A German by birth and a proud veteran of the Union Army during the Civil War, Casper Greeman lived in the same house at 528 South Ninth Street in Quincy, from the time he moved to Adams County, Illinois, in 1864, until his death in 1917.

A German by birth and a proud veteran of the Union Army during the Civil War, Casper Greeman lived in the same house at 528 South Ninth Street in Quincy, from the time he moved to Adams County, Illinois, in 1864, until his death in 1917.

He was born in Melle, Hanover, Germany, Dec. 13, 1834. Greeman was one of an untold number of German emigrants who settled in Quincy both before and after the Civil War, bringing from their home country craftsman skills that literally helped build the Gem City’s foundation.

Greeman, who was 20 years old when he left his homeland, was a skilled stone cutter and stone mason throughout his career, working at this craft until well into his seventh decade.

At the age of 84 in 1916, he was recognized as a jolly and happy old man, of German heritage and American spirit, who was in good health for his age – excepting for bouts of rheumatism. A widower of eight years, and the father of seven adult children living nearby, he remained welcoming of visits from his friends, according to a Quincy Herald article denoting the birthday anniversary.

 

Foundation of stone

Some of the most important buildings and infrastructure in Quincy, Hannibal and Palmyra were built upon stone foundations put in place by Greeman and his contemporaries.

The history of the craft, both locally and nationally, is peppered with union negotiations regarding fair pay and work conditions. The following clipping describes the result of negotiations between employer and stonemasons on June 12, 1886:

 

“Stonemasons will go back to work Monday Quincy Daily Journal June 12, 1886”

“This afternoon at 3 o’clock a committee of stonemasons met the bosses at Menke’s yards, on South Front street, and an understanding between employee and employer was reached without much trouble. The stone masons’ demand was $3 per day and eight hours work. The matter was compromised and the men will receive $3 per day and work nine hours, with the exception of Saturday, when they will work but eight hours.”

 

Memorable early stone work projects

• 1883 - Casper Greeman & Co., was awarded the contract for the masonry construction for a bridge over Summer’s creek, on North Twelfth Street, Quincy, in Ellington township in December, 1883, according to the Quincy Daily Herald.

• 1894 - Fred Schaller received the contract to construct a stone culvert on Twelfth street between Jackson and Harrison in Quincy, at a cost of $4.98 per lineal foot. He also was awarded the contract to construct a stone culvert on Monroe street between Twelfth and Fourteenth, for $4.78 per lineal foot.

• 1899 - Stonemasons were expected to lay off the ground plan for the new Catholic Church at Palmyra, Mo., on Easter Monday, 1899. The church building was to be 100 by 46 feet with a tower 120 feet high. The church was expected to be a credit to Palmyra, “a city noted for its handsome church edifices,” the Palmyra Herald reported.

• 1900 – The stone work for the new Burlington shops in Hannibal, Mo., was nearly complete my mid August, 1900, the Quincy Daily Journal reported. “It will probably require the stonemasons another week or ten days to complete the foundations for the saw shop department, for the excavating is not yet finished. Just now a busy scene is presented at the new shops, for there are hundreds of men working in the various departments, and everything seems lively. The new shops and roundhouse will cover several acres and with the yards and sidetracks a large area of ground is utilized. All the buildings that are being erected are of a very substantial nature, fire proof, and will stand for ages. They will also cost a big pile of money,” the newspaper reported.

• 1900 – Despite the fact that Hannibal stonemasons were not offered jobs when F.W. Menke of Quincy obtained the contract for the new Marion County Courthouse at Hannibal, the contractor did promise to use Hannibal limestone in the construction process. “The limestone that abounds in the vicinity of Hannibal is unexcelled for building purposes,” the Quincy Daily Journal reported on June 20, 1900. It was understood that the limestone would be furnished by Munger Bros., from their quarry at Bear Creek. “This firm has furnished a great deal of stone used in the buildings in Hannibal and it gives universal satisfaction.”

• 1901 - The F.W. Menke Stone and Lime Company of Quincy was awarded the contract for Quincy’s new Wabash depot on the southeast corner Sixth and Jersey, a project that would ultimately put many stonemasons to work. “The stonemasons will begin work on the foundation in a week or ten days,” the Quincy Daily Herald reported on April 9, 1900. “All the work will be done by Quincy mechanics, and the city will derive the benefit of the circulation of the $30,000. Which is as it should be.”

The newspaper reported that some 34,000 yards of earth were to be moved for this project, by 20 teams. The dirt was moved to lots between Kentucky and State, where the Wabash Coal Company’s yards were planned.

• 1902 – Stonemasons were making estimates for the foundation of the Dick Bros’ brewery depot at the corner of Main and Church streets (207 Church, John B. Herl, wholesale agent) in Hannibal, according to the Dec. 2, 1902, edition of the Quincy Daily Herald.

 

Noted stonemasons

• Andrew Geiger, a stonemason who was born in Baden, Germany on June 19, 1842, lived to the ripe old age of 83, dying Oct. 7, 1925. He emigrated from Germany in 1866, settling in Quincy. During his 50-year career in Quincy, he contributed his skills to the construction of many of the large buildings there, his death notice in the Quincy Daily Herald noted, including the St. John’s and St. Peter’s Catholic churches. He remained active in his craft until 1923, when he retired at the age of 81.

• Peter H. Kipp, aged 87 years, died at the end of September 1896, at 818 S. Fourth Street, Quincy. He was born in Germany, was a stonemason, and had lived in Quincy since 1856, the Oct. 1, 1896 edition of the Quincy Daily Journal reported.

• John McGuire, a native of Ireland, was a resident of Quincy for nearly a half century until his death in May 1900. His death notice in the Quincy Daily Herald noted that McGuire worked as a stonemason on Governor Woods’ mansion, which by 1900 had been converted to the Chaddock college. In addition, McGuire helped construct the foundation for the old Q. passenger station, built in 1864 on Front Street between Hampshire and Broadway in Quincy. He was buried at St. Peter’s cemetery.

• Fred Schaller was a native of Germany, and learned the trade of stonemason as a young man in his homeland. The Quincy Daily Herald reported that he came to Quincy in the company of his countrymen, and for the next 21 years practiced his profession in the Gem City. At one time he owned a quarry and turned out stone for building purposes in partnership with William Stakelbeck. He lived at 630 S. Fourteenth Street in Quincy. He died in 1904, at the age of 45.

• William Heumann Sr., was born in 1835 in Prussia, and died in 1884 in Quincy, Ill. In 1873, Heumann & Burmeyer were stonemasons and contractors. There office was located at Heumann’s residence, located at Twelfth Street on the southwest corner of Washington. William Burmeyer, born 1845 in Germany, was stonemason of the South Side in 1889; in 1887 in lived at 1121 Washington, Quincy.

 

Tools of the trade

“Stone masons use wooden mallets because they are less likely than iron hammers to injure hands by missing the chisel. Their chisels are of iron throughout, and the mallet is made round so that a different part may strike on the chisel at each blow. The mason turns his hammer as he works, otherwise the iron tool would soon bore a hole in it. – New York Sun

Palmyra Spectator, Palmyra, May 15, 1885.”

 

Construction 1900

The Quincy Daily Journal summarized Hannibal’s ongoing construction projects in an article published on July 26, 1900.

“Every carpenter, stone mason and brick mason, as far as we know, is now busy and plenty of work in sight. During the past two weeks your correspondent has traversed every part of the city, east, west, north and south, and we find fine buildings going up and old ones being repaired in all portions of the city.

“Mrs. Brown’s new double house, corner of Eighth and Broadway, is almost completed and is already rented. The DeGaris flats will be completed by the middle of next month and all of them have been rented. R.A. Curts is building a large double brick house on South Ninth street and we understand that both apartments have been engaged. The excavation for the new courthouse is almost completed and the stonemasons will probably commence work on the foundation next week.

“Scores of mechanics and laboring men are working on the new shops for the Burlington and in every part of the city we find carpenters and brickmasons hard at work. The plasterers are also as busy as they can be.”

 

Mary Lou Montgomery is a writer, speaker and researcher with a specialty in history. She is the former editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post.