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Nebraska...Our Towns

Steinauer -- Pawnee County

Rock Island coming into Steinauer from the west during a spell of high water, ca. 1898. [Frey]
Anton Sacher's saloon, 1900. Sacher is second from the left. [Frey]

The story of Steinauer began even before Joseph, Nicholas, and Anthony Steinauer arrived from Switzerland in 1856. These brothers had intended to go into Kansas, but because of all the warring there over slavery, they were persuaded by the people living at "Turkey Creek" to stay in the Nebraska Territory.

A number of Catholic families were already living in the area. They were served by the priests from the Benedictine order from Nebraska City at various homes, and later at Joseph Steinauer's home on the west edge of the present town.

The "Turkey Creek" post office was established on January 29, 1857, south of the Pawnee-Johnson County line. However, on August 22, 1860, it was moved a few miles further upstream into Johnson County.

As the area filled with settlers, a German Evangelical church was established northwest of Steinauer in 1869. Two years later, the North American Synod of that fellowship organized a church on land donated by Nicholas Steinauer, and Protestant people from this area attended that church. A Missouri Synod Lutheran church and parochial school was established in 1871 north and east of our present town. While the Catholic parish has the oldest record of services, it didn't build a church until 1882 on land adjoining the cemetery, since there was still no town.

In 1874, when there was some hope of getting a railroad through the area, a post office was established at the home of the postmaster, Joseph Steinauer. The name changed to "Steinauer" on November 18, 1874. Nothing came of that railroad initiative at that time.

In 1880 there was another attempt to build a railroad. A bond was passed to help defray the cost. A company, first calling themselves the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railroad and later the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, finally established a line, with plans to build from St. Joseph to Kearney.

In 1886, when the rails were finally laid, the town of Steinauer was platted and began to develop. The railroad built a depot, a section house, and a stockyard. A well was dug and a tower built to supply the engines with water. The first two businesses -- a harness dealer and a blacksmith shop -- moved to Steinauer from Table Rock. Soon there was an elevator near the railroad, and homes and churches along the streets. In the 1890s a New York Synod Lutheran church was built.

Some time later, the approved railroad bonds were declared invalid. When the company received no funding, it was left with a large debt. The plans to complete the line faltered and ended at Nelson in Nuckolls County. However, with good connections to Pawnee City and beyond, the town continued to grow.

In 1889 a new Church of St. Anthony was built in Steinauer. A parochial school, taught by the sister of the Benedictine order, was added in 1912.

By 1910, when Steinauer reached its peak population of 248, there was a bank, a post office with two rural routes, two grocery stores, a general store, two blacksmiths, a saloon, a hotel, two hardware stores, two barbers, a lumberyard, a tin shop, a shoe repair shop, a restaurant, a furniture store, a livery stable, and a telephone office. The town had a water system, and a large steam-powered roller mill, which shipped many carloads of flour to the Army during World War I. There was also a large cattle and hog buying business.

In 1925, when the old Catholic church was outgrown, a larger church was proposed. Money was raised, and plans drawn, however the diocese's building commission didn't feel it would be large enough to handle future needs, so a larger design was initiated -- one which was nearly the congregation's undoing. After years of uncertainty and stress, with sheriff's sales and foreclosures, the matter was finally resolved in 1946. The Knights of Columbus Hall, built in 1929 by the Parish, continues to take care of the many social activities of the community.

Steinauer, now a quiet community of 108, still centers around its churches. The village board meets at the bank building to administer the affairs of the community, and looks to the needs of its citizens.

From material submitted by Edwin Bredemeier, Rt 1 Box 13, Steinauer, NE 68441.

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: A Half Century of Religious Progress, 1933; Church of ST. Anthony , 1947; The History of the Omaha Diocese in the Nebraska Territory, (date unknown); and History of Nebraska by A. T. Andreas, 1882.