January – a time of new beginnings. The story of August Louie covers a lifetime of new beginnings.
Three generations of the Louie family lived in this 16-room house: Jean Baptist Louie, born in 1811 in Bononinile, France; his son August Louie, born in 1845 in Lorraine, France; and August’s son, Gustave Louie, born in 1877 in Council Bluffs. Alphonse Metzger, a friend and business partner, also lived for a time at this address.
At age seven, August Louie came to the United States with his family. His father was a timber construction contractor. The family settled in Joliet, Illinois. In 1861, when August was sixteen years of age, his mother, Catherine Michel, died. Lacking a good education, August went to work for a leading caterer in Chicago and attended night school while learning the catering business.
In 1867, August married his first wife, Mary, whose last name is unknown. Shortly after their marriage, Mary fell from a horse and suffered internal injuries. Advised that the climate of Texas would be healing, they set out on their journey, but Mary’s health did not improve. Then Louie was encouraged to take her to California. Their bank account was nearly depleted by doctors’ bills and travel so they headed back by way of Kansas City.
August and Mary arrived in Kansas City with $30. He met a friend who had a concession stand at a fair and went to work with him, making and selling candy at the fairs in the area. When he had earned a total of $100, enough to get them to Council Bluffs, August and Mary headed north, arriving on a Saturday night in October of 1870. They found the rates at the Pacific House to be too high and stayed instead at the Revere House at Broadway and N. Sixth St.
Louie decided to recoup his losses by making candy. He rented a small place on Broadway, paying $20 in advance. He spent $2 on a discarded tombstone to use as a table for making taffy; arranged for purchase of a small furnace and a kettle at a tin shop; bought horses and shelves at a lumber yard for displaying the candy; and found some yellow cambric with which to drape the shelves. He also bought a pair of scales. Then he ran short of money.
He took his trunk and its contents to a pawn shop across the street from his little store and secured a loan for $25. He paid for everything and had only $4 left for supplies.
R.P. Snow had a small grocery store nearby. Louie spent the $4 for sugar with which to make the first batch of taffy, which was just coming into vogue. The taffy was very popular. Louie continued to buy small amounts of sugar with the income and made more taffy.
One day, Mr. Snow asked Mr. Louie why he did not buy sugar by the barrel instead of in small amounts. Louie replied, “It takes money for that, and I have not the money. I am a stranger here and have no credit”. Snow replied, “I’ll give you credit. You can have two barrels if you want them”.
August Louie was in business. He worked day and night, packing the taffy in one and two-pound packages and handing them out as customers came in. By Christmas, he had $275 and had made all of the sales himself.
Medard Duquette, also a candy maker, approached Louie with a business deal but Louie told him that he was not going to remain in Council Bluffs. Louie sold the business to a gentleman from Dunlap for $150 and, for a fee of $75, taught Duquette the process of making the taffy.
Soon Louie and his wife were on the train to San Francisco with $475 in hand.
He started again to make candy and did very well, but Mary died after about six months. Duquette, in the meantime, had been trying to get Louie to come back and go into business with him. In the fall of 1871, Duquette went out to get him, paying part of his fare back. Duquette had $1,500 and, with what Louie could scrape together, they bought the store operated by CLD Crockwell for $2,750. Crockwell had sold candy, ice cream and oysters. Duquette and Louie made their own candies. The business grew.
In 1876, Louie sold his interest to Duquette who was working at the John C. Woodward Co. and went into the restaurant and catering business with Alphonse Metzger at 525-527 Broadway. The Louie & Metzger Restaurant was reported in a 1950 Nonpareil story by Gertrude Tinley to have been the best restaurant in the state of Iowa.
On Sept. 26, 1876, August Louie married Leontine Cellone, the daughter of French emigrants, in St. Joseph, Missouri. They had a son, Gustave, who was educated in Council Bluffs schools, finished a course at Notre Dame, Indiana, in the class of 1893, and eventually became his father’s successor in the restaurant and catering business. In 1882, Louie and A. Metzger, founded the Metzger Baking Co.
Gustave Louie married Maybelle (Mabel) Boquet in 1899. They had one daughter, Leontine. For several years, the three generations of Louie families lived together in the house at 601 Mynster St. (Gustave and Mabel later made their home on Clark Avenue.) At times, the city directory did not list a separate address for the business, suggesting that it may have been carried out in the large room at the back of the house.
In 1900, Louie and Metzger bought 4,000 acres of ranch land near Sterling, Colorado. Louie went there to get the ranch started. By 1905, Metzger’s son Ralph took over as manager and Louie was back in Council Bluffs.
In 1905, Louie and Metzger embarked on yet another adventure. They erected a three-story red pressed — brick building at 516 Mynster St. at a cost of more than $25,000 and opened for business under the name A. Metzger & Co. (better known as the Quaker Baking Company) with Gustave Louie as the bookkeeper and, eventually, manager.
The plant was capable of producing 4,000 loaves of bread daily under the brand name Quaker Bread, besides cakes and other baked goods. The bread was all processed by machinery. Ice cream sold for 25 cents per pint, with Neapolitan advertised at 50 cents per pint. The plant was described as the largest and most up-to-date in the west.
When Gustave died suddenly of pneumonia in 1913 at age 36, August took over management of the plant.
When the business was sold in 1918 to the Skinner Baking Co., August continued as vice president and secretary until his retirement at age 82 in 1928.
His wife, Leontine, died of pneumonia in 1918 and is buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery. Besides Gustave, August and Leontine had one daughter.
In 1921, August married Emma Lucas, a widow from Glenwood and administrator of Jennie Edmundson Hospital. Their first home was in Oakland Court, Apt. #11. They moved to the Chieftain Hotel when it opened in 1927.
The house was sold in 1922 to Dr. James Anderson who bought another property at 136 S. Seventh St. He had the house moved to the S. Seventh St. site and later built the Ja-Ru-Ka Court Apartments in its place.
The house was moved during the night, on rollers, by six men and a team of horses. The house was occupied by Carl Strickler, Dr. Anderson’s brother-in-law and employee. In 1931, it was sold to Frank Krettek, a partner with Fred W. Krettek in the coal dealership of Krettek Bros. Frank Krettek, his wife Marie and brother Fred lived in the house in the 1930s and 1940s.
August Louie died in 1930. Emma died in 1940. They were members of the First Presbyterian Church and are buried in Memorial Park Cemetery. Jean Baptiste Louie is buried in Fairview Cemetery, as are his grandson Gustave and wife Mabel.
This high-style Queen Anne house was built in 1880 with multiple cross-gabled wings; a three-sided, two-story bay window on the south; a one-story rounded bay to the rear of the first bay; and a projecting second-story sun porch on the northwest corner. Each of the principal gables features a different decorative element.
The house features a variety of window styles. The stucco siding may not be original. The attached garage was built after the house was moved. The front porch and deck appear to be more modern, and other changes to the rear, such as the sunporch, were probably made around the time the house was moved.
This old house experienced a lot of living, as did its owner, August Louie, who once said, “God did not intend for men to be idle.”