Perhaps a few will still remember Con Henneberger, tall and lanky, standing behind the counter of his family grocery store at 700 Grand Ave., waiting on customers or preparing individual cuts for inclusion in the meat case.
He and his wife, Julia, fulfilled the role of neighborhood grocers for more than a decade; from the onset of World War II until their retirement circa 1955.
He liked to joke with the children who came into his shop to buy popsicles and candy, and he reliably tended to the needs of his customers, from offering month-end billing to convenient home delivery.
Warren Wilson of Springfield, Ill., Con Henneberger’s grandson, remembers, “He would get a side of beef at a time, and on a wooden block, cut up the meat and put it in the display case, which had a glass front. You would point to what you wanted. He didn’t always have every cut of meat every time. If he sold out of pot roasts, you wouldn’t have any more until he got another section of meat. He also had loaves of lunch meat, bologna, pickle loaf.
“He and my grandmother would be there by 7 in the morning, six days a week, and stay until 6:30 in the evening,” Wilson said. “People would call in and my grandmother would take their order and place the groceries in a sack. My grandfather would put the groceries in the trunk of his maroon Chevy and deliver them. He knew people and they knew him; surprisingly enough he didn’t have very many people who didn’t pay; they paid when they could.”
But there was much more to the story of this American-born son of German immigrants than cold cuts and grocery deliveries.
Born at Hermann
It was in the German hamlet of Hermann, Missouri, situated as it is along the southern bank of the Missouri River some 80 miles west of St. Louis, that Constance Henneberger came of age. Born circa 1878, he was among a large family born in this German community to Michael and Louise Henneberger.
As a young boy, he worked for the railroad, walking miles along the tracks and lighting kerosene torches at dusk, which would burn out by dawn.
Possibly it was because the small town of Hermann wasn’t big enough to provide employment opportunities for all of the Henneberger sons, but for whatever reason, in the late 1880s, the family packed up and moved east, to St. Louis.
“He went to work in a grocery warehouse,” Warren Wilson said, “and was promoted in probably the 1890s. His first job outside of the warehouse, he worked on paddle wheel boat on the Missouri River, getting off at the towns, taking the grocery orders,” at all the small stops along the way. “He never told me if he delivered them.”
Bits and pieces of information emerge in print, offering glimpses into the family’s early years in St. Louis.
In 1899, brothers Michael Jr. and George H. Henneberger operated a grocery store at 3458 Illinois Ave., St. Louis. That same year, a fire broke out in the establishment, believed to have been incendiary in nature. Their loss was $400.
Constance Henneberger, in 1899, at the age circa 21, worked as a clerk for the Knippenberg Grocery Company, and his brother Henry was a clerk for F.H. Krenning’s wholesale establishment.
In 1904, Constance was a clerk for the Adam Roth Grocery Company; Edward was secretary for the Knippenberg Grocery Company; Henry was a clerk for the National Biscuit Co., John was vice president of the Wulfing Grocery Co., and Michael was a buyer for August Nasse.
In 1908, brother Edward was vice president of Knippenberg Grocery, located at 210 N. Seventh, St. Louis. Also working in the grocery business in 1908 was Constance Henneberger, employed as a clerk for the Adam Roth Grocery Company; and John Henneberger was employed at the same time as vice president of Wulfing Grocery Co., located at 106 N. Second.
In 1901, Michael Henneberger, the family patriarch, was working as a night watchman for the Union Iron Foundry, located at 1452 S. Second St., St. Louis. He was credited for overpowering an intruder, who was discovered to be a suspect in a bank robbery in Turon, Reno County, Kan.
Michael Henneberger died Jan. 28, 1902, at the age of 68. At the time the family was living at 1004 Hickory, St. Louis. His wife died in 1911.
Sometime between 1906-1914, Con Henneberger won a boat race on the Mississippi River, between St. Louis and Alton, Ill.
“The boat had to be about 16 or 18 foot long, and had several benches, holding 3-4 people in it.” Wilson said. “I have the big silver trophy. It got in bad shape and my father had it replated. It’s in our living room.”
Move to Hannibal
Most of the Hennebergers remained in St. Louis, with the exceptions of daughter, Martha, who married Omar Strehly and subsequently moved to Dallas, Texas; and Constance Henneberger, who moved to Hannibal with his wife, Julia, and daughters Constance H., and Lucille, in 1923. In Hannibal, he managed the Meyer-Roth Wholesale Grocery Company, located at Third and Church streets. They at first made their home at 109 Collins, which is a street that goes north from Broadway Extension and connects with Grace Street.
It was in that house that a wedding luncheon was hosted by the Hennebergers following the marriage of their first-born daughter, Lucile Anna Lee Henneberger, to Paul Warwick Gore on Oct. 1, 1923.
“My mother (Constance, born in 1909), went to high school in Hannibal (at 1020 Broadway),” Wilson said. She told the story that “She graduated when she was 16 (circa 1925), then got on a train in Hannibal to go to the University of Missouri-Columbia. She was terrified.” At Columbia, she majored in Latin, and later taught at Eugene Field School in Hannibal. She was married to A. Glen Wilson in 1938.
By the early 1950s, the extended Henneberger/Wilson/Gore family was settled with yards adjoining on Fairfax and Bradley streets in Hannibal’s Osterhout Subdivision. That’s where Warren Wilson grew up, under the close supervision of his aunt and uncle, his grandparents as well as his parents.
The Grand Avenue grocery store was closed by 1955, and Constance Henneberger spent his retirement years pursuing his favorite sport, fishing.
“(Rolla) Jack Wallace was the game warden, and he would come by and take my grandfather with him for the day to go fishing. My grandfather also belonged to the Bay de Charles Club, at the northern end of the bay, which was several miles long. It was primarily a fishing club, and it had an old white framed club house with a screened in porch. Frank Pollard was the caretaker and lived in that building.
“Up there you couldn’t have a motor on your boat. My grandfather had a 14-foot jon boat that he would row up and down the bay. He would put out trot lines from one side of the bay to the other with bobbers. He’d put them out in the afternoon and early the next morning he would row back out,” to pick up the line and collect his catch: Often catfish. Then he loved to have the big family fish fry on Paul Gore’s big fireplace next door.
“He spent the winter working on those trot lines in the basement.”
“He would know that my grandmother was going to make a big dinner. He would just disappear and you couldn’t find him. He would walk from our house to the A&W,” at St. Mary’s Avenue and James Road. “I think he stopped in and talked to Hurley Adams” at his supermarket along the way.
“We finally realized where he was; eating a coney dog and drinking a root beer at the A&W. It would make my grandmother so mad!”
Constance Henneberger died in 1966, and his wife, Julia Bernhoft Henneberger, died in 1975. They are buried at Grand View Burial Park.
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," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ the newest book, Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com
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