Friday, October 30, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Prairie du Chien Wisconsin

For a town in Wisconsin, or for that matter, anywhere in America, Prairie du Chien is pretty darned old.  The first French explorers arrived there in 1673, and a presence there of fur traders began almost immediately.  The place has a long history indeed, and was actually the site of a battle during the War of 1812.

Soldiers and beer going together so naturally there must have been small scale brewing there quite early, but beer manufacturing on a commercial scale did not materialize until the mid 19th century.

Records are sketchy but two brewing concerns began around 1850.  Georgii and Company and one run by a man named Schibb.  The former became more prominent.

The storage cave of the Georgii Brewery, later Georgii and Schuman pops up here and there in later newspaper accounts.  In 1934 I found a reference that suggested it was being used by a beer distributor who installed steel doors and was planning to store their inventory down there. It is mentioned that the cave was excavated in 1858 and that an early newspaper described it as being "big enough to float a packet".  (A packet was a small steam boat btw). It was said to be capable of storing 15 car loads of beer.  Presumably this would be rail cars full.

In 1942 the cave gets another brief mention.  Three brothers, Don, Elmer and Virgil White, had taken over the site and started an apiary.  20 bee hives were set up outside and the plan was to winter the bees over in the controlled climate of the cave.  The brothers "hope to harvest a crop of honey to alleviate the sugar shortage".  This of course was a significant consideration during the War Years.

Finally in 1949 we get an in depth look.  A company called Badger Wholesale took it over and used it for cold storage of fruits and vegetables.  Helpfully the article gave a good fix on its location, on the edge of town and running under Highway 27.  The cave was described as being 78 feet long, 18 feet wide and 18 feet tall.  A very blurry photo shows white wooden (?) doors, apparently in a structure built onto the cave face.  One of the owners of the company is standing at the entrance.  It seems as if he is on a step down.

Here is the site today, right where it had to be based on the description.


This cave is quite odd.  Note the steeply sloping roof.  It dives down to a dirt floor.  Clearly the cave has been filled in, but what was its original form?


I can certainly imagine steps going down into a deeper space, but the angle is so steep.  And wouldn't this make use as a later storage facility a real pain?  Yet this is certainly the location given for the cave and the poor quality newspaper photo has enough similarity that I don't question the call here.

Could the slanting roof be part of the later sealing up procedure?  I doubt it as the stone work looks old and that would seem a very peculiar way to go about such a task in  the 1950s.  Or perhaps later.

No, this cave dives deep.  The entrance is certainly smaller than the main cavern, but what you can see for an opening here is maybe five feet tall, with some of the doorway now below ground level. An 18 foot ceiling from a cave that went straight in would just be a big hole in Highway 27.

 I wonder if later users of the cave installed some kind of ramps or rails?

This cave is on the north side of the road.  On the south side and a little closer to town I was surprised to find this: 




Another cave, with the brick work much newer than the stone.  Given the location, running into a cliff face and just outside the city limits, it is probably another brewery cave.  Perhaps from the Schibb brewery?   Records on the early breweries of Prairie du Chien have to date proven maddeningly incomplete!

Monday, October 26, 2015

CCC News from the Northern Pine Whisper

CCC camps are an oddity.  They are in a sense archaeological sites, places where the works of man are reverting quickly to nature.  But they are not all that old.  The living memories of them are just now slipping away, but there is plenty of documentation to supplement it.

While nosing about in search of information on Camp Smith Lake I learned that the local college had a few editions of the camp newspaper.


It is faded, tattered and was in the first place nothing more than a mimeographed publication with hand drawings.  But it makes for a fascinating read.  I wonder which of the confusing roads and tumbled down foundations actually went with this view?

This first edition of The Whisper is from June of 1935.  It has a lot of little flourishes including a history of the camp to date.

I learned that the first commander, Captain Crehan, actually got to go to Washington DC to receive a gold medal when his company was named best in the region.  And that all the men got to wear a special "honor button".

I learned that Captain Robert W. Fisher of the 32nd Cavalry Reserve was the second in command of the company until he took over in November of 1933.  This would have been the father of Donald Eugene Fisher .

The paper contained an account of a fire in January of 1935 that consumed five buildings and threatened the rest.  The Rec Hall, Mess Hall and Bath House at least were saved and pressed into temporary barracks.

I read about the construction of the baseball field, said to be a ten minute walk from the camp.  It sounds like some effort, with quite a lot of dynamite being needed to blast out stumps, and extensive use of "the cat and the kitten" which I assume to be large and small bulldozers.

A lot of the news is what you would expect from a camp publication.  Lots of sports scores, the occasional admonition from the brass, plenty of kidding about much of it inside jokes that no longer resonate.

But I was not expecting this:


A Romance column!  I mean, how much romantic life would a bunch of late teenaged guys have out in the middle of the woods?

A fair amount it seems.  Remember that after the initial draft of city slickers many of the CCC recruits were local lads in the first place.  And in hard times the guy working for a dollar a day was a better catch than those who had no money.  At the dances and other social occasions it seems that the local ladies turned out in good numbers.

You learn things that can't be discovered elsewhere.  For instance that CCC men were often called out to conduct searches for individuals lost in the woods.  Sometimes the publications will give you a historic clue that you are thinking is wrong....was the camp orchestra really called The Rhythm Jestors or was that a typo?  We may never know.

The newsletters for Camp Smith Lake came out monthly, and seem to have been written in large part by the permanent staff.  As there was more going on in the summer than the winter those editions are larger.  But there was activity in the cold weather months...


And Camp Smith Lake today, probably from the same perspective:


A pretty little hidden spot.  But I have it on reliable authority that the fishing is not as marvelous today as it was described in The Northern Pine Whisper.  Perhaps that was a bit of editorial license?
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Later this week:  Brewery caves of Prairie du Chien Wisconsin.  Also a peculiar business model....

Friday, October 23, 2015

Combat Robotics 2015 - Third Report

The kids have conferences or some such so a week without our after school class.  Here are a few machines from the Tuesday section that are coming along rather nicely.


Your basic four wheel drive pusher robot.  Thin polycarbonate strips on the front as a wedge.  Bits of sandpaper glued onto the styrofoam wheels.


Two wheel drive wedge design.  Oh, also a rapidly spinning steak knife on the front.  It is not an effective weapon but it does look cool.


If this works it will be cool.  I just noticed that the pointy part of the weapon is in the wrong direction.  It will have to be removed and reversed.


This student opted to go for defense.  Should be fairly safe inside a sheet metal cylinder.

Overall a reasonably functional group of machines with two or three build sessions left to go.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Boyhood in the CCC

It's been fun poking around at the documentary evidence and the physical remains of a couple of CCC camps up north.  While doing so I ran across, of all things, an obituary that was relevant.

Donald Eugene Fisher was born in Beloit, Wis., on June 1, 1925. The son of a career Army officer, he moved frequently with his father's changing duty stations. He spent his youth in northern Wisconsin where his father was commanding officer of depression-era CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) camps at Cable, Wis. (Camp Cable); Seeley, Wis. (Camp Smith Lake); and Townsend, Wis. (Camp Boot Lake). Don attended Madison West High School when his father became executive officer of Camp Madison (now the University of Wisconsin Arboretum).

On his 17th birthday in 1942, Don joined the Navy and volunteered for PT boat service. He saw action on D-Day in the English Channel during the Normandy invasion and later in the South Pacific until the Japanese surrender. During his service he earned three Purple Heart medals for injuries sustained in combat as well as numerous other awards for the actions in which his boat and squadron were engaged.
His later life was quite distinguished as well, he became President and CEO of an insurance company.
When I went looking for a photo of him, perhaps of his boyhood growing up in the CCC camps of northern Wisconsin, I found this:

His US Navy pants are now at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison which mentions in the associated notes that Mr. Fisher was wounded three times in 1944 including on D-Day.  
I wonder if somewhere in the background of my pictures of Camp Cable and Camp Smith Lake we might spy a gangly youth who looks just a little young to be a CCC recruit?



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

CCC Camp Smith Lake

The story of Camp Smith Lake, east of Seeley Wisconsin, is available in fairly complete form.

Company 647 was formed in May of 1933 at Fort Sheridan Illinois.  The first commander was a Captain J.P. Creshaw, a World War One vet who served as a Reserve officer in the 3rd Field Artillery.  Everything seemed to happen quickly in the world of the CCC.  Perhaps government agencies were more nimble back then.  So in mid June of '33 they were already encamped in a temporary base near Seeley in Sawyer County.  For the next four months they worked on road building and reforestation projects, in addition to constructing an elaborate new, semi permanent home some 5 miles east of Seeley.

For their efforts the 647th was named outstanding camp in the Sixth Corp area in October of 1933.

Their new home was on the shores of a small lake, so Camp Smith Lake it became.

Unusually it had two story barracks.  Also mentioned in descriptions are a pump house, bath house, forestry office, mess hall and baseball field.

Camp Smith Lake was in service for quite a while, a history of Wisconsin CCC camps indicates that over its life of service 1080 men passed through it.  The same history has some tantalizing little photos of life at the Camp.





Taking a look in October of 2015.....

The CCC camps used the available materials.  Timber and rock.


I don't know why there was a series of oil drums sunk into the ground.  I shall try not to speculate.


 CCC also used a lot of cement.  I don't understand this substantial structure with a narrow trench in the center.  It almost suggests an auto repair facility with a grease pit.


Also peculiar were quite a few of these stone pedestals.  They look like tomb stones but I think marked intersections of roads within the camp.


CCC construction methods were rather rough and ready.  I think I mentioned the stone and cement thing.


I had to work a bit to find the camp, and was rewarded with quite an array of remains.  I never did find the baseball field but I understand it is still recognizable.  If you fancy a look yourself forget Google Maps.  Even the county map was not very helpful.  I suggest you go east of Seeley Wisconsin on Boedecker Road.  Ignore Google Maps that has non existent name changes.  About five miles in you hit a stop sign and a T.  Go left towards Lake Helene Road.  When you see the sign that says Camp Smith Access you have gone too far.  This refers to the lake, not the camp.  The CCC camp is back a few hundred yards on both sides of the road where it takes a jog.  I saw the first hint of structures behind the big yellow sign with an arrow on it.  There is a convenient parking place there too.

My GPS claimed that the camp is at this location.  I don't think I trust it.


Monday, October 19, 2015

CCC Camp Cable



In an antique store last year I ran across a foot locker that had once held the belongings of a man in a CCC camp.  For those unfamiliar with the Civilian Conservation Corps program of the mid to late 1930s it was a very popular element of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" initiatives designed to help pull the US out of the Great Depression.

Young men from families "on relief" were recruited to go work on natural resource related programs in rural, often wilderness, areas.  They were housed in camps that were usually build on the spot and along military lines.  Barracks, mess hall, etc.  The CCC companies were commanded by military officers from the Reserve ranks.

The benefits were many.  Unemployment was reduced.  Young men developed useful skills - although as a concession to labor unions they were not taught advanced things like machining and so forth.  And when World War Two came along a few years later America had a cadre of men accustomed to a regimented life.  In fact, CCC alumni were usually tapped for slots as corporals or sergeants in a rapidly expanding military when the draft began in 1940.

As to the camps themselves, most were allowed to revert to nature.  But you can still find traces of them here and there.

Lets visit a couple this week.  First up:

This sign is actually a little deceptive.  Company 3653 was only formed in June of 1935. The earlier date above likely refers to the establishment of the "parent" company from which it was split off as the CCC program enlarged.  Their main jobs included fire fighting, tree planting and construction of public works.  After spending 17 months at a variety of camps in northern Wisconsin Company 3653 moved to Camp Cable in November of 1936.  In May of 1937 they moved away.

It seems likely that Camp Cable had an earlier occupation as it is described as being one of the most modern camps in the area with extensive facilities including class rooms.  A bit much to have constructed over the course of a single, chilly winter!

A look around in the early fall of 2015:

A road through the woods, trees growing in the middle.


The archaeological rule of thumb is that a right angle suggests a building foundation.  This one was raised up fairly high and looks to have been substantial.


Oil cans.  Might be from the 1930s but it is not as if people have gotten tidier since then.


There is not much that will give you a deep depression like this. Either a well or more likely a latrine pit.  Perhaps archaeologists in the distant future will consider it an important feature to excavate!



A last look at some of the men of Company 3653 in an undated photo.  The fellows in uniform show up well, the men in the back are washed out ghosts, probably wearing the white shirts of either the cook staff or of the civilian advisers.  In a way I suppose these men, future heroes of The Greatest Generation, are almost all ghosts now.  They have passed from among us, but for a small and dwindling band of survivors in their 90s.


---------
Addendum.  Camp Cable was built in the fall of 1934 by company V1676.  The V designation indicated that the men were entirely World War I veterans.  Among the features of the newly constructed camp were a pair of ornamental stone pillars at the entrance.  Buried under one was a bottle containing a list of the names of the original builders of Camp Cable.  No trace of the pillars is now to be seen.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cubs Fans....Take one for the Team (aka the Human Race)

I mentioned this a few years ago.  It was at the time a light hearted observation but now I am concerned.  Deeply concerned.

In one of my all time favorite short stories W.P. Kinsella - he wrote the book that became the move Field of Dreams - made a chilling prediction.

It appears in the story The Last Pennant Before Armageddon.  The premise is that the long suffering Chicago Cubs are finally within reach of the National League championship.  And their manager begins having disturbing, prophetic dreams....



"It was on the sixth night God spoke.  Tiller was certain that Al Capone was one of the lobbyists that evening.  He had always thought of Capone as a White Sox fan."

"God cleared his throat before he spoke; his voice sounded as if it were emanating from an echo chamber.  My dreams are like 'B' movies, or bad television,  Al Tiller thought.  I couldn't let anyone know about them without apologizing for their quality.  When God did speak he sounded to Al Tiller a little like a senator."

"'I appreciate your interest,' God said. 'I want to assure you that I hold the Chicago Cubs in highest esteem.  I have listened to your entreaties and considered the matter carefully from all angles.  I am aware of how long it has been since the Cubs have won a pennant.  I think you should know that when the Cubs next win the National League Championship, it will be the last pennant before Armageddon....."

Game one of the National League Championship tonight.  Pray for a Cubs collapse.  If it does not happen, I suggest prayers on a more wholesale basis.

--------------

Somebody wrote a play based on this story.  It had a short run in 2003 and has not been put on since. Maybe it is time?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Combat Robot Class 2015 - Second Report

The middle school class for three pound combat robots is moving along.  My attention for it has been a bit less this year as there is the concurrent task of getting a serious, non combat robotics program together at the high school level.  I don't know if this distraction is "contagious" but my middle school students this year also seem a bit unfocused.  Oh well, everyone gets something running by the time of the mid November tournament.  Here are some works in progress.




Several kids utilizing cardboard this year.  No particular reason I suppose, just that the class room we are working in has a lot of it lying around.  I have mentioned to them that the arena hazards as well as some of the opposing robots have the ability to make shreds out of this material.  They thought this would be fun to watch.  Actually, with a little reinforcement at key points they might do OK.


A sheet metal pushing ramp.  The cartoon colored zip ties will be trimmed off.  This arrangement allows function if/when the robot gets flipped over.  As these machines are more or less running at turtle speeds they should at least not have a turtle's main design flaw.


We always have a few robots with vicious looking weaponry.  It generally does not work out well for these "apex predators" as the kinetic energy involved can be as damaging to themselves as to their opponents.  But we keep on trying.  The large hole in the front of the robot was kind of "my bad".  I was working that day without my usually Igor/assistant.  Dashing from place to place trying to help kids or at least keep them from harm I told this student where to place the wheels.  Opps, the round cut out was where the weapon motor was supposed to be.  But this looks cool and we trimmed off an ounce or two.  Three pounds happens sooner than you might think.  I always tell the kids that the true enemy is the scale.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Bat Cave Dilemma

There is no question that visiting brewery caves now is harder than it used to be.  Some have simply caved in.  Others are underneath new development.  But a large number have simply been barricaded off for liability reasons.

Hey, I get it.  Caves attract young foolish people and tragic results can be expected.

But every once in a while competing forces of the modern world are in opposition, and sort of cancel each other out.

I have written earlier about the problems bats in the Midwest are having with "white nose syndrome". It continues to spread and makes preserving bat habitat an urgent matter.

So, what happens when a cave that could be filled in with tons of No Fun cement for liability reasons actually harbors a bat colony?

Bats trump lawyers I guess.

Consider a cave I have visited previously.  I keep in touch with the DNR when I encounter bats and this one was found to harbor some nice specimens.


The lower levels of the cave had the usual evidence of human visitation.  Very pretty stone striations.


This cave is not entirely safe anyway, so the DNR has now installed a special "bat gate" over the entrance.


This is the sort of thing that really bothers some of my more intrepid "explorer" friends, but to be honest it is a real world trade off.  The bats need the cave.  So the lawyers can't cement it shut.  And visitors will be allowed on a special basis during the summer months when our squeeky little pals are not in residence.

I am actually happier climbing around knowing they are not at home anyway.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Things I am going to do when I retire

In no particular order, just things that occur to me.  When the list gets long enough I guess I shall print it off, retire and start at the top.  Or the bottom, or the middle.

1. Our State University system allows mature (i.e. long time taxpayers) individuals to take a limited number of classes per semester at a really cheap rate.  As in, free after age 60.  No college credits earned - who needs 'em? - and on an as available basis.  Somehow I doubt that the subjects I find interesting will be immediately filled with aspiring young scholars who need certain pre-requisite classes.  I do so look forward to trouncing the young and distracted on exams.

2. Travel for longer stretches of time.  When you go to Europe or Alaska for instance, the big ticket item is, well, the ticket.  If I/we are going to spring for airfare it makes sense to stay for a month or longer instead of the lesser sojourns that even a flexible work schedule permits.  Of course travel can be pricey on a day to day basis, so more walking holidays, maybe hostel stays.  I am compiling a comprehensive list of all my overseas friends with notations on the availability of their sofas and on their general gullibility!

3. Get a dog.  Work and travel together don't fit with responsible pet ownership.  I want a loyal, yet eccentric, canine side kick.  This one is a provisional item, it may be that grandchildren will be more fun, with the side benefit being that the cleaning up after them side of things can be mostly "sub contracted".

4. Work in a brewery.  In my current work as an Emergency Room doctor I have to handle an enormous array of wants and demands, and work out complex decision trees to arrive at the correct diagnosis.  Working the tap room at one of the small local breweries seems much easier.

     Patron; "I want a beer."
     Barkeep: "Here ya go."

My patient satisfaction scores are not bad in my current role.  But in my new career I think I could hit 100%.

5.  Have a "local".  This is more of a U.K. term I guess.  It means have a pub/bar that I visit often enough to be recognized as a regular.  You can't really do this when you are a practicing physician. Upon retirement you can.  And will likely get the nickname "Doc".  Just stop in a few times a week for one beer, that's all.

6. Speaking of names I suppose I could write under my birth certificate issued moniker.  Nom de plume is prudent in some ways but would not be a necessity when I no longer have a Reputation to protect.

7. Do more volunteer work with the local school system.  I have had a lot of fun for many years teaching in the after school program.  The Alternative School needs help.  There should be a high school level robotics program.*  These things can be done.  A modicum of meeting attendance could be tolerated in worthy pursuits.

8. Probably UnRetire a time or two. lets be realistic here.

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*Dear Lord, my bluff has been called on this one.  Per a recent post the alumni from my middle school class have banded together to form a high school FIRST team.  This throws me right into the maelstrom!


Friday, October 9, 2015

The Hogwarts Letter

FIRST Robotics is a big deal.  High level robotic engineering and a competition to boot. In terms of student and coach time commitment it is on a par with being on the football or basketball team.  In terms of recognition, a little less.  In terms of  future employment prospects, a lot better.

Honestly, we went fishing.  Were there enough kids at our high school interested in robotics to the point that they will dig in and work five or six sessions a week to build a competitive robot?  We put together a list of "alumni" from my middle school robotics class and tossed in additional suggestions from our sources in the high school.

Here is my personal invite to the kids on "The List".  A general invite followed.....


Dear _____________

Sorry that this letter could not be delivered by owl.

Because it is a little like getting an invitation to Hogwarts.

After many years of discussion we will be having a FIRST robotics team at XXXXX in 2015/16.  FIRST is the premier robotics event for high school students and has grown to approximately 3,000 teams competing at local, regional and eventually, world events.

The specifications for the competition change every year.  On January 9th the competition details are announced, the kit of standardized parts is delivered, and teams have exactly six frantic weeks to complete a robot that will do….well, we won’t know until January 9th, but typically they navigate mazes, shoot balls into hoops, move objects from one place to another, all with a time limit and a scoring system.

This is top of the line robotic technology, and the sort of thing that looks very good on a resume for people pursuing a career in technology.

You might be getting this letter for a variety of reasons.  We hope that alumni of Dr. XXXXXs middle school robotics programs will be the core of the team.  But we have also gotten suggestions from other sources who tip us off to students with skills that could be put to good use.

We need:

People with robotics experience.
People who have machining, design and building skills.
People with programming abilities.
People who are good at strategy and games theory.
People who like to tinker.

We also need people with skills that might not be obvious.  We could use one or two  with good graphics design skills, because looking good counts for something. We really need people who are good at multiple things but maybe not great at any of them.  “Utility Infielders” who can fill in on several areas probably make the difference for successful teams.  On a team of (we hope) 15 to 20 students you could probably find a place for somebody whose sole jobs are keeping the tools straight and picking up the pizza.  We expect lots of pizza.

If you have interest and can consider a significant time commitment in January and February (with competition in March), please contact XXXXXXX at _________ or come to the upcoming organizing meeting on ____________.

We also will need adult help.  If you are a welder or a machinist or a programmer or an engineer, or just somebody who has an interest in seeing science and technology get the same level of recognition and respect as sports…..we want to hear from you. 

Looking forward to a very busy, very fun, very worthwhile robotic campaign…


----------------

And the answer was: While I would have been willing to undertake this venture with six motivated kids.  I would have been happier with 12 and ecstatic with 20.  We had 44 kids turn up for the intro meeting.

This poses many unexpected challenges and even more unexpected opportunities.

Hang on for the ride, its gonna be a fun one!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Tree Shaped Tombstones - Hammond Wisconsin

As I travel about I do encounter "tree shaped tombstones" with some regularity. I always snap a picture just to make sure I am not missing some small detail that will interest me later, but your average cemetery with one or two examples is simply not "blog worthy".

But once in a  while you find one that is.  Hammond Wisconsin is one such place.  Typical small town in the Badger State, and I must say not in an area where I have found that many "trees" for my collection.  But here I ran across some rather interesting specimens....


Here we have a nice substantial specimen.  It looks to have a GAR star in front of it by the way. But what caught my eye here was the peculiar placement of the horizontal branches.  They seem to be trying to cross over, as if an Ent was trying to cover his eyes.  Lets take a closer look...


On this side we have Melia nee Boink, First Wife of Mr. Bixby.  Also their only daughter.


And here we have Second Wife Malinda and her daughter, presumably with Mr. B.  Odd how the two wives - or is it their tragically dead children? - are reaching out to try and touch each other.


A nice tombstone for "Our Suzy" placed there by her husband and her father.  This one is in really great shape, not a chip off of any of the lilly leaves, very little weathering.  It does not fit with a death date of 1871.  That by the way would also be extremely early for a "tree shaped tombstone", most of which were from the 1880s to around 1920.  I am willing to bet that this was a replacement marker put in place when an earlier monument did not hold up well.


The Hammond cemetery contained several of these Y-shaped specimens.  These are almost always a husband and wife memorial, with one marked on each branch but a common trunk representing marital union.  I think it is both touching, and rather stylish.  Evidently I was not the only visitor to this spot to harbor such sentiments, because a short distance away a familiar form with an unfamiliar color caught my eye.....


Mr. Anderson passed on in 2013, Mrs. Anderson is still with us.  It is so rare to run across one of these modern day tree shaped monuments.  Perhaps they are coming back into fashion?  I did a little looking through catalogs but so far have not been able to find out where these come from.

This example appears to be made of some sort of granite, so perhaps it will not have the premature wear that I see so often on century old examples.  Only time will tell.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Johnny Walnutseed !

The Klein Brewery in Decorah Iowa is one of those places whose later history is a bit more interesting than its fairly brief run as a functioning brewery. Here is the site when we visited in August of 2015.  It is about as easy to find as you can get, right there on "Ice Cave Road" near the entrance to Dunning Springs Park.

The photo is a bit washed out by the dazzling sunshine but you can see a smaller, open cellar door on the left, a larger entrance in the middle, and up above just a hint of a red brick house.  This belonged to the brew master and it is said that the larger door leads to a 100 foot long tunnel with a branch extending to the basement of the house.  So much for the current overview, here is an image from 1875.


You can see a small cave entrance to the left of the brewery.  This could either be the similar structure you see today, or perhaps a less accurate rendering of the larger cave.  In this view the brew master's house is not present and is presumably a later addition.

Before we discuss the history of the site further, a couple more pictures.


Here is the exterior of the main cave.  Note the curved stonework.  I think this is different enough from the 1875 view that it makes an entrance arising from inside the brewery to be most likely. There was a random scattering of brick and stone going off to the right that represents the ruins of the structure.  The smaller cave, which is standing open, has its side wall on the left of this picture.  Here is a shot of the entrance to it.


Old wood always photographs well.  And peeking inside you see, in miniature, a nice little storage cave complete with a small vent hole in its brick arched roof.


The pairing of a small cave next to a much larger one is an enigma.  In theory the former could have been an earlier cave from a smaller establishment but I think it more likely that this had a purpose other than ageing beer.  It would have been difficult to keep the temperature low enough on a consistent basis.  So perhaps storage for hops?  Or as a convenient temporary storage cave for beer that was ready to be loaded for delivery?  Another possibility is that this was where they stored beer prior to bottling.

The history of Iowa breweries in general is a challenge.  They were constantly under the threat of closure by narrow minded Legislatures.  In particular the Decorah area was heavily Scandinavian, so the usual base of community acceptance you find in German towns was not there.  So what there is out there for information is skimpy.

Decorah had two breweries, this one and one started by a man named Addicken in the pre-Civil War era.  One source I read felt the Klein brewery was a continuation of Addicken's venture but that is a bit of an puzzler. Tax records show the two existing contemporaneously into the 1880s.  An 1882 county history says that Addicken built a new brewery in 1865 but in a location that may or may not fit that of the Klein establishment.  It also notes that Addicken died in a riding accident in 1875 and that the business was being carried on by his  daughter and "competent assistants"  In the brewing industry we find many examples of brew master's widows remarrying to carry on the enterprise, was this a similar situation?

In any case the Klein brewery quite likely goes back further than the first tax records in 1874 (when Addicken was still safely on his horse), and the illustrated view from one year later shows a well established business.

Alas for the fortunes of an Iowa brewer.* State wide Prohibition hindered the business the whole way and finally got Klein out of brewing altogether, probably in the late 1880s.  The building was later used as a creamery, this being a common metamorphosis in a state where milk enjoyed more official approval than lager. A mention of The Farmers Ice Cave Creamery in 1918 gives us a later business name.

Of the later uses for the Klein brewery cave we know nothing for many years.  Mechanical refrigeration made cold storage available in more convenient locations so I suspect it sat idle for many years.

But in the 1960s we find the cave being used by a marvelous character named Robert W. Daubendiek, or more familiarly as "Johnny Walnut Seed".

Born in 1918 Daubendiek's family was in the telephone business but also owned 60,000 acres of timber land in Mexico until it was confiscated by the government.  Trained in forestry he "retired" from the utility business in 1949, a few years after his military service in the Signal Corps.  He purchased some farm land in north eastern Iowa and began growing walnut trees. After a while he worked out a way to grow them on a large scale basis.  It worked something like this.  He hired kids to collect walnuts, something on the order of 5,000 bushels a year.  He planted them temporarily to get them to germinate.  The walnuts were then floated in water to separate out the viable from the dubious.  The latter were placed out as a huge squirrel offering so as to keep them away from the nursery plants!  That must have been a sight to see.  The seedlings were then planted in long trenches. The seedlings could grow to a certain size in this fashion but needed a climate controlled place to ride out the winter season.  The brewery cave in Dubuque was perfect for this, so beginning in 1960 he used to annually to store hundreds of thousands of young walnut trees.  In the spring they were hardy and ready to be sold.  Some went to nurseries, others to private growers.  Daubendiek had a crew of 11 men working to plant them every spring.

By the early 1970s he was something of an apostle of walnut cultivation, selling a million seedlings a year.  He claimed that this was more than the number sold by all other walnut nurseries in the world...combined.  He would even custom plant small acreages with walnuts, selling them later to investors as a combination hunting and recreation land that just happened to have a valuable timber crop growing.

Daubendiek died in 1975.  His tombstone reads: "Iowa's Johnny Walnut Seed. He who plants a tree plants hope."  He seems to have been a pretty good guy.  I find passing mention of him being severely wounded in France during the war.  And poiginantly his walnut growing plantation and summer home near Harpers Ferry Iowa was called Andy Mountain Camp after his only son, who died young.

Remarkably his widow, Mae, lived to the age of 96 and passed away only a few months ago. She was a former telephone operator - must have married the boss's son! - and has written a number of books including an account of her husband's work with black walnut trees.

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*Times are sure better now.  In fact a very fine microbrewery Toppling Goliath is just up the road from the Klein Brewery ruins.  Alas, when on a road trip tippling is not an option but their products come very well recommended.  Joseph Klein smiles somewhere off in the malt scented Great Beyond.