John Zugschewert and the North Star Brewery

North Star Brewery, Saint Paul MN; taken between 1896 and 1900; photo credit Kathie Dee

One of the earliest breweries in Saint Paul was the North Star Brewery. It opened in 1855 where Phalen Creek met the Mississippi River, at what is now the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. The brewery passed from owner to owner, but reached popularity in the 1880s once Jacob Schmidt was hired as brewmaster. Jacob Schmidt was brought on as a partner and then became full owner in 1884. After a fire destroyed much of the North Star Brewery in 1900, Jacob Schmidt moved and expanded his brewery operations into what is now the Schmidt Brewery complex along West Seventh on the other side of downtown.

When I started my research on the North Star Brewery and Jacob Schmidt, I was frustrated to learn that there were few photos of either. Jacob Schmidt (1845-1911), who was responsible for founding a brewery that lasted more than 100 years and employed so many. One thing I have learned recently is that all sorts of great historical photos are being shared on the Old Saint Paul, Minnesota Facebook page. After exhausting all the traditional online resources (MNHS photo archives, newspapers, etc) I was overjoyed to find the photo posted above. Jacob Schmidt is the man sitting to the far right. This matches a mural of Jacob Schmidt at the Rathskeller at the Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh, also the man in the far right.

Schmidt Brewing Company Sign, circa 1900 (Photo credit MNHS)

The poster of the photo at the top of this blog was a relative of John Zugschewert (1868-1921). He is the man sitting to the right of the keg. He immigrated from Germany in 1884-5, married his wife Katherine Tschida in 1892. He worked for North Star Brewery from 1896 to 1903 and lived in rented houses adjacent to the brewery at 254 & 270 Commercial Street. In July of 1899, a North Star Brewery cart ran over his six year old son. In October of the same year, John Zugschewert sued his employer, Jacob Schmidt. Thu, Oct 26, 1899 – 4 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Credit to Jim Sazevich for finding and sharing this information on the FB post.

I was unable to determine what if any monetary damages John Zugschewert collected from his employer, but the city directory shows that the Zugschewert family relocated to the West Seventh neighborhood (415 Warsaw Street nka Osceola) near the new Schmidt Brewery. John Zugschewert continued to work for Schmidt until 1903, when he went to work for Hamm’s Brewery, making the commute from the West Seventh neighborhood, through downtown, to the East Side where Hamm’s Brewery perched on the bluff of Phalen Creek, just north of where the North Star Brewery once stood.

What happened to the younger John Zugschewert, who at the age of 6 was run over? His 1917 draft card claims he has all limbs. He married and worked for the post office. They lived at 368 Osceola, just down the street from the Zugschewert family’s home.

Wakan Tipi Cave

October 12, 2020 is Indigenous Peoples Day (Federally recognized as Columbus Day). It is a good time to consider the names of things in Imnizaska (the Dakota name for Saint Paul, describing the white rock bluffs), because words matter. So many of the names of local streets and parks are recognizing the first European men to claim ownership here and laydown the city grid. Seeing the name Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) restored in Minneapolis gives me hope for the efforts for Wakan Tipi (Carver’s Cave). Interesting story in the Pioneer Press last week:

The 1875 picture of the Cave illustrates how much has changed over the last nearly 150 years. The mouth of the Cave was higher up along the cliff, until the railroads sought to take over the marshy ground where Phalen Creek meets the Mississippi. Landfill was brought in, the white cliffs were dynamited away, and the railroads brought streams of settlers to Saint Paul. When the railroads declined, the area around the Cave served as an unofficial dump.

Wakan Tipi Cave (Carver’s Cave) 1875 (MNHS)

Over the years, the Wakan Tipi Cave has been covered by natural debris falling from the cliffs above and/or man-made activities to change the landscape, and then “rediscovered”. Each time, the hope of petroglyphs and miles of tunnels capture the public’s imagination. In 1977, two hundred years after Jonathon Carver visited the Cave and met with the Dakota people, the Cave was uncovered and a steel door was placed at the mouth. Fresh water continues to stream out from under the door. What remained of the Cave rests waiting for its next chapter in the history of Imnizaska.

In 2005, the area around the Cave was rehabilitated with the creation of the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. It was this video of Jim Rock, Dakota scholar and educator, that inspired me to add a medallion to my map drawing of Phalen Creek and Trout Brook (Swede Hollow).

Wakan Tipi translates to “dwelling place of the sacred.” Very excited to watch the progress of the Wakan Tipi Center.

George Earl Resler’s Old Third Street

Old Third Street, print by George Earl Resler 1910-1913

George Earl Resler (1882-1954) captured a lost Third Street, looking towards the East Side from downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Third Street was Saint Paul’s main business thoroughfare up into the 1880s, when it began to deteriorate. Its buildings, occupants, and customers became progressively more shabby and neglected. In 1927, the city began a massive renewal project which included demolishing most of the the buildings on the river side of the street. In 1932, the street was renamed Kellogg Boulevard to fireworks and a parade. (Referenced from Donald L. Empson’s The Street Where You Live.)

George Resler’s critics complained that his etchings were not a fine advertisement for the city of Saint Paul, writing to the editor of the Pioneer Press in 1912:

Back alleys, the rear of broken down buildings and much of the dilapidated out-of-door furniture we have in St. Paul has furnished material for a series of etchings by a young St. Paul artist which etchings are now on exhibition at the St. Paul Institute. It may be that there is a special beauty in a pile of dirty straw or an ash barrel which has outlived its usefulness. It may be that there is more beauty in round-shouldered buildings which, but for the structures on either side of them, would most certainly topple over on to the ground and probably dissolve into dust.

(Referenced from George Earl Resler: Minnesota Etcher)

The same thing that art critics and city planners failed to appreciate in the beginning of the twentieth century is what makes George Resler’s etchings so precious today. A glimpse of a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use downtown Saint Paul that is unrecognizable today.

I first ran into George Resler’s art by way of research for the map drawing I am working on for Phalen Creek. All photos of Swede Hollow appear to be taken from the streets above, but George Resler climbed down the stairs, interacted with the residents, and recorded the feeling of looking back up.

Swede Hollow, print by George Resler about 1910-1913

The Minnesota Historical Society’s digital archives have an amazing collection of George Resler’s prints. Below is the Landmark Center with a very different water front.

Post Office Silhouette, print by George Resler 1910-1913


Sunday Social Gathering, 1885 (Subjects: Mrs. H. Schaber and her son Henry Schaber)
Photo Credit to the Minnesota Historical Society

Margaretha Helfman Schaber was widowed at the age of 39. She was left with ten children, the oldest 18 and the youngest newly born, the Saint Paul Mills flour mill along Phalen Creek, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Her husband Henry Schaber’s story is told in Identified Sat, Oct 25, 1879 – Page 4 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Below is Margaretha’s story.

Margaretha Helfman was born in November 1840 in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany. At the age of 18, she immigrated to the United States in 1859. She joined her husband who had come to Saint Paul a few years earlier. In 1869, Henry quit his job as a teamster at the Brainard’s Mills and went into business with Phillip Thon and purchased the Saint Paul Mills. By 1872, Henry had purchased his business partner’s interest in the Mill and made various improvements.

In October 1879, Henry was killed crossing train tracks. Margaretha continued the running of the mill but the first year was tough. A fire destroyed the mill in January 1880. Undaunted, she rebuilt in the spring: doubling the size of the building and increasing the horse power of the engine from 25 to 30. In August, she took on a business partner, Charles Passavant. On September 30, 1880, tragedy struck again when the boiler in the mill exploded that destroyed the mill and killed the night engineer. Fri, Oct 1, 1880 – Page 7 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Margaretha rebuilt the mill again, this time with a 35 horse power engine. They advertised as “Millers of the Celebrated White Rose Flour.” Margaretha’s eldest son, Henry, began working in the mill in 1881 at the age of 17.

In 1883, the Schaber family moved to 689 Minnehaha, just north of the mill and the Hamm (Excelsior) Brewery.

1885 City of Saint Paul Map showing the Schaber’s House in relation to their mill
Saint Paul Mills (Shaber & Passavant), 1885
(Can you see the Schaber’s home in the distance?)
Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Margaretha ran the mill through 1886. She was 46 and the mill industry was modernizing from grist to rollers. The 1887 and 1888 Saint Paul City Directory lists the Schaber’s as proprietors of a grocery store at 637 Minnehaha. Henry Schaber later returned to milling at the Lindeke Mills. Margaretha sold the family home at 689 Minnehaha in 1895, as the Hamm Brewery continued to expand.

Margaretha Helfman Schaber lived with her daughter and family when passed away in Saint Paul on July 4, 1921.

Minnie T. Farr

Lincoln School Faculty, 1900. Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Lincoln School (built in the 1870s and demolished in 1973) was where most children who lived in Swede Hollow attended public school. Looking for an interesting person to feature in the drawing of Lincoln School, I ran across Minnie T. Farr. She is in the photo above: middle row, fifth from the left. Turns out she graduated from my alma mater, Saint Paul Central High School. This is her story:

Minnie was born in Minnesota July of 1861. Her parents were Joseph and Sara Farr, who relocated from Washington D.C. While her father worked as a barber, he was a member of the underground railroad. Check out this great article on Joseph Farr:

Minnie was the first Black person to graduate high school in Saint Paul. In 1881, she delivered the Salutatory address in French at the Saint Paul Central High School graduation ceremony at the Opera House in Saint Paul. Sat, Jun 25, 1881 – Page 2 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) ·

Minnie was also the first Black school teacher in Saint Paul. She taught at Lincoln School for 19 years. She paved the way for her younger sister, Bessie, who also taught school in Saint Paul.

The Farr family lived at 59 East 11th Street. The 1900 census lists Minnie (teacher – 38), Elizabeth (teacher – 37), and Richard (railroad porter – 34) living at home with Joseph and Sarah. Like all women school teachers at the time, Minnie never married. This curious article “JC Martin will not annoy Minnie Farr Hereafter” describes unwanted attention from a prospective suitor: Wed, Aug 12, 1896 – Page 2 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · More to research there.

Minnie T. Farr passed away on July 12, 1905 after a long illness. She was only 42. Sat, Jul 15, 1905 – Page 3 · The Appeal (Saint Paul, Minnesota) ·