in Steinauer in 1892.
  • Town of Steinauer Incorporated in 1893.
  • First doctor, Dr. Albers, in Steinauer in 1894.
  • First saloon in Steinauer in 1896.
  • First gas street lights in 1899.
  • First school in Steinauer in 1900.
  • First grocery store in Steinauer in 1903.
  • First electric street lights in 1913.
  • Present Church in Steinauer in 1927.
  • Doctors who followed Dr. Albers were Dr. Holister, Dr. Stone, Br. Johnson, Dr. Prendergast, and Dr. Homan.

List of business places of the past:

  • Rock Island depot and Stock Yards
  • Pool Hall
  • Post office–still standing (in business).
  • Mill
  • Elevator Restaurant
  • Lumber Yard
  • Butcher Shop
  • 2 blacksmiths Dress & Hat Shop
  • Hotel
  • Public School
  • 2 Hardware Stores
  • Parochial School
  • Furniture Store
  • Implement Dealers
  • Barber Shop
  • Harness Shop
  • 2 General Stores
  • Tin Shop
  • Filling Station
  • Carpenter Shops
  • Garage (in business)
  • Bank–still standing (in business)
  • Drug Store
  • Saloon–still standing (in business)

Interview with Joseph Steinauer Jr. in 1927 by Lawrence F. Obrist

I will present a history of Pawnee County, Nebraska and deal particularly with Steinauer, a small town in the northwest part. Pawnee County is located just north of the Kansas-Nebraska line, and has only one county east (Richardson) to form the extreme southeast corner of the State of Nebraska.

My information has been drawn from my mother’s 64 year old brother, Joseph Steinauer, Jr. who was born on January 6, 1863 (& died 10/20/40-77 years). His parents, Joseph and Catherine Steinauer, were the source of events which took place prior to the time he could remember. (Joseph: 3/16/34 to 10/18/07-73 years; Catherine: 12/26/37 to 11/25/17-80 years)

Joseph Alois Steinauer, Sr. came to Pawnee County with his brother Nicholas Dominick(2/22/25 to 9/25/90-65 years) in September, 1856.  They had been in the United States since about 1852. During that time they had lived in Kentucky and Indiana.  Joseph Anton (5/14/20 to 5/26/91-71 years), another brother, came to America about 1853.  He then accompanied them on their journey West.

This trio of brothers settled 11 miles northwest of Pawnee and each pre-empted a tract of land because the Homestead Law was not passed until May, 1862.  According to the Pre-emption Law of 1841, Joseph acquired 120 acres after living on the land for two years and then paying $1.25 an acre for it.

In 1857 they built a log cabin which still stands in the place where it was first put up.  Of course, it has been repaired and now has a shingled roof but it is still used.  This cabin was their only protection until 1864 when a 28 X 16 ft. house was built. The elections for federal and state officials were held in Mr. Steinauer’s house.  The voters of the precinct would make election day a day for visiting and eating at Mr. Steinauer’s. Prior to the completion of the transcontinental railroad, many travelers would stop at the Steinauer homesteads.

Joseph Kaufman came in 1857. His sister Catherine came in 1859 with a gentleman by the name of Mr. Bernadt.  At that time Nebraska City, a town 55 miles north was the main trading and supply station. It was through Joseph Kaufman that Mr. Steinauer became acquainted with Catherine.  She was working as a servant girl at Nebraska City.  So, whenever he took meat, lard, and other things to this town, he called on her.

Their marriage took place June 12, 1859.  They were blessed with thirteen children, nine of which are still living.

They had no clocks so she would watch the sun and its shadow. When she would have dinner prepared, she would climb on top of the cabin and wave a white flag on a stick.  This was a signal for her husband that he should leave his work in the field and come to dinner.

After the Homestead Act went into effect, each of the three Steinauer brothers homesteaded 160 acres of land.  Since the Nebraska Herd Law was enforced in 1870-71, they had to fence in all their plowed ground.  (The Herd Law provided you either kept herd on or fenced all farm livestock or be liable for damages to any farmer’s crops.)

A single settler pre-empted 80 acres which adjoined Joseph’s land. He also worked for a man near Nebraska City who bossed a wood-cutting gang.  The settler failed to come home one evening and presumed disappeared.  Nothing more was heard of him. Mr. Steinauer then paid the back-taxes on the land.  After 20 years, he legally received that land.  The 20 year wait allowed the owner to come back any time and reclaim his land.

About 1856, Pawnee City was laid out and later became the county seat.  Naturally, so sparse was the population one could hardly tell there was a town.

Since Nebraska did not become a state until, March 1, 1867, none of the Nebraska settlers were drafted during the Civil War.  Nevertheless, they were affected in other ways such as not able to get salt.  This probably causes the reader to snicker. Even though salt seems very insignificant to us now, its scarcity left many a tasteless meal to be eaten.

A mail route from Table Rock to Beatrice was established in the early 1870s. The mail carrier traveled this distance of 40 miles on horseback or by buggy.  Mr. Steinauer’s house was a Post Office along the route. (A stop between was “New Home”, about 7 miles to the northwest in what is the old Vernon Wehrbein home)

The Post Office eventually had to be moved from the home and stationed in Mr. Steinauer’s newly established store.  The Post Office Department in Washington was at a loss for a name for the village Post Office.  Mr. Steinauer suggested Turkey Creek on Nov. 11, 1874, the name given to the nearby creek by the surveyors.  Since there already existed a town in Nebraska by that name, the officials of the Department decided to call it “STEINAUER”.  As postmaster 1874-1890, Mr. Steinauer received no salary, but only 60% of the amount taken in from the sale of stamps; never more than $20 in a single year.

Early in the 1870s a railroad, known as the A & N (Atchison and Nebraska) was built. It went as far north as Columbus, a city near the Platte River, about 50 miles west of Omaha.  Table Rock, a town about 9 miles from the Steinauer homestead, was laid out in 1871 as a station along the A & N railroad.

The wonderful town of Steinauer was laid out in 1886 when the Rock Island railroad was completed.  The railroad men had charge of the district and surveyed the town.  April 1, 1887 marks the real beginning of Steinauer because regular trains were seen on the new track.  This later became the main line in the 1890s.  As many as 8 trains stopped each day at the new village.

Naturally the Indian question suggests itself.  One wonders if there were any Pawnee tribes in that district which was called Pawnee County.  The answer is that there were not any Pawnee in the county.  The Oto-Missouria had a reservation about 40 miles west of town.  (In southern Gage & Jefferson Co., 1854-1881.)

The Steinauers were never bothered with any Indians except at times suffering from the loss of things stolen by them.  They stole the first pig Mr. Steinauer had. Ordinarily they were peaceful.  They traded with Mr. Steinauer for items, e.g meat.  When they came to the cabin when Mrs. Steinauer was there alone, she would give them some bread or tobacco and they would leave.

There were other settlers who homesteaded the land around Steinauer.  Of them, only one is left and he (??) is 81 years of age.  (Settler referred to is unclear-maybe a Wenzl.)

Most of them worked oxen in the early days of their life in Nebraska. In one instance, one settler had about 130 bushel of wheat in his wagon drawn by a team of oxen.  They began to run and he lost control of them.  Consequently, they ran off a low bridge and dumped the precious wheat.  Oxen were used because they required very little equipment to work them, just a yoke and a chain.  They were even driven to the neighboring towns of Elk Creek and Burchard which were started at the time of the Atchison and Nebraska railroad were built.

One begins to wonder when the first school was built and when the first Catholic missionary said  Mass at Steinauer.  In 1857 the first district school was opened.

During the summer months the missionary would make his visit on horseback or in a buggy from his headquarters at Nebraska City. (Ft. Emmanuel Hartig, OSB & other Benedictines 1861-1876)  He said Mass in Mr. Steinauer’s house and then later in the school house.

In 1882 a small frame church was built on Anton Steinauer’s land a little east of where the town now is located.  It is said that it was dedicated to St. Anthony for that reason.

Seven years later, in the Fall of 1889, a new and larger frame church was built in the town proper.  The old one was converted into a parsonage.  The next year, 1890, Fr. James H. Conley (11/13-63 to 2/7/95, age 31 years) took charge of the parish as the first resident pastor on July 18, 1890. (From 1890-1892 was pastor of both Steinauer & Table Rock.)

A month ago (March, 1927) one of the best churches of the Lincoln diocese was completed to replace the rickety frame one.  It is a gem in the typical small town. (St. Anthony’s Church was dedicated on June 23, 1927.)


Lawrence F. Obrist
St. Benedict’s College
Atchison, KS
Junior Yr. – April 28, 1927

Edited and annotated by: Lawrence D. Obrist, Lincoln, NE

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