Hoag Tavern served up camaraderie, good food
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
In 1937, Peter L. Korschgen was working as a pipe fitter for Citizens Gas Company. Fred Hoag was bartending for H.J. Schweitzer at 127 N. Main. Also, there was a vacant building at 203 N. Main, previously occupied by the Anthony Caruso family on the second floor, and their produce business on the first floor.
In 1938, Fred Hoag, then 57, and Peter L. Korschgen, 54, formed a partnership. It had only been a handful of years since Prohibition had been lifted, and the town seemed eager for another Main Street eaterie/tavern. So Korschgen and his wife, Myrtle, purchased the former Caruso building along with Fred and Jessie Hoag. The Korschgens moved into the apartment upstairs, and Peter Korschgen and Fred Hoag went into business together.
A photo taken by Herring Studios during this era preserves a moment in time when men and women, young and old, blue collar and professional alike enjoyed the camaraderie offered by Peter and Fred, and the classic food served by their wives, Myrtle and Jessie.
It is likely that Fred is standing in the foreground behind the bar, and Peter is standing beside him. The customers in the picture are long forgotten - yet in their day served as essential components to Hannibal’s infrastructure.
Fred Hoag and Jessie Rector Mize were married in 1914 at Hannibal. They first set up housekeeping at 1812 Gordon. At the time Fred was working at the Minor’s Saloon, 1228 Market.
In subsequent years, Fred would tend bar at various establishments in Hannibal, including John Marshall’s saloon at 710 Broadway.
When Prohibition went into effect in 1922, a change of careers was in order. Fred Hoag worked for a time as a boiler maker for the CB&Q Railroad, and for the Hannibal Car Wheel and Foundry.
Fred and Jessie Hoag purchased a house at 821 South Arch Street, where they lived from the onset of the first World War until their respective deaths in 1957 and 1969. (While many houses in this neighborhood have been torn down, in 2020, this house is still standing.)
Laura (Bertie) Hoag - Fred’s mother - lived with the young couple for a time, dying at the age of 60 at their residence in 1920. She had been an invalid for 20 years.
Jessie brought one daughter into the marriage, Mildred, born in 1909. Jessie and Fred would have five more children: Orville, Mike, Anna, Albert and Daniel Jack, who was born in 1929.
Perhaps the best remembered in Hannibal are the oldest sons, Orville and Mike.
When a call to duty came at the onset of World War II, sons Orville and Mike answered the call.
Mike, who was married to Helen McCullough and had a young son, joined the Navy in February 1943, and served on a ship in the Atlantic.
Orville, who was also married, completed training at the anti-aircraft gunnery school, Great Lakes, Ill. Orville’s wife, Florence, lived with Mike and Jessie Hoag throughout the war years, and began working beside Jessie in the tavern’s kitchen, eventually taking over as primary cook. (Orville and Florence did not have children of their own.)
Orville Hoag told this writer (who was working for the Courier-Post) in June 1988:
“When we got married, Florence couldn’t even boil a pot of water. My mother taught her how to cook.” Florence eventually took over as the restaurant’s primary cook. “My wife used to make 75-100 tamales every day, plus 10-14 meat loaves a day. On the day the bridge was made free, (Oct. 30, 1940) we served 96 gallons of chili.”
Peter Louis Korschgen was born in 1884, at Fort Madison, Iowa. He and his wife, Myrtle Virginia Collins Korschgen, moved to Hannibal in the mid 1930s, and Peter worked as a pipe fitter for Citizens Gas Co., 413 Broadway.
In February 1947, with the Hoag sons home from war, the Korschgens sold out their interest in the business to Fred and Jessie Hoag. Orville and Mike, and their wives, Florence and Helen, joined in as well, Fred’s sons tending the bar and the daughters-in-law learning the ropes in the kitchen from Jessie.
Ten years later, on Oct. 24, 1957, Fred Hoag died unexpectedly. After her husband’s death, Jessie continued in the business, teaching Florence the ins and outs of cooking for the restaurant.
In 1959, Jessie Hoag deeded the property to Mr. and Mrs. Orville Hoag and Mr. and Mrs. Michael Hoag, as joint tenants.
The popular tavern and restaurant continued in business in the same location well into the 1960s.
Fred Hoag died in 1957
Jessie Hoag died in 1969
Orville Hoag died in February 1990
Florence Hoag died in March 2011, at the age of 98
Mike Hoag died in November 1989
Helen Hoag died in June 1995
Peter Korschgen died in 1957
Myrtle Korschgen died in 1972
In 1988, Orville and Florence Hoag shared the restaurant’s popular recipe for meatloaf with Hannibal Courier-Post readers. At the same time, they declined to share the recipes for tamales and chili.
“The tamale recipe came from Old Mexico,” Orville said. The Hoag tamale has a bright pink interior wrapped with a snow white mush blanket. “The recipes (for chili and tamales) are not to be given away,” Orville said.
The recipe follows:
Hoag Tavern meatloaf
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced fine
Combine ingredients and lay the meat mixture on a big platter. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a lot of black pepper (It takes a lot of paper to make it right, Orville said.)
Sprinkle a few cracker crumbs over the meat and work them in with your hands. Use just enough cracker crumbs to make the meat loaf hold together. Pat the mixture into a loaf and make sure there are no air holes in the loaf.
Lightly grease he pan, then put the meat loaf in the pan. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups water, or enough to keep the meat from sticking to the pan.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for about an hour. As the meat bakes, baste with pan juices several times. “Don’t let the meat get a crust,” Florence said.
“The pepper and the basting are the secrets of this meat loaf,” Orville added.
“To make sure you have the meat salty enough, insert your finger in the mixture and taste your finger. Without eating the raw meat, you will be able to tell if you have added enough salt.”
Note: Much tragedy followed Mike and Helen Hoag’s large family, including the loss of two of their young sons on May 19, 1967. Billy and Joey Hoag, and their friend, Craig Dowell, were believed at the time to be exploring Murphy’s Cave through an entrance exposed during the construction of Missouri Route 79. The boys were never found.
Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.email@example.com Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com