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Waukesha’s Hickory Grove Brewery

Recently, the Waukesha Freeman featured a story about a mysterious cave or tunnel that is located on East Main Street next to Fuzzy’s Bar. The tunnel is now used to store liquor, but the newspaper story claimed that the area was once a haven for bootlegging during Prohibition. People interviewed in the article speculated that the tunnel was built for that purpose. Friends of mine speculated that the tunnel was part of the Underground Railroad when Waukesha was know as “That Abolition Hole” before the Civil War. I think the answer lies somewhere else. A search of land records and old maps provides the answer.
The property started out as a private residence on ten acres of land (see ad from 1850).

On October 23, 1867, Morris D. Cutler, pioneer resident of Waukesha, sold this land to Leonard Uhl and Christopher Kreiner for $1,500. The following year the partners sold a portion of their land to John Gredler, for $1,000. Kreiner and Uhl opened a brewery on their property. The brewery was shown on the 1872 plat map of Waukesha.

Christoph “Charles” Kreiner, his wife Margaret, and three young children, Annie, Michael and Agnes, lived on the site of the park.

On Sept. 9, 1871, Uhl sold his half of the brewery to John Leonard Pappenheimer for $2,100. The deed gave Pappenheimer “all the undivided 1/2 of the brewery fixings, utensils, (and) malt grinding mills.”

The partners worked to make the brewery a success, but two years later, on April 23, 1873, Kreiner sold his half of the brewery to John J. Plate. Plate and Pappenheimer had the same hard luck with the brewery, and on September 20, 1875, the property was sold by the sheriff to John “William” Gredler.

It makes perfect sense then, that the tunnel now used for storing liquor was part probably part of the old brewery.

The July 4, 1876 Waukesha County Democrat reported that Gredler “was fitting up and improving his property, known as Hickory Grove, in the most approved and modern style, for the purpose of holding summer night's festivals.” Later that summer (July 15), the paper noted that Mr. Gredler had constructed an “excellent dance floor and restaurant (all under cover). Here our German citizens enjoyed themselves until the rain storm burst with such violence upon them, then (sic) the crowd dispersed in disorder.”

The papers continued to report on celebrations held at Hickory Grove through the 1870s and 1880s.

One of the biggest celebrations was the annual Fourth of July celebration. In 1881, the receipts from the party were $640.00. Several hundred people were on the grounds, and speakers on the grandstand were F.W. Monteith and J.V.V. Platto.

The following year, 1882, the July Fourth ceremonies were held under the auspices of the German Reform Church Society. Dinner was served by the ladies of the Society. Music, sports and various games were also planned.

Later that summer, another festival was held in the Grove, this time the picnic of the St. Joseph Benevolent Society. A trainload of visitors from Milwaukee came to Waukesha for the occasion, and after a grand procession, over four thousand people crowded onto the grounds. The following description gives the feel of the day;
“Hickory Grove is situated on a gently sloping hill on the eastern border of the village and agreeably shaded by fine old hickory and oak trees. Upon this hill was gathered a large delegation of the youth and beauty of Milwaukee and Waukesha, representatives of various races all bent upon an enjoyable time.
The day passed pleasantly, interspersed with music, games, etc....
....there were upwards of four thousand people on the ground constantly. There was no disturbance of any kind, and not a case of intoxication, but everything passed off in the most orderly, quiet and enjoyable manner. There did not an incident occur to mar the perfect harmony of the occasion.”

Gredler tried to cash in on the popularity of the Waukesha Springs era. In 1884 he promoted the spring on his property in the Waukesha Freeman. I am not sure if the water was ever bottled or sold. The newspaper article is the only mention of the spring that I have ever seen.

In 1887, a portion of Hickory Grove was purchased by local businessman James K. Anderson, who had been very successful in partnership with Mr. Haslage of Chicago, in the development of Silurian Springs. He later spearheaded the organization of the Arcadian Mineral Spring Company, Waukesha Lithia Spring, the Waukesha Water Company and Resthaven Hotel. He was also instrumental in many Waukesha industries.

Anderson remodeled the residence on the grounds, and it was referred to as “Hickory Grove Villa” in the newspapers. He oversaw the installation of six acres of gardens around the property.

A hotel was built on the Main Street side of the grounds, and its location was shown on the 1892 plat map. For many years it was a popular place for the railroad workers to stay. It is not clear if this hotel was built by Anderson or his predecessors, but the hotel presently stands as a boarding house on Beechwood Avenue.

In 1887, Gredler sub-divided the remaining portion of Hickory Grove into lots for single family homes, and today the area is a mix of older homes and businesses. If one takes a close look at the hillside around the Resthaven (New Tribes) grounds, he can feel what the park must have been like at one time.

I have never seen any kegs, bottles or advertising from the Hickroy Grove breweries or springs that were on this property.

Unfortunately, all that is left of the many celebrations held at Hickory Grove are a few lines in faded newspapers - and an old tunnel that was probably used to store beer.
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