Friday, September 27, 2019

Flooding Turned Dunklin Into Waterside Dock

One thing we’ll remember about the summer of 2019 is the prolonged, extensive flooding along the Missouri River, its tributary Wear’s Creek, and other low areas in Jefferson City. Did you know that in 1844, a major flood allowed a Missouri River steamboat to float up the east branch of Wear’s Creek—whose course essentially ran along today’s 50/63 expressway—all the way to the 100 block of East Dunklin? The low backyard of Busch’s Florist is where the boat docked.

The watercraft, in this case, was a small, short steamboat—more like a river ferry, or a large steam-powered raft—not a monster like today’s “Delta Queen.” It was carrying German immigrants, including members of the Nieghorn and Hartenstein families, who were among the first Bavarians to farm in Cole County. After crossing the Atlantic, they had traveled on steamboats north from New Orleans on the Mississippi, then, on smaller craft, west on the Missouri. Boats were the best way to get to Jefferson City in its early years, since there were no railroads to town at that time.

The flood of 1844 was the Missouri River’s greatest flood ever in recorded history, by volume of water. The Great Flood of 1993 was actually somewhat less in volume, though it rose higher due to later channel engineering and levees. The 1844 flood, which occurred before the river had been contained, created 10-foot-high sand dunes in the Missouri River bottoms. The river channel changed its course in several places that year. River pilots navigated their steamboats over the tops of completely submerged trees and croplands in the river bottoms. Considering the floods of 1993 and 2019, it’s not hard to see how the backed-up water of Wear’s Creek, in a time before the Whitten Expressway, could allow a steamboat of German immigrants to navigate as far as where Busch’s Florist is today.

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2019, with information from Gary Schmutzler, a Nieghorn descendant

This piece originally ran in the Jefferson City News Tribune as an ad for Oktoberfest on September 25, 2019.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dunklin Street Closure Reminds Us It Wasn’t Always a Beeline

One thing we’ll remember about the summer of 2019 is the closure of West Dunklin Street! We’re glad the city’s making major improvements to the 300 and 400 blocks of Dunklin, including a new bridge over Wear’s Creek. But detouring around the construction zone has certainly grown wearisome!

Few people know that until the 1920s, the Southside was shut off from both east and west sides of Jefferson City, because Dunklin stopped at each end. A steep hill on the east side of Jackson Street closed off access to Lincoln University, and a steep bluff west of Broadway and Wear’s Creek closed off access to the west.

But when cars came in and subdivisions sprouted up around the city center, something had to be done. Dunklin was selected to become the Southside’s major through street. The steep hill in the 500 block of East Dunklin was graded down and paved to handle cars. Likewise, the bluff in the 300 block of West Dunklin was graded down and paved, and a substantial bridge was built across Wear’s Creek in the 400 block. These two street improvements simplified access to the emerging Fairmount Boulevard and Moreau Drive neighborhood on the east, and to the emerging Washington Park neighborhood, along the new US 50 (now Missouri Blvd.), to the west.

When city buses replaced streetcars in the 1930s, they joined thousands of local drivers in using the new beeline that Dunklin offered—and which we have missed using this summer. It’s easy to see why this summer’s improvements to Dunklin are necessary. Not only is Dunklin the Southside’s “main street”—it’s a critical east-west connector in Jefferson City.

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2019

This piece originally ran in the Jefferson City News Tribune as an ad for Oktoberfest on September 22, 2019.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The 1880 Tornado and 218 West Elm

The tornado of May 22, 2019, wasn’t the first to hit Jefferson City. Just after 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 18, 1880, a tornado struck nearby Cole County and the far west side of town. The injuries and ruin it caused were described in the Peoples Tribune and the Evening State Journal. The quarter-mile-wide tornado ravaged the Centertown, Elston, and Scruggs Station neighborhoods and continued as far east as the present Jaycees Fairgrounds, Country Club, and Capital Mall.

Lengthy newspaper accounts named forty families and individuals affected by the tornado, detailing their injuries and property damage. About twenty-five frame and log homes were damaged or destroyed. Farm animals were killed or blown away, orchards were downed, and people were hurled from their homes as far as forty feet. A house was blown onto the Missouri Pacific tracks, and a train crashed into it in the dark, nearly killing the engineer and fireman.

One of the tornado’s frightened survivors was eighteen-year-old Nannie Pollock, who lived with her parents and sisters on a farm near present-day Turnberry Drive (just west of the Country Club). Eleven years later in 1891, when she married John C. Renner and moved to Jefferson City’s Southside, she insisted that the house he was building for them, at 218 West Elm, have double-thick brick walls. She wanted it to be able to withstand a tornado!

That solidly built 1891 brick house with extra-strong walls is still standing, 128 years later, testimony to a young woman scarred by the terrible 1880 tornado on the west side of Jefferson City.

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2019, with information from Pat Renner Schroeder

This piece originally ran in the Jefferson City News Tribune as an ad for Oktoberfest on September 25, 2019.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Jefferson City’s First YMCA

Jefferson City’s popular Firley YMCA, at 525 Ellis Boulevard on the southern edge of the Southside, recently reopened after serious damage from the tornado of May 22, 2019. Most people don’t know that Jefferson City’s first YMCA was organized in the Southside (then called Munichburg) on November 2, 1881, at Central Evangelical Church, now Central United Church of Christ. At the time, it was a German-speaking congregation, so its YMCA was called the Christliche Jünglingsverein der Evangelischen Central Gemeinde (Young Men’s Christian Association of Evangelical Central Congregation). It was affiliated with the national YMCA organization.

The Central Evangelical Church's school (left, shown in 1881) was the home of Jefferson City's first YMCA.

It was common for German American churches to be among the first Midwestern sponsors of YMCAs, perhaps because of the German penchant for calisthenics and exercise, and for forming organizations. Membership began after confirmation at age 13 and lasted until age 30, when one became a honorary member. The organization’s constitution had rules, with cash fines, on attendance, language, and smoking (prohibited during singing and praying).

In keeping with the congregation’s openness to those of other faiths, Central’s YMCA included young men from other local congregations, including English-speaking ones. It also included members from families of all socioeconomic levels and thus was an “equalizer.” By 1895 the YMCA had 66 members but lost its affiliation with the national organization because it began to accept young women. The name was then changed to Christlicher Jügendverein (Christian Youth Organization).

Central’s YMCA was briefly resurrected in 1920, when the church’s Men’s Association authorized the YMCA to sign the contract with Brunswick to construct a bowling alley. By that time, the congregation had switched to English. Central’s YMCA disappears from the record not long after and was replaced by several youth groups.

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2019, with information from the Central UCC archives
Photo illustration from CUCC archives and from Harold Horstmann and Mrs. Gus Schwartz Sr.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hott and Asel Baloney

In 1849, John Michael Asel and Margaret Barbara Mueller emigrated from Bavaria to the United States. After marriage in New York, they moved to the Muenchberg (Munichburg) area of Jefferson City, where other Germans were settling. They built a log cabin at the corner of Madison and Ashley streets that stood until the late 1960s. During the early years, the Asels befriended Indians camping on the south side of town with Barbara’s home-baked bread and John’s cured meats. They became charter members of Central Evangelical Church (now Central United Church of Christ) when the congregation organized in 1857.

In 1852, when Jefferson City had a population of about one thousand, John Asel established a meat market on High Street. According to a 1964 article in the Jefferson City News and Tribune, his first ovens and smokehouse were fueled by giant logs pulled as driftwood from the Missouri River. The slaughterhouse was along the river just downstream from where the bridge is now. In winter, ice cut from the Missouri River was stacked in a huge icehouse. During the Civil War, the Asel meat market sold sausage sandwiches to soldiers stationed in the city.

As Jefferson City grew after the war, the Asel meat market prospered not only among the large number of German immigrants but also among the city population in general. It gained a strong reputation for fresh and cured meats, especially for its smoked, cooked sausage made from recipes brought from Bavaria.

John Asel died in 1873 and Barbara in 1891, but several of their eight children continued in the meat business. In addition to the main High Street market, which had different locations on High Street, other Asel meat markets were at the corner of West Main and Bolivar and in Washington, Missouri. Among the advertised items in 1915 were pork ham roast, boiling beef, Porterhouse steak, sugar cured bellies, dry salt meat, smoked spareribs, fancy country hams, calf liver, sweetbreads, and homemade bockwurst every Saturday.

In 1915, John and Barbara’s son Christ (Christopher) Asel went into partnership with William Hott to establish the Crescent Meat Market in the commercial heart of Munichburg at 110 E. Dunklin (now a parking lot just east of the ECCO Lounge). A smokehouse was behind the store. A 1915 newspaper article described it as “clean as a pin and finished in oak, marble and plate glass,” with an enameled refrigerator. They carried a full line of meats, lard, and sausage, and the two proprietors were noted for their courtesy. Christ’s son Ralph was a butcher apprentice in the market.

On June 1, 1931, William Hott and Ralph Asel relocated the meat market to a new building at 711 Madison Street, on land that had been in the Asel family since John and Barbara built their log cabin around 1850. William Hott retired in 1940, but Ralph Asel continued to operate the meat market alone under the name of “Hott & Asel” for another twenty-four years. It is this location, on Madison Street, that is so well remembered by Southsiders as the place to go to get their meat, especially the famous Hott & Asel garlic baloney.

Until 1964, a small creek ran behind the Madison Street store and went underground at the intersection of Madison and Dunklin. The wooded land around the creek was “the jungle” to Ralph’s nephews, Bill and Tom Asel, who lived nearby, at the corner of Ashley and Madison. Ralph Asel had no children, and Bill and Tom recall their Uncle Ralph awakening them early in the morning, before school, to chop cloves of fresh garlic and to chop wood for smoking the famous baloney. The boys also tied the sausage links while holding their hands in “salty, briney water that really toughened up our hands.” The smokehouse was just behind the market, along the creek, and the entire Munichburg neighborhood could tell, from the powerful aroma, when Ralph Asel was making fresh baloney. To the locals, “good eatin’” was Hott & Asel baloney, soda crackers, and a bottle of Moerschel’s beer from the Capital City Brewery.

The store was plain and immaculately clean. A single display case surmounted with a large scale was the central fixture. Behind it was a butcher table for cutting and packaging meats and a table where Mrs. Asel would knit and answer the telephone. A lattice-topped partition framed the opening to a large, walk-in refrigerator behind which was a workroom for butchering. Neighborhood boys remember the store by the antlers on the walls and the sawdust on the floor. Women, who did most of the grocery shopping then, remember the friendliness and candid humor of Ralph and his wife, Milburn.

When he retired in 1964, Ralph told the News and Tribune that he and Mrs. Asel were finally going to take their honeymoon trip: We “probably will go to Florida, Cuba, Paris—and other Missouri towns.”

Ralph Asel closed his business on June 30, 1964, ending 102 years of Asel meat markets in Jefferson City. He sold the building to Milo Walz, who cleared and filled the land behind the building, put the creek underground, and build a hardware store with a concrete parking lot. (See the historic photos on this post.)


Though Jefferson City residents could no longer buy their favorite baloney after 1964, the recipes were not lost. One of the recipes was passed on to Ralph Asel to Johnny Wilbers, a butcher who worked at a grocery store on Monroe Street. Johnny Wilbers then passed the recipe on to his son, Dick Wilbers. In 2005, Dick operated Johnny’s Butcher Shop & Bar-B-Que off Route B, where Viet’s Pub and Grill is in 2018. With Dick Wilbers’s cooperation, the Old Munichburg Association was able to bring back Ralph Asel’s Hott & Asel baloney in 2004. Dick Wilbers passed away in January 2011.

Early in 2005, another garlic baloney recipe was discovered in a book published by William Hott in 1912. His Secrets of Meat Curing and Sausage Making included another variation of the baloney fondly referred to as Hott & Asel Baloney. So in 2005, the Old Munichburg Association hired the Swiss Meat & Sausage Company near Hermann, Missouri, to produce a limited quantity of garlic baloney using the Hott recipe. The association sold 1-lb. rings of the baloney at Oktoberfest for $7 each or 3 for $20. We also made 1/2-lb. sausage packages, which we sold as part of an "Oktoberfest Snack-Pacs" in good old-fashioned white paper sacks, along with crackers and samples of Munichburg member Jo Meyer's Mama Jo's Gourmet Honey Mustard.

Old timers recall snacking on Hott & Asel baloney, soda crackers, and beer after a baseball game or in the middle of the day. In 2005, the Old Munichburg Association put together snack packs of 1/4 bound sausage, crackers, and mustard for Oktoberfest attendees to recreate the pleasures of the past. That year, the association sold both the snack packs and one-pound rings of this unique baloney relished by generations of Jefferson City residents.

Updating this story in 2018, we’d like to note that our friends at Swiss Meat and Sausage Company, which produced the association’s recipes for Hott & Asel baloney, sell 8 ounce chubs of their Rhine Valley German Style Bologna that is a LOT like the Hott & Asel recipe. It’s fully cooked, though it must be refrigerated or kept frozen. If you haven’t been to their shop, about eleven miles south of Hermann on MO 19, you should go there sometime. Lots of deals on some tasty meats! If you can’t make it there personally, remember that they can ship anywhere in the continental United States! (Christmas is coming . . . !)

And if you’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, consider sending a contribution to the Old Munichburg Association, for helping keep these memories alive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Gundelfinger House

Few know the story of the gray apartment building on the southwest corner of Broadway and Elm. It begins with Daniel Gundelfinger, son of Bavarian immigrants and well-known High Street hardware merchant. He built it as his home in 1892, three years before the Herman Tanner residence on the south end of that block was built. The newspaper said the two houses were “very elegant,” noting that they bookended what was becoming “one of the [city’s] most impressive residential blocks.” The spacious, two-story brick Gundelfinger home had a deeply recessed, arched entrance on Broadway; prominent stone lintels; ornate, dentiled cornices; mansard roof with decorative metal parapet and a hexagonal turret; and two huge metal urns flanking the entrance that identified it as a hardware merchant’s home.

Left: Gundelfinger House ca. 1920 (Schroeder family collection); right: Gundelfinger Building, 2018 (courtesy Matthew Holland).

All the other houses in the 600 block postdate the Gundelfinger house and are now on the National Register of Historic Places, but the Gundelfinger house is not. Daniel built the house for his wife, the Bavarian-born Margaretha Hoehler (age 17 when married), and the happy couple moved in. But she became seriously ill, and in a few months, in 1893, she died. Her funeral was held in the parlor of the new house.

Daniel then married Bertha (Bessie) Roesen in 1895, and family life resumed in the big house; they had two sons in short time, Daniel W. and Karl H. But tragedy struck again: in July 1906 a probate jury declared Daniel of “unsound mind and incompetent of conducting his affairs.” He was committed to the State Hospital in Fulton and died there in November 1907. What would become of Daniel’s dream house?

The Roesen family was intermarried with the Moerschels, who had the big Capitol Brewery. Brewery owner Jacob Moerschel lived in the Gundelfinger house while he was building his Villa Panorama mansion on Swifts Highway in 1907–1908. A much smaller home was built on the property, 602 Broadway, for Bertha and sons. (Now it’s a driveway.) In 1916 the “Bertha Gundelfinger property” (two houses at 600 and 602 Broadway) was sold for $2,500 to neighbor Nelson C. Burch. The widow moved to rural Columbia to live with her son Karl, who, incidentally, committed suicide at age 44.

Between 1931 and 1935 the Gundelfinger house was transformed from a spacious single-family residence into four apartments. The Broadway entrance was eliminated, and a new, pointed-arch, canopied entrance was opened facing Elm Street to access the two apartments on each floor. The lintels were removed and all windows made smaller, changing its appearance from Victorian to Craftsman. The mansard roof, dentiled cornice (minus parapet), and turret were retained. Also, a two-story addition was fused to the back of the house, with a matching pointed-arch, canopied entrance for the two new apartments.

Today, the six-apartment Gundelfinger Building looks as if it has been this way all along, but its history is betrayed by the roofline—the addition lacks a mansard roof. The building’s address was changed from 600 Broadway to 301 and 301½ W. Elm. The original brick exterior was faced with tan stucco, mirroring the tan stucco just added to the catty-corner brick German Methodist Church building that had also been converted into apartments. The Gundelfinger’s stucco has since been painted gray.

Since the 1930s the apartments have served as rental residences of Missouri state office professionals, including an assistant attorney general, lawyers at the Supreme Court, state representatives, and professionals with the Tax and Public Service commissions, State Auditor, Education and Revenue departments, Board of Health, and Missouri Highway Patrol.

The 126-year-old building is now owned by Matt Holland and Eric Hemeyer (H&H Property Management), who are renovating it inside and out to make it once again a sought-after residence in Munichburg, Jefferson City’s historic Southside.

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2018

This piece originally ran in the Jefferson City News Tribune as an ad for Oktoberfest on September 23, 2018.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Hickory Street Neighborhood Park

Lots in the Southside’s Woodcrest Addition, between Monroe and Jackson streets and Hickory and Union streets, went on public sale in September 1914. The potential growth in this first platted addition to Jefferson City after cars became common prompted the Jefferson City School Board to consider opening a new elementary school there. The School Board purchased land for a new school in the 1200 block of Monroe. In 1919 Dr. Charles P. Hough donated four lots in the new Woodcrest Addition to the School Board for a playground, stipulating that it be named the “George W. Hough Playground” to honor his father. Hough also donated $1,500 for playground equipment. These four donated lots are on the southeast corner of Hickory and Adams streets.

As the years passed, the School Board never built a school on the Monroe Street land and sold it in 1946 to the Missouri Osteopathic Association to build Still Hospital, which has since become Capital Region Medical Center. The School Board, however, did not sell its playground at the corner of Hickory and Adams—it conveyed it to the City of Jefferson for management as a neighborhood park, an arrangement that continued for many decades. Then, in April 2016, the Jefferson City School District, concerned with potential issues of liability, deeded the land to the City of Jefferson for $10 for continued use as a playground.

Now 99 years old, the Hickory Street Park is one of the oldest tracts of public land in Jefferson City specifically designated as a park. (Charles’s brother Arthur Hough donated the land for Hough Park in 1917.) The well-maintained, shady, popular playground in Jefferson City’s Southside is today a shining example of what a neighborhood park should be.

By the way, Hickory Street was not named for the tree but for the 7th US president, Andrew Jackson, nicknamed “Old Hickory.” “Jackson” was already in use for the next street east of the park. Adams Street is named for the 6th president. The next street south of the park is named for the 10th president, John Tyler. The next street west of the park is named for the 5th president, James Monroe. Children using the playground are surrounded by US history—four presidents!

©Walter A. Schroeder, 2018

This piece originally ran in the Jefferson City News Tribune as an ad for Oktoberfest on September 16, 2018.