Joe Neubieser was born in 1878 and made his living by trapping muskrat and mink, fishing, and bee-keeping at Wolf Lake in Hegewisch until he died in 1943. This photo, taken in 1923, shows Joe at Wolf Lake renting out boats to visitors, a long-standing family business. Joe’s family had an interesting history. The Konyvesy/Neubieser family was one of the earliest white families to settle in the wetlands of what would later become Southeast Chicago. The region belonged to Potawatomi Native Americans whose lands were taken from them in the 1830s through treaties with the U.S. government. Joe Neubieser’s grandparents, Fredericka and Joe Konyvesy, were German/Hungarian immigrants who moved to the shores of Wolf Lake in Hegewisch in 1859. They brought with them their two-year-old daughter Annie, Joe’s mother. The wooden cabin where the Konyvesys lived originally belonged to a Native American family who had abandoned it, associating it with bad luck after two children died there. Native Americans, however, returned yearly to burial sites near the cabin and taught Grandpa Konyvesy to fur trap.
In the period during and after the Civil War, the Konyvesys made their living by farming, fishing, and trapping on Wolf Lake. They also received guests from the growing city of Chicago to the north who travelled by train to stay at the family’s cabin for weekends of rowing boats and fishing. Early visitors included Mrs. Sally Todd Lincoln and her boys, who were rescued from a near drowning incident by Grandpa Joseph Konyvesy. Annie, Joe’s mother, remembered gathering wild strawberries as a young girl for Mrs. Lincoln. In 1876, Annie married August Neubieser, a German immigrant shoemaker who came to live with her on squatted land along Wolf Lake. Joe was born shortly after. He was oldest of ten siblings. The Neubeiser family continued the famliy business of receiving visitors to the lake. Joe’s sister, Minnie, recalled the hard work of lugging lake water to wash clothes and how they stored barrels of sauerkraut and preserved foods in a dug-out in the ground. She recalled, “My grandma could make the nicest coffee cakes. And bread. Oh, we always had plenty. The people came out there just to get the bread and stuff like my folks made. All those Hungarian fancy dishes.” Joe Neubieser, who never married, continued the family hunting and trapping tradition long after the steel mills and other industry had become the dominant features of the Hegewisch landscape. Other siblings would continue to farm. To make ends meet, however, some labored in the steel mill and car factories in Hegewisch. One brother, Fred, later owned a gas station on property adjacent to Wolf Lake in Hegewisch.