Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin

April 20, 2011, Page 12

Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News


1925 – Passing of the Neillsville Brewery




The Neillsville Brewery was a business from 1869 to 1925.  The brewery building, with its delivery horses’ stable, was located in the 200 block of the north side of East Sixth Street, which is now a parking lot (across the street to the north from the Clark County Courthouse.)



There has been the passing from existence for all time, the oldest manufactory in Neillsville – the Brewery Plant.


Chronologically its history in short namely:


1855 – Land entry by James O’Neill


1869 – Bought by Wm. Neverman


1874 – Bought by Louis Sontag


1882 – Bought by Herman Schuster


1884 – Bought by Ernest Eilert


1898 – Bought by Kurt Listeman


1925 – Sold by Kurt Listeman


Homesteaded 70 years ago, the brewery was started 56 years ago by William Neverman, father of Otto Neverman and Mrs. Wm. Hannah.


After several years operation it was taken over by Louis Sontag, father of George and the “Railroad Sontag” boys, who in turn transferred it to Mr. Schuster, father of Jeff, who two years later sold it to Ernest Eilert of Humbird.


Since its purchase by Mr. Eilert nearly 42 years ago there has been only one transaction, its sale to Kurt Listeman, who has been its owner the longest of them all, namely 27 years.  His ownership ended Sept. 21, 1925.


The purchase of this property by Ernest Eilert in 1884 brought with it a complete change. Ernest Eilert was a man of unusual strength of character, a man beloved by all, who came as near to being idolized by his fellow-citizens as any man who ever lived in Clark County. A man of unusual character, as virile and upright as the sturdy oak, Ernest Eilert built, in conformity with his rugged spirit, on that block of land, as strong and enduring a structure as was ever built there.  Located in the heart of the best timber section of Wisconsin, here went into this building the finest timbers, the clearest lumber, mostly hardwoods.  Into the ceiling of the refrigerator rooms there went 4 x 12 inch joists 25 ft long, spaced a foot apart, resting in the middle on a stick 15 in. square and 45 ft. long, every piece of finest white oak. Well it needed such solidity, for on this “ceiling” there rested for 10 months of each year some 5,000 cakes of ice, each weighing 400 lbs., a total weight of 1,000 tons, equal possibly to a dozen modern locomotives.  Yet today there is neither crack nor sag found in that ceiling.


Foundation walls 3 ft. thick were laid with their footings 15 ft. under the surface and the intense cold of many winters has not yet been able to produce the first crack or heave.


There was a well dug that is perhaps the largest blasted and stone-lined well in the county.  Half a dozen men worked all summer, blasting through stone until a depth of 30 ft., water came in until the water became too fast to handle and the well was then lined with cut rock, the diameter left at 15 ft.  Some years ago Kurt Listeman, at the request of the City tested his well and ran the 2 barrel-a-minute pump for 24 hours but made no headway in lowering the well after getting down 2/3rds the way.  Estimating his well to produce from 1,000 to 2,000 barrels daily, Listeman then offered the City free use of this water, but nothing further came of this.  There are 5 wells dug and stone lined on the brewery premises with an abundance of delicious soft water, in unique contrast with the otherwise inadequate underground water supply in Neillsville as shown by Madison records.


All the other brewery building floors were likewise strongly built, it was not unusual to store 5 carloads of barley on a single floor without a bit of deflection produced on any of the 3 to 4 inch joists of 12 inch height that lay underneath.


The finest technical machinery was installed and when finished the Neillsville Brewery ranked as a model plant. The first beer-filter came into existence about 1890, with the first one being installed in Wisconsin and that was by Mr. Eilert; for a cost of $2,500, although the size less than 2 ft. square, the work it did was unbelievable; its fineness in being able to completely remove the bacteria from the finished product, not overlooking that 100,000 yeast cells can find plenty of room on the head of a pin, changing a non-transparent fluid into a dazzling brilliant clear liquid.


After the first hydraulic mash-tank in the West was installed here at a cost of several thousand dollars, which had the faculty of changing the insoluble starches and sugars to the soluble kind in less than 5 minutes, in old days an accomplishment of as many hours.


The copper work alone represented many thousand dollars outlay, again as much more for the other machinery such as millwork, pumps, engines, power plant, washing machines, counter-pressure fillers, grain cleaning and grinding mills, coolers, super heaters, pitch and cooperage machinery, ice cooling apparatus, carbonators, condensers, etc.  An electric washer to sterilize and clean 25,000 bottles daily, huge casks in the cellars that could store for three months while aging in freezing temperatures, vats 10 ft. high and 8 ft. in diameter made of clear white oak.


The plant consists of a complete 40 bbl. brewing unit, a 20 bbl. bottling unit and a malt house that had a capacity of 60 bushels of barley per day. An idea of the network of piping and valves is gotten when one figures over 5,000 ft. of iron pipe controlled by 200 valves, ran to every corner of the 20,000 square ft. of floor space, made more flexible by an additional 1,000 ft. of rubber hose.


To insure an ice supply, Kurt Listeman and James Paulus who owned the ice business, in 1911 erected a concrete dam, with the City contributing $700, under the Hewett Street Bridge at a cost of nearly a couple of thousand dollars more, for which expenditure the City gave them or their successors the exclusive right to ice privileges on the O’Neill Creek.  This dam, although closed three days after the last cement went into it in the Zero weather of late November, is as solid as the day it was completed and is one of Neillsville’s finest natural assets, a credit to the City and to these men who built it.


Never again will winter see thousands of bushels of fine Clark County barley hauled in on sleds by farmers from 20 miles around, never again to witness hundreds of loads of 4 ft. hard maple, which was brought into the brewery, nor the load upon load of hay, fodder, and oats to the barn that stabled sturdy brewery horses.


Never again will one see the stream of hard working farmers that came daily to the brewery; 10, 20, and not seldom 50 on Saturday to take home to the family a package of healthful wholesome product there being a record of one 3rd of July when 206 farmers some 15 years back, drove to the plant to do their purchasing.


Never again the big and merry icing crew to prepare the pond; cut and store away the year’s ice supply.  Hardest to realize, never again the good old times of the 1880s and 1890s when tolerance allowed the fullest measure of social enjoyment and personal freedom.


To the grand old brewery, thousands of our fellow-farmers, whose tough monotonous life had been made a little happier because of this institution, will utter a sincere and regretful “Good-Bye.”  So now to its successor, the Clark County Canning Company, we wish an equally sincere welcome.


(The manufacturing of beer in Wisconsin began in the 1830s through the cultural influence of the many German immigrants who settled in the Milwaukee area.  As other parts of the state became settled, small breweries developed in area communities.  The Prohibition Act was passed in late 1919, which curtailed the brewery business in the state starting in 1920.  Some breweries changed their business into making root beer or other soft drinks, but many “closed shop.”  In 1926, Wisconsin voters amended the Act, which allowed near-beer, or the 3.2 beer to be brewed.  The Prohibition Act was ratified in Dec. 1933.


Prohibition could have been the main reason for Neillsville Brewery’s closing.  It was located on the north side of the 200 block of East 6th Street, now the courthouse parking lot. D. Z.)


April 1956


Joseph Schield, oldest active man in the milk processing industry in Neillsville, retired Friday.


As he closed the books on his last of 40 years at the American Stores Dairy Company plant that afternoon, he was presented with a wrist watch by employees as his fellow-workers gathered around in the condensery’s upstairs office, presentation being made by Morris Blodgett, who was chosen as spokesman.


Mr. Schield became the sixth man to retire under the company’s retirement plan instituted 10 years ago.  The first was the late Gust Holtz; others were Henry Wittke, the late Arthur Smith, Jake Haas; and the late William Wagner.


Mr. Schield came to Neillsville in September of 1916 to work for the old Oatman Condensery, predecessor of the American Stores Dairy Company.


“I hadn’t intended to stay here,” he recalled, “but I liked the company and the people and just stayed on.”


For the more than 20 employees who were on hand for the retirement presentation, Mr. Schield recalled that the first day the Condensery plant was open it received 6,000 pounds of milk.  Not long afterward, he said the amount had been stepped up to 40,000 pounds. 


That was in the days of World War I, when the evaporation of milk received its first great impetus.


At one time, too, more manpower and more physical labor were involved in processing milk and crating it for shipment to the markets.  Cans of condensed milk were packed in wooden boxes then, and the Condensery operated several box-making machines.


At one time the Condensery employed about 100 people. Advances in machinery have reduced that number to about 25 percent from that high point.


In the early days of the Condensery, too, a considerable quantity of milk was brought to Neillsville by train from Augusta.  Because of the slowness of transportation and the lack of knowledge of handling milk in those days, practices were carried on which would be abhorred today.  It was a general thing in those days for milk to arrive in all plants in not the freshest or sweetest of condition.  In fact, it was so “wild” at times that plants throughout the country used generous quantities of baking soda as a “sweetener.”


Today the dairy farmer would not think of even trying to send such milk to processing plants.  And if he did, it would be rejected without even so much as the need for a “blue” test.


Mr. Schield remained on with the Condensery when it was purchased by the American Stores Dairy Company in 1927.  One employee who joined the Condensery staff about the time of the change remains on.  She is Mrs. Helen Free Meyer, head bookkeeper, who now becomes the oldest employee there, but only in length of service.


There are several others, however, whose service approaches 30 years. They include: Emil Hauri, who started to work for the American Stores Dairy Company in 1928; Ed and Bill Meier, Tom Free and Milo Lucas, all of whom started in 1929.


In a 2 p.m. ceremony at the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Curtiss, Saturday, April 7, Verla McCarron married Harold Stange. A reception and buffet luncheon followed at the Curtiss Hall and a reception was also given at the Neil Oestreich home in Loyal. 


The bride is the daughter of Mrs. Milla Lott of Loyal. Attending the bride was her twin sister, Mrs. Robert Mattson.


The groom, son of Mr. and Mrs. Neil Oestreich, Loyal, chose his brother, Lyle Stange, as best man.


The Rev. Max Wilhelm officiated and Mrs. Arnold Jensen sang.  Nora Jensen was the organist.


The bride, a graduate of Owen High School is employed at the American Boxboard Co., at Colby.  The groom attended the South Division High School in Milwaukee and is employed by the Roddis Plywood Corp., of Marshfield.


When the new Mr. and Mrs. Stange return from a honeymoon in southern Wisconsin, they will live in an apartment in Loyal.                                                                                                       


Sale of the local egg buying station of the Bowman Dairy Co. to the C. W. Hawes Co., Inc. was affected last week, with the latter taking over the operation Monday.                                                                                                                                         


A substantial grant has been made toward the establishment of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Neillsville, it was revealed this week by members of the local committee.


The grant was voted by the Home Mission Department of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Its amount was not revealed.


In connection with the organization for the proposed church here, Thomas Dorski, a member of the local committee, announced this week that a meeting is planned for May 17, a month away, at which the Rev. Herbert Hanson, a member of the Home Mission board, and the Rev. Myron C. Austinson, president of the Lutheran Church’s eastern district, will be present.


In this connection, Mr. Dorski said: “The Home Mission board is very interested in the movement to start a new church here.


The local committee is composed of: Charles G. Jordahl, Myron J. Jordahl, Mr. Dorski, Kenneth M. Olson, Hilbert Naedler, Fred Appleyard and Melvin Appleyard.


(As a result of a proposal, grant and meetings that followed within the community, a new church was built and was ready for worship services in 1957, which is now known as Calvary Lutheran. D.Z.)


The City of Neillsville sold the last of its veterans housing units Tuesday night to the Loyal Rotary Club for $219.75, and turned its attention to the sale of the nine lots on which these units were situated.


The Loyal Civic group entered the only bid for the remaining unit; and City Clerk John C. Brandt relayed the information that the Rotary Club plans to use the building for the Boy Scout Troop of Loyal.


The 600 x 99 foot parcel vacated by the vet’s village will be divided into eight lots, all on the west side of Forest Street (now Hill Street).  Each will have a 75 foot frontage.  The second parcel is a small piece on which two single vets housing units were situated on West 4th at Forest Street.





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