Highland News Leader

Weder family has been instrumental in preserving Highland's history

The horse-drawn fire engine on display at the Weder Museum in Highland.
The horse-drawn fire engine on display at the Weder Museum in Highland. Provided

The Erwin H. Weder Family Deck’s Prairie Historical, Educational and Research Foundation was founded in 1987 by Erwin and Louise Weder.

In the 1950s, Erwin and Louise had restored, renovated and put in authentic school furnishings for the “Giger School” on Giger Road, on Deck’s Prairie, in Marine Township. Giger School is the rural school house, Erwin, Herbert and Eldon’s father, August Weder, and his siblings went to school. (Herbert and Erwin went to the Case School.)

Deck Cemetery is also on Deck’s Prairie. It is located on the north side of present Illinois 143. This old cemetery was also restored by Erwin Weder and his family. They placed a bronze memorial and stone there, along with with a chained-link fence around the cemetery. They also cleaned, repaired and reset many tombstones .

Erwin’s great-grandfather, Revolutionary War veteran Michael Deck, was buried in Deck Cemetery in 1843, as was his wife, Susanna Monger Deck, in 1853. Other family members buried there are Christina Deck Fitch (1869), Elizabeth Deck Andes (1871), Michael Deck Jr. (1883), Anna Deck Hofeditz (1884), plus many other relatives, neighbors and friends.

The cemetery was inventoried by Dorothy C. Theurer in October 1981. She had 38 recorded burials, but I’m sure there are many more burials, as some stones are unreadable. There are also empty spaces between tombstones and many broken.

In the 1950s, the Gast Brewery of St. Louis was the last brewery in the old Schott Brewery buildings on 13th Street in Highland. It had operated in Highland for a few years and then closed. The buildings remained closed for a time, then were purchased by Harold Hosto, who was originally of Alhambra but living in Troy at the time he purchased the brewery. Harold salvaged the copper and other metals from the buildings.

In 1957, the buildings and caves were purchased by the Weders’ company, Highland Products Inc. and were used for manufacturing and warehousing. Later, Highland Products was merged with Highland Supply Corp., both companies were owned by Weder Brothers.

Erwin’s daughter, Wanda Weder, has supplied the following four paragraphs.

“In the early 1930s, Erwin Weder was selling for the Metal Goods Corp. in St. Louis. Erwin introduced the concept of using aluminum foil to wrap potted plants.

“In 1937, Erwin Weder and Ralph Kamm started Highland Supply Corp. Erwin was president, Ralph Kamm was vice president, and Herbert Weder was secretary and treasurer.

“After its founding, Highland Supply Corp. began manufacturing many products used for decorative packaging in the floral industry, thus bringing a new product to floral design, called ‘Florist Foil.’

“Over many years, Erwin was responsible for every major improvement in Florist Foil, including making the temper of the foil softer, printing colors that complimented the plants, adding embossed patterns to the foil and creating print patterns. The ultimate improvement to Florist Foil, was Erwin’s invention of ‘Plastifoil,’ a combination of aluminum foil laminated to film. For almost 50 years, Florist Foil and Plastifoil were the products most used to decorate potted plants in the United States and other countries.

“Several of Erwin’s children worked part-time in the business during their years attending school. Then it became a family business in 1969. Donald E. Weder, Erwin’s son, joined the business full time.

“Don, like his father, is an inventor. In the early 1980s, Erwin and Don created and patented a performer flower pot cover they named the ‘Speed Cover.’ They designed and developed the product, engineered and built the equipment to produce this innovation in decorating potted plants. The Speed Cover rapidly became the premier choice for wrapping potted plants. Today, the Speed Cover is in great demand in the marketplace. Speed cover has undergone many improvements, added designs, shapes, sizes and is available in a variety of different substrates. One of the most popular embodiments in today’s environmentally conscious market is ‘Highlander’s Earth Cover.’”

On Aug. 20, 1975, a Highland News Leader photo, showed a 65-year-old steam engine getting some exercise, just north of its home, in the center brewery building. The Highland Supply Corp. employees cranked it up, and Erwin Weder, who was standing near the rear of the 1911 steam engine, told the News Leader that he had purchased the machine at a sale about 15 years previous. The steam engine had been used in some shows, but in recent years, had been stored in the old brewery building, along with many other pieces of antique machinery and memorabilia.

When the Deck’s Prairie Foundation was established in 1987, shortly before he died, Erwin H. Weder gave this Deck’s Prairie Foundation the restored Giger School building and grounds on Deck’s Prairie and the Schott Brewery buildings and caves, which is now known as the Erwin H. Weder Museum, plus funds to assist with the foundation’s goals. Others in the community have made tax-exempt contributions to the museum and/or contributions of historic items. By December 1991, the museum was being renovated by Mrs. Louise Weder and family.

(Information from the late Erwin and Louise Weder, and their daughter, Wanda Weder, and the Highland News Leader. Thanks, Wanda.)