Anyone who has lived in Saginaw for a long time has probably enjoyed a cold beer at one of Hamilton Street’s fine establishments, did you know one of the states best breweries was right down the street. J.G. Schemm Brewing Co. was located on the 900 block of North Hamilton between Holland and Miller, and its where the Habitat for Humanity is now, and a small portion of what remains of the brewery is used as an office.
John G. Schemm immigrated to the united states from Germany with his father in 1852 when he was 22 years old. His father owned a farm near Detroit, but died a few years after coming to the united states, John moved to Saginaw in 1864 and started his Brewery in 1866 with the help from Christian Grueler naming the first brewery Schemm & Grueler after Mr Gruhler died in 1869 it became Schemm & Schoenheit. In 1874 John G Schemm bought out Schoenheit to become the sole proprietor of the brewery and it eventually became known as the J G Schemm brewing Co. They had a reputation of brewing some of the finest beer in the Saginaw Valley, and the brewery continued to expand throughout the end of the 1800’s
John’s son George C. Schemm also helped with the business and was well educated. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in medicine and was a practicing physician in Saginaw. After the passage of the food and drug act of 1906 requiring truth in labeling, “pure and without drugs or poison” was added to the bottles. It seems kinda funny to read it now, I can’t imagine a beverage manufacturer ever referring to poison on their bottles but the Schemm brewery and family was well respected by the people of Saginaw and known for the high quality of the beer they brewed.
It was interesting to note that in my research I found and article from 1897 that mentions John Spatz was the foreman at the brewery. I talked to Joe Spatz at the bakery, and he said he was not aware of any of his relatives being involved in making beer. Joe’s great great great great grandfather was named John who started the bakery with his brother George, but with John being a common name, it may have been a different John Spatz unrelated to the bakery.
The brewery continued to grow in the 1900’s, and after purchasing the Star Brewery on Lapeer, and moving the equipment to the Hamilton brewery, they brewed over 75,000 barrels of beer annually at their peak. If you’re familiar with American history, Prohibition started and that is what forced the brewery to stop making beer. They changed to Schemm products making non alcaholic beer and other products. Apparently people drank beer for it’s alcoholic content and the brewery soon became defunct and the bank took over the property. the bank sold it to Peerles products company manufacturers of malt, but it soon fell into financial trouble, with the Bank of Saginaw taking over the property once again.
After prohibition, and it was legal to brew beer again, the bank sold the property to a group of Detroit investors headed by John Gillespie, but he never revealed the identity of his investors. The new owners had an ongoing battle from 1933 to 1937 with the state liquor control for licensing, the state believed they had ties to the notorious Purple Gang (also known as the Sugar House Gang) in Detroit. A change in ownership brought state approval and they operated until 1938 when the city padlocked the door for personal property taxes owed to the city. I think with the struggle for getting a license other breweries were able to start up after prohibition and capture the market before Schemm could get a share of that market. After the brewery stopped making beer for the final time, the building housed other businesses with the final occupant being Arrow Paper Co. the old brewery suffered 4 major fires over 5 years and with the last fire, when the building was vacant in 1954, caused enough damage for the structure to be demolished in 1955.
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