Point in History: March 1907
By Kris Leonhardt
As Polish immigrants made their way into the Stevens Point area, the area they encountered was much like the one they had left behind. The climate was much the same as the old country and the lands that lay before them contained the same light, sandy soil they had left behind.
Polish churches, schools, and businesses sprang up to provide the remaining culture for which they hungered. When they needed it, they banded together to create it.
In March of 1907, Polish businessmen and farmers banded together to produce a product that they had left behind; a commodity that brought them much joy and happiness and one they missed terribly since their move to America – a good Polish beer.
Putting up 60 percent of the capital, locals formed a corporation and held their first stockholders meeting that March. By the end of the year, workers had constructed a brewery, bottling plant and stables, as the Green Bay & Western Railway added a private spur to their plant at the corner of Wood Street and Wisconsin.
Though the company’s start-up went smoothly, the Polish Brewing Company’s operation would be one plagued with difficulties.
On a sultry Wednesday night in November of the following year, flashes of lightning and blasts of thunder hit the sky, as families cleaned away their supper dishes.
As hard driving rain gave way to silence, the approaching roar made the inevitable clear. As the tornado made its way through the river district it took with it two lives, 20 family homes, and damaged three factories.
The newly completed bottling plant of the Polish Brewing Company was completely destroyed, while the main building and stables received extensive damage.
The brewery struggled to overcome the loss, but never quite recovered. In 1914, the company reorganized as the National Brewing Company and gave it another try.
This time, the company’s deathblow would be delivered by a government act. With the temporary Wartime Prohibition Act in 1918 to save on the grain supply and the more permanent National Prohibition Act of 1919, the brewery would never reach its potential.
With $100,000 owed to stockholders, bondholders, and credits, a sheriff’s sale was held and the property sold. The brewery land was purchased by a pair of businessmen who leased and later sold the buildings to the Bake Rite bakery. The bakery operated out of the facilities until their move to Plover in 1970.
Kris Leonhardt may be reached at [email protected].