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.
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.