The Johns Own a Hotel

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Mary Schaal and August C. Johns in Minneapolis. About 1900.

August C. Johns*, FW John’s younger brother, moved to Iowa about 1884 from Dodge County, Wisconsin. Once there, August and his wife Mary bought themselves the Milwaukee Depot Hotel in Algona, Kossuth County.

The John families had a history of owning boarding houses and small hotels, but I do not know if that was the reason for this move. Mary and August were definitely very invested in their business, because over time they: shored up the building’s foundation, added on — to make more room, and made major improvements in the interior, as can be read in the following newspaper article transcriptions…

—A.C. Johns, proprietor of the eating house at the Milwaukee depot, finding his present building too small to accommodate his trade, has an addition well under way which, when completed, will be 22×32 feet on the ground, and the front half of it 16 feet high.1

Mr. Johns is putting his Milwaukee eating house on a new stone foundation and fitting it up for the winter.2

The Johns hotel at the Milwaukee depot has undergone a general overhauling this spring. The finishing touches were put on by Painter Orr last Friday. The inside and outside are painted throughout, new paper, and other changes have added to the beauty and convenience and our popular Milwaukee landlord has one of the finest eating houses along the line.3

1875-map-copy
Way up at the top left to middle you can see a trail of smoke coming out of a train smoke stack – that area is about where their hotel was located. Image provided by Kossuth County researcher.

They ran this hotel for 15 years eventually trading it for farm land nearby. No doubt because they were getting on in years, and found the business of hoteliers to be too difficult. Also, all their children, (who happened to be daughters), were married and had moved away from home, so were no longer around to help out.

In their 15 years of running the hotel there were no doubt many an interesting tale they could tell. One of those interesting tales I mentioned in a post a while ago: regarding a counterfeiter in town. Here is another I found that was told in two different local newspapers:

 

 

Below is a transcription, if you find the articles too difficult to read.

TOOK MIKE FOR A TARGET
Midnight Marauders Shoot at Hubbard, but Without Producing Serious Results…
Mike Hubbard experienced an unpleasant sensation yesterday morning about 2 o’clock. He had been cleaning some vaults and had just got home with his team. As he had finished un-harnessing and was turning towards the house he saw two men in the alley running from Mr. Johns’ hotel. The men did not see him till quite close, and then he called out to them. Both turned off to the north and one of them whipped out a revolver and fired at Mike, coming uncomfortably close to him. They then ran away and were lost sight of.

It turned out in the morning that they had tried to break in at Mr. Johns’ and had just been scared away. They opened the cellar door first and took out some fruit, etc., and ate it. Then they began to remove a pane of glass with a big chisel. Mr. Johns heard the noise and thought at first it was mice, which the girls had been complaining of for some days. But after a while he made up his mind that it could not be, and got up. When the burglar saw him he dropped his chisel and ran, it was thus that they came on Mike and scared him out of a good night’s sleep.4

TRAMPS AT WORK.
The N.W. Depot and John’s Place Both Entered.
Last Monday night tramps or sneak thieves entered the ticket office at the Northwestern depot, drilled two big holes in the safe, but did not succeed in getting the door open and if they had would not have got anything for their work as there is not money left there. Nothing else was molested and the thieves were undoubtedly frightened away before the job was completed.

The same evening A. C. Johns at the Milwaukee depot drove two sneak thieves out of his cellar. They were loading up in great shape when Mr. Johns happened to hear a racket in the cellar and proceeded to investigate matters, armed with an ugly-looking gun. He would have peppered their skins for them had they not escaped just as they did. Mike Hubbard attempted to run the fellows down with a pichfork as a weapon but one of the two would-be-thieves fired a couple shots at Mike and he let up on the chase pretty quick. He was pretty badly scared and told Mr. Johns that he had been shot at but didn’t know just where he had been hit. After examining himself he found that a bullet had plowed a furrow through his coat-tail. It was a close call for Mike.5

Very exciting stuff. August and Mary moved to Minneapolis in 1899. Their age and ill health made it more convenient for them to be closer to family. When they died though, they were both buried in Algona.6, 7 It must have been their home of the heart.

*NOTE: August/us spelled his John surname with an ‘s’. Our family spelled it without. German records show the name as Jahn — no one in the family spelled it that way once they arrived in America.

Here are more newspaper articles regarding the hotel and the Johns:
1895-10-23, Wednesday Page 8, col. 3, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: Walter Stebbins has leased the Johns hotel at the Milwaukee depot and has taken possession. Mr. and Mrs. Johns, we understand, will visit in Minneapolis and take a well earned vacation. Walter will make a number one landlord and keep up the excellent reputation the hotel has enjoyed.

1896-1-31, Friday Page 5, col. 2, of Algona Courier, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: Mr. and Mrs. Jas. Ryan will take hold and run the Johns’ hotel, at the Milwaukee depot. Mrs. Stebbins who has been running it for some time has taken his old position in the Wilson Mill.

1896-5-8, Friday Page 5, col. 5, of Algona Courier, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: Mr. A. C. Johns has traded his hotel property for a farm near Hartley. The new owner will take possession of the hotel soon. For some time past it was quite successfully run by Mrs. James Ryan.

1896–5-13, Wednesday Page 4, col. 5, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: J. L. McNamee of Hartley has bought the Johns hotel at the Milwaukee depot and is now in charge. He traded a farm near Hartley for the property. Mrs. Ryan and son, who have been running the hotel, have rejoined Mr. Ryan. Mr. Johns will not leave Algona.

1917-4-19, Thursday page 7, col. 2 of Algona Courier, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: Mr. E. J. Murtagh went to Minneapolis last Friday to see his old friends, Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Johns, the former being very enfeebled with age, he being now 88 years old. Mr. and Mrs. Johns lived in this town for many years, and Mr. Johns served on the council as a member for the Third Ward for several terms…

1923-6-7, Thursday, Page 1, col. 2 of Kossuth County Advance, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]: PIONEER ALGONA LANDLADY VISITS OLD FRIENDS HERE Mrs. Mary A. Johns, of Minneapolis, has been a guest at the E. J. Murtagh home for some days. Forty years ago Mr. and Mrs. Johns conducted the “Johns Hotel” at the Milwaukee depot. The house did a big business for passenger trains then stopped here for meals, and all the railroad men were patrons of the house.

The hotel, which stood on the north side of  the track, was burned down some years after Mr. and Mrs. Johns left Algona…[they left in 1900]

Those were the boom days at the Milwaukee depot….The Dehnert hotel, now north of the courthouse, at that early day was also serving the public, but stood just south of the Milwaukee depot. It was moved to its present location 35 years ago…

1925-2-19, Thursday, Page 1, col. 6, of Kossuth County Advance, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-resercationcom]: MRS. MARY A. JOHNS DIES; TO BE BURIED HERE TOMORROW… She and her husband the late A. C. Johns, ran the Milwaukee hotel here in 1884, when it was thought that the main part of the city would be located near the Milwaukee depot…

Thanks to organizations that are digitizing local newspapers, and making them available to search on-line we now have a wonderful timeline and history of Mary and August’s time in Algona.


Sources:

  1. 1885-5-13 Wednesday Page 4, col. 3, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  2. 1889-10-16, Wednesday Page 4, col. 1, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  3. 1890-5-21, Wednesday Page 4, col. 3, of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  4. 1894-6-20, Wednesday Page 4, col. 6 of Algona Upper Des Moines, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  5. 1894-6-22, Friday Page 4, col. 6 of Algona Courier, Algona, Iowa — [algona.advantage-preservation.com]
  6. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/66278024/augustus-c.-johns
  7. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/66278025/mary-a.-johns
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Author: jenbumann

Genealogists, sci-fi nut, voracious reader, animal lover.

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