The history of the Steinauer brothers, Anthony, Nicholas and Joseph, began in Pawnee County, Nebraska over one hundred years ago, in September, 1856. They had come from Switzerland in 1852. The Swiss government had paid their way as far as New York. There they went to work for wages of $5.00 a month. They later spent some time in Kentucky and Indiana, and from there went to Wisconsin where they purchased a dairy.
In 1856 they decided to go to Kansas, but when they reached Iowa someone told them not to go to Kansas because of the trouble over the slavery question. They f’mally settled in Pawnee County, Nebraska where the town of Steinauer is now located.
The first winter they lived in a dugout or cave by Turkey Creek and the following spring they built a log cabin, which in recent years has been torn down. This was a very severe winter with much cold and snow.
LOG CABIN BUILT 1857
They preempted the first land from the government. Each one bought 160 acres at $1.25 an acre. Their land claims were all joined together as they had to either live on it or close by. They later homesteaded more land.
Joseph bought the 80 acres of land on which the town subsequently was built. At one time the population reached about 350. The town was founded in 1888.
Joseph was postmaster and “banker”. He handled Pony Express and mail for the settlers. Because he was one of the few with hard cash, he took in their grain and livestock for which he paid in cash, not in kind.
Joseph fed livestock and was one of the first in the area to cure butchered hogs. For several years, he made good money hauling his cured pork by wagon to sell it to the Government at Fort Kearny.
When Joseph sold out, he loaded up a train of 48 cars of cattle and 16 cars of hogs for shipment to Chicago.
Joseph was the first to marry. He met his wife, Catherine Kaufman, when she came from Luxemburg in 1857 to the home of her brother, Joseph, whose land joined the Steinauer farms. They were married in June 1859, and went to housekeeping in the little log cabin where the four oldest children were born. In 1864 they built a new home where the other nine of their children were born. This home was occupied by a grandson, Norbert Steinauer and family until 1961. In 1988 this house was demolished by the volunteer fire department for practice. In 1870, death visited their home and claimed little 18 month old Nicholas, whom they laid to rest in a lonesome little grave on a prairie hill about one half mile north of their home. He has since been buried in St. Anthony’s Cemetery.
Anthony and Nicholas continued to make their home with Joseph until 1862 when Nicholas went to live on his land about one mile west of Joseph’s farm.
Nicholas Dominick and Maryann (Geiger) Steinauer began their married life in 1867, one and one-half miles west of Steinauer. They had three children, Nicholas Gottlieb and twin daughters, Ida and Lena. They lived there together until the tragic death of Nicholas Dominick in 1890. This was also the home of their only son, Nicholas G. and his family and years later of a third generation family, Ernest Steinauer.
,The arrival of twin daughters in 1875 was a big event in the family and the community, Friendly Indians, who stopped on an occasional visit in this home were very much surprised to find two tiny babies in one household.
The brothers prospered in their new homes despite many adversities such as grasshoppers, droughts and blizzards. They often told how the Indians stole their fin’st pig. (Joseph had gone to St. Joseph, MO and bought a sow that delivered a litter of pigs shortly after purchasing her. The pigs were weaned, when one day Indians came along. The remains of the sow and the pigs were found down the creek a ways a couple of days later,)
After using the school house as a place of worship, with services being conducted by a visiting pastor from Long Branch, members of the community in 1869 considered building a church of their own. Nicholas Steinauer volunteered to donate land for this purpose from the northeast comer of his property. This became the site of the future Salem Evangelical & Reformed Church, now known as the Salem United Church of Christ, and the adjoining cemetery became the final resting place of both Nicholas and Maryarm Steinauer.
Nicholas did much to help the brothers and sisters of his wife get started in America. Among these were the Geiger, Sommerhalder and Frey families. The three Steinauer brothers were true Christians and they helped bring true religion, both Catholic and Protestant churches, into their community and encouraged living peaceably and cooperatively together.
The three brothers always stayed close together as they had promised their mother when they left Switzerland.
Nicholas and Anthony both met their death tragically just eight months apart. Nicholas died in September 1890, from foul air while in a well cleaning it, and Anthony was killed by a train in May 1891, while walking along the track. Joseph died in October 1907, after a long illness.