Obituary Details

Eggert Rohwer

(06/16/1857 - 07/22/1962)
Courtesy of The Harrison Sun, 07/26/1962

Eggert Rohwer, Sioux Pioneer Dies Sunday at Age of 105

Eggert Rohwer, 105-year-old resident and pioneer of Sioux County, died at his ranch home east of Harrison Sunday afternoon at 5:20. He had undergone a hernia operation at Crawford the middle of June and returned to his home June 21. In fact his 105th birthday had been observed June 16 at the hospital, and he later received congratulations from President Kennedy.

Funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 from the Methodist Memorial Church and burial was in the Harrison Cemetery. The Rev. Virgil Hainsey, minister of the church, officiated. Pallbearers were Clarence Dout, Norrie Wichersham, Harry Zimmerman, Lew Sherill, Jim Serres and Wayne Unitt.

His is survived by two sons and a daughter who lived at the ranch with him. They are Edward and George Rohwer and Mrs. Edna Wertz. There are two grandsons living, Clarence Schnurr of Harrison, and William Eggert Schnurr of Alliance. Their mother, Elsie, died in 1942. Another daughter died in infancy.

The following story of his life was prepared and used at the time of his 100th birthday by Clarence Schnurr.

Born In Germany

Mr. Rohwer was born in the village of Dammstedt near Rendsburg, Holstein, Germany, June 16, 1857. As a small lad it was his job to herd the cattle so that they wouldn't get into the fields. Since his home was near the Danish border many soldiers were in the locality and this boy would watch as the soldiers marched by on their way to the frontier. There were border incidents and his dislike for violence caused his resolve to go to America when he was old enough.

His uncle had gone to the United States and established a home near Atlantic, Iowa. When Eggert was 17 the uncle returned for a visit and took the young man, and two cousins back to America with him.

The diet on board ship was monotonous and unappealing. They had plenty of butter which was placed in a big wooden bowl on a bench and passengers could help themselves. However, by the time the ship reached New York the butter had become quite rancid. Water on board the ship was scarce and passengers could get a drink only at certain times. Dinner was served in a bucket and consisted chiefly of potatoes with their skins and meat. Soup was also frequently served. Mr. Rohwer remembers that the potatoes were blue inside. Upon reaching New York he passed a bakery where he saw pies displayed. This was a new form of pastry to him, so immediately he purchased one and ate the entire pie as he sat on the street curb. He concluded that America must indeed be a wonderful country to have such good food.

The train going west from New York City was so crowded he found it necessary to sit on one leg a considerable distance. Overcome by fatigue he finally lay in the aisle until too many people stepped on him as they left the train.

Mr. Rohwer attended school and worked on farms near Atlantic, Iowa, and made a trip to Omaha in about 1878 to visit school friends from Germany who had settled there. Omaha was quite unlike the bustling metropolis it is today. As the train crossed the Missouri the bridge shook under the weight and vibration. The Omaha street cars were drawn by mules and corn fields could be seen from the vicinity of 18th Street.

Came West In 1886

In 1884 Mr. Rohwer married Marria Louise Schwartz. For a time they operated a hotel in Atlantic and a daughter, Elsie, was born to them. Mr. Rohwer heard many tales of the new land to the west. He was suffering with asthma so in search of an improvement in his health, he loaded his livestock and possessions in an "immigrant car" and came to Bowen in October of 1886.

His intentions were to start farming in this new region. However, the few settlers who had come to this area lived along the Runningwater or in the valley north Harrison. There were no fences or roads and his wife hesitated to live so far from town so they went into the hotel business in the village which was just starting to build. The hotel was located in the building south of DeKay's grocery and now owned by Luther Koch. Thus Mr. Rohwer became one of the first business people in the new village. The hotel was a busy place and as was the custom at that time meals were also served in conjunction with the hotel.

Other businessmen of that day Mr. Rohwer named off were H. MacLaughlan, who operated a general store and later became known as The Ranch Supply and was last operated by Marsteller and Son. C. L. Tubbs who operated a carpenter shop, George Walker, attorney, John Thornton, hardware store, C. H. Andrews, who was a doctor and operated the drug store, Jack Pfost, livery barn, Charlie Weller, who had the saloon and Robert Parrish who worked there, S. Barker, attorney, S. H. Jones, attorney, W. A. Allman, grocery, Dave Bartlett, carpenter shop, E. Gelpen, harness shop.

Then there were the county officers. The county was formed at about the time Mr. Rohwer came to Bowen and the Governor had appointed J. G. Morris, J. F. Pfost and D. H. Griswold as special county commissioners and E. D. Satterlee, special county clerk. The first election was held in November of 1886 and Charlie Jameson was elected County Clerk with S. H. Jones at Justice of the Peace, C. H. Andrews, Coroner, Chas. E. Verity, Judge, Ben F. Thomas as county superintendent, Edmund C. Lockwood, county treasurer, J. F. Pfost, sheriff, Ed. D. Satterlee, County attorney, and Andrew McGinley, J. G. Morris and Daniel Klein were elected the regular commissioners. The clerk and treasurer had their offices in the Andrews Block located where Unitt's Hardware was later located, and the Judge and Sheriff were located in Ed. D. Satterlee's. Theodore Trimbur was appointed Bowen precinct assessor.

Other early day residents he named included J. W. Ernest who had the ranch on Runningwater, Mike Jordan, Henry Wertz, D. M. Sutton, H. M. Warneke, Lew Pfost, Dick Simler, L. E. and Billy Belden, Mike Blewett, George Uhl, S. W. Cox, one of the early day county superintendents, C. E. Holmes, lawyer, Jud Wood, a printer, Peter Bourret, Chas. Biehle, J. B. Bourke, school teacher, Tom Bingay, A. R. Dew, W. E. Patterson, blacksmith, Jerry Will, the Dunn Brothers (father and uncle of Vernon and Lester Dunn), Robert Keel, Lewis Gerlach, John W. Hunter, Dr. G. J. Schafer, B. L. Smuch, barber, Theodore Piekenbrock, Kellum Lindsey, John A. Anderson, Chas. F. Coffee and son J. T. and Claus Christensen.

Jim Cook used to stop at the hotel and Mr. Rohwer recalled that one time he brought Chief Red Cloud with him. Cook had quite a time trying to teach the Chief how to use the knife and fork.

One of the first things the commissioners did was to arrange for the construction of a jail which was built of 2 X 4's nailed side to side. It was located across the alley from the hotel on the lots now owned by Herren Brothers. The sheriff had picked up a couple of horse thieves who had fled out of Wyoming and had them confined in the jail for safe keeping. One was quite a fiddler and the other liked to read. The sheriff would bring them across the alley into the hotel by way of the back door for their meals. Apparently one day as they passed through the kitchen one of them, unnoticed, picked up a butcher knife. While one fiddled all day the other dug his way through the floor of the jail. Every time the sheriff went to get the men to go eat the floor was strewn with newspapers which covered the evidence of the day's work but the sheriff just thought they weren't very neat.

Mr. Rohwer had some pigs in a pen across the alley next to the jail and had some boards put up so the pigs couldn't get under the jail. One morning he went out to feed the pigs and noticed the boards had been knocked down. At breakfast time the sheriff discovered the horse thieves had fled during the night. Evidently they had help from the outside for there were indications that they had fled by horseback.

Quite a few girls worked at the hotel and dining room including Katie Henry (Hummel), Ida Schwartz (Ward), Lizzie Gerlach, Anna Zerbst (Shepherd), Maggie Lindeman (Blewett), Theresa Will, Amanda Hill (Anderson), Emma Tyerherm, Rosa DeBock (Hoyt), Amelia Kronig, Alice Slattery, Anna Nutto, Laura Doan, Jennie Lacy (Bourret), and Lena Baumgard.

Harrison Named

In about June of 1887 the name of Bowen was changed to Harrison as the railroad then called their station. In April of 1888 the village government was organized and Mr. Rohwer was named to the first Board of Trustees along with John Culp, Robert Parrish and Thomas Reidy. Reidy was elected chairman. S.H. Jones was elected village clerk and Theodore Trimbur was elected marshal. One of the early acts by the board was to obtain an adequate supply of water. The village, not having any funds, found it necessary to borrow from the School District No 7 to start on the waterworks. The first village water well was completed in the intersection of Second and Main Streets.

Each business house and most dwellings had cisterns which were filled and afforded some protection against fire. In 1893 or 1894 a fire started from an overheated stove in George Walker's office south of the Andrews block and burned out all the east side of Main street except for the Andrews building. This included Walker's office, Tubb's carpenter shop, a harness shop and a dressmaking shop. A bucket brigade formed but couldn't do much more than protect the buildings on the west side of the street. The fire was so intense the window panes broke in the hotel and Mr. Rohwer took his family, which had grown by the addition of another daughter, Edna, and a son, Edward, to the home of Con Linderman, the printer, for safekeeping. Mr. Linderman lived in the house now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hoyt. Homer Priddys were living in the house recently occupied by Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Moody.

In 1890 during the Indian uprising at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, many families sought protection in Harrison, some living in the court house. A company of the Nebraska Militia was organized in Harrison and Mr. Rohwer became one of the members. The unit drilled in the Andrews building. Mr. MacLaughlan was the drill instructor and Mr. Rohwer said that most of the fellows about town at the time were in the group including D. H. Griswold, John Marsteller, Theodore Trimbur, Tom Reidy, C. L. Tubbs, George Walker, John Thornton and C. H. Andrews.

At various times during this period Mr. Rohwer operated a meat market, harness shop, and grain and feed store in addition to the hotel. Bands of Indians frequently passed through always following their same trail from the head of the White River to the Niobrara near the Wyoming State line. They always sought food at the hotel or butcher shop generally swapping some moccasins or other beaded work for meat.

Mr. Rohwer recalled that there generally was a dance in the Andrews building Saturday night and the cowboys would come miles by horseback riding straight across country for there were no fences or roads to block the way. One time his uncle came out for a visit and they went sightseeing. One night they slept in a haystack near Montrose. In the 1890's Mr. Rohwer accompanied by John Bartell and Ed Wier journeyed to Hot Springs in a two-seated buggy drawn by a span of mules. At that time to gain entrance to Wind Cave they were forced to crawl into a small hole on the hillside.

While a resident of Harrison Mr. Rohwer also served on the County board of commissioners and on the school board.

In 1897 he sold the hotel but retained his other businesses and in 1989 moved to his present home. For a time he came to town in his one horse cart each day to look after his shop but sold out to John H. Lacy and John Dieckman in 1904 to devote his full time to his ranch.

Until his 100th birthday Mr. Rohwer remained quite active, enjoying and working in his garden. He read a great deal without using a reading glass. However since passing the century mark he gradually failed, but showed unusual vitality even through the recent operation.

Images & Attachments

Eggert Rohwer

Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Rohwer, Edward (09/01/1893 - 08/14/1969) View Record
Obituary Rohwer, Victor (09/11/1900 - 07/28/1969) View Record
Obituary Wertz, Edna (07/17/1888 - 05/04/1963) View Record
Obituary Wertz, Cyrus (06/03/1873 - 01/28/1950) View Record