Highland News Leader

Early Highland distillers traded whiskey to farmers for corn. Practice caused local bars to boycott their spirits.

An Oldsmobile with a curved dashboard, designed in 1901, was the first car to appear on the streets of Highland. Purchased through Kuhnen & Siegrist Hardware Co. by John J. Spindler Jr., it was shipped from a Chicago distributor in a boxcar and then pulled by a team of mules to the hardware store. Spindler’s wife and children took turns riding in the car with him. A car buff, he purchased the following automobiles during the remaining 16 years of his life: another Oldsmobile, a Pope Hartford, five Reos, a Paige, two Wintons, and four Fords.
An Oldsmobile with a curved dashboard, designed in 1901, was the first car to appear on the streets of Highland. Purchased through Kuhnen & Siegrist Hardware Co. by John J. Spindler Jr., it was shipped from a Chicago distributor in a boxcar and then pulled by a team of mules to the hardware store. Spindler’s wife and children took turns riding in the car with him. A car buff, he purchased the following automobiles during the remaining 16 years of his life: another Oldsmobile, a Pope Hartford, five Reos, a Paige, two Wintons, and four Fords.

John J. Spindler Sr. (1825-1899) was born in Maisbach, Canton Basel, Switzerland, and came with his parents to Missouri.

Spindler came to Highland in 1849 and became a partner in Jacob Eggen’s distillery. They were making good whiskey, which found a ready sale in the surrounding villages, but not in Highland. The problem was they would let the local farmers bring in their corn, and in return, they gave them whiskey in payment. The local saloons objected to this policy and refused to handle their whiskey. Eggen became disgusted and sold his share to Anton Mueller. The new owners changed the policy and got along with the Highland saloon-keepers.

At the close of the Civil War, a revenue act was passed which put a tax on whiskey. But the act was not retroactive and did not apply to whiskey that had been made previously. The Highland distillery had several thousand gallons of whiskey on hand at the time the tax was passed. So, the owners so decided to close down the distillery to take advantage of the loophole in the law and make a big profit, as they could sell their spirits at the newly higher price.

Spindler went into the milling business with Henry Hermann & Co. in late 1865, where he served as manager of their extended properties.

In 1870s, Spindler purchased the David T. Thorp Store on Main Street. He first enlarged the store, then tore it down in order to build a new three-story store building. He started the construction in 1873 and was completely finishing in 1877. This building at 717 Main St. is still standing and you can still read, “Highland Foundry 1873” on the metal sill plate. Today, it is owned by Highland Supply Corp.

Spindler’s store became famous in the entire area for the excellence of his goods and the honest dealings. John Jr. had helped in the store for many years, but in 1883, entered into partnership with Johann Rusch in the Highland Embroidery Works.

John Jr.’s son Julius J. Spindler later became president of the Highland Embroidery Works, as the factory was declining. In 1924, Julius Spindler became president of the Farmer’s & Merchant’s Bank. He remained at the bank in 1952.

We will have Julius Spindler’s famous, “Pass in Review” columns, sponsored by the Farmers & Merchants Bank in the Highland News Leader, all during World War II, in the new veterans area of the Highland Home Museum. (More exciting details will follow.)

Now back to John J. Spindler Sr.

In 1892, John Sr. was the savior of the Helvetia Milk Condensing Co. His son-in-law, John Wildi Jr., had become the secretary/treasurer of the milk company in 1885 and prevailed on his father-in-law in 1892 to furnish $15,000 in gold to meet the bank’s demands for repayment of the company’s loan. The “Savior of the Helvetia Milk Condensing” John J. Spindler Sr. died on Sept. 13, 1899.

Meanwhile, John Jr.’s management of the Highland Embroidery Works had put the business on a good financial footing. The company added three more buildings and then an office building. (All four of the factory buildings were removed by Jim and Pearl Duft Houseman. The area is now the Park Avenue Condos.)

John Jr. had taken in his son, Julius, in 1910. He taught Julius the business with personally supervised training.

John Jr. and part of his family were on a vacation in the West when he passed away. He died in Spokane, Washington, on Aug. 10, 1917. He only 56.

Julius was only 25 when he had to take over the embroidery business. The business continued to prosper. But then came the Great Depression. The demand for embroidered dress goods fell off, and the factory was shut down in 1932, before they had suffered any sizable losses.

The factory remained closed until 1936, when George Glassmaker and his son, Russell, rented one of the buildings, rehabilitated some of the embroidery machines and found a market for their output.

Julius J. Spindler retired president of the Farmers & Merchants Bank and spent his early retirement in California. He then returned to Highland and became very active with the Highland Chamber of Commerce and taught Dale Carniege classes. Julius wrote his almost 100 typed pages of his manuscript about Highland, finishing in 1973. He died in May 1975.

Julius was instrumental in getting the country’s bicentennial celebration started in Highland. He past away before the date, but he was honored during the opening celebration.

(Information is from my files and Julius J. Spindler’s manuscripts.)

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