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The Wadena machine

(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles on Wadena manufacturers -- past and present -- from the files of the Wadena County Historical Society and the Pioneer Journal, compiled by local historian Bob Zosel. This week, we explore the early days, starting in the 1880s.)

There were many manufacturers of many different products over the years. Some successful, others not, with most eventually disappearing which is inevitable. Bear in mind that people are very ingenious and respond to a need if they think there is a way of making a buck.

The earliest record of a manufacturer in Wadena is a shingle mill operated by one Thomas Barwise. There is no record of where this was located and it seemed to be in business only in 1880 when it burnt and was not replaced.

In 1881 the Wadena Brick Yard was started by Asher Murray and a man named Allen. It is interesting that any time a need developed someone started a business. However, evidently the need was not great or they ran out of clay as the enterprise folded later that same year.

This was followed by a planing mill owned and operated by Charles Northfoss and his two sons, Theodore and George. This was heralded with the following 1880 newspaper announcement in the Northern Pacific Farmer: "SHOUT! BROTHERS SHOUT! THE PLANEING MILL IS HERE AND IT'S ENERGETIC PROPRIETORS ALREADY HARD AT WORK.

Last Sunday night, two weeks before the expected arrival of Mr. Northfoss and Sons, the cars containing the machinery and household goods of these gentlemen arrived in Wadena. Monday morning the Northfoss boys commenced to unload their machinery and before night, had their machinery enclosed beneath a temporary shed and their household goods packed in the railroad tank house. Tuesday it was their intention to begin erecting a 44 feet square building with basement."

This building and eventually their lumber yard was located in the block where the Dairy Queen is in 2008. In 1910 the company was reorganized with Theo Northfoss as president and renamed the Wadena Manufacturing Company and F. C. Korupp as manager. In 1919, Korupp took over as the president. This was sold to Albert and Otto Skog in 1927 and known as the Skog Sash & Door Co., and in turn sold to Ray Fehr in 1946 and called the Wadena Sash & Door Co. He closed the company out in 1952 with the machinery being sold to the Merickel Lumber mills. Albert Skog operated the Wadena Boat Works for a short period of time. The Sash and Door building served for many years as a warehouse for the Wadena Silo Co. but was eventually torn down.

Naturally the next enterprise would have to be a brewery. The first of these was constructed by George Carl and Theodore Roller in 1881 and located just east of Todd Wadena REA on Union Creek and the San Road. (CSAH 4). This burned in 1884 and was not replaced.

An excerpt on this fire from the Farmer was rather humorous:

"The fire alarm (the new one we are going to get) from the tower of the Hose House (when it is built) should have rung out clear and loud last Monday night when the Brewery was discovered to be on fire, but it did not ring as we do not know whether we will get a bell or a gong. But your noble band of firemen responded just the same, and we were on hand promptly the next day about 2:30 p.m., making the entire distance of three quarters of a mile in the unprecedented time of 15 hours and 45 minutes. We got there just in time (but badly winded to save all that was left of this stately edifice -- about a peck of ashes -- from being blown away."

It seems that newspapers are or were made up of jokesters.

Anyway this was followed by a Brewery along the Northern Pacific for a short time owned by a man named Paul Wermerskirchen.

The Brewery business really got started when Henry Ebner and William King started the Wadena Brewery at 600 Fifth Street SE in 1884. The site of the old Homecrest Plant in 2008. In 1886, it was noted that they were building an addition onto their plant.

"That Messrs. King and Ebner are already having a large sale for their beer, shipping on the main line of the NP east and west and on the Black Hills division to all points. It is the unanimous decision of all the dealers that their beer cannot be excelled in quality. Mr. King retired from the business in 1893."

One of the ads run in the Farmer was: "Wanted: ten thousand beer drinkers."

In 1895 as I said in an earlier article, Henry Ebner decided that the beer business wasn't proper for a family man so he leased the Brewery to John Mettel. Later owners and operators were Julius Miller, John Ehlen and Math Schmitz. Originally beer was only produced in barrels but later distributed in bottles with Ehlen's beer known as Wadena beer. Of course in 1915, prohibition took effect and all enterprises were closed down not to reopen until 1933.

The other industry aligned with the brewery business was a Keg & Barrel factory, started of course by Henry Ebner.

Another similar enterprise was the bottling of soft drinks, the first a plant started by William Becker in 1886 at 224 First Street SE, the present site of the Wadena Eye Clinic. In 1900, he sold to his brother Martin and in 1903 they again joined forces and named it the Wadena Bottling Works. In 1905, they sold out to relatives, August and Edward Golz which continued until 1907.

In 1903, a competitor appeared, the Standard Bottling Company owned by Herman Kallusky at 116 Ash Avenue NW, the old Homecrest Second Shop on Highway 10 west. In 1915, Kallusky renamed his business the Herman Kallusky Bottling Company and in 1919 changed the name again to the Wadena Bottling Works.

In 1921, he sold out to the Charles Kopp. In 1928, Charles' son Peter took over the business until his untimely death in 1945. He was succeeded by his wife Ann and son Wayne who changed the name to the Pepsi Bottling Company.

The company was sold later to the North Central Bottling Company and finally to Frank Kiewell who closed it out in 1970.

(Next week in this series: "The Plow with the Bulge," in the April 3 Pioneer Journal.)