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The auction notice of the building at 509 W. Edwards St., used most recently as headquarters of the Fayette County Health Department, sparked my interest because I discovered only a couple of years ago that this home was built in the early 1860s by Michael Steinhauer.
In my last article, I wrote about the Steinhauer family and how their history and that of Vandalia intertwined. With the sale of this building in the news, it is a perfect time to revisit this interesting family.
As mentioned last week, Michael Steinhauer came to America in 1836, landing at New York. Within three years, he was living in Fayette County and working as a blacksmith, a trade he had learned in his native Germany.
Michael married three times, fathering eight children. By his third wife, Christina Budfert, he had sons, Henry, who died at the age of 9; Frederick; Lizzie, who died at the age of 2; Edward Franklin; Charles W., who died at the age of 2; and Louis M. Steinhauer.
Michael Steinhauer died suddenly in 1869, leaving Christina to care for the children and to run the business he had started in 1852. In the first year, he had kept a blacksmith shop. He had expanded the following year to the manufacture of agricultural implements, buggies, wagons and wood work.
In an interview before his death in June 1942, Michael’s son, Edward Steinhauer, said he was born in the house on West Edwards Street on May 10, 1863, and that was his home his entire life.
At age 16, Edward entered the business; and under his mother’s management, was foreman of the factory.
His brothers, Frank and Louis, also joined the wagon works, and worked at the factory. Each brother had charge of a department: Edward was in charge of woodworking; Louis was in charge of the metal work and Fred oversaw the painting department.
Christina Steinhauer was actively involved with running the factory until her death in October 1905.
An interesting side note is that Michael Steinhauer’s first blacksmith shop was built about a half block nearer the Illinois Central railroad right-of-way and was moved to the location at Sixth and Johnson streets at the time the railroad was built through Vandalia.
In 1907, the brothers had the old building razed, and in its place a two-story brick building was built. This building stands today.
As the years passed, Edward and Louis took charge of the business and changed the name of the firm to Ed & Lou Steinhauer. With the advent of motorized vehicles and the demise of horse and buggy days, the business was changed to a grocery, feed and poultry store, known as The Steinhauer Market.
At the time of Edward’s death in 1942, he and his son, Walter, were operating the grocery store.
A brother, Frederick G. Steinhauer, born in 1858, lived with his mother, Christina, until her death in 1905. He was a partner in the wagon business with his brothers, and following his mother’s death, lived with Ed’s family. Fred Steinhauer died in 1915.
Edward Steinhauer was remembered as a student of ornithology and taxidermy. His collection of birds, including several species now extinct, is now at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield.
His brother, Louis Steinhauer, also a collector, specialized in Indian relics and Fayette County mineral formations, which he collected and maintained in his home. When he died, the most valuable pieces were sold and others given to friends and family.
When Fred Steinhauer died on June 12, 1942, his business was the oldest continuous business firm in the city.