Highland News Leader

A Thought to Remember: Sebastian Marti ran a tavern, lumber yards in Highland

This is my 1,000th Highland history column, counting by topic, and my 90th birthday celebration will be on June 28 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Highland Knights of Columbus Hall. No gifts, please. But if you insist, make a donation to Highland Area Community Foundation for Anderson Cemetery.

Restoring the area’s “forgotten cemeteries” has been my retirement passion, so says my wife.

Anderson Cemetery is one of these forgotten cemeteries and is the ninth cemetery that I have helped to restore.

My 1,000th column in this series, which started in 2001, when I had to produce two columns a week, keeps getting easier. But they also keep getting longer as your “thanks for the columns” keep coming. It has been a pleasure to serve my readers and work with the great people at the Highland News Leader.

I held this column back, so that it could be my 1,000th, to honor my good friend and fellow cemetery worker Russell Marti, now of Glen Carbon. So, I hope you enjoy the following about the Marti Saloon and Lumber Co.

“Jacob Marti of Enge or Engi, Switzerland, came to America and Highland in the early 1850s without his family. He lived in a little house on Laurel Street, between 8th and 9th streets.

“His wife, Magdalena Luchsinger Marti, and son, Sebastian, and his wife, Anna Gruner Marti, arrived in New Orleans aboard the steamship Hamberg on Oct. 29, 1858.

“Sebastian had an infant that died in Switzerland and had two daughters born in Highland: Bertha Marti (Frank) Lorenz, who was on July 7, 1859, and Emma Marti (Albert) Kuehne (later Kinne), who was born Oct. 5, 1860.

“Emma’s second husband was Fred Pauly. (Fred had a saloon where Marx Brothers Lounge is today.)

“Sebastian Marti, his wife and family moved to Belleville after three years in Highland. Sebastian was an iron worker in Belleville, working on the building and dome of the new St. Clair County Court House (which was torn down in 1973 over the protest of many Belleville citizens).

“Then, Sebastian and his family moved to Peoria, where both of their sons were born — Emil in 1863 and Julius in 1866.

“Sebastian’s youngest daughter was Anna Marti (Joseph) Lehnbeuter; she was born in Highland on Aug. 30, 1872.

“In 1867, when the railroad was being built through Highland, Jacob Marti built the front half of the building which still stands at the southwest corner of 8th and Laurel. Jacob Marti started a saloon in this building, with living quarters above, to serve the thirsty railroad workers. (By 1959, it was the home of Herman Driesner and family. Then, Driesner’s granddaughter lived there for a number of years.)

“In 1872, Sebastian Marti and his family moved back to Highland, where he ran his father’s Marti Saloon.”

The following information was received from Sebastian’s grandson, Julius Sebastian Marti of Alton, in 1974.

“Sebastian was a good businessman and accumulated quite a bit of money.

“The thrifty Swiss that he was, he later cautioned his youngest son, Julius, ‘not to overfill the beer glasses,’ for this wastefulness benefited neither the customer, nor the Marti coffers.

“He also taught the younger brothers other tricks of the trade, such as adding rock candy to cheap whiskey to mellow it and make it seam of higher quality. He also washed the Swiss cheese rounds with wine daily.

“Sebastian ran an orderly establishment. He stood for no rough house and personally ushered many an overloaded customer to the door. He catered to the best folks, such as lawyers, businessmen and doctors. His wife, Anna, was a good Swiss cook and made the free lunch, which brought in the customers. Her specialty was cooked tripe called ‘chutla,’ and she added a little extra salt to make the customers want an extra beer.

“By 1881, Sebastian began dealing in lumber. At first, he was a partner in the Thorpe, Kinne and Marti Lumber Co. on Broadway. It then became Kinne & Marti Lumber Co. Then, Sebastian purchased the land on the east side of Laurel, from the south side of 6th Street, almost to 8th Street, where he started S. Marti Lumber & Building Materials, at 715 Laurel St. (It’s now an empty lot.)

“Sebastian was assisted by his sons, Emil and Julius. (I have a sales bill dated June 15, 1894, when Adolph Leutwiler purchased 21, 2 by 4s, 12 feet and 14 feet long, for about 16 cents each.) The vacant land north of the lumber yard was, for many years, used for tent shows and circuses when they came to Highland.

“Later, the Fred B. Suppiger Lumber yard was located at 600 Broadway. (It’s where Houseman Supply was located for a number of years, and it’s the west part of Highland’s Tru-Buy parking lot.) Sebastian Marti also later purchased this Fred B. Suppiger Lumber yard and changed the name to Highland Lumber Co.”

The 1912 History of Madison County reads: “Sebastian Marti owned two of the most prominent lumber yards in Madison County, including the land on which the yards were located. The same being under the firm names of Highland Lumber Co. and S. Marti Lumber Co.”

“After Sebastian’s son Julius Marti took over leadership of the S. Marti Lumber Co, Sebastian used the surplus land north of the lumber company to build a row of houses on Laurel Street, then east on 6th Street, and also west of the Marti Saloon, on 8th Street.”

(I knew that we lived in a former Marti-built home when we lived at 806 8th Street, before we purchased the Bardill home for our Harris Funeral Home.)

“Later, Julius Marti also built some of the homes in White City. (White City was the area west of Chestnut Street and is now a part of Highland.)

Marti Lumber was sold in the 1930s to George Stratman, and became known as Stratman Lumber Co. It was then purchased in 1950 by Community Lumber Co., which later burned.

(Quotes from Sebastian’s grandson, Julius Sebastian Marti of Alton, Russell Marti of Glen Carbon, 1912 History of Madison County, Sesquicentennial History of Highland, Manfred Driesner and my “A Thought to Remember” columns of Aug. 21, 1974 and Sept. 4, 1974.)