Birner Hotel – Wittenberg

As the town of Wittenberg grew, especially after the arrival of the railroad, there became the need for a hotel.  As people arrived into Wittenberg by steamboat, and later by railroad, they would look for a place to spend the night.  Also, the railroad workers would sometimes need a place to stay.

Susan Birner is listed as being the proprietor of the Birner Hotel in the 1910 census.  In the 1900 census, she is not so listed.  We also have a photo of the Birner Hotel that was taken during the 1903 flood in Wittenberg.  That leads me to conclude that the Birner Hotel began operations sometime between 1900 and 1903.

Today would have been the 141st anniversary of Heinrich and Susan (Lehner) Birner.  They were married at Trinity Lutheran Church in 1875 by Rev. Koestering.  Henry was a blacksmith.  As the years went by, he also became a gunsmith and a wagon maker.  Here is a photo of his livery stable which was taken during the 1903 flood.

Birner Livery Stable

The Birner Hotel was located not far from the first site of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg.  We can see that in this photo.


The 1910 census has some interesting entries about the Birner family and the extra people they had living at their hotel.


In addition to the Birner family, there was also a cook, a chambermaid, and two boarders.  One boarder was Henry Steger, who was the telegraph worker for the railroad.  The telegraph office was located in the railroad depot.  Another boarder was Rufus Schneider.  He was the teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran School.  The school was operated in the same building as the church in those days, so you can get an idea of how far he had to walk in order to go to school each day by looking at the previous photo.

Here is another photo of the street which housed the Birner Hotel.  It was also taken during the 1903 flood.  This was called Second Street.


Here is another 1903 photo.


Henry and Susan can be seen in the upstairs windows.  Some of their children are with the rowboat.  The couple had seven children, but three of them died very early.  This next photo was taken in 1905.  The Birner family is standing on the porch with Henry and Susan on the right.


Here is a photo of Henry when he was younger.


I have one more photo to share today.  It is said to be the Birner Implement Store in Wittenberg.  I post this photo mainly because it isn’t often that you see old photos from Perry County which show snow on the ground.


The Birner family also produced quite a few full-time church workers, but those stories are going to have to wait until another day.

14 thoughts on “Birner Hotel – Wittenberg

  1. Heinrich (Henry) Birner was my great grandfather (ETJ was my grandfather, and my father was Edward Henry). I have one of his knives; it still holds an edge, so you know he did good work. I have visited Wittenberg only once, and that was back in the 1960s.


      1. Marjorie: My understanding is that Marie Mayhew was born “Hannah Maria Birner”, though I could certainly be wrong about that. I am a distant relative – my grandfather (Charles) is the grandson of Henry & Susanna Birner. Though we did not know about the family connection at the time, our daughter shares your grandmother’s birth name. I recently purchased a copy of “Wittenberg ‘03” for my family, my father, and my grandfather. We have all enjoyed reading the fruits of Mr. Schmidt’s research and writing.


    1. Scratch that – I confused Marie Ernestine Birner with Hanna Marie Birner, who would have been Marie Ernestine’s sister. She was born in 1852 and died in 1882, presumably of tuberculosis.


  2. My mother and father, Marvin POPPITZ and Anita Perr POPPITZ were born in Altenburg, just a few miles from Wittenburg. I remember my parents and grandparents would take me on a ride to Wittenburg but by that time it was pretty much deserted. Also, my maiden is Lehner but my husband’s family was from Iowa.


  3. Love the history of Wittenberg. My mother who is now 90 talks of visiting her aunt Bridget meyer in Wittenberg back in its thriving days. My mother was just a little girl at that time. I believe her aunt worked for either the hotel owner or storekeeper at that time.


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