Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Austin's 1949 Million Dollar Investment

After writing about Klagge's Ice Cream, a reader asked me to check on an ice cream shop he remembered in the Sterling Shopping Center. Thanks to the crack research team at the Mower County Historical Society, I have some information.
From the Austin Daily Herald on April 5, 1954: "Sterling Shopping Center will observe its fifth anniversary this week with open house, free movies and a candidate for Miss Austin... Today, the center comprises 26 stores and service establishments, the largest retail development in Austin area's history. Investment has exceeded a million dollars...
Building boomed with the opening of the first store and by the end of 1950, the following 10 businesses were in operation:
Trowbridge Super Market, Enstad Nash Garage, Sterling Motel, Kenneth Rosenthal Painting and Decorating Store, Chuck Hall Cleaners, Sterling Barber Shop, Sterling Pastries, Warn's Shoe Store, Earl's Furniture and Sterling Ice Cream Store...
Announcement was made Saturday that Janice Plager is Sterling's candidate for Miss Austin."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

1868 Courthouse Site of Lynching Trial

Four courthouses have served Mower County since it was founded in 1855. The first courthouse in Austin was built in 1868 on the corner of Maple and Main Streets. The building had three levels: jail in the basement, offices on the first floor and the Court Hall on the second floor. Old timers told tales of going past the old courthouse and looking down through the bars to the prisoners in the basement and getting a ‘thrill out of it.’
According to the Austin Daily Herald on March 17, 1934, “The new courthouse was the scene of a sensational murder trial in 1868, a crime growing out of lynching, the only one that ever occurred in this county. In 1868 John and Oliver Potter and William Kemp, and several others were arrested as having caused the death of Chauncey Knapp. It is interesting to know that the accused were defended by John Q. Farmer (pictured above), who was later to be judge of our district court and to deliver the dedicatory address on that occasion.
The lynching occurred near Grand Meadow. Knapp was accused by citizens of being intimate with a woman of the neighborhood. The indignation waxed warm and one night some fifteen men caught Knapp, rode him on a rail, took him to a pond where he was so roughly treated that he drowned. His body was taken to a corn filed and buried between the rows of the growing corn. Knapp was missed, search was made and his body found. There were disagreements of juries and in the end all the suspected parties were released and no one ever punished.”
More next week on courthouses.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Early Cola Wars in Austin

Austin Bottling Works, Inc. was founded in 1924 by George Wilson and his father-in-law Dr. Charles F. Lewis. Wilson was a Scottish immigrant who worked in sales for Geo. A Hormel & Co. in Texas and Alabama before coming to Austin. Wilson married Marjorie Lewis, daughter of one of the founders of the Austin Medical Clinic.
The first plant was located at 400 2nd St NE (near the current Austin Daily Herald). By 1930, the plant moved to 403 4th Ave NE (near the old downtown utility plant). The business focused on bottling and sales of soft drinks and the sales of fountain supplies such as extracts, cider, crushed fruit and cleaning supplies. In 1949,  a new plant was built at 1600 1st Ave NE (across from East Side Lake).
Back in the 1920s, Coca Cola was less popular and, according to Wilson family legend, George Wilson would slip a bottle into a case of more popular grape, cherry or orange flavored sodas to build exposure to the product. George's sons, James and  Charles took over the family business and it remained a a pillar of the community for decades. Changing with the times, the bottling company eventually became a distributor and dropped bottling several years before it was sold in 2002.