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  • John Adler

The Adler Migration from Haubstadt into the Evansville area

From the research available to date, we know that our ancestors Mathias, Juliana, and Nicholas Adler were all in the Haubstadt area prior to the American Civil War.

The Adler migration to Evansville

Mathias Adler married Margaret Knaub on 1 July 1858 at St. James Church and was the first to migrate away from the area by purchasing land in Center Township, Vanderburgh County, Indiana, near present day Darmstadt according to the US Census of 1860. This land remained in his possession until 1902 when it was divided among his children, all of whom were baptized at the nearest Catholic church, St. Joseph in the County, and lived in the Evansville area (except for George P.). His last years were spent living with his daughter Katherine Adler Keil’s family on Stringtown Road. He also owned 160 acres of land in Gibson County, presumably the farm of his son, George P. Adler, in Francisco near St. Bernard Catholic Church. The only history to date of one of George P. Adler’s children leaving that area is that of his son, Louis Adler, who made the move to Evansville after WWI.

Juliana Adler married Theodore Witt on 21 May 1861 at St. James Church and moved to Evansville to live at 910 Vine Street across the street from Assumption Cathedral. They attended German-speaking Catholic services at Holy Trinity Church, a few blocks away. This row house was the childhood home of Bishop Paul E. Waldschmidt and his parents and grandmother. This row house was demolished during the construction of the Evansville Civic Center in 1968 but some of the row houses still exist and have been renovated. I remember visiting the old neighbors of the Waldschmidts in this area in the 1950s with Ed Waldschmidt as he lived out his final days renting a room at the nearby Vendome Hotel.

Nicholas Adler’s original farm was in Armstrong and is still in possession of the Anton and Eleanora Adler Bittner descendants. He purchased his second farm in Haubstadt in 1887 and moved there with his wife Margaret Steckler Adler and their eight children, probably to be nearer to a town with a railroad. Margaret died on 19 March 1888 at the age of 41.

My grandfather, Adam Nicholas Adler, was the first of the siblings to leave Haubstadt. One year after his mother’s death and one to two months after his fifteenth birthday, he went to live and work in Evansville in 1889. His first job was as a haberdasher at the Lyons Clothing Store at Third and Main Streets with a salary of 3 dollars per week. This building still stands on Main Street. Within six months he soon realized that the clothing business was not his calling and he left that position to apprentice in the food and grocery stores in the rapidly growing and thriving German-speaking part of Evansville known as Lamasco. The following is a short history of the area that all of Adam Adler’s non-farmer siblings and relatives eventually lived and worked.

A brief history of Lamasco

"Lamasco is a former town , and current district, in Evansville, Indiana, originally bounded by the present day streets of St. Joseph Avenue on the west, First Avenue on the east, Maryland on the north and the Ohio River on the south to Fulton,” according to the Wikipedia article on the subject. “Lamasco includes the Independence Historic District, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The two main streets in Lamasco were Franklin Street and Fulton Avenue, each 100 feet wide. The public square was on the southeast corner of Fulton Avenue and Franklin Street. Today it is known as Fulton Park, although its official name is John Law Park. Part of this historic district includes West Franklin Street, a retail and service center that plays host to the annual West Side Nut Club Fall Festival.”

The article goes on to say, “The west side of Evansville was for many years cut off from the main part of the city by Pigeon Creek and the wide swath of factories that once made the creek an important industrial corridor. With a heavy influx of German immigrants in the late 19th century, the west side became further isolated and developed its own culture, sense of community, and self-sufficiency. The land comprising the former town of Lamasco was platted in 1837. In 1839, this area was incorporated as Lamasco, a name formed from the last names of the proprietors of the town, John and William Law, James B. MacCall, and Lucius H. Scott. For twenty years, Lamasco and Evansville remained separate although their social and business interaction were as one community. In 1857, the area of Lamasco east of Pigeon Creek was annexed to Evansville while the part west of the creek remained independent and was thereafter known as Independence.” According to Robert Patry’s City of Four Freedoms (1996), “Population proved to be the determining factor in naming the merged city. Since there were 7000 people living in Evansville in 1857 and only 3000 living in Lamasco, Evansville was finally chosen as the name of the merged city. By 1860 Evansville had become the third largest city in Indiana with a population of nearly 12,000 people. Half of these people were of German origin.”

“Around the 1848 Revolution in Europe and after the American Civil War, massive German immigration increased the population, enticing Evansville to annex Independence in the spring of 1870,” the Wikipedia article continues. “To counter the annexation, some residents proposed incorporating as a separate town with the name ‘Madduxport’ after Alexander Maddux, a justice of the peace. However, by early summer, Independence was made a part of Evansville. ‘Independence’ as a name stuck for some time but eventually gave way to the geographic designation of the ‘West Side.’ In 1982, the Independence Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The community is known for its stable and industrious character, partially influenced by a massive influx of German immigrants in the late 19th century.”

As Patry explains in City of Four Freedoms, “Evansville profited during the post-Civil War period...River traffic increased tremendously...By 1865 the population of Evansville was 16,000 people, a growth of more than 5,000 since the beginning of the Civil War. It was now the second largest city in the state, and the fifth largest city between Pittsburgh and New Orleans.” “Five Roman Catholic Churches were built during the post-Civil War period,” Patry continues. “St. Mary’s Church was built in 1867 at Sixth and Cherry Streets, and was the first German-speaking congregation east of Main Street. A new Assumption Church replaced the old one (built in 1837) at Second and Sycamore Streets and was erected at Seventh and Vine Streets in 1873. In 1881 St. Boniface Church was built at Wabash Avenue and Michigan Street. The Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on Franklin Street, seven blocks away from St. Boniface, was constructed in 1885, the gift of the John A. Reitz family. In 1888 St. Anthony Church was built at First Avenue and Columbia Street. The German-speaking Holy Trinity Church had been erected prior to the Civil War in 1849 since the German population of Evansville did not want to attend services with the Irish immigrants who arrived for the building of the Wabash and Erie Canal.” It is interesting to understand why our relatives migrated to Lamasco from the farms.

Life in Evansville & the Adler N. Adler Grocery Company

The German-Americans had two common languages, and their cultural activities revolved around their churches which were all within walking distance of each other, similar to German cities. They had good housing and they were close to area industries (wood-working, brick, tobacco, and cotton factories, and breweries were all in this area). The parochial schools of the Catholic German Churches (St. Anthony, St. Boniface, and Sacred Heart of Jesus) all taught their classes in German which made it easier for the influx of new German immigrants after the Civil war. The “East Side” of Evansville remained undeveloped until after WWI. All of this population in Lamasco required fresh meat and produce so the corner grocery markets flourished.

After 10 years of working for others to learn the grocery business, Adam Adler opened his first grocery store in 1899 on the corner of Virginia Street and Fulton Avenue. He married Lonie Emmert from Haubstadt on his birthday in 1900 and, in 1903, he moved the business to a larger facility at Iowa Street and Fulton Avenue to accommodate his expanding family. In 1909, he purchased an even larger facility at Delaware Street and 2nd Avenue across the street from St. Anthony Church and moved into the adjoining property as the family residence. In 1923 he pioneered the first mayonnaise and salad dressing manufacturing facility in the Tri-State in a room attached to the second floor of his grocery store above his garage. His preserves and jellies were manufactured in the basement of his residence and moved next door to the grocery store by a special cart on a small steel track. The Adam N. Adler Grocery Company store flourished for 53 years until he retired in 1962 at age 88.

“The original outdoor ‘City Market’ was on Fourth Street in Evansville,” according to Patry in City of Four Freedoms. “In 1917 the Mayor Bosse administration built a modern indoor/outdoor market across from Willard Library in Lamasco to replace the Fourth Street operation and called it the Municipal Market House.” The Adam N. Adler Grocery Company had an outlet in this facility in 1917 until its closing during the Great Depression. “Starting in the late 1920s, when refrigeration began being used in homes and wholesale produce companies began to replace them, the open markets gradually declined until they had nearly disappeared in the early 1940s.”

After Adam Adler left Haubstadt for Evansville in 1889, the three daughters of Nicholas Adler (Catherine, Margaret, and Mary) married local men and remained in the area. Their two brothers, John and Theodore, helped their father maintain the home farm until Theodore was able to purchase his own farm from John Steckler in 1916. The remaining sons, Henry and Frank, followed Adam to Evansville once they grew up. Henry became a baker and Frank operated his own grocery store on Edgar Street, a few blocks from Adam's store and residence. The Adler siblings, spouses, and children all stayed in close contact throughout their entire lives in Haubstadt and Evansville.

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