From Ludington Brewer to Scottville Lumberman
By James R. Jensen
Many of the people who immigrated to the Midwest during the last half of the 19th century were from Germany. Most enjoyed drinking beer and some like Frederick Miller, Frederick Pabst, Joseph Schlitz and Valentin Blatz became brewers of their native beverage here in their new country. One of these brewers, Albert Vogel, practiced his craft in Mason County.
Albert Vogel was born in the Württemberg region of Germany in 1845. After his arrival in the United States he worked for a time as brewery foreman in Pennsylvania. He later lived in Chicago for a short time where his father, Albert, was a successful physician and his brothers, Paul and Charles, were employed by the Circuit Court. A short time later he moved to Pentwater, Michigan to again work as a brewer.
His arrival in Ludington is reported as occurring either in 1871 (History of the Lumber and Forest Industry of the Northwest, Hotchkiss, 1898) or 1877 (History of Mason County, Page, 1882). After establishing himself in the new City of Ludington he purchased 25 acres of land on what is today Lakeshore Drive. Here he built a brewery to supply beer to the growing German population of Ludington.
That brewery was located at the site of the current Nader’s Motel and Suites. Vogel, the brewer, also understood how to sell his products. He purchased the land across the road from his brewery and on his combined lands he built a park and what was essentially a German beer garden. An article in the March 25, 1923 edition of the Ludington Daily News reported that this park had flower gardens and an aviary containing “peacocks, pheasants, guinea fowls and, many other birds of curious or interesting character.”
On weekends he would haul his barrels of beer to the park and those who enjoyed beer would gather there. These gatherings were certainly not looked upon favorably by those in the community who were part of an already growing movement advocating the prohibition of all alcohol.
In the early 1880’s Albert Vogel closed his brewery and became a distributor for the Blatz and Best’s companies of Milwaukee. He built a new warehouse on S. Charles St. (now Rath Ave.) to conduct this business. The photos accompanying this article are of this distributorship.
In the mid 1880’s Vogel ventured into the lumber business by buying land near Fountain. The white pine had been mostly harvested by that time, but hardwood trees remained. He initially had custom sawing done at a mill near Fountain, but in 1893 he began using his own sawmill in Scottville for this purpose.
He eventually purchased large timber land holdings in Wisconsin and operated sawmills in that state. Newspapers in 1902 referred to him as the “Hardwood King” and indicated that he had recently sold 400,000 acres of timber holdings to the Foster-Latimer Lumber Co.
Not all of the Vogel business ventures appear to be as successful however. The August 1, 1901 edition of the Ludington Record-Appeal carried the headline “WILL MAKE VOGEL RICH” and detailed recent valuable discoveries of gold and copper on Vogel lands. The discoveries never resulted in such wealth. Even some of his early business ventures had their problems. On December 3, 1885 the Ludington Daily News reported that “Mr. Albert Vogel slipped and sustained serious injuries yesterday, while working in his ice house.”
Albert Vogel died in 1913 in Ludington. There is little remaining in Mason County to remind us of him other than a short street bearing his name in Ludington north of where his brewery was previously located. That brewery, his beer warehouse and his sawmill no longer exist. But it is likely that Albert Vogel would be very pleased to know that there are a growing number of brewers who continue his activities in Mason County today.