This is the registration form for including the Steinauer Opera House in the National Registry of historic Places:
Steinauer_Opera National Historic Registry (MSFT Word Doc)
The Bank of Steinauer, at its present location, began in 1888. It was capitalized for $30,000 in 1893 and incorporated in 1900. John Steinauer, son of Joseph, went to St. Joseph, MO to get his education as how to run a bank. I believe the Joseph A. Steinauer family financed it, and loaned money to many of the early settlers. Later, N. A. Steinauer went to school at Marysville, KS to help out in the growing bank. Frank M. Steinauer, and William A. Steinauer eventually became employees of the bank. The latter’s sons, John and Bernard J. became associated with the Bank. B. J. eventually formed his insurance Agency out of the Bank.
The next lot south of the bank became the location of the second Bandstand built before 1916. The first one was on the northwest corner, opposite the bank. Near it was a 60 foot flag pole that was bent over to about 45 degree angle in the tornado which hit on June 13, 1926.
The next lot south was the F. A. Kehemeier Harness Shop. He made, repaired and oiled all types of harness. Later he began to sole and repair shoes, and even sew them. He even would put buttons on ladies and children’s shoes that were closed with about a 3 inch hook. He also sold all kinds of fancy harness and fly nets. Later, Bob & Irene Buman operated a TV sales & repair shop there. Mary Bailey opened a restaurant there during the summer of about 1957 or 1958. Henry Borcher had a store in the rear section that summer.
In about a 10 ft. wide building next south, was the Barber Shop. Here a man could get a haircut and shave for 25 cents. The shop even had one of the phones. Many men got their weekly shave unless they wished to shave themselves with the old straight edge razor. This was before the coming of the safety razor that had a guard on them. The old straight edge razors were honed and strapped to keep a good edge on them. The straps were 2-3 inches wide and of two kinds of leather. One was real fine to help keep a good edge. It was also known to be used as a “convincer” if junior didn’t remember what he had been told or decided that Dad wasn’t the boss!!
The next 25 foot lot was a frame building that was used for various reasons. First as a saloon, then a restaurant by Mike Stemper, and later by the Farmers Union to wholesale some supplies to the members, e.g., rock salt. A. F. Wenzl used the front part of it as a cream station and to buy eggs. The Woodman of the World lodge used the rear for its meetings.
The next lot was Pursel’s Hardware Store. After WW I, the Morrissey boys (Mart and Mat) repaired some early cars. At one time, basketball was played in there under the coaching of John N. Conradt. It also had a small basement. According to the nosey teenagers of the day, it was a hideout for some of the bootleg whiskey that found its way into town during Prohibition.
Henry Rucker kept his auto hearse in the back end. He was an undertaker but not an embalmer. This was usually performed by Kavonda Funeral Home in Table Rock. They eventually built a funeral parlor just east of Bank. Prior to the auto, the horse drawn hearse was driven by John Obrist with his coal black team.
The next building was a three room house. It was once a millinery shop run by Mrs. Kehemeier, and later the residence of Joe Koppa. Bill and Lula Ulrich lived there and run a cream station during the 1930s.
Mr. Koppa did cement work and dug cisterns. He was known to be able to dig a hole in a day he couldn’t crawl out of. He did his washing in his own cistern, tying his clothes on a rope! When the hotel business began to fade, he was the buyer of all the room “thunder mugs”. He didn’t want them to go to waste so he made dill pickles in them. In those days, the saloon was closed on Sunday. Not even beer was sold legally and so, the story went, he did a few Sunday sales. For a $1 he would sell you a dill pickle and a bottle of beer. He did a land office business until a nosey customer followed him to see where he got the pickles. Then the “gold mine” blew up!! When he reached beyond his working days, he sold his equipment and went back to the country of his birth, Czechoslovakia.
Mike Stemper built the Hotel Steinauer. I do remember it had a large lobby and around the corner was a large dining room. Most of the rooms were upstairs. It was a well-known stopping place up and down the Rock Island railroad from Fairbury to Horton, KS. It was used very well by the traveling salesman that made their calls and showed their merchandise carried in trunks that was hauled in the box cars. Railroad workers were frequent users. It was run over the years by a Mrs. Rice, Tom and Ella Ryan, Mart Nickelson, and Fred & Martha Hoffman.
Merchandise was hauled up to the storekeepers by the Dray Man that owned or operated the two Livery Barns on the southeast corner of the block east of Main Street. These barns rented teams of horses to go riding for business or pleasure. These same Dray men plowed your garden or hauled any merchandise up town that came in on the train as groceries, coal, lumber, and even beer or barrels of whiskey. Some of the latter were even known to have gotten lost on their way!! It was a good place for drunks to sleep off a “jag”.
One Sunday afternoon two young men rented quite a foxy team and buggy. They were John N. Conradt and Frank J. Neugebauer. (John was the brother of Kate Conradt, later Postmaster. Frank’s nickname was “Jackson”. He was a brother to Bill, Oswald, Herman, John; Anna, Theresa, Marie, & Adele—later Canfield). While one went into the Drug Store to get some cigars, the neck yoke strap broke and the team ran away. The tongue was sliding on the ground as the team turned right, just north of the Bank. Finally the tongue ran into the ground, and upset the buggy right on top of the horses. One kicked the buggy nearly to pieces until some men got hold of them. One horse got away and ran east of town. No one was hurt but the buggy was ruined.
Harley Boggs first had a repair shop in the old Hearse House, which was south of the “west” Livery Barn. It was so small you could hardly get around a car. Here was kept Henry Rucker’s horse drawn hearse driven by John Obrist.
The first Jail was south across the road from the Livery Barn or from what is now Leonard Pettinger’s carpenter & clock shop. His building was erected in 1946 on Livery Barn sites.
Steinauer has had only one main grocery store over the years. It build by Anton J. Rucker west across from the Bank, & demolished in August, 1985. It was a two story brick building which included a large basement. He came here from Mayberry about 1900. He handled a full line of groceries. This was later run by Arthur Bentzinger of Vesta. The other grocery store was at the south end of this block, run by A. F. Wenzl.
In addition to groceries, Mr. Rucker had shoes, clothing, dress goods, overalls, and overshoes. He bought cream and eggs and butter. He also sold kerosene lamps, chimneys, and dinnerware. Later, they even sold some men’s suits. Catherine Conradt and Ben Kalin were the early clerks. The second story was originally intended for resident rooms, and professional offices. Use for these purposes was limited. The building stood up to 1990.
Ray & Helen Olberding established “Ray’s Market” in February, 1946 & sold out in Spring of 1960. He expanded the grocery business, sold feed, opened a locker in 1947 and processed meat. He set up a small slaughter house behind the store for a time in the early 1950s. Later owners: M/M Kenny Kroll, and then M/M Kenny Bellows.
Pete Wenner had a hardware store 25 feet farther south, on the west side of Main Street. (There was a vacant lot in between.) Before this time, in my memory, Hindera’s had a general grocery store. Earlier a family by the name of Joy were in there. I was told they had monkeys in the front windows. Later this was a grocery store called Rucker(Henry) & Ullman (Joe), White and Ullman, and eventually just “Ullmann’s Store”.
The next 25 ft. south was a frame building called the Drug Store. It had been built by Pete Uri. It was later operated by Herman (“Cy”) E. Vistuba. He had a fountain and mixed all kinds of soft drinks, colas, root beer, malts, ice cream, candy bars. He even had a slot machine. When the boys need a “shot in the arm” Cy began to sell some extracts like vanilla and pear. It had the needed effect because it contained at least 60% alcohol. I don’t know its cost. I had a taste once and it just about burned your throat out if you drank it straight. It was bad enough even if you mixed it with some soft drink.
At one time, when we had a doctor, Eulailia Steinauer, a licensed pharmacist, dispensed prescriptions. The Drug Store was the general hangout and loafing place over several generations to come.
After beer became legal again, Herman Vistuba soon added beer for sale as the second outlet in town, called “Cy’s Place”. He operated it from about 1940 to his death.
In July of 1947, it became a headquarters for a feed and egg pickup business run by Herman & Loretha Kathe. By the fall of 1948 she had opened “Kathe’s Kozy Kafe”. It served the town as a short order restaurant, soda fountain, & ice cream parlor. Comics were sold and it had a pinball machine. It was a natural gathering place for the young kids of the area. Frances Wenzl, Doris Fisher, and Erma Jean Schmit worked there in some of its more prosperous days. They sold out in May of 1960.
The tin building next south was the first car repair place operated by Ambrose Mazonick. It was later run by Frank Whiting and Frank Hauner. It was remodeled by Maurice Wenzl as a show room so he could sell the new Oldsmobile and Chevrolet. This was the place that Frank Whiting and Ferdinand Kehemeier soldered Ferd’s gas tank. It ended up blowing out both ends of the tank! (Harry Schmit eventually moved his shop here. The Ullman boys briefly repaired cars here in the early 1960s.)
While Frank Hauner had the place, Virgil Hays run it for a week and we sold gas out in front. We tried to fix a front spring on a Model T for Judd Stack. It came down on my thumb and took off the nail. We were so dumb that we used a rope to lift the car instead of a chain on a hoist. The rope slipped as I was trying to get the spring leaf out of the front spring.
I had to run to Dr. Prendergast’s house bleeding. He then cut off the rest of the nail. (I later found my thumb nail on top of the pit they went down into to work under the cars.) I couldn’t shuck corn that Fall because of this accident. Chris Albers made a metal thumb nail so that I could at least get some of the leaves off the corn ears.
The Saloon was built about the turn of the century by Anton Sacher. It was of brick to replace the old frame building that was just south of it. The back bar fixtures are still there and the old 26 ft. cherry top front bar was there until Joe Berger cut up. When beer became legal again, the Legislature came up with a law that one had to sit down to drink beer, and be served pretzels or popcorn.
In the early days of the Saloon, the owner, Anton Sacher was assisted by two well qualified bar tenders and bouncers, Chris Albers and Val Biskop. You knew very well you were not wanted if you started a fight or the usual foolish argument. They sold whiskey by the drink and could mix any type of drink. I can remember all the 50 gal. barrels that were on the main floor. They all had faucets in them so it was easy to get a half gal of Old Crow.
In the saloon days, you were not allowed to sit down to drink, so customers brought in old orange crates. There was no legal Sunday sales. They opened up at 8 AM and closed at 8 PM, 6 days a week.
If you were not 21, you were not to enter. A respectable woman would not enter. After beer became legal again in 1933, women came in with their husbands and sat at booths or tables. Liquor by the drink didn’t became legal again in town until we had a special election during the time of Mr. Bridges in the 1970s.
When Nebraska went “dry” in 1917, the old bartenders of Anton Sacher shook dice to see who would buy the place. The other would then work for him. Chris Albers won. He made the Saloon into a Soft Drink Parlor. Here were sold pop, soft drinks, cigars, tobacco, and men played cards.
I lived thru what was called the “Age of the Great Experiment” called “Prohibition”. The State and Federal laws made it unlawful to manufacture, sell, or transport any liquor or beer. If caught, one was subject to a fine or a term in jail, or both. If a car was involved, that would often be confiscated. Nebraska had gone “dry” in 1917, and the whole country in 1918. It truly was an experiment because as long as man has known grain and fruit to ferment, he has managed to find a way make some kind of intoxicating beverage that had a good “kick” to it.
When beer and liquor became legal in 1933, Joe Berger was issued a license in the “Old Saloon” but he only had beer “on” sale. “Off sale” meant you had to carry it off premises to consume. They had a ball game and quite a celebration day in July of 1933 that it became lawful again. In about October of 1935 Frank Morris rented the Anton Sacher building and it was called, “Frank’s Place. (“Joe Berger bought the tavern in Burchard in October, 1935.)
At first, package liquor or by the bottle had to be sold in a separate place from where you could consume beer. During the winter of 1935-36, someone tested the law in court. It was decided one couldn’t drink liquor in a beer place or the package place, so why did it make any difference where you sold it.
Business was good in the tavern, Frank’s Place, as the keg beer was sold in 5 and 10 cent glasses. The men played pitch four or six handed; or racehorse pitch where when used the whole deck.
Chuck Obrist, working for Frank Morris, began to sell package liquor in the Old Saloon building at that same time. He went on to begin purchase of the Sacher building & tavern business in May of 1947. He & his wife Agnes ran it to February of 1961 when they sold it to Frank & Maude Davis.
The Old Saloon, beside the Sacher saloon, was used as barber shop run by Walter (“Hap”) Klein. One evening, when the shop was open, a shotgun had been left in the corner. Herman Krueger was setting nearby and asked if the gun was loaded. He pushed down on the trigger and it went off to blow a hole in the roof! Frank Hagan also had used the space for a restaurant.
The Lumber Yard was located a block west of Main Street. In 1912 it was owned and operated by William J. Clema. He sold lumber, coal, and cement.
Mr. Clema remodeled the house now occupied by Ed and Elaine Lytle family. (It was later occupied by Joseph F. Ullman & his family. ) He lived in the house a block west during the remodeling time. His parents lived there for a while. My mother used to sell them butter. His father’s name was John and his wife was a Vrtiska girl. She was a sister to Anton Vrtiska’s father. Anton married my sister, Emma. Later Mr. Clema moved to Humbolt.
He should have done a good business in 1912 as John Obrist (my father) built a large home on the north edge of town which is still occupied by Gerald Obrist. Dr. Prendergast’s father also build a fine home and office which is now occupied by Christina Jasa.
Fr. Ress built the first Parochial School in 1912. It was a three story brick building located almost at the top of the hill southeast of the old water tower. It was thus south of the old Public Steinauer high and grade school.
West of the Lumber Yard, across the street, was one of the Blacksmith Shops. It was first operated by Henry Reuter, and then Frank Reinsch. He also sold a few farm implements. North of his shop was building in which Harley Boggs operated a car repair shope. It was the first in town to do welding with a torch.
Across the street south of the Lumber Yard, was the Farmer’s Union station. It was built originally by Frank Hagan. Gerald Obrist run it a while for Farmer’s Union. I substituted for Gerald on Sundays in about 1932.
The D-X service station franchise was first located on the corner as part of the Hotel property. A Tony McCormack had run it a while. The station and hotel were later run by Fred and Martha Hoffman while living in the Hotel. They had arrived in Steinauer in about 1931. About a year later they moved to the property where the D-X station is now located. Fred put in the tanks and set up the station. The house had been occupied by Kate Conradt, brother John, and her mother. The Hoffman’s sold it to Walt & Lucille Lierz in about 1951.
The Butcher Shop on Main Street was run by Charlie Middleton. He sold only meat products, made sausage, etc. It was not until the early 1920s that they put in a stock of groceries because the building was so small.
In about 1925 Jerry Hoffman came to town from Lincoln. He bought this building beside the Old Saloon. He remodeled it by putting a large front window, moved out the old meat case and expanded his grocery stock. Edna Frey later worked for him.
He was responsible for bringing to town the malt, Fleishman’s yeast, and the “know how” to make the first homemade beer. With a can of malt, a cake of yeast, and a tester to float in the beer, you were in business. An even temperature behind the kitchen range helped. When the tester sank to the “red line”, it was ready to bottle. A bottle capper & caps were then needed.
Edna Wenzl Frey’s father (Frank) had at one time had a general hardware, farm implement business. (He built the current Frey home about 1900.) The wood building beside him was converted to sell furniture and later groceries. It was said that the Joseph A. Steinauer family had a store there earlier. I remember when Frank Wenzl had the store. We had just came to Steinauer in December 5, 1912. Ella Wenzl, Edna’s sister, came up and gave us three or four kittens.
Old pictures reveal that a well and horse watering trough was located at the center of this intersection at the south end of Main Street. It had a windmill. The old well came to light again when the sewer system line was dug through the intersection.
Mr. McCurdy (Charlie) sold us Obrist boys our first and only air gun, the single shot Daisy. It got so it went off easily. My father told us to take it back to Mr. McCurdy. He said there was too much grease in it. My brother, Lawrence was just tall enough so his mouth went over the end of the barrel. He must have cocked it as he was coming back from the store. While watching some kids play in a yard, he must have kicked the stalk and it went off under his upper lip. When he felt it with his finger, the BB fell out as Dr. Prendergast couldn’t find it. He had raced up the alley to our home screaming “I’ shot, I’m shot!!” His lip swelled up almost as far as his nose. No other problems but the gun went back to the store and we got a $1 refund after it had cost us $1.25.
Eventually, Chris Albers traded his Soft Drink Parlor for McCurdy’s hardware store on January 1, 1920. It included the frame building, the corner building that he later used to sell furniture. There is some dispute if earlier the building was used as a restaurant for a short time.
On January 1, 1945, Chris Albers was bought out by Edwin Bredemeier. He ran a plumbing & heating, builder’s hardware, and farm machinery business out of the old A.F. Wenzl and McCurdy buildings. The State Fire Marshall declared the latter unsafe in the Fall of 1945 & set one year for removal. He purchased the two tin buildings north of the Sacher building for indoor repair & storage. The business had to be liquidated thru 1947-48 when the International Harvester withdrew their franchise from Steinauer and many other small towns across the country.
The US Post Office was on the corner south of Wenzl’s in 1912 and still is. I had heard that the Bank of Steinauer was there until they built their new brick building on the east side of the corner of Main Street.
My grandfather, Joseph A. Steinauer was the first Postmaster beginning on November 19, 1874. He was followed by a Mike Stemper, W. F. Huff, Catherine Conradt, Paul R. Wenzl, Charles F. Obrist, and Agnes Segal. Louise Buman was the last to hold the title Postmaster. Jack Schutz was the longest running rural carrier from about 1920 to retirement in 1960.
The back room of the Post Office was where the STEINAUER STAR and later, STEINAUER POST and was published. The STAR had been originated by W. F. Huff. The POST name originated when the paper was combined with the LEWISTON POST. The last editor was Bert Edson. The town had its own paper from the late 1890s to the late 1920s.
Mr. Edson also gave or showed silent movies in the hall or opera house above the Bank. Edna Frey played the piano, especially the while he changed reels. The movies were highly publicized in his paper and then reviewed after showing.
The Post Office back room was also one of the places the Sisters had classes the Fall of 1932 when the fired gutted the brick parochial school in May of 1932.
South of the Post Office was a frame building called the Pool Hall that was run by Henry Orth. It also was used for class room space. Bernadette Conradt told me that her brother Charlie graduated from his fourth or fifth grade out of this Pool Hall!
On farther south was the residence of Jake Grumbacker and his sister. He mowed lawns with a scythe, dug ditches, or other odd jobs around town.
Beyond this was Frey’s Carpenter Shop. It was run by Irvin Frey (husband of Edna) and his father Adolph.
On farther south was the Railroad station and complex. Running west to east, it consisted of: water tank, Steinauer Milling Company, coal sheds, gravel bin and section boss house, a railroad ground well, Rock Island Depot, grain elevator, and stockyards for shipping out cattle.
East across from the Post Office, right on the corner, was the blacksmith shop of Benedict Neugebauer. On his property beside the hitching rack was a horse watering trough. The building that housed the hose carts was south of that along with the fire bell.
In the hose cart building contained the first gasoline engine that pumped the water up to the water tower. Later a 15 horsepower electric motor was used to pump the water out of the well. The first well was dug at the time the water system was built. The second was dug in 1934. The wells were 12 feet wide and 25 feet deep. They were later abandoned because of the high nitrogen content.
The first town baseball diamond occupied the rest of the land in the southwest corner across from the Post Office. Home plate was about a 1/2 block south down from the fire house. A famous incident in 1926 was “Lefty” Saal’s hit of a ball over two 12 foot high advertising signs. It then bounced over & hit the Depot for a hit of about 1 1/2 blocks.
The Slaughter House was located about a half mile north on the “North Road”. It was built by Pete Wenner. About an acre or more of grass and trees was around it to hold the steers and heifers ready to butcher. The building itself was about 20 feet square with a runway to force the animals to go along to get to where they would be shot or stunned. The carcass would then fall right into the building where the dressing began. There were a few dramatic times when one of the steers “came to” and charged the workers. The dressed carcasses were hauled to the ice house in town. It was located in the alley back of the Butcher Shop and Saloon. Each business had their own ice house. Farther south down the alley were storage buildings of Chris Albers.
Charles F. Obrist
February 8, 1992
Rev. February 20, 1992
Rev. April 10, 1992 (Talked with Martha Hoffman; Edna Frey on 3/31/92.
Revised again 4/24/92.(Called Kathes & Olberdings)
Printed in Republican: 5/12/92
Writer unknown. Approx. 1940
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.
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.
List of business places of the past:
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
Edited and annotated by: Lawrence D. Obrist, Lincoln, NE
Following is an article which appeared in the Omaha World Herald on November 11, 1973
STEINAUER REMEMBERS OLD FLOUR MILL
A requiem for an old landmark was held here last week by three who loved it best. It was the three story Steinauer Roller Mills which, until its razing last summer, had towered over this Pawnee County village of 118 and the Turkey Creek Valley since it was built in 1900. It was one of the last – and one of the better known – of some 300 flour mills which once throbbed in towns throughout the Midlands.
The requiem was held by Charlie Schroff, 85, son of the mill’s original manager; Mrs. Rita Coughlin, bank teller and granddaughter of Steinauer’s founder and namesake, and Miss Tille Brauer, former school superintendent and teacher for 50 years. Their first lullabies were the throbbing of the mill’s machinery. “We just did not want its passing to go unnoticed” said Tillie. “It was such a proud thing. Did you know its products were shipped as far as Egypt?” Tillie and Rita have researched their subject well. They also have a good source of information in Charlie, who worked at the mill for more than half a century until it closed in 1961.
“A Turkey Creek flood in 1961 ended it,” said Charlie. “It was sold to the Graham Grain Company of St. Joe, MO in 1965 for use as a grain elevator but they decided to take it down after the railroad left. “A fella finished it this summer and now there’s nothing left but some wood and part of the old foundation.” There is something left, however, Charlie and the two women have the articles of incorporation written in German script by the German-Swiss settlers here February 27, 1892, the ledger of board meetings in both English and German, old photos – and memories.
Charlie’s father, Charles Schroff, came from Germany after serving a milling apprenticeship in Switzerland to become manager. He also helped establish flour mills at Red Cloud – where Charlie was born – Naponee, Grant City, MO, Clay Center, KS, and Alma before returning to his first mill here. Flour “made on honor,” according to the ancient advertisements, was shipped under three brand names “all over the west” and as far east as New York City. “We shipped it in huge sacks to Egypt in World War I,” Charlie recalled. “I can still see the wagons piled high and the teams taking it up to Tecumseh for shipment.”
The sadness of the trio at the old mill’s passing is eased in the consolation Mrs. Coughlin expressed: “It had completed its task. It was beyond saving.” All they ask is that folks know the old mill which made flour “on honor” is gone – and that it will be “remembered with pride.”
He was born in Einsiedeln “the old and the new world”, which has been in existence for 600 years. The Steinauer family has been in existence for 600 years. They were there already since 1299 as residents. Back in 1331 it was already called VON STEINAUER. As the hundreds of years passed, the people in this land, there was no production even as high as it was at 900 feet above sea level, there was not enough there to feed themselves. That’s why the residents of Einsiedeln went into the war with France, Spain, Holland, Napel, Rome and Benedict. They joined them freely to fight and get some money. Some also settled in Switzerland. That’s how we know how many people were living there. From 1743 to 1833 the population only rose from 5,156 to 5,583 residents. The increase of 90 years was only 427 people. Even at that time from 1798 – 1799 the soldiers came from France and Austria and left the people very poor f’mancially because they were bleeding them to death. Also the people from Langruti were hit by hard times. That’s why it was impossible for Father Steinauer to raise his family under those circumstances. His youngest son was born in 1834, Joseph Alois. He had to earn his own living since he was 13 years old as a shephard boy high up in the Alps, near Wasserscheide Von Waggi and Kloenthal.
He came back to his father’s house but he could tell things were too small and he did not get along very well. He was with the Benzinger Printers but they could not keep him. He then went to work as a woodcutter to earn traveling money. Soon after he had his money together, in the year 1849, his father passed away. Joseph was 18 yearsold at the time. That is when he came to America. He was with many hundreds of immigrants at that time. He had no friends or relatives that could help him, to give him advice as to what he could do. Many years he worked for minimal wages for every Tom, Dick and Harry at whatever needed to be done.
Fifty years later Joseph wrote that he wished he had just a few more months of schooling as he could have used it. He asked for forgiveness and expressed himself with his thoughts in how he felt with so little education.
Just by chance he came to Kentucky in 1854, to a very, very good-hearted Methodist preacher. There Joseph worked on the farm for the preacher. All he could say and understand in English was “yes” and “no”. They were the only words he knew at the time. Soon after, the two brothers came from Einsiedeln and soon they had three horses, a wagon, and the most primitive tools and equipment. For three weeks they drove 25 miles every day from sun up to sun down headed for Nebraska to work on Uncle Sam’s land. For anyone that wanted to work could work on it. That land was five times larger than where they had come from in the little town of Einsiedeln.
In 1856 they built their first block house and a barn. Two men worked the land and in the woods. The third man had to earn some money to buy clothing and food. That’s when Joseph Alois in the summer of 1858, had some Indians sit at his place for eight hours, so they made hay for their ponies.
In between he found a daughter somewhere in the woods. She came from Luxemburg, Kathy Kaufman, and married her and brought her to his home Steinauer as his wife. They worked very hard, had a lot of energy but also had a lot of problems and worries, but got along very well. They got along with the Pawnee Indians. Just the same, one day as the men were working in the woods four Indians came to the block home. The wife was home alone and she gave them something to eat through a window and they were happy about it and left without bothering her at all.
Even though the life was a game at times the Steinauer family was a very happy family. The Pacific Railroad came from New York to San Francisco right through his land. As soon as the railroad was built, everything changed quickly for the better. And the railroad station was named Steinauer. Everything changed so quickly. There were still a lot of high times. Joseph’s intelligence showed because everything improved. They were still poor but the situation improved because of his foresight. At the same time he took care of cattle, land, fruit and vineyards. The nature and the land was very, very good. It was unbelievable how good it was. He built streets and soon we saw the town of Steinauer being built. For 40 years the wheat and grain was done by hand. Then soon at~r came the machine run by steam and electricity. He did it with his boys then he also built the mill, the drug store and also so they could exchange the money, he built the bank of Steinauer. They took pictures of everything so he could see the old world as well as the new. Through all his foresight came the post office, telegraph, telephone and electric street lights, schools and a beautiful Catholic church.
He had five sons and five daughters. Through the children, what they made of themselves, he could learn from his children. If it could be worthwhile, they could be his teacher. In 1900 the youngest son was 18 years old and he did not want to stay with them any more. He didn’t want to be responsible for any of the worries, work or problems. They were a very highly thought-of rich family. As much as they enjoyed the new world, one of the sons was a representative of Nebraska as a Senator in Lincoln (not Washington).
Steinauer went to his homeland three times and our correspondence was very good. He was a very common, but self-made man and did not brag about himself. He was a strong man with broad shoulders and very serious, quiet at times and happy with his wife and ten children. He was healthy until about two years ago. He had a very nice retirement. He celebrated his 69th birthday with all his friends and relatives from the old world as well as the fast time and wanted to keep it as it is. He had an inkling that something might happen. He died October 18, 1907, age of 74. He died as a father of the city Steinauer for everybody. In honor of him, his life was written up in the daily papers in both the old and new world. God put him in this world into many things and he did them truthfully with dignity and honor.
(Joseph and Catherine had 13 children but son Nicholas died in 1870 at 18 months; daughter Catherine died in 1895 at age 24; and daughter Marcelina died in 1900 three days before her 33rd birthday)
TORNADO DEALS HEAVY BLOW TO STEINAUER FOLKS SUNDAY
June 13, 1926
Cyclone Descends With Little or No Warning About 5 o’Clock in Evening—Only Two People Injured—Most Buildings Damaged
The town of Steinauer, eight miles northwest of Pawnee City, suffered a loss estimated to be in the neighborhood of $40,000 Sunday afternoon when a tornado struck about 5 o’clock. The storm came with little warning and no one had time to flee for shelter. Every store building in town was damaged, as were most of the residences on Main street. The north street houses escaped entirely.
There are 187 residents in Steinauer and only two were hurt in the storm. Mrs. Nora Dilworth, telephone operator, was struck in the back by a heavy fall of plaster which came down from the ceiling when a barn belonging to Uncle Joe Wenzl hit Mrs. Dilworth’s house. Mr. Clary of Kansas City, who was in the same room, was slightly injured by falling plaster. Misses Iva McAfoos and Olga Tegtmeier of Steinauer and Lee Ireland and Clarence Roberts of Pawnee City, who were also in the room, escaped without injury.
Bronson Hagan and Walter Huff were sitting in a coupe on Main street when the storm struck. The tornado lifted the coupe and turned it around without injuring the two occupants.
Trees, roofs, bricks and many small buildings flew through the air, but no one was struck, which seems miraculous.
Mrs. W. P. Klein was sitting on a couch by a window when she saw the porch start to fall. She rushed from the room and barely escaped as a heavy porch post plunged through the window exactly where she had been sitting.
The tin roofs were torn from the bank buildings and the Arthur Bentzinger store building. A heavy deluge of rain followed and the Bentzinger stock was badly damaged. He suffered the heaviest loss of any of the business men. Much of his stock of dry goods was soaked and he carried the largest stock in town. The two tin roofs were carried for some distance, then crumpled on the ground like so much paper. Both buildings were flooded with water.
Every store building in town sustained broken windows. Those on the east side of the street were the hardest hit in this respect, except the one building occupied by Mr. Bentzinger. His building is located at the north end of Main street. After the roof was torn off many of the bricks in the second story were tumbled down.
Charles Schroffs garage was carried into W. F. Huffs fence and the Schroff sedan left on the spot with only one fender damaged.
N. A. Steinauer suffered the greatest loss of any individual. His large cattle barn and hay barn were entirely wrecked. He had just harvested a new crop of hay. Many other buildings on his place at the west end of town were damaged.
Homes of Mrs. Sacher, Frank Morris, Mrs. Jessie Koch, Chris Gottula, Frank Conradt and W. P. Klein were the hardest hit in town.
A tree over 40 years old near the back porch of Mrs. Sacher’s was uprooted and crashed into the house. Her screen porch was carried off and windows broken. Her daughter, Mrs. Tom Donahue and baby, of Lincoln and Ernest Sacher of Omaha had just entered the house when the storm broke. They were not injured.
Mrs. Koch’s kitchen was wrecked. The large front porch on the Frank Morris home was entirely demolished and laid against the house so that it was impossible to get in the west and south doors. The Morris family was in Dawson at the time. Frank Conradt’s front porch was carried half a block. W.P. Klein’s front porch was turned upside down against the front doors and two windows were blown out. Heavy plank lumber from the church yard was blown for half a block like kindling wood. One piece struck the Klein roof and tore three holes in the attic. The roof on the south side of the Chris Gottula home was tom off and the west porch carried away. The Gottula chicken house was carried almost to the school yard. Charles Wenzl’s barn and sheds were destroyed. Many chimneys in town were wrecked and the Steinauer hotel was slightly damaged. Plastering was knocked from the ceiling at the home of Grandpa Klein and a portion of the south roof was tom off. The large iron flag pole on Main street was twisted and bent down almost to the ground.
All telephone and electric service was completely interrupted. Wires lay in tangled masses in the streets and the electric transformer at the east edge of town was beginning to bum when current was shut off at the plant in Pawnee City.
Mrs. Dilworth called Tecumseh to warn that place of the storm just before the last telephone wire went out of commission. The town was in darkness Sunday night. Telephone service was restored Monday afternoon and the electric current was turned on about 6 o’clock that evening.
Business men took turns guarding the down town district Sunday night on account of the many window lights which were out.
The greatest havoc was left by the storm. Trees that had been landmarks for a generation or more were broken and uprooted. Altogether it was the worst experience in the history of Steinauer. But it might have been worse. No fh’es followed the storm and only two people were injured. And it was fortunate that it came in the daytime, when people could see the danger they were in.
NOTES OF THE TORNADO
The Catholic church was moved about two feet off the foundation.
The only farmer who seems to have suffered loss by the storm is Ernest Steinauer. Roofs were tom from his corn crib and hog shed, his chicken house was moved, his porch was damaged, and some of the largest trees which stood near his house were uprooted.
New plank, one inch thick, piled in the church yard, were blown about like splinters. One of them, after damaging the home of W. P. Klein, hit the ground with such force that it was broken in two pieces.
Lavone Kinkaid was in the kitchen at her home. The wind blew in a door with such force that she was thrown against a door on the opposite side of the room, striking hard enough to raise a great bump on her head.
A large tree at the comer of Adolph Frey’s home smashed through the roof of the kitchen, followed by a pouring rain.
If great tanks of water had been poured into the bank and Bentzinger building the water could hardly have descended in more volume. Interiors of both buildings were saturated.
The telephone building, where Mrs. Dilworth and family live, was in terrible condition after the storm. Falling plaster and tumbling chimney mixed plaster and soot all through the house.
The W. A. Steinauer family were the only ones who went to their cave. They were not hurt and could see the storm coming.
N. A. Steinauer has suffered the largest individual loss. His house was not damaged, as it is in the central part of town, but his barns, sheds and other buildings at the extreme west end of the street were demolished. Thirty minutes later the boys would have been milking there and might have been killed.
Some one asked after the storm if any one prayed. The general verdict is that the storm lasted only about one or two minutes and things happened too suddenly to think of prayer. Most people didn’t have time to get frightened until after the excitement was all over.
Nicholas’ Cattle Barn
Log Cabin after roof was torn off in the Storm
by Rita Coughlin
The Rock Island railroad depot was south of Main Street. We had four passenger trains daily, one at 7:30 AM going east, one at noon going west, one at 2:30 PM going east and the last one at 8:00 PM going west as far as Fairbury. The two trains going east went to Horton, Kansas. Also had one freight train going each way daily, and on Monday and Friday the “Old 98″ freight train went east 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 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 commodities were delivered by truck.
North of the depot, on the west side of the street, was the section house, where the section foreman lived. North of the section house was the Frey carpenter shop, next was the Jake Grombacker home. Jake did odd jobs around town and helped some farmers. Next was the pool hall, owned by a Mr. Woodruff, then by Henry Orth, who finally closed it. The last building was the post office. Joseph Steinauer was the first postmaster, but because of bad years, and exodus of settlers, the post office was discontinued. In 1874, Joseph Steinauer was appointed postmaster – the postal department objected to the settlement name of”Linden” and named it “Steinauer”, thtis the present name. The original post office was the first bank in Steinauer, started by the Steinauer brothers. They later built the brick bank building still in use. The “Steinaner Star”, a weekly paper was edited in the back room of the post office.
Across the street east was a blacksmith shop owned by a Mr. Stall, later by Ben Neugebauer. South of the blacksmith shop was the engine house for the City well – also the City fire bell, which is still in use. South of these buildings was the ball diamond, rented from William Steinauer. There was usually a ballgame every Sunday, with a $.35 admission. Steinauer had a real good team then, and for many years. The 1926 tornado destroyed the ball diamond bleacher, so the diamond was moved to Nick Steinauer’s farm west of town. That tornado did damage to the stores, bank roof and several homes in town.
Across the street, north of the post office, were two buildings, one a frame and the other brick, owned by A. F. Wenzl. Wenzl stored furniture in the frame building, the brick building was his general hardware store. Behind these buildings was a shed for implements, buggies, wagons, etc., from Dempsters in Beatrice. These were assembled here. Wenzl did pump and windmill work, and tinning which was popular for porches and small building roofs.
Next door north was the butcher shop, built by Ferd Wenzl for W. 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. 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 in sawdust. The ice was used in the butcher shop, and sold to patrons in town who owned ice boxes. North of the butcher shop was the first saloon. Anton Sacher was the owner. In 1904, he built the brick building which is now in use as the Steinauer Tavern. After Anton Sacher’s death Chris Albers and Van Biscup were owners. When prohibition became law the tavern was used for soft drinks, owned by Ira Kinkade. After prohibition was repealed, Frank Morris bought the building and operated the business until Charles Obrist took over. In 1961, Charles Obrist was appointed postmaster. Joe Burger owned and operated the business a short time before selling to Frank Morris. Frank Davis was next owner of business, having moved here from Omaha. After his death from a gas explosion in his home, his wife, Maude, took over running the tavern until she sold it to Keith Bridges. Bridges sold it to Terry Wenzl.
North of the tavern was a storage building used as a restaurant, owned by the Hagans. When they left, the building was torn down. The next building was a tin shop operated by William Gettle. He did all sorts of repair work. This building was sold to Nick Steinauer, and he remodeled it into a garage. After several owners, Maurice Wenzl bought it and extended it for a show room for his new cars. Now this building is the property of the Steinauer Fire Department, where the fire truck is stored. The room north adjoining it is used for “Town Board” meetings and annual elections.
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, John Gilstorf. While in the store he married Agnes Wenzl. Dr. Hollister was the Steinauer doctor at that time. Later a Dr. Latimer in the Steinauer area provided medicine. Another pharmacist was a Mr. Linderman. During Dr. Prendergast’s time in Steinauer, Eulalia Steinauer was the pharmacist in the drug store. After Dr. Prendergast’s death in 1935, the drug department was discontinued. Then Herman Vistuba sold only over-the-counter drugs, ice cream and soft drinks. When he retired Henry Borcher bought the store. Herman Kathe was the next owner 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 Hindera, who was in business a number of years. The White Brothers of Lewiston and Joe Ullman were the next owners. The White Brothers sold their interest to Henry Rucker. Merchandise in the store was all sorts of dry goods, shoes, overshoes, hats, overalls, blankets, piece goods, hardware and groceries. They also bought chickens and eggs, which was payment for goods bought. Edna Wenzl worked in the store part time in 1917, then full time in the twenties. Finally the merchandise was sold to traders and the building was vacant for a long time. Then the owner, Bill Urich’s father, used it for a storage building. After the building deteriorated, Bill tore it down.
The next building, on the corner, a brick structure, was built by Anton Rucker for a general store. After his death, Art Bentzinger bought the store. Matt Masur was the next owner, then it was discontinued until Ray Olberding bought the building in the thirties. He sold it to Kenneth Kroll. Last owner was Kenneth Bellows who finally wrecked the building.
Across the street east, on the corner, the brick bank was built – it is still in use. South of the bank was the Kehmeier harness shop. He made harnesses and repaired them. Later he repaired shoes. Building is still standing and used for storage. Next building was Ben Johnson’s barber shop. Ben was in business a number of years. Shaves were $.10 – hair cuts $.25. Later Fred Divis owned it – besides his barber work, he painted and papered. Ed Buman, was the next barber, then Walter (Hap) Klein was Steinauer’s barber.
Building south of the barber shop was a restaurant built by Mike Stemper, with living quarters in back. He also stocked groceries. When the Farmer’s Union bought the building it was used for their meeting place, and the first cream station in town, run by A. F. Wenzl. The next brick building was a hardware store, owned by a Mr. Rickaway, then a Mr. Pursel. Next owner was Henry Rucker, an Overland car salesman. He used the building for a mortuary, and kept the glass hearse there.
Next was the Fernell family dwelling. Later Pete Klein lived there and repaired shoes. At one time Bill Ulrich had a cream station there. To the south stood the large frame hotel. The John Hilbert family ran it for years, then a Mrs. Rice was the owner, and built onto the north side. There were several owners until 1920 Thomas Ryan was the owner, and a telegraph line was installed there. Mrs. Johnson was next owner, but because of poor business she left and the hotel was empty a long time. Waker Klein took over, lived there, and had his barber shop there.
East of the hotel were two big livery barns. Operators were Gottlieb Steiner, Lou Wehrbein, John McClung, John Buman, John Spier and finally Frank Conradt. Besides hauling freight, coal, etc., they rented out their horses for any use. There was a hitching rack on the south side of the street – also one west of the post office. In later years, Leonard Pettinger bought the property and built a carpenter shop and living quarters. Across the street south of the hotel, was the City jail, which still stands.
A lumber yard was on the comer north of Main Street – it was built by one of the Sommerhalders. Mont Lum was owner – he sold it to Will Clema. Clema sold the yard to Lindy Clark, and Frank Morris was the manager. By this time it was moved to the southwest comer of the block, west of the A. F. Wenzl store. Another blacksmith shop in that area was owned by Frank Reuter, then Frank Wrench, and finally sold to Chris Albers for a storage building
The Steinauer Mill was started by a corporation consisting of Joseph Steinauer, President; N. G. Steinauer, Vice President; and Charles Schroff, Sec.-Treasurer. It was managed by a Mr. Geiger. Finally Charles Schroff bought the mill. 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” for $1.50 for 50 lb. bag. After the machinery was worn and not in use, the mill was torn down.
South of the mill was the huge water tank, which supplied the trains.
East of the depot were the stock yards – farmers brought hogs in by wagons – they drove the cattle into the stock yards. Two nights a week they were loaded on “Old 98” and shipped to St. Joseph, Missouri.
East of the bank was Dr. Hollister’s office – later used by Dr. Prendergast – then it was the telephone office. East of the telephone office was Mary Hines’ dress and hat shop. Later it was used by Wherry Brothers for a mortuary. Later it was used by the Girl Scouts for their meetings.
The first school in Steinauer was built on the lot where Christina Jasa lives. It was used until 1900, when the big two-story school was built northeast of town. Then the first school was used by some who had prayer service there.
Steinauer Post office established – Nov 19, 1874
Joseph Steinauer, appointed postmaster – Nov 19, 1874
Michael Stemper, appointed postmaster – Mar 31, 1893
William Huff, appointed postmaster – Apr 20, 1897
Catherine Conradt, appointed postmaster – Nov 18, 1933
Paul Wenzl, assumed charge – Oct 31, 1957
Charles Obrist, assumed charge – Jan 6, 1961
Agnes Siegel, officer in charge – Aug 6, 1976
Louise Buman, appointed clerk – Jan 20, 1961
Louise Buman, appointed postmaster – Nov 17, 1979
Janelle Sommerhalder, app. postmaster – July 1, 1992
by Genevieve Steinauer
My recollection and what I remember the folks telling about the town:
The present bank building was built in 1888. It is the second bank building. South of it was a building we called the Kehmier shop. Mr. Kehmier made harnesses and resoled shoes. Next to that was the barber shop. The first barber I remember was named Johnson, then came a cream shop.
In there some place the Stempers had a cafe. The next building was a brick building. In there some place Uncle Henry Rucker kept the hearse. It was the old type with glass sides and the driver sat up on the top front.
The next building was the Fernell ho~se, then the hotel. Across the street was a blacksmith shop and south of that was the pump house when the water system was put in the early 1900’s.
The railroad depot was about a block south of there. Stock pens, and for a while an elevator east of the depot, on a spur west. There was a row of sheds where coal and sand were stored. The water tank for the railroad was west of there, and a spur that went to the elevator at the mill. Grandpa got Mr. Schroff to come and run the mill.
North of the storage sheds was the section house, where the railroad section boss lived.
About a block north of the section house was the Frey carpenter shop, the Grombacker home, a pool hall and then the present Post Office, which was the first bank building.
A block west was another blacksmith shop and across the street east was the lumber yard. At the east end of that block was at one time Frank Wenzl’s general store, then a hardware store, later Chris Albers had the two places. Chris had hardware, furniture and implements.
North of this was the meat market, and I remember an old building north of the meat market that some said was a bar.
Next is the present saloon. It was built in the 1800’s, I think sometime after the bank was built. The next building was used as a garage as I remember, then the drug store. I don’t remember who the folks said had it first. The one I remember was Cy Vistuba and he was the last one. Next was a general store. Hindera is the one I remember the folks saying had it. North of the general store was Rucker’s store.
The only buildings on that side of the street now are from the south: the saloon, a fire house next to the saloon, the old garage and Schmit’s garage.
The first school was across the street and a half block east of the bank. The next school was built on a hill at the northeast side of town.
In 1913 the Parochial School was built down the hill a little from the public school. The Parochial school burned down in 1932, and was replaced by a one-story building. The old one was three stories.
I think it was in the 1940’s that the public school was condemned and a new one was built to the southeast of the old school.
The first church was built in 1882 east of town, where the cemetery is now located. In 1889 the second church was built in town and the old church was moved into town and used as the rectory. In 1926 the present church was built. A new rectory had been built in 1918.
The story we were told was that grandpa (Joseph) and his brothers (Anthony and Nicholas) took turns going to Nebraska City for supplies twice a year. On grandpa’s turn he met grandma (Catherine Kaufman). At the time he met her, he was a couple of days late coming back. He promised he wouldn’t go for two times. When it was his turn again, he was a week late returning this time, but he had grandma (Catherine) with him. They were married in Nebraska City in June 1859. It took more than one day to return from Nebraska City and they spent their wedding night in a hay stack.
The first four children were born in the log cabin. The other children were born in a frame house with an unfmished attic. Years later, Dad (Nicholas) raised the roof and made a two story house. This was the house Norbert and Mary Steinauer lived in from the fall of 1943 until 1961. The house has since been razed by the Steinauer volunteer fire department (in 1988). The log cabin had lost its original roof in a tornado in 1926. It was re-roofed. Years later it was all torn down (late 1960’s or early 1970’s).
One story I remember hearing is that Dad (Nicholas) and his cousin (Nicholas) were a pretty good match. If there was mischief, they were in it. Once cousin Nick’s mother sent them with a pie to the minister. The whole pie never arrived. To distinguish between them, Dad was Nicky Joe (his father was Joseph) and his cousin was Nicky Nick (his father was Nicholas).
We were also told that Aunt Kate (Catherine Steinauer 1870 – 1895) kept Dad in line in school. She sat behind Dad in school and if he misbehaved, she would walk up and box his ears.
Uncle Joe purchased a new car – Aunt Lena and her friends asked Uncle Joe to take them for a ride. After giving all the girls a ride, Uncle Joe put the car in the garage and never drove it again.
Aunt Kate and Dad (Nicholas) herded cattle two different summers because there were no fences; one summer they killed 500 snakes as a pastime.
Dad (Nicholas Aloysius) served one term (1905 to 1907) in the State Legislature.
When the railroad was built, Grandma Catherine cooked the meals for the builders, with the help of Ann Conradt. Ann did the baking, and baked several loaves of bread each day to feed them. When Nicholas A. was a young teenager, he told his mother he wanted to be an engineer on the railroad when he grew up. His mother told him “the devil himself wouldn’t ride behind you”.
In 1906 when the earthquake hit in San Francisco, Gen was just a baby, and the family was sitting at the table and Nicholas A. sat real still then said, “something has happened someplace”. He went down to the train depot and it came on the wires there had been an earthquake in San Francisco.
In 1913 on Easter Sunday morning, Nicholas A. again said “something has happened someplace” and it was the cyclone in Omaha.