Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pioneer Brewers: The Kroger's

Charles Kroger was born in Holstein, Germany on November 5, 1832. He began work as a brakeman at the age of 16 on the Keil Railroad. In 1862, he emigrated to the United States, then walked across the Isthmus of Panama to  California where he worked in the salt ponds for two years. Charley then moved to Boise Basin in Idaho and worked as a miner. In 1865 he moved to Baker City, Oregon, then Portland, Big Bend, British Columbia, Walla Walla and finally Montana. In the Federal Census of 1870 Charles Kroger is in Beartown, Montana Territory with $2,000 in assets and working in the occupation of Brewer. He was living in the same household as Henry Wolf also a brewer and William Wolf a bookmaker.

On November 17, 1870 Charles married Anna Rusch. Anna and her sister Dora had traveled from their home in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany to visit with their uncle, a US Senator in Iowa, in 1869 and then traveled to Deer Lodge to visit friends, where she met Charles.

After their marriage Charles and Anna lived in Beartown and then in 1874 traveled to Germany to visit family. They returned to live in Beartown until:
Charley Kroger of Beartown, bought a lot of ground from Major Graham in the Waterbury addition to Philipsburg, last week and built a brewery in the eastern end of the Broadway Gulch. (New Northwest, August 17, 1875)
 The 1880 Federal Census shows the Kroger family living in Philipsburg with Charles age 48, Anna age 35, Dora age 9, Walter age 7, Henry age 5 and Fred age 1. The Brewery by this time had become a permanent fixture in the city of Philipsburg and sold its product under the name "Silver Spray".  The family was very active in the social life of Philipsburg.  Charles was a member of the Flint Creek Lodge  of the Masons from its inception in 1878 and held the office of Treasurer. The family was deeply involved in the building (1880) and maintenance of the Episcopal Church (Jean Hauck Fullerton). He was also a member of Pearl Chapter No. 14, Order of Eastern Star; Cable Lodge No. 9 I.O.O.F. where he was elected treasurer January 1897 and Golden Encampment  No. 2, I.O.O.F who stated:
During his residence here, by strict economy and untiring industry, he built up the extensive brewing business which bears his name.
During October 1895 brewery competition appeared to be coming to town when it was announced by the Centennial Brewery of Butte that they were going to open:
a branch house here occupying the building just completed by George A. Cartier and will be in opposition to the water company by selling beer for five cents. Mr. Eck of this place will take charge of the business.
In the next issue of  The Philipsburg Mail, George Cartier vehemently responded, stating that in no way was his building going to house a brewery. To demonstrate how well the brewery was doing, in 1896 taxes for Charles Kroger were $139.18. Then as a comparison taxes for the Charles Kroger estate in 1904 were $229.238, according to the December 30, 1904 Philipsburg Mail.

One of the bright spots in the depressed year of 1893 was the announcement of the pending marriage of Dora Kroger to Lawrence Hauck. Lawrence was the well known bookkeeper for the Freyschlag-Huffman store. The wedding occurred on August 24 at the Kroger residence. The newspaper described the wedding in minute detail including every gift presented to the newlyweds. No honeymoon was planned due to the difficulties being experienced by Lawrence's employer. The Sheriff placed the store in receivership during the first week in October.

 Charles became ill with asthmatic problems and after five weeks of poor health he died on July 28, 1898. Anna and three of his children were at the bedside when he died.  Fred arrived from his job at Gregson (Fairmont), before the funeral. On Sunday July 31 the full body of Mason's marched from the Mason Hall to the Odd Fellows. Then the two bodies marched to the Kroger residence where an impressive service was held. The Order of Eastern Star performed all of the songs. At the Philipsburg Cemetery the Odd Fellows conducted a service by George Suppinger and William Ripple. Next the Masonic Rites were administered by Acting Worshipful Master R. Getty, followed by songs sung by the Order of Eastern Star.

Frequent news articles were found about the family such as in January 1900 when the Kroger's delivery team ran away scattering empty beer kegs. The wagon ended up caught on a fire hydrant causing some sign damage, but no one was hurt. In 1905 Henry Kroger moved back to Philipsburg from Boulder after completing representation work for his brother Walter. In February 1910, the Kroger Brewery began harvesting their ice crop at Kroger's Pond, with a large number of teams hauling ice to town. The ice was 12 inches thick and very clear. (these squares of ice were placed in an ice house full of sawdust which kept them frozen through most of the summer and was used as refrigeration. )

An employee of the Kroger Brewery has a headstone in the Philipsburg Cemetery which reads:
Aged 50 years, 9 mo. 28 days,
 Blum George W.
Killed in a runaway
at Philipsburg, Montana
June 5, 1903
A native of Koenbringrn Boden, Germany
The story describing his death in the June 12, 1903 Philipsburg Mail follows:
George Blum and John Hopp of the Crystal Saloon were out driving a spirited horse. They stopped to call on friends at Tower and were returning down the steep grade when the horse ran away with the buggy, which resulted in the buggy overturning and the occupants being thrown out and over the side of the grade. Assistance arrived shortly after the accident and found both men unconscious. It was thought Mr. Hopp had the serious injuries due to a large cut on his head, bruises and a sprain of the ankle. But shortly after the men regained consciousness, it was realized that Mr. Blum was suffering from internal injuries and Dr. Power was called to the scene. Dr. Conyngham (a Dentist) was also in attendance before the evening wore on and all was done at the injured mans home that was possible. He continued to decline and was dead shortly after midnight.
George had a wife and family in Sandy, Utah but had not lived there for a number of years, although he provided support for them. The family when notified asked that he be buried in Philipsburg. He was buried by Lodge 12 of the Sons of Herman, with a large service and internment at the Philipsburg Cemetery. An insurance policy from the Lodge  of $500 was immediately sent to his family in Utah.

Anna lived in the home by the brewery until 1912. She then purchased a residence on Broadway and lived there until her death, February 25, 1928.  Born on November 23, 1844 she was almost eighty-four when she died. Anna was a charter member of O.E.S. Pearl Chapter No. 14 chartered in 1894 and was the oldest Past Matron at the time of her death.

Son Henry was credited to be the first baby born in Philipsburg on October 25, 1875. Henry married Ruth Smith in January 1899. Ruth was the daughter of the late Eugene Smith who died in 1890. She was raised by her step mother "Miss Kate" who is detailed in an earlier Blog. To Henry and Ruth was born: Walter, Charles, Eugenia, Marguerite and twins Dorothy and Wilford. Ruth died during the flu epidemic on December 12, 1918. Henry remarried in 1935. The wedding ceremony to Mrs. Jane Dunn was held on April 20th in Richmond, California with his daughter Eugenia and husband Frank Bird as attendants. Daughter Dorothy died in the Murray Hospital in Butte on October 26, 1926 and her twin Wilford died after a mine accident on January 14, 1937. Apparently after drilling a round of holes, Wilford was  picking loose rock to lay a plank  and  his pick struck a missed hole which exploded. After  basic treatment at Dr. Knight's Hospital he was transferred to Murray Hospital in Butte where he died later in the same day. Henry was a Forest Ranger from 1910 to 1917 and helped establish the fire lookout on Mt. Amerine (Emerine).  He served two terms as Granite County Treasurer. After leaving the Forest Service, Henry worked the graveyard shift at a local mine. On November 9, 1937 while at work he  became ill; left work early, visited his physician and went home. He died in his sleep about 3:30am at the age of sixty-two. 

Son Fred was in the first graduating class of Granite County High School in 1898. Fred built a golf course on the edge of Philipsburg probably where the city park is now located. Being an ingenious person he then built a siphon irrigation system to water the grass. The system started at the Kroher Pond and visible evidence is still apparent where the ditch was dug along the hillside above the Forest Service Station. (information from Lornie Hauck) Fred died on February 5, 1935 in California and is buried there.

Walter born in Beartown on July 11, 1873 graduated from The College of Deer Lodge, the first institution of higher learning in Montana. He was also listed as one of the Philipsburg men who volunteered to serve in the Spanish American War. He was active in creating a reading room in Philipsburg and served as a delegate at the Woodsmen of the World convention. He was a Republican member of the Montana Legislature in 1906-1908. He was one of the founders of the First State Bank of Philipsburg and served as cashier and President for two different periods. In 1928 Walter moved to Olympia, Washington and was involved in the Security Bank and Trust. After his wife Sarah (Tracy) died, he moved to Ponoma, California to be close to Fred. He died eight days after Fred and his ashes were interred beside his wife in Oakwood Cemetery at Sturgis, Michigan.

The Kroger Brewery was operated by the family until August 1, 1912 when it was sold to Joseph Eichert a current employee and John Knoch of Bozeman. Eichert would be in charge of the "Silver Spray" while Knoch operated other businesses in Bozeman, Dillon and Idaho, according to the August 4, 1912 Philipsburg Mail.

When the prohibition law went into effect it impacted the brewery business. The following article was found in the December 6, 1918 Philipsburg Mail:
Complying with the order made by President Wilson that all breweries in the United States discontinue the use of barley for making Malt Liquors after December 1 (1918), the local brewery practically closed its doors at Midnight Saturday so far as the manufacturing of the famous Silver Spray is concerned...
The final toll of the liquor business was described thusly, by the January 3, 1919 Philipsburg Mail:
Funeral Well Attended--In spite of extremely cold weather the demise and burial services Monday night of the well known old-timer, John Barleycorn, was well attended by a large gathering of sorrowing and despairing friends. The end came without a struggle, although it could not be said to be peaceful for the air was rent at times with shouts of unrestrained joy. Whether the yells were joyful because of the death of their bosom friend or otherwise can best be determined by the individual. By the narrowest of margins a tragic ending for one or more of the celebrants was averted about nine o'clock in the evening when a drunken discharged bartender pulled a gun on another bartender who attempted to quiet the inebriate in one of his wild gyrations. As luck would have it the hand that held the gun was grabbed and held in the air until the gun could be taken away, but not before one shot was fired through the ceiling and into the office rooms of the Beaver Creek Mining Company, missing one of the occupants by only six inches....
This Blog would appreciate any added history or pictures of the Kroger family to add to this article.
The article was adapted from Book One "Mettle of Granite County" authored by Loraine Bentz Baker Domine in 2008.

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