Saturday, February 26, 2022

Whiskey Men and Explosions

 Foreword:  Alcohol being highly combustible it is little wonder that explosions were an all too frequent occurrence in distilleries, liquor warehouses and even “rectifiying” (blending) operations.  Sometimes, as documented here, an highly destructive explosion could be triggered by a “whiskey man” unrelated to alcohol. Following are vignettes of incidents from Peoria, Illinois; New Orleans, and Virginia City, Nevada.

Beginning about 1871 the Woolner Brothers — Jacob, Ignatius, Adolph, Samuel, and Morris — set out to dominate the vibrant and growing Peoria liquor industry.  Over the years the family would be responsible for buying and selling multiple whiskey manufacturing plants.  The Woolners also played a major role in the two attempts at a “Whiskey Trust.”

Their path to domination, however, was not without trauma.  In the spring of 1881, the Woolners’ main distillery burned.  As shown below, most of the buildings were destroyed. As shown below, only the still house stood after the blaze.  The brothers immediately pledged to rebuild.  Amidst the rubble the Woolners found that two tubs of fermented mash had been left virtually untouched.  After slight repairs to the tubs it was decided to run the contents through a repaired still: “…The boilers were cleaned and refitted, the pumps rigged, and the distillation commenced.”  The Woolners had made a terrible mistake. 

As the Chicago Tribune sold the story: “Without a moment’s warning, a loud explosion was heard, the gigantic tub swayed and careened over, and a rush of steam escaped from the lower chamber, carrying everything before it.  Men were picked up and hurled, scalded and parboiled, from twenty to forty feet away, and ruthlessly bruised with falling bricks and timbers.”  Of eighteen men injured in the blast thirteen died, many painfully.  A worker identified as Max Woolner, likely a nephew, was killed instantly.  Ignatius, 41, the brother who was supervising the operation, was badly burned and died that night.  Their solidarity shattered, the Woolner brothers ultimately went different ways. 

Otto Karstendiek early demonstrated his abilities as a liquor and wine dealer  From his Tchoupoulas Street headquarters in uptown New Orleans close to the Mississippi River, as early as 1853 he was advertising in a wide area beyond Louisiana.  A Galveston newspaper ad declared Karstendiek & Company an importer of European brandies and wines as well as “Dealers in all kinds of domestic liquors….”  By the end of the decade Otto was doing business from two New Orleans warehouses, each four stories high and a block long.  Both were filled with liquor.

On Saturday, October 13, 1860, tragedy struck.  About 8 p.m. a large fire of undetermined origin broke out in one Karstendiek warehouse.  Soon the structure was engulfed in flames from the ground floor to the roof, imperiling the second warehouse.  When the fire reached the top floor where considerable liquor was stored, a tremendous explosion occurred, destroying both warehouses and spreading the fire to adjoining structures. 

The New Orleans Picayune reported:  “No battlefield, no steamboat explosion could  exceed the horror of the scene.  There under the enormous mass of smoking ruins, thirty or forty men lay buried.”  Chief among them were members of New Orleans volunteer fire companies that had responded to the alarm and were pour water on the first warehouse.  The paper listed the names and units of men pulled dead, dying or injured in the explosion.  Among those who barely escaped was the New Orleans chief of police.  Rescue efforts were hampered by the intense heat of the fire.  “Many, many more remained buried under the ruins,as we left the scene.  Two had been heard to speak, but could not be reached and, horrible to relate, they stated that the fire was burning the timbers underneath, and gaining upon them,” the newspaper reported.

Karstendiek does not seem to have been on the premises when the fire occurred.  While he sustained the loss of his buildings and some stock, substantial quantities of the whiskey he was storing reputedly were owned by second parties.  Although I can find no information on the total death count or monetary loss the latter would be the equivalent today of millions.  This financial setback may have accounted for Karstendiek later joining the so-called “Whiskey Ring” and going to prison as a result.

With an illustrious past as the General Provost Marshall for Nevada appointed by President Lincoln during the Civil War and first president of the Nevada State Legislature,  Jacob Van Bokkelen, proprietor of a Virginia City saloon and beer garden, was a celebrity in Virginia City.  People were willing to overlook his idiosyncrasies of keeping a spider monkey as a pet and his  cavalier attitude toward dynamite, boasting that he had such confidence in the product that he stored it in his apartment.

What Van Bokkelen’s fellow citizens likely did not know was that he also was experimenting with more volatile explosives. In August 1973 the New York Times printed a letter from a man named White that stated: “When I visited Gen. Van Bokkelen, he told me that he would soon have a blasting agent in the market that would excel giant powder [dynamite].”  On my asking what it was, he turned to [six] cases and opened them, showing me the gun-cotton saturated with nitro-glycerine, together with the cotton pulp mixture.

At 10:45 p.m. on June 29, 1873, a huge explosion rocked Virginia City.  When the dust and smoke cleared, ten people were found dead, among them General Van Bokkelen. His body was found in a corner of his room, “his features so bruised and charred as to be unrecognizable,” read one newspaper account.  Other victims were three local merchants, a female hotel owner, three other men and an eight-year old girl.  Many were killed by falling timbers and bricks.  One man died when he was stuck by an iron door hurled the distance of 100 feet.

A number of Virginia City buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.  They included the Bank of California, Armory Hall, Daly’s Saloon, a grocery store and a building that used the upper floor as a lodging-house.  The city went into mourning and flags were flown at half mast.  The city’s Fourth of July celebration was canceled and the money collected for it used to bury the dead.  Subsequent days were filled with funeral processions wending through the gates of the local graveyard.

As with any disaster of this kind, townsfolk looked for someone to blame.  Fingered as the chief culprit was the spider monkey, whose remains could not be found amid the rubble, presumably blown to bits.  Speculation was that Van Bokkelen’s pet was playing with a can of nitroglycerine and dropped it.  The container exploded, causing the others to explode.  That blast in turn detonated the 150 pounds of dynamite Van Bokkelen was living with.  That was the theory.  In truth, we will never know.

Note:  Longer posts on all three men may be found on this website:  The Woolners, July 8, 2021;  Otto Karstendiek, August 25, 2021, and Jacob Van Bokkelen, December 19, 2020.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Peter Staff: The Saloonkeeper as “Private Eye.”


Peter Staff was well known in his hometown, Terre Haute, Indiana, as a Civil War soldier, affable saloon owner, and tireless inventor.  The most important role Staff may have played in his life, however, was as a hired detective who helped free three men unjustly accused of murder and put the finger on the true culprits.

Soldier:  Peter Staff was born in Indiana in January 1844, likely in Terre Haute where his father,  John T. Staff owned a saloon at 22 South Third Street.  Coming of age just as the Civil War was beginning, Staff in September 1861 joined the 36th Regiment Indiana Infantry.   He would see active combat for the next four years, being part of the bloody battle of Shiloh where stands a memorial to the 36th Infantry. 

In rapid succession, the 36th Indiana saw action at battles at Corinth, Mississippi; Chicamaugua, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the Siege of Atlanta, ending with the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina just days before the South surrendered.  The unit was mustered out in July 1865.  The regiment lost a total of 245 men during the war:  11 officers and 102 enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded; 2 officers and 130 enlisted men died of disease.  Staff survived and went home to Terre Haute.

Saloonkeeper:  Upon his return Staff went to work as a bartender for his father, learning the saloon trade and gaining the experience and resources to start his own drinking establishment.   As early as 1879 he  was running a saloon and billiard hall in Terre Haute at 913 Wabash Avenue, five blocks from his father’s saloon.  Called The Lake Shore Saloon, Staff’s place was considered a cut above most in Terre Haute .

Staff’s proprietorship was marked by a flair for unusual giveaways to special customers.  These included ceramic pigs made by the Anna Pottery of Anna, Illinois.  Shown here is an anatomically correct sow with incised details to its face and hooves. One side is marked with extensive advertising: "Peter Staff, / Proprietor / Lak(sic) Shore Saloon. / main bet ninth and tenth streets / Terrehaute / the best wines Liquors and Cigars Constantly in…” The other side says:  ”Think it not passing strange or unlawful / If within this hog you find the mountain dew or Overjoyful / Use but dont abuse the Liquid of this Pork”.  

A second Staff pig bottle is similar but a boar hog from the look of its equipment.  The incised message is only on one side, giving the saloon address and “Choice Wines Liquors and Cigars/1879 Terrahaute Ind./Use but don’t abuse the Liquid of this Pork.  The occasions on which Staff gifted these items has gone unrecorded.

Inventor:   Peter Staff was known in Terre Haute as an inveterate inventor whose ideas for new and better products spanned a variety of fields.  Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) records validate that view.  In 1902 Staff patented a mirror frame, in 1904 and 1907 pipe couplings, in 1905 an air brake valve, in 1906 a shade and curtain hanger, and in 1909 foldable tableware.

Among Staff’s more interesting brainchildren was a 1905  “vehicle top,” shown here. This invention came at a time when many gasoline powered vehicles like automobiles and tractors were open to the air.  Made of canvass and metallic tubes, this canopy presaged the convertible top but required assembly and positioning above driver and passengers when it rained.  More recently the PTO has classified the saloonkeeper’s top among inventions for protecting field tractor drivers from the elements.  Staff thought it should be used for automobiles.  No evidence exists that any of his inventions were ever put into commercial production. 

Terre Haute Union Station

Detective:  “On Saturday night, June 8, 1878, an Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad train sat in the old Union Station in Terre Haute. The crew stepped out of the depot at 10th & Chestnut readied the train for another trip west. Climbing onto the caboose after checking the couplings on the cars was James Murray, the brakeman. His was one of the most dangerous jobs in railroading. Brakeman had to climb upon railroad cars to operate the brakes, even in the worst of weather.”   That is how Historian Tim Crumrin begins his account of death on the rails leading from Terre Haute, a murder in which Peter Staff would play an unusual role.

As the train steamed the five miles toward neighboring St. Mary’s of the Woods, men intent on derailing it altered crucial switches and hid to watch.  The engine jumped the track dragging the cars.  Murray was thrown from the caboose and crushed to death under the wreckage.  In a convoluted way the Lake Shore Saloon became central to the investigation.  Railroad officials, apparently not trusting local authorities hired as “detectives” two men, George Jackman and James Knight,  who were regulars in Staff’s saloon.  After their “investigation,” for which they were paid $500, the pair put the finger on three local men, one of them Crumrin’s great-great grandfather.  In October 1878, a Terre Haute grand jury indicted the three for the second degree murder of James Murray.  They were arrested and thrown into jail awaiting trial.

Meanwhile Peter Staff also had been hired as a “detective” by the railroad.  A member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Firemen, Staff’s saloon was known as a gathering place for railroading types and it may have been hoped he would learn

something.  He did.  Staff told authorities that Jackman and Knight had confessed to the crime while sitting in the back of his saloon.  Whether he had heard the admission directly or through third parties was not disclosed.  Other evidence then came to light that corroborated Staff’s information.  By this time the first three men arrested, including Crumrin’s ancestor, had been released from jail for lack of evidence.  Now they were exonerated.

Jackman and Knight were arrested and charged with Murray’s murder.  Convicted and sent to the Indiana State Prison, they appealed and were granted a new trial by the Indiana Supreme Court.  The pair, though likely guilty, walked free after the railroad company declined to prosecute them a second time.

The abrupt conclusion to this crime story leaves many unanswered questions.   Who hired the perpetrators behind the train wreck — and why?  Why did the railroad drop the case against Jackman and Knight?  Why did local authorities agree, ignoring the criminal death of James Murray?  I suspect Peter Staff knew some of the answers but he is not on record disclosing anything.  Staff continued to operate his saloon into the 20th Century until diabetes forced his retirement.  He died of its complications on Feb. 7, 1912 and was buried in Terre Haute’s Highland Lawn Cemetery.

Today Peter Staff is not remembered for his soldering, or his inventions, or even his role in helping solve the I&St.L. train wreck.  His memory is kept alive by a pair of small ceramic pigs that once held several swallows of whiskey.  Staff gave them away.  Currently they command $2,000 to $3,000 at auction.

Note:  This post was initiated by seeing Staff’s pig bottles and deciding he was a likely candidate for this blog.  When the saloonkeeper’s trail led to the train wreck investigation I was sure of it.   Prof. Crumrin is the author of a 2019 book entitled “Wicked Terre Haute” available from Amazon Books and elsewhere.

Friday, February 18, 2022

John G. Roach — A Baptist Distiller in Triplicate

 While a student at a Baptist college in his native Kentucky, John Gaines Roach became a Baptist convert through the rite of immersion.  He is said to have “remained a devout and active member for the remainder of his life.”  Roach’s religious affiliation, however, failed to deter him from owning and operating three whiskey-making distilleries at the same time or from building another when one burned.

John was born in March 1845 in Campbellsville, Kentucky,  the son of Martha P. White and J. J. Roach, a relatively wealthy farmer originally from Virginia.  Although Kentucky was a border state that was controlled largely by Union forces, Roach left college in 1861 to join the elite Confederate cavalry of Kentuckian Gen. John Hunt Morgan.  Participating in Morgan’s raids into the North, Roach helped capture two Ohio River steamers at Brandenburg, Kentucky, that allowed Morgan’s men to cross into Indiana, Ohio and ultimately West Virginia.

In July 1863, Roach was captured along with the bulk of Morgan’s men near Bluffington Island, West Virginia.  Imprisoned initially at Columbus, Ohio, he was sent to the Union prison near Chicago.   Called Camp Douglas, right, the facility was notorious for the high death rate among prisoners.  Roach survived 18 months there and was released only after the surrender at Appomattox.  He returned to Kentucky to find the Roach family fortunes in tatters and five of his seven cousins who had fought for the South among the slain.

For the next four years Roach was occupied in coal mining and shipping operations in south central Kentucky.  Ambitious and apparently finding this employment unrewarding, he moved to Louisville.  That city had escaped damage during the war and its population was booming, increasing almost 50% from 1860 t0 1870.  About a third were Roach’s fellow Baptists.   Roach would have noted that population as well as Louisville’s increasing importance as a center of America’s distilling industry.

In 1869, with assistance from his father, Roach partnered with J.J. Grove, an established Louisville businessman, to start a liquor house called Grove, Roach & Company, located at 74-76 Sixth Street between Main and Market.  In 1874, again with help from his father, he bought out Grove and changed the name of the business to John G. Roach & Company.

In the meantime, John was having a personal life.  At the age of 25, he married Sally Neill, 18, the daughter of Mathew and Eliza Neill of Louisville.  Her father was a prominent local industrialist.  The couple would have two sons, Neill and Ethric.   Sally like her husband was a Baptist and something of a scriptural expert.  For more than 25 years she conducted Bible instruction for Sunday school teachers and contributed articles to religious publications, including the Baptist Expositor, a national doctrinal publication.   Her view of her husband’s role in the Louisville liquor trade are unknown.  She married him, however, when he was fully engaged in selling whiskey and it seems not to have troubled their relationship.

After five years of operating his liquor house, a restless John Roach sold the business and began to build and operate distilleries.  The first was in Uniontown, Kentucky, 150 miles southwest of Louisville, described as “one of the best arranged and equipped distilleries in the United States.”   Named the Rich Grain Distillery after the brand produced there, this facility, shown below, featured a two story still house with a capacity of mashing 1,000 bushels of grain a day, a three story elevator , and two warehouses with a capacity of 31,000 barrels. A newspaper reporter visiting the site extolled the offices, the malt-house and even the cattle pens.  Rich Grain Whiskey, he claimed was sold “…From New York to San Francisco and Chicago to New Orleans.”

Roach’s second plant was the Old Log Cabin Distillery, again named for 
the proprietary brand of whiskey produced there.  Located on Louisville’s  waterfront, this facility included a three story still house with the capacity of mashing 600 bushels a day, two bonded warehouse that held 20,000 barrels, offices and a residence for the manager.   The warehouses drew particular praise from an observer:  “Here are to be seen two of the finest and bonded warehouses  to be found in the state…supplied with all modern improvements in construction, patent ricks…forming a well-ventilated pyramid of barrels….It is one of the dryest and best ventilated warehouses in the district.”

The Bel Air Distillery subsequently was built by Roach on the outskirts of Louisville. It boasted a three story still house with a capacity of 600 bushels a day, an extensive warehouse that held 17,000 barrels, and a house for the manager.   Said one report:  “The distillery is adapted to its uses, having the engines and boilers on the ground and separate from the distillery proper. 

In 1892 after the Rich Grain Distillery burned, Roach apparently decided that rhe long trek to Uniontown was too far and instead of rebuilding there, he constructed his fourth plant in Louisville.  Known as the John G. Roach & Co. Distillery, this facility was located at 30th and Garland Streets.  Insurance underwriter records for 1896 indicate that the distillery was of brick and iron-clad construction, with a brick boiler-house. The property included a separate mill building and cattle sheds, the later located 115 feet north of the still.  Two warehouses were on the property.  In 1893, the Louisville Courier Journal observed:  “A large distiller from the interior of the State who recently went through this house, pronounced it by far the most perfect distillery he had ever seen, and the only one in existence that a man could operate, if he so desired, in a dress suit.”  

Among other whiskey brands that Roach featured from his distilleries was“Kentucky’s Sugar Corn,” and “Suwanee Pure Rye.  He often bottled these in clear glass flasks, embossed with his name, city and legend:  “Pure Kentucky Whiskies.”  As shown below, Roach also was providing all the whiskey for the  grocery and liquor business of Domenico Canale in Memphis. [See my post on Canale, Nov. 26, 2011.]

With frequent enthusiastic accolades as the owner/operator of major distilleries, Roach found himself celebrated among Kentucky’s “Whiskey Barons.”   Meanwhile, however, Baptist leadership in Kentucky and elsewhere was taking an increasingly hard line against alcohol, ignoring the fact that Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister, had been among the earliest Kentucky distillers and credited by some as the creator of bourbon [See post Nov. 30, 2021].  In 1896 the Southern Baptist Convention leadership voted in favor of absolute prohibition of alcohol.  They further declared that those Baptists selling or drinking spirits, wine or beer should be excommunicated from their congregations.  All across southern and border states distillers, liquor dealers and saloon keepers were banned from Baptist worship.

How this interdiction was received by John Roach or his wife Sally has gone unrecorded.  Nor is there any evidence of formal church action being taken against Roach.  By 1900, however, the highly successful Kentucky distiller was selling off his properties.  At least two of them went to the “Whiskey Trust.”  They included the Louisville distillery bearing Roach’s name.  Julius Kessler, the guiding force of the cartel, is recorded operating the facility from about 1903 until the coming of National Prohibition in 1920.   Although Roach had not rebuilt the Rich Grain Distillery in Uniontown its warehouses remained.  In 1892, he also sold that property to the Trust.  Trust executives rebuilt the distillery and operated it under the name Mutual Distilling Co., and later as the Union County Distilling Co.  The plant closed with Prohibition and was abandoned.

Union National Bank Note

At the time of his sell-off, Roach was still only 55.  With the proceed of the sales  he rapidly became an important figure in Louisville’s banking sector as a stockholder and director in the Union National Bank, the Bank of Commerce and the Louisville Insurance Company.  He also was active in the local Democratic Party, serving as chairman from 1880 to 1892.  There Roach’s affiliation with alcohol was no bar.  So popular was he that a campaign was mounted in 1882 to draft him to run for mayor.  He politely declined. Later, however, he accepted an appointment as commissioner for the county’s Central Insane Asylum.  He was a delegate to the national Democratic Convention of 1884 as a supporter of Grover Cleveland, who was running in a field of eight.  Cleveland won the nomination and ultimately the Presidency.

As they aged and with their sons grown the Roaches moved to a luxury apartment building called “The Parsons” on Bonnycastle Road.  There at the age of 62 Roach died in December 1907.  The cause given was “apoplexy and paralysis,”  apparently the effects of a stroke.  Indicating some Baptist ill-feeling toward the distiller, Roach was not buried from a church.  His services, described as “simple,” were held in the family apartment by Rev. George Eager of the Southern Baptist Seminary.  By contrast, when Sally died in 1938, her funeral was conducted at the Beechwood Baptist Church with relatives and friends in attendance.  The couple are buried together in Cave Hill Cemetery where many whiskey “royalty” are interred. 

Roach’s career as a distiller while being a devout Baptist with a wife active in church work indicates toleration or at least ambivalence among the denomination’s adherents during the late 19th Century.  As “dry” forces increased their strength and vehemence against strong drink, however, leaders in the Baptist and other Protestant denominations harden their positions.  I believe John Roach was forced to make a choice, and whatever his personal beliefs about alcohol, sold off his highly successful distilleries for religious reasons.

Note:  More than usual in these posts newspaper articles involving Roach were crucial in weaving together this story of a Baptist whiskey man.  The Louisville Courier Journal proved a rich source of information, apparently finding Roach and his distilleries worthy of considerable attention.  Bryan Bush in his 2021 book “Bluegrass Bourbon Barons” provides a succinct biography of Roach.  The publisher is American Palate, a division of the History Press, Charleston SC. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Robert Kreuzberger: Love for Lake Maxinkuckee

“I made my first mental maps of the world, when I was a little child in the summertime, on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee, which is in northern Indiana, halfway between Chicago and Indianapolis…. Because everything about that lake was imprinted on my mind when it held so little and was so eager for information, it will be my lake as long as I live.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Author

Robert (born Rupert) Kreuzberger, a successful liquor dealer from Lockport, Indiana, likely harbored similar sentimental feelings about Lake Maxinkuckee when he lavished his time and money on creating a popular resort on its shores.  Shown here, Kreuzberger was among the many whiskey men who fostered recreational opportunities for their communities, dying before he could see his labors undone by prohibitionary forces.

Born in Wirttemberg, Germany, in March 1843, Kreuzberger reached America’s shores in 1863 during the midst of the Civil War.  Unlike many young male German immigrants, he did not enlist to fight but apparently headed almost immediately for Logansport, Indiana, where he may have had relatives.  My assumption is that he found employment with one of the several liquor houses


In 1867, at the age of 25, Robert also found a bride in Logansport.  She was Mary Meyer, 21, who had been born in Ohio of German immigrant parents.  The couple would go on to have six children over the next two decades, three boys and three girls.  The financial challenges of a growing family may have provided the incentive for Robert to leave being employed and in 1873 launch his own wholesale and retail wine and liquor business.  A Catholic, Kreuzberger appears to have emphasized selling “altar wines.”

Advertising himself as an :”Importer and Wholesale Merchant in Wines & Liquors,” Kreuzberger was also selling at retail, bottling his proprietary brands of liquor from shipment of whiskey and wine received from distillers and wineries across America.  He used amber bottles with his name and Logansport embossed on them.

The German immigrant appears to have been quickly successful.  He subsequently provided sketches of showing his quarters as his business grew.  At left is his first store, a small two story building.  Within six years he had outgrown his initial quarters and was inhabiting a three story structure, shown below right,  capable of hold 55,000 gallons of product.  When that building became insufficient for his business needs in 1886, Kreuzberger moved again to a more spacious location, left.

When Kreuzberger’s last move came in 1890, he saw it as an opportunity for a
 celebration, issuing a fancy invitation that apparently went not only to his customers but to dignitaries across Indiana. In part it read:  “No effort will be spared to make your visit to our enterprising city a very pleasant and interesting one.”  Shown right, this large building at Third and Market Streets provided Kreuzberger with the capacity to hold 100,000 gallons of wine and whiskey.

Having expanded to the maximum in Logansport, Kreuzberger now cast his eyes 47 miles north to Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana’s second largest, and the shoreside town of Culver, earlier called “Marmont.”  There a Terre Haute resident named Anton Mayer had bought three acres and built a drinking establishment known as Mayer’s Beer Garden.  Some said it also harbored a brothel.  In 1894 Robert Kreuzberger bought the property and immediately began improvements designed to transform the site into a first class resort.

A local newspaper reported what the Logansport whiskey man achieved in a short time:    “Kruezberger Park…is situated upon the west side of Maxinkuckee Lake, and presents a grand panoramic scene in nature and art.  The park grounds are covered with magnificent shade trees and leisure seekers can enjoy the cool breezes of the lake while reclining on rustic seats, hammocks , etc.   On the grounds are situated Kreuzbergers’ wine pavilion, beer garden, pond, billiard room, and bowling alley.  This is one of the finest places on the lake, and is visited by the elite of all cities.”

The following year saw the Kreuzbergers sponsoring a giant lakeside picnic for veterans of the Mexican War who had marched out of Logansport 49 years earlier.  The Vandalia Railroad Company, whose interurban line ran to Lake Maxinkuckee, provided an excursion train to take the men to what was described in the local press as “a huge glittering success.”  Imagine the pride of the impresario whose labor of love had made the lake resort possible.

Although he visited frequently, Kreuzberger relied on a strategic plan that emphasized distinct operations, each run by a qualified manager.  The resort restaurant was under the proprietorship of D.A. Bradley, the wine and beer hall run by William Knoble, and the bowling alley under a third manager.  To keep watch over these three and the resort as a whole he designated his son, Robert Junior.

Over the next decade, Kreuzberger was frequently at the lake supervising renovations and improvements as the resort continued to flourish.  Even then he could sense the growing tide of anti-alcohol sentiment rising in Indiana.  In 1904, he was arrested by state authorities for violating liquor laws by allowing after hours drinking.  He paid a fine. About the same time he began planning to hive off six lots, each about 40 feet by 120 feet as sites for privately owned cottages. He supervised this subdivision personally, declaring in handwriting:  “…I am the proprietor of this addition, and the same was platted and laid out under my direction….”

In 1907 local “dry” forces were able to mount what one newspaper declared “a monster saloon remonstrance,”  a petition with sufficient signatures under Indiana law to require all the saloons in Culver to shut down for two years.  The Kreuzbergers’ Maxinkuckee resort was included.  In October of that year all the properties went up for sale.   Eventually the hotel and restaurant became a rooming house.

Robert Kreuzberger was not there to see the end of his dream to bring an elite resort to the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee.   In November 1906, after a brief illness, the Logansport liquor dealer, age 63, was felled by a stroke, lapsed into unconsciousness and died the following day.  The local newspaper called him “one of the most prominent businessmen of Logansport.”  Robert was buried in the city’s Good Hope Cemetery where his wife Mary would join him four years later.

Note:  Although multiple sources were referenced in writing this post, two stand out as particularly important:   “Kreuzberger’s Park and Saloon”  on The Culver-Union Township Public Library internet site “Culver Through the Years” and the website “Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy”  assembled by Judith E. (McKee) Burns.