Community Interest

Augusta's Expansion Uptown and The Civil War

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the designation of many properties in Augusta, Missouri being admitted to the National Register of Historic Places. The Friends of Historic Augusta seeks to preserve Augusta’s history and to share it with residents and visitors. The article below is the fifth in a series throughout the year that will highlight the history and historic buildings in Augusta.

By Ellen Knoernschild

During the years before the Civil War there were frequent clashes between the Anglo-American slave owners (Bigelow, Matson, Farris) and the abolitionist Germans in Augusta.  Invariably the two met in the saloons or blacksmith shop.  To promote good business, the proprietors of these establishments could take no sides but would have to keep order.  Very heated arguments would come up and it was up to the men who ran these places to stop anything short of bloodshed.  The Augusta blacksmith always kept an iron heated in the fire and when the argument got out of control would take the red hot iron and stick it between the faces of the two participants, making them separate.  (Hermann Knoernschild)

When a local German, William Sehrt, turned over an escaped slave to William Coshow of Matson, the slave was rescued by a group of 50 armed men and Mr. Sehrt was forced to move to Washington by his outraged German neighbors.  Many Germans served in the Home Guard or Union army and have military stones in the Augusta cemetery.

After 1872 frequent floods caused the channel of the Missouri River to move to the Washington side of the bottom, so that the Augusta landing was eventually a mile from town.  At the same time the road into town was being improved.  Houses and stores began moving up on the bluff as waterfront business dried up.  On the east end of town the “Uptown Store” (now Stone Ledge Antiques) was built across from the Grumke saloon at the “Sharp Corner” of Locust and Lower.  Mr. Grumke also opened an ice house to keep his beer cold.  On the west side of town on Walnut Street is the Tiemann General Store. This all-purpose enterprise encompassed groceries, clothing, farm equipment, a Singer sewing machine franchise, a savings and loan and life insurance.  On Lower Street is the Limberg Hotel (Red Brick Inn), which advertised for “drummers,” traveling salesmen who presumably drummed up business. 

Across the street was the home and office of Dr. Gerling, whose records showed prescriptions costing 15 - 45 cents.  But people mostly made their own medicines.  Tea made from sassafras roots purified blood. Camellia blossoms with whiskey was used for crying babies. A half-full bottle of blackberries filled with whiskey was good for diarrhea, wild cherries with whiskey for fever and vermouth for stomach ache were among the cures used.  Balsam in whiskey worked on bee stings; camphor and whiskey was the prescription for arthritis. Whiskey was only $1 a gallon, so it was used for everything.  (Hermann Knoernschild)

Along Walnut Street are many homes on the National Register, built in what is called the “architectural district.”