County’s largest windmill provided power for Rohrer’s dairy operation
The Hannibal Creamery was located at 112 N. Fourth, Hannibal, Mo., during the early years of the 20th Century. Of the three men pictured, one is presumed to be Benjamin N. Rohrer, who managed the Hannibal store. Photo from Steve Chou’s vast collection.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
In mid December, in the year 1895, the storefronts in Palmyra, Mo., were decorated for Christmas. H.E. Smith & Co.’s north window displayed a realistic-looking winter scene, featuring wild deer attempting to quench their thirst in a frozen pond.
The scene outside that store-front window might have been quite similar, as rural and town residents alike braced for the onset of winter.
Perhaps testing the reality of this man-made winter scene, Muscoe Pembroke Drummond, with curiosity borne of a dedicated newspaperman, bundled up next to his wife, Catharine, in a horse-drawn carriage. They traveled east from Palmyra, along the path of the old Marion City Road (now Route 168) for 2 1/2 miles, until they came to the Jacob Rohrer farm.
What they saw, as the farm rose on the horizon, was the tallest windmill in Marion County, Mo.
The windmill, constructed by D.O. Lane, was large enough and capable of drawing water from a 200-foot deep artesian well, to a house atop a nearby hill. There, the water was stored in a reservoir. The elevation provided enough pressure to supply the entire area of the cattle barn, which was located at the bottom of the hill.
In addition to the water project, he also operated a wood saw with the power generated by the wind mill.
This unique farming concept was among the many techniques that Jacob Rohrer - a Mennonite by faith - brought with him when he moved to Marion County, Mo., from Pennsylvania in 1884.
In the next edition of his Mr. Drummond’s newspaper - the Marion County Herald of Dec. 19, 1895 - the editor wrote:
“As we drew near the barn it sounded like a full-fledged flour mill in operation. There was a light breeze stirring and high above the mammoth barn the wheel was revolving slowly. From within came the sound of machinery in motion and entering we found one shaft operating a machine which was grinding corn, cob and all, to the consistency of coarse bran. Another machine was grinding rye, a third cutting up fodder until no piece was any larger than an ordinary gun wad and we saw from the empty throughs of the cattle that they ate it up clean, especially as clover hay was cut up along with the fodder.”
Jacob Rohrer, born in 1848, lived in Salisbury, Lancaster County, Pa., prior to moving to Liberty Township, Marion County, Mo., in 1884. He brought with him to Missouri his wife, Anna, and children Mary, Christ, Emma, Benjamin and Franklin Rohrer. While living in Marion County, two more children were born, Ella M. and Lizzie Rohrer.
Jacob Rohrer purchased a portion of what was previously the pre-Civil War plantation of Benjamin Curd, located in Township 58, Range 5, Section 20.
What first attracted the attention of Mr. Drummond to the Rohrer farm in 1895 was an unusual word painted on the side of Mr. Rohrer’s wagon: Aerator.
What did that mean? That’s what he asked Mr. Rohrer.
Mr. Drummond described the process in his newspaper article: An aerator “is made of metal and the best idea we can give of it is to compare it to a wash board, only the indentations are much deeper. It is hollow and a stream of cold water is kept circulating through it making it so cold that when the milk fresh from the cows is strained and poured over it, it is cold enough for use by the time it runs off. By the use of ice in the summer Mr. Rohrer is able to cool his milk at once to the proper temperature. Needless to say this method is far more speedy and satisfactory than if the old way of simply using spring water was practiced.”
Creamery, milk route
Mr. Rohrer established a creamery and milk route in Palmyra, and in 1902, he opened a creamery in Hannibal as well. The first Hannibal store was located in the McCooey building, at the corner of Hill and North Main. The business later moved to 112 N. Fourth, and was managed by Jacob Rohrer’s son, Benjamin N. Rohrer.
Mr. Rohrer’s wife, Anna Neff Rohrer, died in April 1899, and is buried in the Old Mennonite Cemetery, Seville, Medina County, Ohio. Their daughter, Lizzie, died in 1903.
Prior to 1898, this farm was featured, along with a photo of the barn, in “The Corn Belt,” an illustrated monthly publication of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.
Jacob Rohrer sold the farm to Rev. J.M. Kreider in 1906, and subsequently moved to Ohio.
Ezra L. Buckwalter of Lancaster, Pa., took a road trip in October 1916, visiting various members of the Roher family. He sent a story about the trip to the Palmyra Spectator, which published it in the Nov. 22, 1916 edition.
First, he visited Benjamin Rohrer, who was engaged in the retail milk trade in Goshen, Ind.
Next, Mr. Buckwalter met up with Frank Rohrer, the youngest son of Jacob L. Rohrer, who was living on his farm about four miles from Seville, Medina County, Ohio.
Seven miles away lived Jacob L. Rohrer and his second wife, Martha.
Christ Rohrer, son of Jacob, owned a 148-acre farm near Wadsworth, Medina County, Ohio. He and his wife were parents of three daughters and a baby boy.
They next visited Jacob Rohrer’s youngest daughter, Ella, who was married and living in Rittman, Ohio.
Rev. John Mellinger Kreider was recruited to Palmyra to serve the growing Mennonite population.
In 1901, Rev. Kreider performed the marriage ceremony for Mary Elizabeth Rohrer, daughter of Jacob Rohrer, and the Rev. Jesse E. Weaver, of Oronogo, Jasper County, Mo.
Rev. Kreider purchased the Rohrer farm circa 1906, as several members of the Rohrer family, including the patriarch, relocated to Ohio.
Kreider provided an acre of ground for the erection of a church building, the first building to house the growing Mennonite congregation. The building was later dismantled, and the supplies were taken to Pea Ridge, Mo., to be used in a building project at that church.
Descendants of Rev. Kreider still own the farm he purchased in 1906.
Emma Rohrer, born in 1877, was among the first three graduates of the La Junta (Colo.) Mennonite School of Nursing. After her graduation in 1918, she became acting director of the school, and served 15 years as a nurse, then as matron. She moved to Wadsworth, Ohio, where she continued working as a private duty nurse. She died in 1972 in Rittman, Ohio, at the age of 95. She is buried with her parents at the Old Mennonite Cemetery, Seville, Medina County, Ohio. She returned to Palmyra several times during her adulthood, to visit with the Rev. J.M. Kreider family, and other friends. Photo: La Junta Alumnae News, 1974.
Jacob Rohrer’s son, Benjamin, managed the Hannibal Creamery and Dairy Company during the early years of the 20th Century. This advertisement was printed in the 1905 Hannibal City Directory, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website.
Source: South Central Frontiers: A History of the South central Mennonite Conference by Paul Erb, 2004
Palmyra Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church), (now extinct), located two miles east of Palmyra, Marion County, Missouri, USA), a member of the South Central Mennonite Conference, had its beginning in 1884, when Jacob Rohrer and family moved here, followed by the Isaac Rohrer, E. L. Buckwalter, and J. M. Hershey families. J. M. Kreider was ordained minister for the work in 1898, and moved here with his family, accompanied by the J. H. Hershey family, all of Lancaster County, Pa.. The meetinghouse was built in 1907. The membership in 1955 was 15, with Harry R. Buckwalter and Harold Kreider as ministers. In that year the congregation dissolved.
Source: Buckwalter, Harry R. "Palmyra Mennonite Church (Palmyra, Missouri, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 7 Apr 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Palmyra_Mennonite_Church_(Palmyra,_Missouri,_USA))&oldid=76816.
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 include but are not limited to: "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.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com