Prelude to a City (1851 - 1895 A.D.)
Beginning around the year 1850-51 A.D., the City of St. Louis and the surrounding area experienced an influx of migrants from Germany, which was the beginning of the era known as the Great German Migration Period of St. Louis. During the beginning of this period, Frederick and Mary Niedringhaus came to St. Louis, bringing four of their eight children with them, including their sons, Frederick and William.
This period in the history of Granite City and St. Louis was also a great time of industrial development, as the railroads moved into town, transforming the area into a bustling city seemingly overnight. The first railroad came to Six Mile, as it was then called, in 1854. It was an extension of the Terra Haute and Alton Railroad. The railroad would end at the Mississippi, where the train cars would cross into St. Louis by ferry.
In 1856, the area known as ‘Six Mile,’ would be changed to ‘Kinder.’ Also during this same year, two of the Niedringhaus brothers, William F. and Frederick G., would start a business in St. Louis. Before long, as the Niedringhaus’ business would begin to grow, and as the industrial economy in Kinder would continue to expand, the paths of the two would cross, changing them both forever.
First school is built in Kinder, and was named Kinder (hook). It was a two story building housing the school on the first floor and a church on the second.
Building named Kinderhook because people thought that Mr. Kinder had ‘hooked’ the money for his church from school money.
Two railroads (Indianapolis & St. Louis and the Chicago & Alton build at present-day Nameoki and Pontoon Roads (Nameoki Township).
Nameoki Township flourishes as a trading area with products being brought in by wagon, sold and then shipped out by rail.
The Niedringhaus Brothers incorporate the St. Louis Stamping Works in St. Louis. (For more on the St. Louis Stamping Company and the founding of Granite City, click here).
The first piece of Granite Ware is produced.
The Niedringhaus Brothers patent the process of granite ware production. The manufacturing of Granite ware becomes one of the major industries in the country.
The steel mill in Wales, from which the Niedringhaus brothers had imported sheet iron, is destroyed by fire.
The Granite Iron Rolling Mills are built in St. Louis to make sheet iron. Welsh iron-workers are brought in to the area to work.
Calvin Kinder hires a surveyor to plat out a village, but Kinder (hook) was never incorporated.
After having suffered by the cheap price of rolled tin plate being imported from England, Frederick Niedringhaus runs and is elected as a US Representative of Missouri. He is then named as a member of the House Ways & Means Committee.
Frederick Niedringhaus works with Representative McKinley from Ohio on a new tariff bill.
In October, congress passes the Tariff Tax changing the tariff on imported tin plate from $22.40 to $49.50 per ton.
Two months later, the Granite Rolling Mills in St. Louis begin to produce tin plate.
Beginning and continuing through 1920, several immigrants begin to arrive to the area.
The Niedringhaus family name is firmly established as the founders of one of the largest industries in the United States.
Christian Bischoff emigrates from Germany to farm horseradish.
Terminal Railroad Association is established.
Kinder (hook) is known as one of the most famous wheat and corn producing areas in the country.
The Niedringhaus brothers decide that a new location is needed in order to expand their flourishing business.
William and son George Niedringhaus come to Kinder (hook) and decide to purchase land here both for the expansion of their business and also in order to build a city.
Mark Henson, a schoolteacher, was hired by the Bros. as a land agent.
The Hilker Supply Co. operated by Edward Hilker was one of the first to manufacture concrete (cinder) blocks.
The first telephone in this area was owned by Mr. Hilker with the telephone number of 1.
Charles Uzell moves here and attends the College of Pharmacy. He then goes on to open the town’s first drug store.
The Brothers purchase 3,500 acres of land that Mark Henson had obtained for them. They borrow the money from Connecticut Life Ins. Co. in order to do so.
The Bros. hire the St. Louis City Engineer to lay out the plans for a new city.
On May 29th, the plat for the new city was filed at the county seat. Shortly thereafter, development begins.
The Bros. decide to base the design of what is currently downtown Granite City on the City of Washington D.C.
The Brothers form a Real Estate Company. They divide and sell lots to other people, including workers, primarily. They decide that they do not want this city to become a ‘company town.’
The Niedringhaus family makes $4.8 million selling residential lots that they had paid $568,000 to purchase.
The first post office is opened.
Mr. & Mrs. Julius Rosenberg establish the first business house in cornfields, which would eventually move to the downtown area. The Rosenberg’s youngest daughter Pearl would become the first girl born in the newly established city.
James McRoberts patents a process for casting steel in ‘green’ (undried) sand, which revolutionizes the industry.
The government building at the Chicago World’s Fair is covered with tin plate produced by the Bros.
American Steel is incorporated with the help of George Niedringhaus and Rolla Mills (St. Louis Traction Magnate). The first general superintendent of the plant was Mr. McRoberts.
The Niedringhaus Brothers bring LP Frohardt to Granite City (even though the City had yet to be organized) to serve as superintendent of schools, and to guide the city in building a school system.
Frederick C. Bonsack, a St. Louis architect, designs the Stamping Company & Granite City Steel works plant.
Both the Stamping and Steel works begin construction.
City’s name is changed from Kinder (hook) to Granite City in honor of the Graniteware that was the basis for the city’s development.
The Lodge of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin workers was organized.
Granite City Steel plant opens and begins supplying rolled sheets of steel to the stamping plant.
The Allen electric street car railway begins operation and runs from Granite City to the Mississippi River.
Kinderhook opens as both a school and a church
In addition to the Granite City Steel Mill, Markle Lead Works, American Steel Foundry and the Stamping Works were also all in operation.
The National Enameling & Stamping Co. Plant
At this time the sidewalks were made of wooden planks and the streets were paved with cinder.
Next: Part III: The Rise and Fall of a Powerhouse (1896-1956 A.D.)