by Dave Votta, CADL Local History Librarian
Local breweries and brew pubs have a long tradition in Lansing. The Lansing Brewing Company on the corner of Turner and Clinton (see picture below) 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.
Much 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 compiling others’ accounts adding her own comments and thoughts.
Imbibing in the story of Lansing’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 “impenetrable” 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 “young forest of hop poles”.
A cabbage patch thrives in the fertile soil of the creek flats. Pen’s house pigs fattened on waste malt. There is the smell of sauerkraut, “steaming malt” and pipe tobacco billowing from “large porcelain pipes.” To the south cows grazed in an unfenced pasture. The sound of their bells “tinkling” during the day was drowned by drinking songs, sometimes late into the night, sung “by a score of lusty Germans.”
The proprietors were Frederick and Anna Weinmann. He was born circa 1822 and described as tall, “full of energy and hard work”. Anna was about 7 years his junior, “short and sturdy”. 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. SistersAbigail 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 Women’s Movement.
Pioneers in women’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 “harsh guttural tones” or smelling of pigs, tobacco and beer. The Rogers were equally well funded and connected.
Check out the sources for this article in History of Local Breweries & Brew Pubs and don’t miss the next installment, when the story of this pioneer brewery takes an unexpected turn that challenges historical accounts. See many more Michigan breweries on Absolute Michigan