Local breweries and brew pubs have a long tradition in Lansing. The Lansing Brewing Company on the corner of Turner and Clinton operated between 1898 and 1914. Yeiter & Co. opened the Grand River Brewery on Madison overlooking the river in 1865. Their water came from an artesian well. Additional smaller breweries came and went during the late 19th century.
Most of the description of the first brewery derives from two sources, An Account of Ingham County from its Organization by Frank N. Turner and a Pioneer History of Ingham County by Mrs. Franc L. Adams. The accounts are nearly duplicates. Adams includes more editorial comment. She was the secretary of the Ingham County Pioneer and Historical Society and in addition to writing compiles otherâ€™s accounts adding her own comments and thoughts.
Imbibing in the story of Lansingâ€™s first brewery one travels to the NE corner of Pine and Maple Streets circa 1856. There is a spring fed creek crossing Maple and providing fresh water for brewing. Its source was deep in the â€œimpenetrableâ€ Bogus Swamp, a haven for miscreants, now the Westside Neighborhood. There are two buildings. A long porch faces east off a one and a half story residence. This porch is for the public house addition to the home and overlooking the beer garden in a stand of maples. Adjacent to the north is the brew house, east of that a â€œyoung forest of hop polesâ€.
A cabbage patch thrives in the fertile soil of the creek flats. Pens house pigs fattened on waste malt. There is the smell of sauerkraut, â€œsteaming maltâ€ and pipe tobacco billowing from â€œlarge porcelain pipes.â€ To the south cows grazed in an unfenced pasture. The sound of their bells â€œtinklingâ€ during the day was drowned by drinking songs, sometimes late into the night, sung â€œby a score of lusty Germans.â€
The proprietors were Frederick and Anna Weinmann. He was born circa 1822 and described as tall, â€œfull of energy and hard workâ€. Anna was about 7 years his junior, â€œshort and sturdy.â€ They had several children and emigrated from WÃ¼rttemberg, Germany.
With a large German population in town business thrived. The problem was the new neighbors. In 1858 across Pine from the brau haus, a school opened. Sisters Abigail and Delia Rogers moved into the new location of their Lansing Female Seminary, later the Michigan Female College, the Odd Fellows Institute and eventually the Michigan School for the Blind. The Rogers sisters, Abigail especially, are nationally recognized as part of the First Wave of the Womenâ€™s Movement.
Pioneers in womenâ€™s education and the Temperance Movement, the sisters catered to the most affluent families in the state. Select boys were admitted if the family was sufficiently wealthy. Apparently they did not celebrate the only entrance to their institution serenaded by lusty Germans in â€œharsh guttural tonesâ€ or smelling of pigs, tobacco and beer. The Rogers were equally well funded and connected.
In our next installment, the story of this pioneer brewery takes an unexpected turn that challenges historical accounts.
An Account of Ingham County from its Organization by Frank N. Turner
Pioneer History of Ingham County by Mrs. Franc L. Adams
History of Ingham and Eaton Counties by Samuel Durant
Michigan State Gazeteer and Business Directory 1863
Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan Volume 6
Lansing Journal Newspaper 9/2/1924
State Republican Newspaper 1/13/1880
Lansing Republican Newspaper 3/4/1898
Bird’s-eye view of the city of Lansing, Michigan 1866 Drawn & published by A. Ruger
History and Manual of Odd FellowshipÂ by Theodore A. Ross
Lansing City Directory 1873
Lansing City Directory 1878
1860 U.S. Federal Census
1870 U.S. Federal Census