Highland News Leader

A Thought to Remember: Highland sodaworks began in the 1850s

“The Sodawater Works of Highland has long had an existence in Highland, dating back to the 1850s.”

The Sesquicentennial book of 1987, on Page 15, states: “The Soda and Mineral Water Factory was at 515 Broadway was partly made of logs was started by Anton Mueller and Jacob Weber.”

There were only five Jacob Webers in Highland, which one is correct? I think it was the Jacob Weber who had the Highland House hotel at Main and Walnut. Do you have the correct answer?

“The old log factory was later removed, and it became the Hartman house.”

I had no problem finding the correct information about Anton Mueller in my files. So here is Anton Mueller’s story.

Anton Mueller had come to Highland in 1844 from Naefels, Canton Glarus, Switzerland, with his wife and two children. Mueller’s wife and daughter died in 1845, and his son, Joseph, died in 1861 at the age of 23.

Anton, in 1846, married his second wife, Mrs. Louisa Schaeffli Beck, the widow of Dr. August Beck of Marine. Mrs. Beck’s three sons (Alexander, age 15; Alfred, age 13; and Augustine, age 12) became his step-sons.

In the 1866 Gazetteer of Madison County, her two oldest sons are listed as: Alexander Beck, 19, a cabinet maker, and Alfred Beck, 17, a cooper.

Two additional children were born to Anton and Louisa, but the obituary of Anton, in 1894, states both children were deceased, and his wife, Louisa, died in 1881.

Mueller, in 1881, married his third wife, Mrs. Susane Bollinger Wirz. She survived him in 1894.

Mueller’s obituary states: “Anton Mueller followed his trade of that of painter, then becoming associated with the soda works and Highland Distillery.”

Anton Mueller’s step-son, Alexander Beck, succeeded him, as Anton went into the distillery business, according to the 1866 Gazetteer of Madison County.

The first recorded sodaworks name that I have is Beck & Brother, but I don’t have the date that Alfred joined the sodaworks. I gave a Beck & Bro. soda bottle to the Highland Historical Society, and it is on display at the Highland History Museum at Dr. Albert F. Kaeser Park.

Beck & Bro. consisted of Alexander Beck and Alfred Beck, the older two sons of the deceased Dr. August Beck of Marine. The youngest son, Augustine Beck (1834-1849) died at age 14 in Highland.

Alexander Beck (1831-1909), the first child of the second generation of his family in Highland (2-1), in 1857, married Pauline Werth and they had two children, Louisa (3-1), born in 1860. Louisa married Otto D. Suppiger; they had no children, and she died in 1949.

Charles Beck (3-2), born in 1863, married Caroline Blattner, and they had two children. Clara Beck (4-1) married Leo Quinn. They had no children. Louise Beck (4-1) married a Bentley, and they had a son, Alexander, who was born and died in 1915. (2-1) Alexander Beck’s second marriage was to Anna Neuman. There were no living children.

(2-2) Alfred Beck (1832-1914), in 1853, married Maria Hadorn and they had four children, but only two had grandchildren in the Highland area.

(3-2) Athos Beck married Josephine Wilborn. Their daughter (4-1) Auguste Beck Brandenberg had no children. (3-4) Franklin Beck married Bertha Haller, and of their six children, only one remained in Highland, (4-6) Amanda Beck, who married Clarence Knebel. Their son is Harold J. Knebel. Harold married Jean Wise, and their son is Harry G. Knebel. (3-5) Albert E. Beck married Frieda Trost, and they had a son, (4-1) Follbert Beck.

Follbert married Katherine “Katie” Saal and their daughter, Marianna Beck (Mrs. Orville) Rutz, was a beauty shop owner for many years in Highland and died in December 2014. Their daughter, Beverly Rutz married Bruce Bellm. She died in 2001. Bruce and two daughters, Katie B. Bellm Henrichs and Beckie E. Bellm, both of Highland, and two grandchildren survive.

“In 1834, before Highland was founded, Dr. August Beck of Marine, formerly of Canton Freiberg, Switzerland, his wife, Louisa Schaeffli Beck, had three sons… Among the family possessions which they brought with them was a piano.

“Dr. Beck soon became very much dissatisfied with conditions in Marine and resolved to return to Switzerland. While making preparations for his return, he became sick and died. His family then moved to the new village of Highland, but many of his household effects, piano included, were stored in a log cabin in Marine, where they remained for several years. Of course the neglected piano got in very bad condition.

“Fred Kinne had a zeal for the musical welfare of the new settlement of Highland and the Kinne & Suppiger Orchestra. He wanted this Beck piano. Kinne had made the base fiddle for the orchestra but felt the need for this first piano for the new village of Highland.

“After Kinne learned of this piano stored at Marine, he had no rest until he had purchased it from the Marine citizen who was looking after the property affairs of the deceased Dr. Beck.

“Kinne purchased the piano and hauled it to Highland and installed it in the home where the orchestra practiced.

“Jacob Eggen, in his youth had been instructed in piano, and he became every proficient, so his help was solicited. Eggen took much time and his skill to tune the piano properly. The instrument that had not been played in six or seven years, but he succeeded in putting it in shape and restored it to usefulness.

“People said Eggen, even though very old, retained remarkable skill and was getting pleasure out of playing the piano. Thereafter, he played with the orchestra.

“This piano was the only one in Highland for a number of years and was in use by the orchestra for about 20 years. The orchestra acquired another piano and after the first brick schoolhouse was built on the Square in 1850. This old Beck piano was given to the school. It was used for a number of years by the school for entertainment and programs. Finally, its tone got so bad that a new piano was purchased by the school.

“The old piano was stored in the school wood shed for a time and eventually was chopped into fire wood.”

Next week will be my Memorial Day column. Then, on May 28, will be my 1,000th Highland history column, if you are counting by topic. We will continue with Franklin Beck and the Highland Telephone Co. in June.

(Quotes are from the 1850 Census of Madison County, 1866 Gazetteer of Madison County, 1893 Brief History of the City of Highland, Centennial History of Highland and Sesquicentennial History of Highland, Pagan sales bill, and my Mueller, Weber and Beck files.)