Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Loescher Saloon

Another frequent story I have heard over the years is about the Loescher Saloon in Kickapoo, Illinois.  My great great grandparents, Frank and Rose Nufer Loescher were the proprietors of the saloon.  Frank and Rose started out their married life in Peoria, Illinois.  Rose Nufer had spent most of her growing up years in what is now the south side of Peoria.  Back in the mid to late 19th century this was the home of a large German immigrant population.  Rose’s parents had come to this country in the early 1850’s (I think!).

Frank Loescher (baptized “Francoise” in Alsace) came to the United States in the early 1870’s and settled in the German section of Peoria.  He and Rose Nufer were married on 2 Nov 1879 at St Joseph’s Church in Peoria. (1) From the Peoria city directories we can trace the early years of their marriage from one Peoria residence to another.  They likely were renting.  Frank worked in different breweries and distilleries in town.  Peoria was then known as the “Distillery Capital of the World” and that may have been what brought him to town. 

According to the oral history that their daughter Lucy Loescher Stenger (and my great grandmother) gave to the Peoria Bicentennial Commission in 1977, she and her family moved to Kickapoo in the spring of 1886. (2) They likely lived in other locations around the small village of Kickapoo for a time but they acquired property on the west side of town and built a house.

Figure 1 - Loescher Saloon, Kickapoo, Illinois.  Frank A Loescher standing in front.  Circa 1904.

Eventually, their property included not just a home but also a livery, farming buildings, a hall for party rental and ice house.  Frank and Rose’s family expanded also.  Their first three children, Frank A., Mary (Mame) and Lucy, were born in Peoria.  After moving to Kickapoo, their family grew to include, Frances, Antoinette (Nettie), Cecilia, Rosella and Veronica (Fronie).

Frank and Rose opened a saloon in the front part of their new home as soon as it was built.  It was a large room that seems to have gone the width of the house.  From a picture we have they had a large bar area, pool table and comfortable chairs for visiting.  According to my maternal grandmother (granddaughter of Frank and Rose Loescher), children were not allowed into the bar during business hours.  Only after hours when the saloon was closed or on Sunday’s when it was closed all day were the kids allowed in.  Grandma also remembers that there was a slot machine that sat on the bar.  She said that when she would get a nickel for birthdays or Christmas she would sometimes have her dad lift her up to slot machine so she could try her luck!

Figure 2 - Interior of Loescher Saloon with Frank A Loescher behind the bar.

Behind the bar against the mirror is a mantel clock.  I remember that clock as a child sitting in the living room of Lucy Loescher Stenger’s house.  She lived just  down the street from the Loescher saloon when I was growing up.  Lucy is my great grandmother and I remember liking that clock even before I knew where it had come from or how old it was.  Today that clock is still in our extended family and very treasured.

In addition to the saloon in the family home, Frank and Rose also had overnight accommodations for travelers.  Kickapoo was on the main road between Peoria and Galesburg, Illinois.  Before the automobile made travel faster, the distance between the two cities was more than a day’s journey by horse and wagon.  I have thought many times how crowded in that house it must have been with 2 adults, 8 children and even just one overnight guest.

In 1902, Frank Loescher died from injuries he sustained from a fall down the basement stairs.  He was only 53 years old. At the time of their father’s death the Loescher children ranged in age from 21 to 4 or 5 years old.  Rose Loescher had to keep going after the death of her husband in the only way she knew how – as proprietor of the saloon, livery, farm and ice house.  Otherwise her family would not have any income.

Rose Loescher became quite a business woman in her own right after 1902.  She has a reputation in the area as being a “formidable woman”.  My grandma would say that you didn’t want to mess with Grandma Loescher.  She developed business relationships with suppliers in Peoria and men in both Kickapoo and Peoria to help her acquire goods and services when it was unseemly for women to do so themselves. 

As the years went on the various Loescher businesses changed also.  First the livery ended when the automobile came into being.  Then when prohibition went into effect, the saloon was closed.  But Rose was able to get by with rentals on the hall and the crops from the farm.

Today, the Loescher saloon and family home is all that remains of their property and businesses.  Over the years it has been made into apartments and came to be known as the “Honeymoon Hotel.”  Many newlyweds in the area have lived there and made it one of their first homes.  The road in front of the house has crept up closer to the front porch but the side porch is still there.

Figure 3 - Loescher Saloon in 2007

Whenever I am in the area I always drive by and look at the house.  It is a tangible sign of the life Frank and Rose Loescher lived and of the family the raised.  And….it is a link to the past….my ancestors’ past. 

Loescher Family – Do your children and grandchildren know about the Loescher Saloon?  I hope after reading this that you will be able to tell them more about it and Frank and Rose.

Copyright ©2016 – Diane Minor – All Rights Reserved.

(1)  Peoria County, Illinois, marriage certificate, Frank Loescher and Rosa Nufer, date of marriage 2 Nov 1879, Peoria County Clerk, Peoria.
(2)  Lucy Loescher Stenger, Peoria County, Illinois, interview by Peg Kronenberg for the Peoria County Bicentenial Commission, 31 May 1977; transcript of interview, tape 46, copy privately held by Diane Minor, 2007.