Friday, January 27, 2017

The Bicycles in the Cave

Nothing like a bit of larceny to spice up a brewery cave story.  But first some history.

When Neuffer and Becker started their brewery in Winona, Minnesota in 1863 they were coming into an already crowded market with two substantial competitors.  I have featured the Gillmore Valley and Peter Bub breweries in earlier installments of Forgotten Brewery Caves.

The location was alongside Sugar Loaf bluff just outside of town.  In fact they set up shop only a few hundred yards away from the Bub brewery.  The history of the Neuffer and Becker brewery is a familiar one, frequent ownership changes and at least one damaging fire. It was eventually acquired by a man named Schellhas, a former brewer for Peter Bub.  Prohibition had its usual effect on the business, and when sale of non alcoholic products proved insufficient the brewery went out of business in 1931.

Eight years later the Winona Republican-Herald had this in its January 18th edition:


Youths Put to Work Reassembling Parts found at Sugar Loaf

"Three youths, alleged members of a bicycle theft ring with a "base of operations" in a bat infested and long abandoned beer storage cave at Sugar Loaf were put to work today by police reassembling bicycles from "scrambled parts".

From 15 to 17 years old, the boys recently started riding bicycles from Winona to Sugar Loaf to a long and deep tunnel leading to a sandstone cliff cave where lager beer of the old William Schellhas brewery was stored, police said.

Tunnel and cave have been unused for nearly 40 years for the purpose for which they were intended, but in it Detective Albert Winkels and Traffic Policeman August Bingold yesterday found evidence that bicycle thieves had been stripping accessories from stolen bicycles there.  

Following the arrest of the three, police recovered two bicycles which they could not identify at first as any that had been stolen in Winona recently, but the boys admitted switching parts from their own and stolen bicycles until only they could tell which part belonged to which bicycle.  

Work at Station

So the boys got jobs at the police station Tuesday afternoon and today taking the bicycles apart and restoring them to their original condition as far as possible.  They were working today on a girls red bicycle and a man's cream and black colored bicycle.........

The mouth of the tunnel is down hill, or on the east side of the old Schellhas brewery, which stands between Highway 61 and the brick hill road which extends from the south end of Mankato avenue.  

The tunnel runs fairly deep underground through sandstone formations, under the old brewery and ends under the brick road......."

Alas, I have given the area a fairly good looking over and can see no trace of the Schellhas cave surviving to the modern era.  The best I can offer is an image from a 1908 post card.  Sugar Loaf in the back ground, the red buildings are the Peter Bub Brewery.  Schellhas would be somewhere off to the left.

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