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Early Days in Munster
by Wilhelmine Stallbohm Kaske, Munster
pub. in History of Lake County, Vol. XI, Lake County Historical Association, 1934

Transcribed here by K. Torp

I was born in 1865, the first, and I believe the only, child to be born in the old Brass Tavern which stood on what is now the corner of Ridge Road and Columbia Avenue in Munster. In 1864, my father, John Frederick Stallbohm, purchased the tavern and 200 acres of farm land from Allen H. Brass, who had bought the land from Ira O. Dibble and built the inn nine years before. The brass family then moved to Chicago, whence father had come, and we saw little of the family thereafter, except for a son Allen who returned infrequently to stop with us on his trips as a traveling dentist. The Stallbohms, and later my husband and I, occupied the tavern until it burned, in November, 1909, when we built our present home several hundred feet to the rear of the site of the old house, which, if it were now standing, would be partly on Ridge Road. A tablet laid by the Daughters of the American Revolution in memory of Julia Watkins Brass lies in front of our north lawn, about 50 feet west of where the tavern actually stood.

My memories probably reveal the place much as it was when my father took it over. It was an important center of life in a community which stretched from Hobart to Gibson and from Crown Point to beyond where Hammond now is. It was the only stopping place for travelers between Hobart and Crown Point and the Hohman House, which stood in what was to become North Hammond.

the house itself was a large, two-story, flat-roofed frame building, not beautiful, except when covered with vines in summer, but roomy and comfortable. There was a small, open front porch the width of the house, the right height for alighting to and from buggies. The downstairs consisted of two large living rooms (one of them used for the men's bar in the early days), a large dining room, bedroom, kitchen and pantry, with an unheated pump room and woodshed to the rear. The upstairs contained six bedrooms, each opening into a long hall broadening out into a square in the center and used as the guests' sitting-room. The house was sturdily built on a framework of heavy timers and on a deep limestone foundation. In 1909, when the house was destroyed by fire, the beams smouldered for days after the rest of the house was burned. I have pictures of the tavern as it was in the early 1900's, and many persons must still remember it as the "Green House", or Stallbohm's Corner.

My father continued to run the tavern until the early 90's, when traveling conditions changed so as to make a guest house unprofitable. In the early days, however, we used to have ten or twelve guests every night, and it was the stopping place for general refreshing of many daytime travelers. Traffic was as thick at that corner as anywhere in the county, despite the fact that what is now Ridge Road was still only one step beyond an Indian trail, sandy, and full of stumps. Columbia Avenue, likewise unimproved, was the only road leading into Chicago from this region, and travelers on foot, horseback, in buggies, wagons and ox-carts trekked down the old "highway". South of Ridge Road, Columbia Avenue was only a field path, barred by a wooden gate.

In spite of our seeming isolation, the tavern was a busy thriving place, where life could not grow dull. The only telegraph office in the region was housed there, and it was to the tavern that news of the assassination of Lincoln first came. Our nearest post office was Gibson, Indiana, but news of the outside world was brought in by the transients, and many important discussions of world events were carried on in the old wineroom where people came from many miles away to taste the famous wine my father made of the currants from mother's lovely garden.

The territory about us was farmland, woods, and marshland, with the land to the south rich in quantities of wild hay. Settlement was sparse, of course. Our own farm stretched from the Little Calumet River to ¼ mile south of what is now Ridge Road, and ¼ mile east and west of Columbia Avenue. North of the tavern, and across the street, on a spot which is now occupied by the Jacob Kooy home, was an enormous barn which accommodated our own numerous stock and the horses of overnight guests. My father was kept busy taking care of the tavern and running the farm on which he raised fine crops of potatoes, corn, oats and hay.

There was no church in the community, but the school-house was quite near; in fact, the first schoolhouse in the county stood on the outskirts of my father's farm, to the east, on the quarter-section line. I remember running away to visit it when I was four years old. It was a one-room building, built of wide boards, finished within in plaster, with blackboards running all around. The first teacher there that I heard of was Chauncey Wilson, whose descendants still live or visit Hammond. The first teacher I can remember was Mary Lohse, and the first one to instruct me was Inez Wilcox, who later married one of the Gibsons, after whom the town of Gibson was named. As the teachers lived in our house we kept in close touch with school affairs. In 1870 the old school was converted into a dwelling, and the new school, modeled after the old pattern, was erected across the street. It was to that school I went. Half of that building, when it was abandoned as a school, was moved to our farm, where it stood, used as a tool shed, until in 1924, when it was torn down.

Our early neighbors were the Klootwyks, Jabaays, Kooys, Munsters, Dibbles, Wilson, Johnsons, Grugels, Harts, Van Bodegravens, and Sints. I can well remember old Mr. Hart riding through on horseback, dressed in overalls and wearing a plug hat. He used to stop in at least once a week for dinner with us. Among the Civil War veterans whom I remember best for his tales of the war, was Steve Reed, who served as justice of the peace when I was a child.

My childhood was never lacking in excitement with the many visitors to watch and listen to, the work to help with in and out of doors. I preferred the latter type of occupation, however, and spent many hours riding about the countryside on my horse. Social life in the community was mostly of the visit-the-neighbor type, but we made a gay time of it. When I was a child the tavern was the social hall where infrequent but well-attended dances drew crowds from great distances. I can well remember my mother preparing large meals to be consumed after those dances. A Mr. Wettering, an old family friend of the family, used to make the long trip out from Chicago to serve as an orchestra with his large and costly accordion. In later days we young people formed a dancing club which met every two weeks at some member's home. Names of persons in that group which come most readily to my mind are Robert and Charles Wilson, the Cummings, Alice Seymour, Frank and George Van Steenberg, and Eeigenberg. We traveled miles for those dances.

After my marriage to Hugo Kaske in 1884, I left Munster, and my memories from then until 1905, when we returned to make our permanent residence there, are based only on second hand information and yearly visits. My father died in 1899 and my mother in 1901. We still retain 90 acres of the original Dibble-Brass-Stallbohm farm, and we take an active part in the life of the community which has developed out of the wilderness I remember.

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