Russellville immigrant-turned businessman killed in 1929 crash

Born in Germany in 1869, August Sauer will accompany one of his four brothers who makes the daring decision to leave their ancestral homeland and immigrate to the United States, a land of opportunity.

Upon arriving in his new adopted country, he gained notoriety in the local agricultural industry, but then met an unexpected and unfortunate end.

“Family tradition says that when he came here he had ‘old family money’ from Germany, which he used to buy a 160-acre farm near Millbrook,” said his great- grandson, David Sauer.

For August Sauer, 1904 became one of the most memorable years of his young life. First, he bought the Russellville Roller Mills from businessman Jacob Ritchie. Then he married his fiancee, the former Anna Katherina Hitz, whose family lived in a house opposite the mill.

He operated the mill for a brief period in partnership with Herman Brunning, before purchasing all of the shares in the company. Looking to the future, he ensured that the flour mill had the capacity to accept more product than ever before while buying interests in other flour mills in the region.

“His family lived in a big, beautiful house below the mill which had been built for the previous owner of the mill,” said David Sauer. “He and his wife became parents of two sons and three daughters.”

A strong advocate of identifying ways to update grinding operations that would help him set himself apart from the competition, Sauer eventually sold off his interest in other mills and focused his attention and effort solely on his Russellville Roller Mills.

“A lot of other factories were aging and gradually closing their doors,” said David Sauer. “He acknowledged that you either spent the money to update or you closed.”

He quickly marketed his brand of quality flour known as “Snow Bank” and negotiated deals in St. Louis for the product to be shipped across the United States. He also supplied flour for the institutions of the Missouri prison system. This benefited the local economy as he bought and processed wheat grown by farmers in the Russellville area.

Andrew and Mike Doehla, of Lohman, ultimately bought a stake in Russellville Roller Mills while Sauer coordinated the provision of another service in the late 1920s, one that would help it set itself apart from its competition – the deliveries by truck.

David Sauer said: “He contracted with Adam Kirchner at Lohman, who owned a Ford Model AA truck. Weber could pick up the product at the factory and deliver it to businesses in the area, rather than having to pick it up themselves. “

Additionally, during this time, Sauer began to realize that an evolution of grinding was occurring with the electricity arriving at Russellville. His foresight led him to believe that the steam engines used to power the mills in the region would become obsolete and replaced by electricity.

One of the ways that members of the flour milling industry have shared ideas related to emerging processes and technologies has been at events such as the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. On August 20, 1929, Sauer and his wife went to the fair with one of their sons, Carl.

“August was at the fair on business to promote the mill and report on the conversion of the mill to electricity while Carl was there to enjoy the fair,” said David Sauer. “Towards the end of the day, August and his wife were ready to go home, but Carl was going to be there for a while.”

“Andrew Kirchner, who made deliveries for August, was about to return to Lohman with a group of people on his truck. August and his wife were able to bring him back with him,” he continued.

Kirchner’s vehicle was fitted with bench seats attached to either side of the truck bed, allowing passengers to lean against the luggage racks. At around 6 p.m., the group left Sedalia for Lohman.

“Three men were killed, a fourth could die and three others are seriously injured as a result of a collision between two trucks, 2.5 miles east of Tipton,” Sedalia Weekly Democrat reported on August 23. 1929.

The accident happened at around 7:30 p.m., when the shelves of a westbound truck carrying a load of peaches struck the shelves of the eastbound truck of Kirchner’s, ejecting all passengers.

“I was told it was a huge mess with crates of peaches strewn all over the road with the passengers of Kirchner’s truck,” said David Sauer. “Apparently the mess also included a pile of August’s papers covered in blood.”

August was killed immediately in the collision with Andrew Weber and Robert Hoffman, of Lohman. All three were buried in the cemetery of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lohman. The ownership shares of Russellville Roller Mills were transferred to Adam and Mike Doehla after Sauer’s death.

The mill closed in 1933, following a drought and the onslaught of economic hardship from the Great Depression.

“August Sauer’s wife, my great-grandmother, survived the crash,” said David Sauer. “It has been an extremely difficult time for the Sauer family, both financially and emotionally.

“They lost him, his investment in the mill while at the same time the country was collapsing. All the hardships on the farm didn’t seem to end either.

“We as a family are proud of August’s accomplishments and through the efforts of his children the family has persevered and many of his descendants remain in the Russellville and Lohman areas,” he said.

Jeremy P. Ämick writes a series of articles on the history of the Russellville area in honor of Missouri’s bicentennial.

Comments are closed.