Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Brewery Cave Tall Tales - Part One

19th Century newspapers told amusing yarns that probably had little connection with truth. Researching  Brewery Caves I came across a pair of such, both from the same location in Franklin Pennsylvania.

First, as reported variously in August of  1880:


Twenty years or so ago Hermann Minnich owned a brewery along French Creek in this place.  A storage vault or tunnel belonging to the brewery was excavated in the side of the hill nearly 200 feet in length.  There ws a great flood in the creek in 1865, and the water threatened to fill the vault.  A large quantity of beer was stored there at the time.  In attempting to save the beer from being carried away Brewer Minnich was drowned.  Phillip Grossman now keeps a saloon near the vault, which he uses to store cheese, bologna and beer in.  The vault for some time has been overrun with rats of an enormous size.  They frequent the tunnel in such numbers and are so bold and aggressive that Grossman has long found it necessary to take some one with him to fight the rats away while he takes out cheese or beer.  The cheese is kept covered with tin cases through which the rats cannot gnaw.

Among Crossman's (sic) children are two boys - Philly, 13, and Eddie, 8 years old. They are both fond of Swiss Cheese.  A few days ago they determined to make a raid on the stores of their favorite cheese in the old brewery vault. They knew it would be necessary to fight an army of rats in order to secure the prize they coveted, but that did not deter them.  Philly armed himself with a heavy piece of hoop iron, and the two young boys entered the vault, the youngest carrying a lantern.  They had gone a few feet only when the rats began to dispute their passage. Rates scampered about them on every side and it was with difficulty that Philly kept them off of himself and his brother by active wielding of his piece of iron.  Some of the rats were of enormous size, and the army kept the boys entirely surrounded, moving along toward the further end of the tunnel with them, and keeping up a loud and fierce outcry as they marched.  Several times one of the rats, more bold than his companions, would jump savagely at one or the other of the boys, but these invariably met death or were disabled by blows from Philly's iron.  The younger boy wanted to go back after a rat had leaped up and caught him by the sleeve with its teeth; but his brother quieted his fears, and told him the rats were only playing.

By the time the boys reached the end of the tunnel, where the cheese was kept, the rats had gathered by hundreds around the children, covering the cheese boxes and running over the boys in spite of the efforts of the elder to keep them off.  Philly took off his coat and wrapped it around his little brother, to protect him from the rats, and then proceeded to uncover the cheese.  The rats piled upon him and about him, as though frantic with the prospect of getting possession of the cheese themselves.  Philly beat about him right and left, but finding it impossible to drive the rats away so that he could get a box raised, he told his little brother to go back and tell his father to come into the vault as soon as possible.  The little fellow hasted out leaving Philly alone in the dark, battling with the rats, which were gradually getting the better of him. He placed his back against the side of the tunnel, and wielded his weapon continually, killing or disabling a rat at almost every blow.

When the younger child carried the news to his father that Philly was in the vault surrounded by the rats, Grossman and two neighbors armed themselves with clubs and hurried to the rescue of the boy. The number of rats seemed to number thousands when they reached the scene.  The men joined in the contest, but so numerous and persistent were the rats that they were more than an hour in conquering them.  Dead rats lay piled on every side, and their number were so greatly reduced that the survivors were finally driven to their holes.  Eight hundred and nineteen dead rates were carried from the vault. One of them weighed over eight pounds. The carcasses filled a two-horse wagon-box, and were a good load for a team to draw away.  The combined weight of the rats was over a ton.

Oh, but come back next time.  A even odder tale from this cave awaits.

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