201 North First Street – John Linder
In the words of H.H. Field in his History of Pottawattamie County, published in 1907, John Linder was “a kind hearted, lovable man with hundreds of friends, his generous disposition and considerate spirit winning for him the warm esteem of those who know him personally”. Said to have left one of the largest estates in Council Bluffs at the time of his death at age 76, Linder had many recollections of his early days in the west – of his life on the plains and in the mountains of Colorado.
Linder was born in Meiringer, Switzerland on June 27, 1838. He was nine years old at the time of his father’s death. In 1855, at age 17, he boarded a ship in Havre, France and came to America where he worked in Galena, Illinois and Dubuque, Iowa until 1859. Then he left for Pike’s Peak, where he worked in the mines for two summers and one winter. He also carried the mail – often weighing as much as one hundred pounds – on his back, up the mountains, wearing snowshoes.
In 1860, Linder came to Council Bluffs, where he bought forty-eight sacks of seed barley. He sowed it near Denver and raised several crops which he sold to a brewer on the Platte river. He then became involved in freighting between St. Joseph, Council Bluffs and Denver. In 1865 he purchased ten new Schottler wagons from John Beresheim, the banker who, at that time, owned a mercantile business. He used these in his freighting business across the plains. According to Field, “He had many skirmishes with the Indians and his route was often one of danger as well as difficulty, occasioned by the poor condition of the roads through a district where it was impossible to obtain supplies, everything having to be carried from the starting point.”
In 1868, Linder opened a bakery and butcher shop in Central City, Colorado. A year later he returned to Council Bluffs and established a small grocery store. He was also listed in the 1876 city directory as the proprietor of the Marble Hall Concert Saloon located on Main Street between Broadway and Willow. He then turned to the wholesale liquor business.
The 1877 city directory lists Linder & Kiel, Wholesale Liquors at 5 & 7 Main. The next year the business was listed under Linder’s name and was located on South 13th Street where it remained until he moved the business to Omaha in 1901.
In 1870, John Linder married Johannette Scherling Bircher, a widow. Their daughter, Jeannette, was born in 1877. John Linder became a United States citizen in 1884.
In 1883, the Linders purchased the property at 201 North First Street and the lot next door. They built an Italianate house with a hipped roof and a two-story rounded bay window. After the turn of the century, they added the distinctive two-story glassed-in porch with round arched windows on the west side, a glassed-in sun porch with arched windows on the south side, and covered the entire house with stucco. It appears that an office and rooms for entertaining were located in the basement.
John Linder’s son, Oscar, born in Denver in 1866, lived with them. In 1890 he sold the adjoining property to Oscar. His wife, Johannette, died in 1909. Their daughter, Jeannette (married to Dr. William Green, a former boarder), purchased the house at 201 in 1914.
Applications for passports issued in 1911 to John and Oscar indicate a trip abroad.
In February of 1915, a couple who were long-time friends of Linder’s, stopped to see him at his place of business on Douglas Street in Omaha. According to the couple, he left to go upstairs for something and fell down an elevator shaft in the back of the store, which was dark. He died at St. Joseph’s hospital. He was 76 years old.
Jeannette Green Duemmer sold the house in 1919. Katie London, a south Omaha grocer, bought the property in 1928. Her family occupied the house for more than fifty years.
The house is currently being restored.
Preserve Council Bluffs acknowledges the following sources of information for this series: National Register of Historic Places nominations, the reference department of the Council Bluffs Public Library, the auditor’s office of the Pottawattamie County courthouse, Council Bluffs Community Development Department, homeowners, family members and individual research.
Preserve Council Bluffs is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and preserve the heritage of Council Bluffs through its architecture, sites, and people.
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