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24 Aug 2021, last revised 12 Dec 2023

Old Copper Country Bottles listed Miswald Bros. & Co. in its Unknown Brewers and Bottlers section. At that time, in 1978, it was unknown if the Miswald brothers ran a brewery or were strictly bottlers, or if their bottle even contained beer. With only one bottle using the Baltimore loop seal and no embossing to indicate that it came from a brewery, it didn't seem all that intriguing. We now know that the Miswald brothers in fact had a brewery in Calumet. Even more fascinating, the Calumet brewery was actually their third brewery, and all three burnt down. Despite having three breweries, the Calumet bottle is the only one known to bear their name. It is a testament to a brewing family stalked by fire. As far as we know, it is from the shortest-lived Copper Country brewery with an embossed bottle and Calumet's first brewery.

Newspaper articles stated that the Miswald brothers consisted of three brothers (1,21), but we only know of two brothers, Martin and Joseph. Their father's will specified seven children, which comprised "all sons and daughters of said deceased", and Martin and Joseph were the only two sons. Census records show that they were born in Michigan to immigrants from Alsace, France (which was largely ceded to Germany in 1871), and their family resided in Rockland (12,13). Joseph was born on 24 Aug 1865 (22), and Martin was born on 06 Oct 1871 in Hancock (23).

The Miswald brothers started their brewery business in Ontonagon. Martin was stated to be "an experienced brewer", having worked at "one of the largest breweries in Duluth" (24). He claimed that he could manufacture a beer comparable to any brewery in Chicago or Milwaukee (24). There was appeal to having a local brewery, as stated, "...the large amounts of money which annually goes from this county to enrich the large brewing firms in Milwaukee will thereby be reduced and our county receive the benefit." (24). They converted the old Catholic church into their brewery and equipped it with machinery as they arrived (25). Their first brew was planned for 01 May 1894 (25) and their first ad in The Ontonagon Herald appeared on 07 Jul 1894. By Dec 1895, they supplied nearly all the beer for the village of Ontonagon and the quality was said to equaled any beer brought in from the outside (1).

Newspaper ad - <i>The Ontonagon Herald</i>, 13 Sep 1894
Newspaper ad - Sep 1894

In late Nov or early Dec of 1895, the Miswald brothers leased the L'Anse Brewery, owned by T. W. Edwards, while still residing in Ontonagon (1). At the time, the brewery was idle for almost three years following the death of its proprietor, Emil Meisler (1). It was announced on 01 Feb 1896 that the brewery was in running order (2). They advertised the brewery in The L'Anse Sentinel repeatedly from 16 May to 22 Aug of 1896.

Newspaper ad - <i>The L'Anse Sentinel</i>, 20 Jun 1896
Newspaper ad - Jun 1896

It is evident that the Miswald brothers were operating two breweries simultaneously in 1896, but their fortune quickly turned. In the early morning of 22 Jul 1896, the L'Anse Brewery burnt down (3). The building was situated on a hillside, which made it difficult for firefighters to access (3). (L'Anse today has a road called Brewery Rd. so it presumably existed somewhere along that road.) Firefighters managed to save adjoining buildings but the brewery building was totally destroyed (3). Only the large vats in the cellar containing over 500 barrels of beer were left undamaged (3). It was believed that the fire started from the smoke stack (3). An employee rooming on the third floor did not realize the fire until smoke and flames penetrated his room, and he had difficulty escaping (3). It is unknown if the Miswald brothers were in L'Anse or Ontonagon at the time. There were plans to erect a new brewery as soon as possible (3), but no such brewery materialized in L'Anse. Their L'Anse brewery operated for only 6 months.

One month later, on 25 Aug 1896, a great fire burned the village of Ontonagon (4), including the Miswald brewery (11). Only a dozen small houses at the edge of town were left standing (4). The fire had been burning in the woods southwest of town for two weeks and was nearly out (4). But then gale winds quickly sweep the flames upon the town (4). The village had about 2,000 residents (4). They fled and lost everything, but no lives were lost (4). Included in the destruction was the Diamond Match Company mill and 65 million feet of lumber in its yard (4). The fire ended Miswald's operation in Ontonagon.

About a year later, in Sep 1897, the Miswald brothers purchased three lots to build a new brewery in Calumet (5,6). Building commenced at Lake View, 1.5 miles from the village (6). The road to the site was in poor condition and needed to be fixed so teams could get in with lumber and machinery (6). In Oct 1897, the foundations were laid and work commenced on the buildings (30). In Nov 1897, the main building was fast nearing completion with ongoing work on the roof (31). The brewery was completed in late Nov 1897 (7), and named the Lake View Brewery (7,18). It consisted of a main building for brewing and bottling, a barn, and a residence with offices (7). The machinery was nearly all new, with some salvaged from the Ontonagon brewery (6). Springs on the site would supply water for brewing (6).

The 1897 Polk directory listed Miswald Bros & Co. as Martin, Joseph and Alois Miswald, and Adolph Vogtlin (18). Alois Miswald was their sister (13) and Adolph Vogtlin was their brother-in-law through their eldest sister, Caroline (19). Their brand was called Lake View Beer (7).

Polk directory ad - <i>Houghton County Directory 1897-98</i>
Polk directory ad - 1897

In Jan 1898, they renamed the brewery as the Calumet and Red Jacket Brewery to appeal to a larger community, and started brewing beer (8). They filled their cellars with bottled and kegged beer and allowed them to season (9). They marketed their first brew on 28 Feb 1898 (32). By early Mar 1898, they had all the business they could handle and had plans to increase production (10). In Jul 1898, workers erected poles along the road to wire the building for electricity and telephone (25).

The newspaper announced on 21 Jun 1899 that John Stehle purchased an interest in the company and the capital would be used to make improvements to the plant (27). The plans included building a new cellar, practically rebuilding the brewery, and installing new, modern machinery (27). The current production was too small to supply the demand and the improvements would double production (27). Unfortunately, in Jun 1899, the brewery burned down (11). In Sep and Oct 1899, the deputy sherriff sold the brewery equipment to satisfy a chattel mortgage (28,29). The National Park Service noted that the Miswald brothers sold the plant to the Calumet Brewing Company in 1899 (26).

Newspaper article - <i>The L'Anse Sentinel</i>, 01 Jul 1899
Newspaper article - Jul 1899

The Copper Country Evening News in Red Jacket printed the following on 01 Aug 1899:

When the Miswald Brewery at Lake View burned down a month or more ago it was abandoned by the owners and proprietors just as the fire had left it. Standing in the ruins of the fire were several of the large vats used for brewing. At the time of the fire these vats were filled with beer and the beer was left in them. ...Young men and women who were berry-picking in the vicinity took the opportunity to get all the free beer they wanted and consequently there were a goodly number of drunks in that vicinity. Some children were among the number who got too much booze and the actions of some of the women intoxicated are said to have been shameful. ...Yesterday a gentleman who was disgusted with the thing went to the place and succeeded in emptying all the beer from the vats...The vats had hundreds of gallons of the fermented booze.
Newspaper ad - <i>The Ontonagon Herald</i>, 05 Aug 1899
Newspaper ad - Aug 1899

Their Calumet operation lasted for about 1.5 years, and marked the end to their brief career as young brewers. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census shows that Joseph returned to Rockland and worked as a machinist, while Martin remained in Calumet (14). Ads in The Ontonagon Herald from 05 Aug 1899 to 20 Apr 1901 indicate that Joseph ran a saloon in Rockland. The 1901 Polk directory listed Martin as an engineer for the Calumet Brewing Co. (20), but by 1905, he had moved his family to Milwaukee where he became a foreman in bridge works (15,16). Their lives went on and today we are left with a beautiful artifact from their checkered and short-lived career as brewers. It is still peculiar why they did not emboss their brewery name on the bottle like the other Copper Country breweries. Nevertheless, a Copper Country collector would be fortunate to have a Miswald bottle in their collection.

References

  1. anonymous. (1895, Dec 07). Another industry. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 1.
  2. anonymous. (1896, Feb 01). City items. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 1.
  3. anonymous. (1896, Jul 25). Another fire. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 1.
  4. anonymous. (1896, Aug 29). Entirely wiped out. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 1.
  5. anonymous. (1897, Sep 13). A new brewery. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 8.
  6. anonymous. (1897, Sep 23). The new brewery. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 4.
  7. anonymous. (1897, Nov 29). Lake View Brewery. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 8.
  8. anonymous. (1898, Jan 05). Calumet and Red Jacket Brewery. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 4.
  9. anonymous. (1898, Jan 17). Calumet and Red Jacket. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 4.
  10. anonymous. (1898, Mar 09). untitled. The Copper Country Evening News. p. 4.
  11. anonymous. (1899, Jul 01). Pursued by fire. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 1.
  12. U.S. Census Bureau. 1860 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  13. U.S. Census Bureau. 1880 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  14. U.S. Census Bureau. 1900 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  15. State of Wisconsin. 1905 Wisconsin State Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  16. U.S. Census Bureau. 1910 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  17. Van Wieren, D. P. 1995. American Breweries II. Eastern Coast Brewiana Association. West Point, PA.
  18. R. L. Polk & Co. 1897. Houghton County Directory 1897-98. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  19. Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics. accessed on ancestry.com
  20. R. L. Polk & Co. 1901. Houghton County Directory 1901-02. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  21. anonymous. (1894, Apr 21). The new brewery. The Ontonagon Herald (Ontonagon, MI). p.3.
  22. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, Michigan; Death Records (accessed on ancestry.com).
  23. Michigan, U.S., Births and Christenings Index, 1867-1911 (accessed on ancestry.com).
  24. anonymous. (1893, Dec 23). May get a brewery. The Ontonagon Herald (Ontonagon, MI). p. 3.
  25. anonymous. (1898, Jul 06). untitled. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 5.
  26. National Park Service. accessed 2021. Calumet Brewery. www.nps.gov
  27. anonymous. (1899, Jun 21). More improvements. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 8.
  28. anonymous. (1899, Sep 19). untitled. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 4.
  29. anonymous. (1899, Oct 03). Sale of brewery property. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 5.
  30. anonymous. (1897, Oct 21). untitled. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 8.
  31. anonymous. (1897, Nov 16). Lake View booming. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 8.
  32. anonymous. (1898, Mar 01). The new beer. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 4.

127
Miswald & Bro. bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - tooled
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: (none)
date: 1897-1899
rarity: rare
  • plate low on mold