As Pottsville rapidly expanded in the 1820s, it was missing something important: beer

In the late 1820s, the village of Pottsville grew from little more than a tangled wilderness into a bustling, ramshackle boomtown sprawling across Sharp Mountain and neighboring valleys and hilltops.

A “coal rush” following the discovery of valuable anthracite, advances in stove technology, and the depletion of forest fuel supplies on the outskirts of Philadelphia sparked a massive influx of people and money, leading to the development of a howling wilderness.

Pottsville Scene 1830 (1)
Pottsville as it looked around 1830. (LOC)

The completion of the Schuylkill Canal and the opening of railroads to mine sites and pits in the Pottsville area brought young men and women to what would become the Coal Region. All sought their fortunes, either by mining and developing coal mines, or by serving those who did with necessary supporting industries.

By 1828, nearly 2,000 people had piled into a few hundred poorly built structures. Hotels were constructed. Streets were laid out. Order was slowly being crafted out of chaos. But the boomtown of Pottsville, exploding into existence, was missing something: beer.

Founded by George Taylor in 1825, the Miners’ Journal newspaper had become the official news source of the budding mining town. And in the summer of 1828, Taylor decided that the town had grown prosperous enough to need a brewery. If nothing else, beer would give miners and new residents something to drink other than whiskey or the sewage and coal dust contaminated water of the Schuylkill.

Pottsville 1833
Pottsville, as it became more established, in 1833. (LOC)

The Miners’ Journal published an article calling for a brewery to open at Pottsville to quench the thirst of the hard-working, hard-scrabble residents of coal country. A Philadelphia newspaper, the United States Gazette, reprinted a quotes from the article for their own readership.

From the United States Gazette, July 11, 1828:

The editor of the Miners’ Journal expresses a hope that a brewer will be induced to establish his business at Pottsville. There are a vast number of men in that place, and its vicinity, who would prefer beer to whiskey, and who heartily eschew water; besides, families would use it continually, who now never purchase a cask, because it is obtained irregularly.

“If a brewery was at hand,” says the Journal, “hundreds of barrels would be taken and consumed at the mines, from the facility of obtaining it. There is no malt liquor manufactured within 35 miles of this place; and apart from the consumption here, the town of Orwigsburg, McKeansburg, and Fredensburg, together with numerous public houses on the roads, would despatch as much more.

On the whole, there are few situations where a brewery might be so profitably conducted as this.”

Village Tavern Close
A close-up look at an American tavern in the early American republic. (Toledo Museum of Art)

That same year, 1828, a German immigrant arrived in the United States whose name would become forever associated with brewing beer in Pottsville. David G. Yuengling arrived in Pennsylvania from Germany in 1828. While we will never know whether or not he saw this specific article in the United States Gazette, the knowledge that a brewery would be an excellent business opportunity in the burgeoning Coal Region brought Yuengling to Pottsville a year later. In 1829, Yuengling opened the Eagle Brewery in the bustling town of Pottsville.

David G. Yuengling (Wikimedia Commons)

He and his family’s brewing fortunes became forever intertwined with City of Pottsville as a result.

Featured Image: “Village Tavern” by John Lewis Krimmel – Toledo Museum of Art 

Read more about the history of Pottsville here

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One thought on “As Pottsville rapidly expanded in the 1820s, it was missing something important: beer

  1. Greetings, Jake— I’m new to the Wynning History posts and enjoying them tremendously. I’ve recently discovered my paternal connections to the Dauphin County area; my father was adopted, and I just learned in the last several years from an abundance of research, a court order, and a good deal of luck, that my grandfather was from the Workman clan of that area. His full name was Joseph Esher Workman, born 1873. A few days ago, I found a relative of his, Joseph Esher Row, born 1872. I’ve done a limited search on the name “Esher,” since it doesn’t seem to be a family name. Could there be some connection to the Lutheran Evangelical Movement’s Bishop A. M. Esher in the early 1870’s? The Workman family belonged to an Evangelical church, so I’m curious as to Bishop Esher’s prominence in that era. Any thoughts? I really enjoy your work, Jake. Thanks for sharing it. Jim in Montana


    Liked by 1 person

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