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Brussell, Conrad


The first baker, was a low, thick, heavy-set Dutchman, nearly as thick as he was long.  He was more generally known as "Old Coonrod."  He came here in the fall of 1821, and built a small cabin on the north bank of the ravine (known at that time as the River Styx), just opposite where Kingan's pork-house now stands, and about one hundred yards above its junction with the river.

This cabin answered "Coonrod" for a residence as well as a bakery, as he was a bachelor and had no family, but his little dog "Boas."  This dog resembled his owner very much in appearance, short, bow legs, thick, heavy body, and very good-natured, except when an Indian wished to enter the domicil [sic].  Coonrod said Boas could smell an Indian a mile; neither had the worthy baker a very exalted opinion of them, and preferred losing their custom to endangering his scalp.  His oven was built on the east side of the cabin.  Four posts were planted in the ground, about five fee apart, and formed a square.  On the posts was made a platform of puncheons; on the puncheons was dirt sufficient to prevent them from taking fire.  The dirt was plastered to form the bottom of the oven.  Then a kind of frame-work was built (the shape and size he wanted the oven), plastered and left a sufficient time to dry; a fire was kindled on the inside that burnt out the frame-work and left the oven.  In this oven was baked the first rusk and ginger-cake in Indianapolis.

He was patronized by nearly all the inhabitants, his best customers being the travelers seeking locations in the New Purchase.  Our family sent every time he baked (which was twice a week), to get some of his nice warm rusk; but a little circumstance occurred that lost him one customer.  Coonrod was very much afflicted with sores on his arms; indeed, his whole appearance was rather boilious for a baker.

As usual, Saturday evening, I was sent to Coonrod's for the quarter's worth of rusk.  I found the old man in rather a despondent mood; I saw in a moment that something was the matter; if Boas had died he could not have looked more woful [sic].  When I asked him for the rusk, "Oh, Johnny," said he, "I will have none for Sunday.  Last Wednesday, when I baked, mixing the dough hurt me so much I have scarcely been free of pain since.  The flour got into the sores on my arms, and i was not able to-day to mix the dough for the rusk."  This simple but truthful take was sufficient to induce our family to forego the use of his rusks from that time.  Other customers found out the same thing, and he closed business for want ot patronage.  When, like the Moor of Venice, he found his occupation gone, he sought a home in other parts. 

How different the first bakery of Indianapolis to those of the present day; how different from the last that has commenced business in this city -- the establishment of G. W. Caldwell & Co., where that beautiful and delicious aerated bread is manufactured, in any quantities the demand may require, from one to ten thousand leaves per day, and without the hand coming in contact with the dry flour or the dough.  The flour is taken from the barrel with a shovel, and thrown into a sieve moved by machinery.  This sieve will prevent the smallest particle of dirt passing through it.  The flour passes into a reservoir or kneader, where it is mixed, and from the kneader passes into the pans for baking, and is never touched by the hand, until handling for delivery to customers.  A visit to this establishment would induce the use of this kind of bread; if for no other reason, for cleanliness alone.  You will see the utter impossibility of the smallest house fly passing through the sieve, to say nothing of the filthy cockroach often found in the middle of the loaf of bread manufactured in the ordinary way.  I care not how careful and cleanly the baker or housewife may be, there will sometimes dirt or insects get mixed with the dough and not be discovered until it is baked.

In this establishment are two kneaders, one of which will mix a barrel, the other one and a half barrles of flour at a time; and in a few minutes from the time the flour is thrown into the sieve it is ready to bake. 

In speaking of the above establishment, I do not wish to disparage the other fine bakeries of the city, in many of which can be found as fine articles as in any similar bakeries in the United States.

In the houses of Nickum & Parrott, the Cincinnati Bakery, and Ball, of Illinois street, will be found every variety of cake; and they are in striking contrast with the first bakeries of Indianapolis. 

The crackers of Mrs. Thompson have a reputation unsurpassed, if equaled, anywhere. 



Nowland, John H. B., “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis, with Short Biographical Sketches of Its Early Citizens, and of a Few of the Prominent Business Men of the Present Day,” 1870, pp. 46-48
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