Uncles tell of family history in St. Peter

I think I learned more about my dad’s family from my two bachelor uncles, Renatus "Noddy" and Harold Torbeck, than just about anyone else.

Of course, by the time I began to drive out to the German Prairie to visit the pair, they were semi-retired and had the time to visit. Uncle Harold would join right in on the conversation, but Uncle Noddy would more or less study the green patterned linoleum in front of his feet and offer a few words here and there.

That was where my son, Mathew, came in. At that time, he was about 18 months old and a total delight to these two old men. One day, Uncle Noddy drew a picture of a bird for Mat, and that was when I learned that he was really quite an artist.

Uncle Noddy said that his parents, Henry and Anna (Yund) Torbeck, operated a restaurant in the St. Peter Hotel about 1930. Anna really ran the place, while Henry stayed on their farm one mile south of neighboring St. Paul.

In addition to the restaurant and ice cream parlor, they sold near beer. Henry’s sister, Malie Torbeck, worked in the restaurant and, on weekends, my dad, Edmund, about 9 years old at the time, and his slightly older brother, Albert, would play music for the customers.

I do not remember the name of the competing restaurant and ice cream parlor across the street, but Uncle Harold alluded to some discord because the customers were coming to hear "Little Eddie" on the weekends at Grandma’s place, and she was getting quite a crowd.

Henry and Anna sold the business to Martin Rubin as Prohibition came to an end.

The picture accompanying this story is taken from the St. Peter centennial book. Information from the late Les Gluesenkamp tells that William Knauer built the building around 1897. Knauer built an almost identical building across the street in 1895.

The village of St. Peter is thought to have derived its name from the St. Peter Lutheran Church, which organized in January 1869, with 26 members.

The village is situated mainly in the south part of Section 15 in Lone Grove Township, with spillover into northern Section 22 and the east-west village extensions into Section 14 and 16, respectively.

William Kurtz, a blacksmith, is credited with starting the first business in what would become St. Peter in 1873. His shop and two-room lodging were attached. People would visit his shop to get the news, and to see if they had mail. The first Farina mail was brought to Kurtz’s blacksmith shop for distribution.

Henry G. Grannemann built the framework of the first building used as a store in 1881, but left it up to Martin Zimmer and his son, Paul C., to finish the building in 1893, and open St. Peter’s first mercantile. A dwelling was also attached to this structure, and both Zimmer families lived there.

Paul C. Zimmer was named St. Peter’s first postmaster on Jan. 25, 1894.

The construction of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad through the township in 1894 was a great boon. The following year, J. Henry Borchelt, Mrs. A.M. Borchelt, William Hollman, Paul Zimmer and Fred Scheer had a town site surveyed and laid the town out in lots. The village of St. Peter was incorporated on Sept. 22, 1909.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the village of St. Paul, and mentioned that my great-grandfather, Jacob Yund, Anna’s father, was one of St. Paul’s two merchants. It was interesting to learn that his daughter followed up on her business aspirations, too.

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