When the City of Sedalia began work on the sewage and drainage project, they knew there was a likelihood of uncovering some “hidden treasures’ along the way.
Little did they realize that a little known part of Sedalia’s history would also be unearthed in the process.
“When I was younger and growing up, my grandmother always told me that she thought an old brewery was located on property my family owned,” Devin Robb said. “It was always a myth to me but as I grew older and my father left the property to me, I started to think wouldn’t it be neat if it was true.
“I did some research into it but didn’t really find any real evidence until I got the phone call from one of the workers,” Robb added. “When he said I might want to come over to the property and see what they had uncovered I really didn’t know what I would find.”
What the work crews dug up were two stone tunnels, 20 feet long and 10 feet tall that were used quite possibly as storage rooms for the Sedalia Brewery which was in operation from 1882 to 1893.
Open for 11 years, the Sedalia Brewery was profitable for its time according to a written history of Sedalia published in 1882.
“The History of Pettis County, Missouri, Including an Authentic History of Sedalia, Other Towns and Townships Together with Biographical Sketches,” by I MacDonald Demuth describes the brewery in the following manner:
“The establishment is now worth, at least $50,000, Demuth writes. The main building is 50 by 55 feet, two stories high.
“The mash tub has a capacity of 120 barrels. The brewing kettle has a capacity of eighty-five barrels. The establishment now covers over an acre of ground, has cellars that will hold 500 barrels of beer, and over them are ice houses which will hold 1,000 tons of ice.”
Those dimensions match the stories Robb had been told as a young man and some of the remains of old structures that were above ground on the land.
Robb said his grandparents Ed and Eileen Yuille first purchased the property on 609 N. Missouri Ave. and N. Clay Street in 1971.
“I’m really not sure why my grandma wanted the property there,” Robb said. “I knew when I first went there that it was really overgrown and had what was an old barn of the backside and a brick building on a foundation.
“We cleared the property up quite a bit and started mowing it for my grandparents; we even planted a bunch of black walnut trees on the land,” Robb added. “I don’t remember spending a lot of time there but I always kept in the back of my mind what grandma had said about the property.”
In 1996, Eileen Yuille deeded the property to her son, who in 2013, deeded the land to Robb.
“Dad and I would go to the property and harvest some of the walnuts, and I still go out there to cut down wood,” Robb said. “At times we have gone on camp outs; it really is like a little private park to us.”
Robb said there is a creek, which runs along the property, and there were sewer lines exposed before the city began their most recent work on replacing the lines.
“I wasn’t thrilled with the idea when City Project Manager, Devin Lake, called and asked if the city could use part of the area to store supplies and equipment during the project and explained what they were going to do,” Robb said. “But Devin has been really good to work with and the city has done a good job of cleaning up everything there.
“I did ask her though that if the ran into anything while they were out there digging could they please give me a call,” Robb added. “I didn’t hear anything for a long time and really didn’t know if they would find anything out there because I didn’t really know if what grandma said was true.”
Robb said he was amazed when a worker on the crew called him.
“When he called he said they had found some tunnels and wanted to know if I wanted to come over and see them,” Robb said. “My son and I went out there and I remember thing how awesome this was the minute I saw them.
“I felt that everything I had been told as a little boy was true,” Robb added.
Robb said that although he was thrilled when he got the call he was also a little afraid of what he might find upon his arrival.
“The workers told me I might want to be really careful because the found the place to be crawling with snakes and it was.” Robb said. “I’m not a real big fan of snakes, but I knew I wanted to go inside and see if we could find anything remaining from the Brewery.
He and his son did not find any artifacts, but the structures did seem to be structurally sound and well built.
“There were a couple of old metal hooks where I think some doors hung and under all the dirt on the floor there was a clay brick floor,” Robb said. “I was amazed at how structurally sound and sturdy they seemed to be especially when you consider all the heavy equipment that had been on them.”
The property is located near two rail tracks: the old Missouri Pacific Rail Lines and the Missouri, Kansas Texas and Rail Road according to two old maps Robb discovered while researching the property.
“There are three ponds on the land and a creek too so it seems like it would be in the right location for a brewery,” Robb added. “One of the maps has the old Sedalia Brewery drawn on the property and the second map talks about a Wiegand Brewery as well.”
Although Demuth does not mention a Weigand Brewery in his history of Sedalia, a brewery of that name can be found on the website OldBreweries.com.
It describes the Henry Weigand brewery existing in Sedalia from 1893 to 1919.
“I’m not sure why they built the tunnels,” Robb said. “I think there may be two reasons: first it may have been done for refrigeration of storage of the beer.
“I know it was a pretty warm day when we were out there but down in the tunnels it seemed like it was around 50 degrees in them.”
Robb said he thought they second reason may be connected to Prohibition, which would fit the period for the closing of the Weigand Brewery.
“Since I don’t know when they were built maybe they were constructed in anticipation of Prohibition as someplace to store what they had already produced at the Brewery,” Robb said.
Demuth wrote that the Sedalia Brewery had a capacity to produce 25 barrels of beer per day, which could potentially yield almost 10,000 barrels a year.
“The annual business done by the Sedalia Brewery ranges from $45,000 to $65,000 per annum,” Demuth stated in his work. “From top to bottom of the establishment is the best machinery known in this line of business and the establishment is an excellent one in all respects.”
Robb is not sure what will become of the tunnels.
For now, they have been back filled and covered.
“I can justify going back in and excavating them someday,” Robb said. “But for now I don’t want to risk anyone going in and getting hurt there; that just isn’t worth it to me or my family.
“I’ve thought about maybe doing something someday with a microbrewery or something like that,” Robb said. “For now, I’m just grateful that I know they exist and that I have been in them with my family and that all the stories my grandma said have come true.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484