Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 2, 1990
John B. Weller prospered in politics in two states
By Jim Blount
John B. Weller, whose strange political career began in Hamilton, served two states in the Congress and was nearly governor of Ohio before gaining that post in California.
Weller, born Feb. 22, 1812, at Montgomery in Hamilton County, attended Miami University (1825-1829), but didn't graduate.
At age 18, he started studying law in the Hamilton office of Jesse Corwin, brother of State Rep. Thomas Corwin, later a U. S. congressman and senator, Ohio governor and diplomat.
Weller was admitted to the bar in 1832 and the next year he was elected Butler County prosecuting attorney, defeating Jesse Corwin, his legal mentor. Weller served until 1836, when he also became a trustee of Miami University (1836-1846).
In 1838, Weller was elected to the first of three terms in the House of Representatives, the first native Ohioan to represent Butler County. His 10 predecessors had been born in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New jersey, Kentucky and Ireland.
Weller, a Democrat, represented the Second Ohio District, including Butler, Preble and Darke counties, from March 4, 1839, through March 3, 1845, while Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler were occupying the White House.
In two of his three House elections, Weller defeated Lewis D. Campbell, who had been his roommate when both first came to Hamilton. Weller declined to seek a fourth term and returned to his law practice in Hamilton.
When the Mexican War started in May 1846, Weller enlisted as a private, helped raise troops in Butler County and rose to colonel and commander of the Second Ohio Regiment when its colonel was killed in the Battle of Monterey Sept. 24, 1846.
After the war, he was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1848, but lost to Seabury Ford, a Whig, during a questionable vote count. One tally gave Weller a 259-vote victory. But the version accepted by the Ohio General Assembly Jan. 22, 1849, made Ford the winner by 311 votes.
While the election was in doubt, Weller's third wife, Susan, died in Hamilton Dec. 22, 1848, and was the second person buried in the new Greenwood Cemetery. (His first wife, Ann, also was reburied there.)
In January 1849, two months before the end of his term, President James K. Polk, a Democrat, appointed Weller chairman of the commission to determine the boundary line between the United States (California) and Mexico under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Political changes in Washington led to Weller's recall in 1850 by the new president, Zachary Taylor, a Whig.
Weller remained in California — where gold had been discovered in 1848 — and opened a law office in San Francisco.
In 1851, the California legislature elected him to the U. S. Senate as a Union Democrat to succeed John C. Fremont. In the Senate from Jan. 30, 1852, until March 3, 1857, Weller supported building a Pacific railroad and homestead bills and was regarded as a pro-slavery Democrat.
Early in 1857 he was defeated for reelection by David C. Broderick, but was nominated for governor and elected to a two-year term (1858-1860). After leaving the governor's office, Weller moved to Alameda County near Oakland
In December 1860, he was appointed minister to Mexico by James Buchanan, the out-going Democrat president, and recalled in May 1861 by Abraham Lincoln, the new Republican president. Weller was replaced by an old Ohio friend, Tom Corwin.
Shortly after the Civil War, Weller started on a prospecting tour through Oregon, Idaho and Utah to Salt Lake City. Then he returned to the eastern states, residing in Washington, D. C.
In 1867 he moved to New Orleans to practice law. He died there of smallpox Aug. 17, 1875. The body of the former Hamilton lawyer was returned to San Francisco for burial.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 9, 1990
John W. Sohn, German native, introduced lager to Hamilton area
(This is the first of a five-part series on the brewing industry in the area.)
By Jim Blount
The Miller Brewing Company's plans to open its moth-balled brewery in St. Clair Township in 1991 will end a 50-year drought in the production of beer in Butler County.
When officially announced in 1979, the Miller brewery near Trenton was described as a $411.6 million facility which would employ about 1,475 persons.
It was built in the early 1980s to have an annual capacity of 10 million barrels. That's far more than the combined 12 month output of several local producers in the 128 years when breweries operated in Butler County.
The last local brewery -- the Hamilton Brewing Company on South C Street near Millikin Street -- stopped producing its Old Hollander brand in 1941.
Hamilton historians reported that as early as 1813 a commercial brewery was operated here by a person known only as R. Birch. His product is believed to have been English beer, not the popular Bavarian lager which came with the arrival of German brew-masters.
Lager -- introduced in Ohio in the early 1830s -- was produced with a different yeast and a different fermentation process, yielding a lighter, sweeter beverage, which was more effervescent and lower in alcohol content than ale, porter and stout.
John W. Sohn, a native of Bavaria, is recognized as the first of the German lager brewers in Hamilton. He converted a saddlery shop into a brewery in 1839.
"The introduction of lager beer decreased the sale of common beer to such an extent that it could not be manufactured at a profit," noted Stephen D. Cone, a Hamilton historian.
Sohn was born May 23, 1815, in Windsheim, Germany, a son of a brewer. At 17, he was apprenticed to his father as a cooper and brewer and two years later came to the United States.
Sohn appeared in Hamilton in November 1834, arriving from Baltimore on foot and via canal-boat.
His first local job was chipping wood. Later, he worked is a brewer for one year in Hamilton and three years in Cincinnati.
The 24-year-old German immigrant revolutionized local brewing in 1839 when he opened his own business at the southwest corner of High Street and Monument Avenue (then known as Water Street), near the site of the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument.
A year later, Sohn married Catherine Rosenfeld, also a native of Germany and the daughter of a Hamilton minister, the Rev. Ernst Rosenfeld, pastor of the German Lutheran Reformed Church. They became the parents of nine children.Sohn operated the downtown brewery until 1865, when he limited its production to malt, which he sold to other brewers in the area.
But Sohn was more than a brewer. He also was a farmer who developed vineyards on his land. Other local Sohn businesses included pork-packing, woodworking and tanneries. He also was a member of the board of the First National Bank of Hamilton.
His political activity included service on the county commission, Hamilton City Council and the Hamilton Board of Education. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the U. S. Congress in 1872.
In the mid 1850s, Sohn was a Hamilton representative on the committee that worked for the merger of the towns of Rossville and Hamilton.
Sohn died Jan. 11, 1889, at his residence at High Street and Monument Avenue.
Many familiar Hamilton names joined and followed Sohn in the production of malt and lager beer here. The list includes Henry P. Deuscher, Martin Mason, Louis Sohngen and the Schlosser brothers, Henry and Jacob. Only Mason wasn't a German native, but both of his parents had been born in Germany.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 16, 1990
Barley was a leading money crop in county
(This is the second of a five-part series on the brewing industry in the area.)
By Jim Blount
Barley was a major crop in Butler County during the last half of the 19th century, thanks to the area's thirst for beer and the presence of numerous malthouses and breweries in Cincinnati, Hamilton and the surrounding region.
Competition from other regions and more than 14 years of prohibition (1919-1933) brought changes in the first half of the 20th century.
Now, with the Miller Brewing Company preparing to open its brewery near Trenton in 1991, barley is no longer a money crop for Butler County farmers.
But for about 50 years, Butler County ranked first or second in annual barley production among Ohio's 88 counties.
In 1868 -- three years after the Civil War ended -- the county was No. 1 in acreage (9,165) and second in yield (26.9 bushels per acre with 246,500 bushels produced.)
Most of the county's barley went to malthouses in Hamilton and Cincinnati for initial processing. Then the malt was shipped to breweries in the region.
The 1871 city directory listed six malthouses in Hamilton.
On the east side of the Great Miami River there were four: John Schelly, on the north side of Maple Avenue between South Fifth and South Seventh streets; Schlosser & Co., at the southwest corner of South Front and Ludlow streets; Peter Schwab & Co., at the northwest corner of South Front and Sycamore streets and John W. Sohn & Co., at the southeast corner of Monument Avenue and High Street.
Malsters on the West Side were Henry Egger, on the west side of S. C Street near Millikin Street; and Louis Sohngen, at the southwest corner of South C and Franklin streets.
Only Egger and Schwab also were listed as brewers in 1871.
"It has not been many years in the past that the brewer was his own maltster, and in the two-fold operation of making his malt and then converting his malt into beer, employed neither great capital nor much paid labor," noted a Hamilton newspaper in 1874 in commenting on the separation of the process.
"So great, however, has the consumption of beer come to be," the article continued, "that those two branches have become separate and distinct industries, the brewer depending wholly on the maltster for the supplies necessary for the manufacture of the amber colored liquor the votaries of Gambrinus so dearly prize."
In 1874, according to the Hamilton Telegraph, beer consumption in the United States had reached 277 million gallons a year -- "or nearly seven gallons to every man, woman and child."
"Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee and Hamilton are the centers of the malting interest in the West," the newspaper said, "and from these centers the breweries in the country draw their principal supplies."
The newspaper said "the malt manufactured in Chicago and Milwaukee is made from spring barley; that in Cincinnati and in this city, from fall barley."
"The superiority of fall barley for the purpose of the brewers is recognized, and hence for the best qualities of beer, Cincinnati and Hamilton furnish the largest supplies of malt for the West," the report said.
Barley production in the county in 1871 had been 400,968 bushels, or more than a fifth (20.6 percent) of the state total of 1,941,240 bushels.
Butler County farmers planted 16,887 acres of barley that year, third in acreage behind 58,723 acres of corn and 34,318 acres of wheat.
In the 1890s -- a period of frequent economic uncertainty -- the state and county barley output declined.
In 1895, for example, Butler County farmers led Ohio in producing 153,324 bushels of barley, more than twice the 60,875 grown in Shelby County, which ranked No. 2.
The local crop represented 22.6 percent of Ohio's total of 676,383 bushels in 1895. In the 1890s, Midwest brewers were increasing their purchases of western varieties of barley.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 23, 1990
Louis Sohngen's malt made beer work
(This is the third of a five-part series on the brewing industry in the area.)
By Jim Blount
It required about a week in 1874 to process barley raised on Butler County farms into malt for nearly 30 breweries in Hamilton and Cincinnati. A major supplier to the area brewmasters was the Sohngen Malting Co. in Hamilton.
Louis Sohngen, born Feb. 9, 1824, in Weilminster, Germany, near Frankfurt, came to the United States in 1848, locating in Cincinnati where he worked as a cabinetmaker.
In 1850 he moved to Hamilton, where he was employed making furniture and coffins. A year later, he opened a grocery and grain business.
In 1858 he started his malthouse at the southwest corner of South C and Franklin streets. The malthouse — then processing 30,000 bushels of grain annually — was enlarged in 1864 and again in 1873.
In January 1874, a reporter for the Hamilton Telegraph reported on the expanded building, then a 160 by 74-foot, four-story brick complex. He estimated its value at $50,000.
In storage there on two floors the reporter saw 50,000 bushels of barley, then a major crop in the county.
"When it is remembered that now six months have elapsed since the last barley harvest and that malting has been going on uninterruptedly all of the time, some idea of the amount of barley Sohngen uses during the year may be had," the reporter noted.
"To convert this barley into malt, the grain must undergo four processes," the newspaper explained.
The first step was steeping or soaking, he said, which took place in five tubs — "one with a capacity of 350 bushels and four with a capacity of 300 bushels each. The barley is shot into these tubs from spouts, covered with water and allowed to remain for 36-48 hours" or until "the grain has absorbed a sufficient amount of water."
The second process was called couching. It began when the grain was "removed from the tub to the first or cellar floor, and thrown into a cone-shaped heap" where "it lies for from 36-48 hours" with its "temperature gradually rising about 10 degrees and germination begins."
The third phase was called flooring. "The grain is spread over the malt floor, first to a depth of about 15 inches, and as the spouting progresses this depth decreases to about six inches. It is frequently turned during this process, and after it has been on the malt floors for from 36-48 hours, it is ready for the last process."
The fourth step was kiln drying on the fourth floor. The report said the Sohngen malthouse used three kilns, with a capacity of 900 to 1,000 bushels, "which are heated by two large drying furnaces." During this 36-48 hour process, "it is tramped in order to remove the sprouts from the gram.
"It will be noticed," the reporter observed, "that about a week's time is necessary to convert a grain of barley into a grain of malt."
"In moving his malt, and for the use of farmers in brining in barley, Sohngen has use of about 3,500 sacks," the Telegraph reported.
"He employs at times two teams and has seven employees outside his clerical force."
Machinery in the malthouse was "run by a Baxter engine. Coke is used in the drying furnaces, about 25 bushels being used each day to each kiln."
The malt from the Sohngen operation — then one of six malthouses in Hamilton — "finds its market in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Wheeling, W. Va., and many other places," noted the 1874 report.
Louis Sohngen retired in 1878, giving control of the business to his sons. He died in 1893.
The malthouse operated until 1917, during the early months of World War I, when grain shortages caused its closing.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 30, 1990
Peter Schwab leader in brewing and community
(This is the fourth of a five-part series on the brewing industry in the area.)
By Jim Blount
When he died, Peter Schwab was described as one of Butler County's "most picturesque citizens" by Gov. James M. Cox, himself a native of the county,
The German-born Schwab — who was reputed to be worth more than $400,000 when he died Sept. 13, 1913 — was regarded as Hamilton's most famous brewer during his nearly 40 years in that business.
Schwab — who pronounced his name "Swope" — showed both his audacity and business genius in naming his firm the Cincinnati Brewing Co.
By that move, he captured for his Hamilton brewery some of the prestige of the Queen City of the West, which in the last half of the 19th century was recognized as one of the world's finest brewing centers.
The Schwab brewery occupied a 200 by 400-foot tract at the northwest corner of the railroad, South Front Street and South Monument Avenue — now the site of Hamilton police headquarters and Hamilton Municipal Court.
Schwab's beer-making operations would pale in comparison with the 10,000-million gallon annual capacity of the soon-to-be opened Miller Brewery north of Hamilton.
But smallness didn't stop Schwab's Pure Gold beer from gaining a market which stretched from Washington, D. C., to St. Louis, and from Detroit and Pittsburgh into the southern states.
Schwab — who was born May 27, 1838, in Bavaria — came to the United States in 1850 at age 12. He landed at New Orleans, reached Cincinnati via the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and arrived in Hamilton on a canalboat.
His first job was as a cooper's apprentice. Sixteen years later, in 1866, he joined Henry Schlosser and James Fitton in a commission business in Cincinnati.
Two years later Schwab returned to Hamilton and with Ferdinand Van Derveer and Herman Reutti bought the brewery on South Front Street which had been started in 1858 by John W. Sohn.
Schwab left the partnership in 1870, but in 1874 he purchased the interests of both of his former colleagues.
After an 1875 incorporation, the brewery — with a capacity of only 50 barrels a day — became the Cincinnati Brewery Co. Within 15 years, Schwab's marketing skills had built it into a tough competitor in the middle third of the nation.
Meanwhile, Schwab also found time for several other businesses, real estate ventures, politics and public service in Hamilton and Butler County.
In the 1890s, he was the pioneer in promoting the building of the area's electric railways — more commonly known as interurbans or traction lines. He was a member of the board of trustees of the Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo Traction Co. at his death.
Schwab, a Democrat, "was a power politically for years not only in Hamilton and throughout Butler County, but throughout the state and also in the nation," an newspaper obituary writer noted.
He also wielded that power for 12 years as a member of the Hamilton Board of Education, including eight years as its president. According to a newspaper tribute at his death, "much of the progress of the public schools of Hamilton was brought about under his administration."
Locally, he held only one other political position — as a member of the Hamilton sewer commission, when the city planned its sewer system and paved its first streets.
Schwab, a member of St. John Evangelical Protestant Church, also was a trustee of Mercy Hospital, which benefited from his charity, including daily donations of ice for the last 21 years of his life.
"Perhaps the one attribute in the life of Mr. Schwab of which little was known was his charity," said a Journal editorial in eulogizing the often-controversial brewer.
The writer noted that Schwab — who was regarded as an aggressive businessman — "chose . . that the world not know (of his charity) and that the secret of his acts of goodness and of help be known only to his Maker himself and the recipient."
# # #