Monday, June 2, 2014

The Disorderly Brewery on Bayshore Drive

An 1885 Insurance Map of the Oshkosh Brewery
Back to 1880 and the little Oshkosh Brewery on Bayshore Dr. (then known as River Street). Our old friend George Loescher is there and he’s about to run into some trouble.

The first edition of Loescher’s Oshkosh Brewery was built in 1853. Its location was approximately 150’ west of Eveline St. on the south side of Bayshore Dr. But at the close of the 1870s, Loescher moved his brewery up the street to the north east corner of Frankfort and Bayshore. By 1880, Loescher had his new brewery up and running. The German-born brewer, however, was no longer a young man. Loescher was 61 years old and eyeing his exit from the brewhouse. In the summer of 1880, he found his out.

On August 7, 1880, Loescher sold his brewery to John Walter and Bernard Ruety. That’s where the trouble begins. Soon after the sale, the Daily Northwestern reported that things were going bad at the Oshkosh Brewery.

Sudden Disappearance
John Walter, of the firm of Ruety & Walter, proprietors of the brewery in the Second Ward, has been missing since last Friday and no trace of him can be found. The only explanation now entertained for his unexpected absence is that he has absconded. Ruety & Walter bought out Loescher's brewery some three months ago, and since running the brewery have quarreled among themselves, each trying to sell out to the other. A few days ago they mortgaged the personal property in the brewery for $300 and Ruety now claims that Walter has run away with the $300 and all the money he could collect from saloon keepers to whom the firm has sold beer.
-- Oshkosh Daily Northwestern; October 26, 1880

Juicy stuff thanks to the mysterious Mr. Walter. We may have encountered this fellow before, a couple blocks away at the Gambrinus Brewery on Harney Ave.

The Gambrinus Brewery began as a partnership between Lorenz Kuenzl and his brother-in-law named John Walter. But in May 1880, Kuenzl and Walter dissolved their partnership with Kuenzl taking control of the brewery. Three months later, we find a John Walter going into partnership at the Oshkosh Brewery. Is this the same man? I haven’t been able to confirm that it is. The trail of John Walter seems to go cold after 1880. The Northwestern article may explain why this is. If you had absconded with what today would be worth over $7,000, it would  be best to keep a rather low profile. Maybe this is why I can't seem to draw a bead on John Walter’s later years.

I’m not the first person to be frustrated by a slippery John Walter. George Loescher had no better luck tracking him down than I have. Bernard Ruety admitted defeat and deeded his interest in the Oshkosh Brewery back to Loescher in November 1880, but John Walter was nowhere to be found and his name clouded the title to the property for years to come. It would take until 1887 to have the matter fully resolved. By that time, George Loescher had been dead almost three years.

Loescher’s sons kept the Oshkosh Brewery limping along for a few more years, but by 1890 the gig was up. The disorderly little brewery on Bayshore Dr. was closed for good.

The backstory on Loescher’s Oshkosh Brewery can be found HERE and HERE.


  1. I grew up on Frankfort St and remember playing in cellars of the brewery on Harney St. We were told stories of the Loescher breweries from my great uncles who grew up on Eveline and Frankfort Streets in the 1870-80's, Nice to have those stories proven.

    1. Thanks for reading, Pam. If you’d like to share some of the brewery stories you’ve heard, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to contact me at
      -- Lee