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09 Nov 2021, last revised 25 Jul 2022

J. A. Cochran curiously had bottles from Baraga and from Houghton. As it turns out, he started in Baraga and then moved to Houghton to expand his business.

John A. Cochran was born in Feb 1869 in Michigan to immigrants from Canada (4). It is unknown where in Michigan he was born or when he arrived in the Copper Country, but he lived in Marquette during the time of his marriage on 04 Sep 1892 (5).

Cochran's pop factory started in Baraga on 09 May 1896 (11). It was noted in Jul 1896 that the firm of J. A. Cochran & Co. were "manufacturers of carbonated beverages" and were "doing a good business" (1). The partnership consisted of John A. Cochran and Adolph A. Pinet, but it dissolved on 02 Jun 1900 (2) with Cochran purchasing Pinet's interest and becoming sole proprietor (1).

Newspaper ad - The L'Anse Sentinel, 23 May 1896
Newspaper ad - May 1896
Newspaper ad - Baraga County Review, 04 Jul 1900
Newspaper ad - Jul 1900

In addition to soda, Cochran apparently bottled local mineral water. When driving a pipe for a well 12 miles west of Baraga, M. Pelkey struck a vein of mineral water (6). It was said to possess medicinal qualities, and its sale was placed with Cochran in 1903 (6). Cochran had is left hand badly lacerated by the bursting of a pop bottle in May 1905, and the notice stated that his business was called the Baraga Bottling Works (12). In Sep 1906, Cochran installed new machinery, enabling his bottling works to be operated by water motor (7). It was stated that, "Mr. Cochran now has an up-to-date establishment and is enabled to cope with his large and constantly increasing trade." (7). The 1907 Michigan State Polk directory listed Cochran as village treasurer and manufacturer of ginger ale, pop, all kinds of carbonated beverages, and Cleveland Cider Co.'s apple cider (8).

In Jan 1908, he renovated his pop factory with a new wash tank and other new machinery (9). Shortly after, in May 1908, he announced that he would be moving to Houghton on or about Jun 1st (10). The plan was for him to manufacture in Houghton and retain the Baraga location as a distribution station (10). The intent of the move was to help him meet the rapidly increasing demand for his products in the wider Copper Country (10). His Houghton location was in the Karkeek building near the county bridge (10). The 1912 directory specified the address as 160 Lake (13), which is now called Lakeshore Dr. It also stated that he was "bottler of the famous Cochran's ginger ale and other carbonated beverages". It seems his ginger ale was his signature product.

Sanborn map - Nov 1917
Sanborn map - Nov 1917
Magazine ad - Clover-Land Magazine, Mar 1917
Magazine ad - Mar 1916

Cochran continued to bottle into the ABM period. The bottling works had five employees in 1909 (18), up to 11 in 1917 (19), and down to seven in 1918 and 1919 (20,21). In 1922, Cochran sold the pop factory to Chas. Nikula (11). After selling his pop factory, Cochran was a dealer of trucks on the 1930 U.S. Federal Census (15), and a garage owner on the 1940 census (16). He then died in 1948 at the age of 78-79 and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Houghton (17).

Charles Nikula was born in Finland on 13 Dec 1874 (24) and immigrated to the U.S. in 1892 (4) when he was 18 years old (22). He spent a short time in Oscoda, MI and then in the lumber camps of Louisiana (22). He moved to Negaunee and worked four years as a miner (22). He was in Negaunee as an iron ore miner for the 1900 U.S. Federal Census (25). He then became a bottler, sold the business after three years, and then operated a bottling works in Hurley, WI for six years (22). He was in Wisconsin as a pop factory owner for the 1910 census (4). In 1909, he purchased in bottling works in Ironwood, MI and later sold the business in 1921 (22). After inspecting various cities for their prospects of running a bottling business, Nikula move to Houghton and in Mar 1922 purchased the Houghton Bottling Works from J. A. Cochran (22,11).

A newspaper ad shows that Nikula continued to manufacture Cochran's famous ginger ale.

Newspaper ad - The L'Anse Sentinel, 28 Jul 1922
Newspaper ad - Jul 1922
Polk directory ad - Polk’s Houghton (Michigan) Directory 1930
Polk directory ad - 1930

The 1930 directory listed Charles Nikula as proprietor of Houghton Bottling Works (14). There is some suggestion that Nikula inherited this bottling works name from Cochran (22,23), however we have not found any documentation that Cochran used it. Nikula was still listed in the 1939 directory at the same location (26). Nikula then died on 14 Jul 1939 and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Houghton (24). The last known ABM bottle has a date code for 1942, suggesting that someone took over the company, but then the business was not listed in a 1947/1948 business directory (27).

We can only wonder how good was Cochran's ginger ale. At least we still have his bottles to cherish.

References

  1. anonymous. (1896, Jul 11). Baraga Department. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 5.
  2. anonymous. (1900, Jul 07). Dissolution of Partnership. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 1.
  3. anonymous. (1900, Jun 30). Baraga Department. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 5.
  4. U.S. Census Bureau. 1910 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  5. Michigan, U.S., Marriage Records, 1867-1952 (accessed on ancestry.com).
  6. anonymous. (1903, Jun 20). Baraga Department. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 5.
  7. anonymous. (1906, Sep 29). Baraga Department. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 5.
  8. R. L. Polk & Co. 1907. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1907-1908. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  9. anonymous. (1908, Jan 18). Baraga Department. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 5.
  10. anonymous. (1908, May 23). Will Remove to Houghton. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 5.
  11. anonymous. (1922, Mar 31). Cochran Sells Out His Pop Factory. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 1.
  12. anonymous. (1905, May 27). Baraga Department. The L'Anse Sentinel (L'Anse, MI). p. 5.
  13. R. L. Polk & Co. 1912. 1912 Calumet, Hancock, Houghton and Laurium Directory. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  14. R. L. Polk & Co. 1930. Polk’s Houghton (Michigan) Directory 1930. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  15. U.S. Census Bureau. 1930 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  16. U.S. Census Bureau. 1940 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  17. Find a Grave. accessed on Nov 2021. John A Cochran. findagrave.com/memorial/197507511/john-a-cochran
  18. State of Michigan Department of Labor. 1910. First Annual Report of the Department of Labor of the State of Michigan. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. Lansing, MI.
  19. Michigan Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics. 1918. Thirty-Fifth Annual Report of the Department of Labor of the State of Michigan. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. Lansing, MI.
  20. State of Michigan Department of Labor. 1919. Thirty-Sixth Annual Report of the Department of Labor of the State of Michigan. Fort Wayne Printing Co. Fort Wayne, Indiana.
  21. State of Michigan Department of Labor. 1920. Thirty-Seventh Annual Report of the Department of Labor of the State of Michigan. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. Lansing, MI.
  22. Fuller, G. N. 1926. Historic Michigan: Land of the Great Lakes, Vol. III - A History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. National Historical Association, Inc.
  23. anonymous. (1939, Jul 18). Former Ironwood Resident Stricken. Ironwood Daily Globe. p. 9.
  24. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, Michigan; Death Records (accessed on ancestry.com).
  25. U.S. Census Bureau. 1900 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  26. R. L. Polk & Co. 1939. Polk’s Houghton (Michigan) Directory 1939. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  27. The Daily Mining Gazette. 1947 or 1948. Copper Country Classified Business and Professional Directory. Houghton, MI.

s51
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
maker's mark: I. G. Co. (back heel)
other marks: (none)
date: 1896-1900
rarity: extremely rare

s52
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: (none)
date: 1900-1908
rarity: extremely rare

38
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
maker's mark: A B Co (back heel)
other marks: REGISTERED (lower back), THIS BOTTLE NOT TO BE SOLD (front lower)
date: 1906
rarity: rare
  • different plate from previous
  • "," after BARAGA
  • letters in BARAGA more widely spaced
  • plate lower on mold
  • this example has date code: 6 - S

35
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: C. (base)
date: 1908-1910
rarity: rare
  • change in location

s11
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: crown top - tooled
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: C (base)
date: 1908-1910
rarity: extremely rare
  • similar plate design to 35
  • exceptionally small plate
  • 1/2 rounded base
  • gradually-tapered shoulders

36
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: C (base)
date: 1910-1915
rarity: rare
  • different plate design

37
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: C. (base)
date: 1910-1915
rarity: rare
  • different plate design

39
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: quart
color: colorless
top: crown top - tooled
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: C. (base)
date: 1910-1915
rarity: rare
  • same plate for 39 and 30a
39a
J. A. Cochran bottle
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: C (base)
date: 1910-1915
rarity: rare
  • same plate for 39 and 30a
  • has a marker's mark

40
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: colorless
top: crown top - tooled
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: C. (base)
date: 1910-1915
rarity: rare
  • half-pint-sized complement to previous

41
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: crown top - tooled
maker's mark: N B B G CO (back heel)
other marks: C (base), 7 FL. OZ. REGISTERED (lower front)
date: 1910-1915
rarity: rare
  • full mold plate

167
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: quart
color: colorless
top: siphon top
maker's mark: REGISTERED TRADEMARK (crown illustration) (base)
other marks: MADE IN AUSTRIA (base)
date: 1910-1915
rarity: extremely rare

s20
J. A. Cochran bottle
capacity: quart
color: colorless
top: siphon top
maker's mark: C S Co. (monogram) (base)
other marks: MADE IN AUSTRIA (base)
date: 1910-1915
rarity: extremely rare

abm-42
bottle image
capacity: quart
color: aqua
top: crown top - ABM
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: C (base)
date: c.1915
rarity: ?

abm-43
bottle image
capacity: quart
color: aqua
top: crown top - ABM
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: C (base)
date: c.1917
rarity: ?
  • this example has an A B Co. date code: 17 S 1

abm-44
bottle image
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: crown top - ABM
maker's mark: N B B G CO (back heel)
other marks: C (base)
date: c.1917
rarity: ?

abm-45
bottle image
capacity: quart
color: pale aqua
top: crown top - ABM
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: CONTENTS 1 PT. 8 FL. OZ. (front heel), N (base), REGISTERED (base)
date: c.1926
rarity: ?
  • this example has an A B Co. date code: 26 S 1

abm-46
bottle image
capacity: half-pint
color: pale aqua
top: crown top - ABM
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: N (base), REGISTERED (base)
date: c.1929
rarity: ?
  • this example has an A B Co. date code: 29 S 1

abm-47
bottle image
capacity: half-pint
color: colorless
top: PRIOF - ABM
maker's mark: (base)
other marks: N (base)
date: 1920s-1930s
rarity: ?

abm-48
bottle image
capacity: quart
color: colorless
top: PRIOF - ABM
maker's mark: (base)
other marks: N (base)
date: 1920s-1930s
rarity: ?

abm-49
bottle image
capacity: half-pint
color: colorless
top: crown top - ABM
maker's mark: (base)
other marks: N (base)
date: 1942
rarity: ?
  • this example has a date code for 1942