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The Spearville Mercantile 1910-2019 – Spearville, Ford County, Kansas

The Spearville Mercantile was an iconic business that was associated with Spearville since 1910. After 109 years of serving Spearville and surrounding communities, it was demolished in November of 2019. The story of the “Merc” begins with the arrival of Henry and Mary Knoeber, Sr. to Spearville in March of 1879.

Henry Knoeber, Sr. was the oldest of three children born to Gerhard and Adelaid Knoeber. He was born in Maria Stein, Mercer County, Ohio in 1840. His mother died when Henry was nine years old, and he lost his father at the age of 12. Mary Elizabeth Taphorn (b. 1847) became his bride on June 4, 1867. They were blessed with nine children of whom five were born in Ohio and sadly one infant living a short time. The other four children were born after the family came to Spearville.

The Knoeber family settled on a farm 3 ½ miles south of Spearville. They attended Windthorst Catholic Church, and the children attended the parish school. Through the years, Henry was able to purchase additional land for less than $3.50/acre. At the beginning of the century, land prices had doubled.

Father John B. Disselkamp, the priest at the time, from Windthorst, encouraged Henry, Jr., Joe, and William to open a general store in Spearville. Henry, Sr., purchased the land and building began in 1909. Henry, Jr. was the general manager.

Joseph Habiger, who sold dry goods and groceries, and A.J. Temaat, who owned a hardware and implement business, merged their stock with the Spearville Mercantile Company. When the store opened in March 1910, Habiger and Temaat were department managers.

Joe and William also worked in the Merc. William assisted with the hardware and implement part of the store, while Joe oversaw candling the eggs.1

Many changes in the Merc took place over the last century. Additions to the original building took place in 1911 and 1913. In 1952, the Duesing brothers purchased the implement side of the business.

The children of Henry and Mary stayed close to home. Seven of their nine children are buried in St. John’s Cemetery. George, age 8, died of typhoid fever and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery. Bernard also died of typhoid fever at the age of 24.

1 Candling is holding the egg near a light or candle to see what is inside. A person can see if the egg is fertile or not.

The rest of the story: The First National Bank of Spearville purchased the lot and is planning on opening in the Spring of 2022.

The Legacy of Henry and Mary Knoeber family history by Margaret Knoeber, ASC was instrumental in putting together this story.

Personal Note: One of the builders of “The Merc” was Bert Durler. His sister was Anna Durler who married Adolf Steimel. They are the grandparents of my husband, Kim Steimel.

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