Abraham Pfeiffer established Pfeiffer’s Brewery, in York, Pennsylvania, during 1857. (The pictured Pfeiffer’s Beer wood crate is from a later Pfeiffer’s Brewery; based in Detroit and established by Conrad Pfeiffer in 1889.)
Pfeiffer’s Brewery in York and Spring Garden Township
Abraham Pfeiffer established Pfeiffer’s Brewery in York, Pennsylvania, during 1857. Pfeiffer’s could be the first of a string of breweries located at the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets. At the onset the Civil War, Pfeiffer’s brewery operations were moved to Violet Hill, along the Baltimore Pike in Spring Garden Township. In the final years of operation, Elizabeth Pfeiffer might be the first woman to run a brewery in York County; doing so for seven years after the passing of her husband.
It appears Pfeiffer’s Brewery did little traditional advertising; instead opting for free sampling events, to showcase their beer. As an example, a free lunch, featuring Pfeiffer’s Beer, took place at the Odd Fellows’ Hall in York; as written-up in The York Daily of Saturday, May 18, 1878, with the headline:
“Pigs Feet and Sour Kraut Lunch.”
“Every respectable man in York is invited to-night to a free lunch of Sour Kraut and Pigs Feet; also, Peiffer’s beer, brewed from pure spring water, on tap. This beer is equal to Free’s well-known York beer, or Bergner & Engel’s celebrated Philadelphia beer. Persons can feel assured after drinking Peiffer’s beer they will not get up with a headache the next morning.”
While volunteering at the York County History Center, a question was raised about the location of Abraham Pfeiffer’s Brewery in York. This time, the often, go-to York Directories were not a help. Looking in county histories, revealed a clue. Page 192 of the Biographical Sketches section of John Gibson’s 1886 History of York County, PA, records:
“ABRAHAM PFEIFFER (deceased) was a native of Bavaria, Germany, and came to this country in 1853. After a year’s residence in Baltimore he came to York, lived in Queen Street, and then removed to the home where his widow now resides on the Baltimore pike. Mr. Pfeiffer married Elizabeth, daughter of Michael and Sarah (Rost) Ruppecht, of Bavaria. Three children were born to them: Charles A., John F, and William H.”
“Mr. Pfeiffer engaged in the brewing business, and built his brewery in 1860, selling to York and surrounding towns. He died about two years ago. His widow is still carrying on the business. John F. learned his trade of carpenter with Jacob Sechrist, of York. Having served his time he still works for Mr. Sechrist. Charles A. learned his trade, machinist, with George F. Baugher, and is still in the employ of Baugher, Kurtz & Stewart, successors to George F. Baugher. The youngest brother, William H., has divided his time between attending school in this township and assisting his mother in the business at home. Mrs. Pfeiffer has good reason to be proud of her sons, as they are steady, industrious young men.”
Since that brewery was in business by 1860, looking at the advertisers appearing on Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County, Pennsylvania, was an option. That Pfeiffer ad was printed as follows: “Abraham Pheiffer (Lager Beer Brewer), cor. King and Princes Streets.” But there is no corner of King and Princess, since these are parallel streets in York. Did the map printer unintentionally mix royals; i.e. was the brewery location actually: corner King and Queen Streets OR corner Queen and Princess Streets.
By combining the Queen Street clue in the Gibson article, with yearly Mercantile Licenses, property deeds, and 1860 United States Census research, one can conclude, by 1860, Abraham Pfeiffer and his Brewery are located at the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets. I’ve pointed out that location on the following section of the Borough of York, from Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County, Pennsylvania. Research behind that conclusion is shared throughout this post.
Experience has shown that business information on the 1860 and 1876 Maps of York County was by subscription. The three York brewers subscribing to be listed on Shearer’s 1860 Map were: Barnitz & Bro. Abraham Pheiffer and A. Webel.
Shearer’s Map of York County was printed in 1860, however the information on it was gathered between 1858 and 1859. In the past, I’ve used the yearly Fee Schedules for Mercantile Licenses in York County for Family History research of associated family businesses in the county.
These Fee Schedules were created during the winter and spring of each year by an appointed Mercantile Appraiser, who evaluated types and sizes of businesses throughout the county, versus laws establishing license fees for various business classes. From that appraisal, usually in March or April, the fees for businesses to renew their yearly Mercantile Licenses are printed in local newspapers.
Within those Fee Schedules, I decided to find the earliest mention of Abraham Pfeiffer, brewer. The following section of 1855 Fee Schedule for Mercantile Licenses in York County, per Noah Heikes, Mercantile Appraiser, is as advertised in The York Gazette of April 24, 1855, page 3:
From this listing, it was not 100% clear if Abraham Pfeiffer was a Brewer or an operator of a Beer House. In the search for Brewers, per an 1856 Schedule, no Brewers were found; likely due to substantial fee increases that brewers across the state were fighting. The York Gazetteer Directory of 1856 does not list all business owners, however brewers are listed on page 18. The five brewers in York during 1856 are:
Jacob Barnitz, S. Beaver Street
Silas Fisher, S. Beaver Street
Kurtz & Ness, N. Water Street (now N. Pershing Ave.)
John Webel, No. 31 S. George Street, Lager Beer
Augustus Webel, No. 31 S. George Street, Lager Beer
Thus in 1855 and 1856, Abraham Pfeiffer was not yet brewing beer; he was probably only selling someone else’s beer in his Beer House. The following section of the 1857 Fee Schedule for Mercantile Licenses in York County, per George Snodgrass, Mercantile Appraiser, is as advertised in The York Gazette of April 21, 1857, page 3. In 1857, Abraham Pfeiffer is clearly listed as a brewer. Note that the Mercantile License fees have increased substantially for brewers in 1857; however brewers were able to eventually get Brewers’ license fees reduced.
If you have not noticed so far, one key take-away is to make sure one checks surname spelling variants. This is not due to people changing the spelling of their surnames, it is due to how printers decide to print or how a surname is recorded, based upon how it sounds; which occasionally mangles the spelling.
Pfeiffer is a good example of a surname whose spelling is often mangled in various documents, directories and newspapers. The following chronological research results include the following spelling variations from the Pfeiffer (13) spelling: Bheifer (1), Peifer (3), Peiffer (12), Pheiffer (2), and Pifer (2). Where the number in parentheses is the number of occurrences in the list of research results between 1855 and 1896.
Record Type abbreviations: Brewer = from Brewers’ License Fee Schedule; Census = U. S. Census; Deed = Year Deed is made, not when recorded at York County Recorder of Deeds; Dir = Directory; Draft = Civil War Draft Registration; and Obit = Newspaper obituary.
Location abbreviations: York=York Borough, and SGT=Spring Garden Township.
1855—Beer House—York—“Abraham Peiffer”
1857—Brewer —York—“Abraham Peiffer”
1859—Brewer —York—“Pfeiffer & Bro”
1859—Deed—SGT—“John Rouse to Andrew Schlagle & Abraham Peiffer”
1860—Map—York—“Abraham Pheiffer (Lager Beer Brewer)”
1860—Census—York Division 2—“Abraham Pifer” “Beer Brewer”
1860—Brewer —York 1st Ward—A. Peifer”
1861—Deed—SGT—Assignment—“Andrew Schlegle to Abraham Peiffer”
1862—Brewer —SGT—“Abraham Peifer”
1863—Brewer —SGT—“Abraham Peiffer”
1866—Brewer —SGT—“A. Pfeiffer”
1867—Brewer —SGT—“A. Peiffer”
1870—Census—SGT—“Abraham Pheiffer” “Lager Beer Brewery”
1873—Brewer —SGT—“Abraham Peiffer”
1874—Brewer —SGT—“A. Peiffer”
1875—Brewer —SGT—“A. Peifer”
1875—Map—SGT—“A. Bheifer Brewery”
1880—Brewer —SGT—“A. Pfeiffer”
1880—Census—SGT—“Abraham Pfeiffer” “Brewer”
1881—Dir—SGT—“Pfeiffer, Abraham, brewery, S George n toll gate, h do”
1882—Brewer —SGT—“A. Peiffer”
1882—Obit: “Abraham Peiffer” died October 29, 1882
1882—Gravestone—“Pfeiffer” is Surname spelling on grave-site monument
1883—Dir—SGT—“Pfeiffer Abraham Mrs., brewery, S George n toll gate, h do”
1884—Brewer —SGT—“Mrs. Elizabeth Peiffer”
1885—Brewer —SGT—“Mrs. E. Peiffer”
1887—Brewer —SGT—“Pfeiffer Abraham Mrs., brewery, S George nr toll gate, h do”
1889—Dir—SGT—“Pfeiffer, Abraham Mrs., brewery, South George at toll gate.”
1894—Dir—SGT—“Pfeiffer Elizab, wid Abraham, Violet Hill, s George ext”
1894—Dir—York—“Pfeiffer & Bro (C A and Wm H Pfeiffer), mnfrs electric motors and dynamos, Cleveland av nr Jackson”
1894—Dir—SGT—“Pfeiffer John F, carp, Violet Hill, s George ext”
1896—Obit: “Mrs. Elizabeth R. Pfeiffer” died February 2, 1896
The breakthrough in locating the site of Pfeiffer’s Brewery in York began with thinking-outside-of-the box, by understanding a relationship between Andrew Schelgel and Abraham Pfeiffer, per property deeds at the site of Pfeiffer’s later brewery in Spring Garden Township; which pointed me to look closer at both of their 1860 Census listings in York Borough.
The 1859 and 1861 Deeds involving Andrew Schlegel and Abraham Pfeiffer suggest some sort of business arrangement between them. The 1859 deed (Book 4R, page 154) involves Schlegel and Pfeiffer each, with a half interest, contributing $200 for the $400 purchase of 2-acres in Spring Garden Township; where Pfeiffer would relocate his brewery in 1862. The 1861 deed (Book 4R, page 157) involves Schlegel relinquishing all rights to the Spring Garden Township site for $1. Potentially in exchange for some of Pfeiffer’s built-in brewing equipment left for the establishment of Schlegel’s Brewery in York?
In the 1860 U.S. Census, Abraham Pfeiffer and Andrew Schlegel are neighbors; i.e. Dwelling Numbers 260 and 261, respectively, within the Second Division of York Borough. The 1860 Census in York Borough was divided into two sections for the census takers. There were five Wards in York Borough at the time. Ward 1, the southeast part of York (east of George Street and south of Market Street), was in the Second Census Division. The 1860 Census recorded Andrew Schlegel was worth $5,000 in real estate with $250 in personal property, while Abraham Pfeiffer had $200 and $250 respectively.
Having business connections, plus being neighbors in York, Abraham Pfeiffer likely rented his home (and business location?) in York from Andrew Schlegel, and maybe even earlier from John Holland. Pfeiffer is renting because, as of 1860, all of Pfeiffer’s real estate holdings are tied up in the Spring Garden Township property.
Andrew Schlegel has two deeds at the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets. On April 1, 1856, John Holland, and his wife Lucinda, sold a lot in York to Andrew Schlegel for $1,075 (Deed Book 4A, page 576). That lot is bounded on the north by the lot of A. Clouss, on the East by Queen Street, on the south by King Street and on the west by the property of Marcus Carroll. On February 12, 1857, Anthony Clouss, and his wife Beigitta, sold a lot in York to Andrew Schlegel for $925 (Deed Book 4B, page 173). That lot is situated on the west side of Queen Street, neighboring the lot Schlegel purchased in 1856. The deeds note structures are located on each lot and that a 10-foot alley is located at the west end of the lots; leading to King Street.
Soon after Abraham Pfeiffer moves his Brewery operations to Spring Garden Township, Andrew Schlegel opens his brewery on the lot at the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets. All early descriptions of the brewery, on this corner lot, have the brew house facing King Street. Andrew Schlegel operates that brewery from 1863 until his death in 1869. The following A. Schlegel’s Lager Beer Brewery ad is from an 1869 Directory.
Pfeiffer’s Brewery in Spring Garden Township
Pure spring water, for beer brewing, was likely one of the reasons Abraham Pfeiffer decided to move his brewery operations to Violet Hill, along the Baltimore Pike (South George Street) in Spring Garden Township. The hillsides in that area contain strong springs that feed Tyler Run. One of those springs could have been on the 2-acre property Pfeiffer purchased in 1859, with the assistance of Andrew Schlegel.
Before ice making by mechanical machines, ice was harvested on rivers, creeks and ponds to keep home ice boxes cold. However if one desired to utilize ice in drinks, one used ice collected from ponds where the water was purer. Tyler Run was such a waterway; it contained many dams to allow “pure ice” collection on the resulting ponds during the winter months. That ice was packed in Fahlers Ice Warehouses for distribution during the remainder of the year.
The following section of Spring Garden Township, south of York, is from the 1876 Atlas of York County, PA; by Beach Nichols. Yellow arrow points to “A. Bheifer Brewery” label; i.e. map-maker mangling of “A. Pfeiffer Brewery.” That site is consistent with the mites and bounds in the property deed.
The 1881 directory listings for Abraham Pfeiffer’s Brewery notes: “S George n toll gate, h do.” This is shorthand for: South George Street, near the toll gate, with Abraham’s home at the same address.
Near a site, has a different meaning in a city or borough, versus the countryside. Near in the countryside often is at a greater distances, and usually means within sight. Notice the “Toll Ho.”, i.e. toll gate house, is indicated on the east side of the Baltimore Pike (S. George St.); opposite Country Club Road.
Beside the brew house, Pfeiffer’s also operated a hotel and saloon on their Spring Garden Township property. It appears the hotel and saloon were separate adjoining structures, located right along the west side of South George Street. I’ve used the following section of Spring Garden Township, from the 1910 Topographic Map, to point out the Pfeiffer property near the Toll Gate House. These include: Hotel and Saloon along South George Street; and on the west side of Tyler Run, is the Brewery with Good Vault and Water Rights; plus Dwelling and Barn. Note: topographic maps do not show all the individual buildings at home-sites. The underground vault, at a brewery, is for aging lager beer.
Per the 1910 topography, one probably did have a line-of-site view of Pfeiffer’s Brewery from the toll gate. The 1950s construction of the southbound I-83 on-ramp blocked that line-of-site view.
In terms of 2021 surroundings, the following Illustration indicates the approximate location of the late 1800s Pfeiffer Brewery properties in Spring Garden Township, York County, PA.
The York County Tax Assessment database indicates the immediate previous owner of the 1248 South George Street property was Catharine R. L. Pfeiffer. Catharine sold the property in 1999 to the present owner (REMINDER—This is Private Property). Original records on Ancestry.com provide the answer to the question: Is Catharine related to Abraham Pfeiffer?
By their three sons, Abraham and Elizabeth Pfeiffer had 7 grandchildren: Marie Pfeiffer, Edward J. Pfeiffer, A. Matilda Pfeiffer, Mary E. Pfeiffer, Helen K. (Pfeiffer) Boyer, Emma (Pfeiffer) Klahold, and Mabel R. (Pfeiffer) Buttorff. Catharine Rebecca Louise (Strayer) Pfeiffer was the wife of Edward J. Pfeiffer. Catharine was born in 1906 and passed away in 2004; she was 98 years old. Catharine Pfeiffer was survived by 3-children, 7-grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren, and 4 great-great-grandchildren.
Perhaps one of the Pfeiffer descendants can share additional stories about Abraham Pfeiffer and his Brewery. Especially of interest are the seven years (1882 to 1889) that his widow, Elizabeth R. Pfeiffer, operated the brewery, hotel and saloon. It appears all of her children choose other occupations, with Pfeiffer’s Brewery in York County, ceasing operations after 32 years in business (1857 to 1889).
Breweries on Northwest Corner of King and Queen Streets in York
In 1857, Pfeiffer’s Brewery could be the first of a string of breweries located on the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets. No brewers were discovered among the prior owners of those lots. Almost immediately after Pfeiffer’s moves to Spring Garden Township, Schlegel’s established his brewery at that corner. Was it in the former Pfeiffer’s Brew House? … Probably.
After Andrew Schlegel passed away April 18, 1869, Andrew Staab purchases the site and reopens the brewery in July of 1870. On October 30, 1872, Andrew Staab held a Public Sale, for his properties on the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets. The ownership of the properties, including a two-story brick and frame brew house with large vault, changed hands several times in the next 12-months, including a Sheriff’s Sale, before landing back in the hands of Andrew Staab. It is doubtful the brewery operated during that time.
On October 1, 1873, Andrew Staab sold the properties on the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets to Frederick K. Helb; an established brewer in Railroad Borough, for $7,815.80 (Deed Book 5P, Page 508). Frederick operated both breweries for several months, before turning operation of the brewery in York over to his son Theodore R. Helb. The initial Brewers’ License for 22-year old Theodore Helb is issued in 1874.
For ten years, Theodore Helb ran a small brewery operation; possibly in the same brew house existing back through several brewers, fronting King Street on the lot at the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets in York. Prowell’s 1907 History of York County (Volume II. Page 150) notes, Theodore operated Helb’s Brewery in York “for the first ten years he himself did the most important part of the manual labor necessary, having one assistant during the winter months, and none the rest of the year.”
As Theodore Helb’s business started to grow and with additions made to structures on the property, his father sold the York property to him on September 1, 1883 (Deed Book 7E, Page 11). Thereafter, operations at the brewery on the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets took off. Until in 1898, on that corner, Theodore erected a huge 5-story brick, steel and stone brewery edifice directly on the corner; topped with an ornate copper roof.
A few months before the former Helb Keystone Brewery was torn down in 1952, to make way for a surface parking lot, the following York Dispatch photo was published on the back page of the December 7, 1951, issue:
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