By Lindsay Kriz
POMEROY, Ohio — People passing through Pomeroy, Ohio, in the mid to late 1800s may have stopped to have a taste of beer from the G. Wildermuth Brewing Company, which was the only brewing company in Pomeroy at the time of its inception in 1874.
The owner of the building was Gottlieb Wildermuth, who was born in Germany May 25, 1828.
Wildermuth, like many German-Americans in the day, made his way to the Ohio Valley area, and Pomeroy in particular.
Vicki Hanson, who now lives in the building that once served as storage and stables for the brewery, said she purchased the building from the Meigs County Cooperative Parish, which gave her the historical highlights of the building before she bought it.
“I fell in love with the building before I knew anything else about it,” she said.
According to Hanson, a lifetime Pomeroy resident, while the village is now a small town nestled against the Ohio River, it was once a booming town at least 100 years ago.
“There were just very prominent people in Meigs County,” she said. “It was bustling back then, and it was mostly due to the Germans coming here. They industrialized Pomeroy.
“There was an organ factory, the brewery… it was cultured. There were theaters, we always had the river and had the river traffic. It was just a bygone era which is sad, but hopefully it’s coming back.”
A business begins to ‘brew’
After returning from serving in the Company M. First West Virginia Cavalry from 1861 to 1865 — the entirety of the Civil War — Wildermuth bought the buildings on Condor Street that would serve as the buildings of his brewery. His brewery complex was on both sides of Condor Street.
According to records, Wildermuth was the sole owner of the brewery building in 1866 and from 1874 to 1898 the brewery thrived under him alone.
Then, in January 1898, Wildermuth formed the G. Wildermuth Brewing Company stock company. His sons and daughters became the stockholders, and he served as president and superintendent. The business thrived until 1919, when Prohibition caused the brewery to shut down. The brewery made a very brief comeback in 1935, but then closed its doors for the last time in 1936.
The buildings that made up the entire brewery remained intact, and were even used by mechanics until September 1979, when it was announced in the media that the buildings would finally be coming down.
In their stead are two fields. While one can still see a keystone that made up part of the foundation of what is now Hanson’s building and what was once a concrete section of the floor in the brewery, it’s difficult to tell that anything once graced the lots.
Wildermuth lived a life spanning two centuries before passing away at the age of 75 on Aug. 13, 1903. The last line of his obituary reads, “In the death of Mr. Wildermuth Pomeroy loses one of her wealthiest, most substantial and enterprising citizens, and his thrift, economy and business ability is an example well worthy of imitation.”
While his successful enterprise is no longer erect, the building where Wildermuth’s beer was once brewed was on the side of the street closest to one of the cliffs overlooking Pomeroy. On the other side of the street were bottling and supply buildings, along with a stable area for all of the horses transporting the goods between the two buildings.
Tunneling for new discoveries
Between a tunnel now buried underground that connected what is now two open, empty fields is how the good were transported and, in 2013, Hanson was able to explore the tunnel during a time when it was briefly accessible.
“I’d always known about the tunnels since I bought this place,” she said. “But it was a couple years ago that I was able to go down into the tunnels. They were doing excavation on the sewer line on Condor and broke through the tunnel on purpose.”
Hanson said the excavation group dug down about four to five feet with a backhoe until it hit the top of the tunnel, which Hanson said is about 12 feet tall.
On a day when the crew wasn’t around, because of liability concerns, Hanson decided to make her way down into the tunnel to see what had been covered up since the late 1970s, when the Wildermuth buildings were also torn down.
“I hooked up a high intensity lamp and took my phone down there,” she said.
While Hanson said she couldn’t see exactly all that she wanted to see of the tunnels because of mud one-foot deep, she said she navigated where she could, and took video of her excursion.
What she found amazed her.
“It was gorgeous,” she said. “The stones were pristine and just so well preserved.”
The future of its history
Currently, Hanson only owns one side of the former Wildermuth property, with an excavation group owning the property next to her house. However, she said if she’s ever able to own both sides of the property, she would love to continue to excavate the tunnel, which has now been re-covered for at least two years.
“I would love for the public to be interested and be able to go in and see, but there are a lot of hoops to jump through,” she said.
Hanson said she also loved the idea of a brewery making its way back to Pomeroy.
“Can you imagine having something like that now? It could be a booming business for Pomeroy,” she said.
When not writing for The Daily Sentinel, Lindsay can be found online, reading a book, watching movies or just puttering around and wondering about the meaning of life. Reach her at 740-444-4303 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.