Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bottlers Who Operated in the Pelhams in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

It may be difficult to imagine today, but a number of small businesses that bottled drinks operated in the Pelhams during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Some bottled their drinks in bottles embossed with their identifying information.  Anyone today fortunate enough to find any such bottle has found, quite indeed, an unusual treasure.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog identifies a few of these micro-bottling businesses that, typically, were operated out of residences or sheds located behind residences.  No business records of any such bottlers are known to exist, so piecing together information about the businesses and their owners is exceedingly difficult.  Nevertheless, today's posting collects the research I have been able to assemble so far.

Eichler Beer Label Indicating "BOTTLED BY
LOUIS EPPLE, PELHAM, N. Y." from Digital
Image Associated with Recent eBay Auction.

Louis C. Epple Who Bottled for The John Eichler Brewing Cos.

Not long ago, members of the East Bronx History Forum sent me a link to an eBay auction listing offering the beer label shown in the image above and asking about the bottler of the Lager Beer, Louis Epple.  Because Louis C. Epple was such a notable citizen of Pelhamville and, later, the Village of North Pelham, I was very familiar with him.  However, I had no idea that Epple bottled beer for The John Eichler Brewing Cos. until shown the label above.

Louis C. Epple was born in Geneva, Switzerland on July 4, 1866. He came to Pelhamville (the old Village of North Pelham) “as a young man.” He was a florist by trade. For most of his adult life he operated a florist business and nursery at Seventh Street near Fifth Avenue in the Village of North Pelham. 

He served as a local fireman for 53 years. He retired from his florist and nursery business in about 1930 at the outset of the Great Depression. He used his savings to build a small apartment house at 717 Pelhamdale Avenue North in the Village of North Pelham (a location and roadway portion that no longer exist) and rented rooms to tenants for income. At the time of his death on June 25, 1945, he lived in an apartment at the complex located at 717 Pelhamdale Avenue North, Pelham, NY. His daughter, son-in-law and a granddaughter lived there with Epple at the time of his death. 

Epple was active in Town life. He served for a time as Assistant Fire Chief of the Pelham Fire Department based in the Village of North Pelham. He also served for many years as a member of Liberty Engine & Hose Co. No. 1 in North Pelham and as treasurer of the local firemen’s benevolent association named the Pelham Firemen’s Association that was organized on January 21, 1911. (He also served as a director of the Association.) Records indicate that he donated subscription monies to fund local Fourth of July celebrations in the early 20th century. Epple also was a long-time member of Winyah Lodge No. 866 F. & A. M. in the Village of North Pelham for many years. 

But for the Lager Beer label shown above, I am unaware of any other evidence that Louis Epple, who was a well-known resident of North Pelham, bottled for The John Eichler Brewing Cos.  However, it does not surprise me to learn that this may have been the case because the three bottlers in Pelham that we previously knew about were micro-businesses that operated out of the basements of residences in North Pelham. Epple probably did the same thing. Eichler Beer, of course, was popular in New York. We have examples of local grocery stores’ advertisements in our local newspaper in 1931 before the end of Prohibition selling Eichler’s “refreshing drinks” and then many advertisements after the end of Prohibition in 1933 showing local grocery stores selling Eichler’s Beer. 

Here are my strong suspicions, though I must emphasize that it is only speculation. I suspect that when Epple closed his floral business and nursery at the outset of the Great Depression and retired, he dabbled for some time as a local bottler for The John Eichler Brewing Cos. He may have taken up soft drink bottling before Prohibition ended, followed by beer bottling, or he may have taken up beer bottling after Prohibition ended in 1933.  His bottling activities, however, do not seem to have been particularly extensive.  

At the end of this posting, I have transcribed some of my research relating to Louis C. Epple and other local bottlers for those who may have more interest in the subject.

David Lyon and Henry Straehle, Sr., Local Bottlers

David Lyon was a Civil War veteran who lived in Pelham on Third Avenue between Second and Third Streets.  He established the first carbonated beverage establishment in Pelham and named it the "Vernon Bottling Works".  His establishment was in the rear of his residence and was instituted before 1898.  It is not now known if this "Vernon Bottling Works" later became the "Vernon Bottling Works" of Mount Vernon or if the Mount Vernon business later used the same name.

The Lyon family was quite prominent in Pelham in the late 19th century. One Lyon homestead stood at Colonial Avenue and Wolfs Lane. It stood on the site of the old First Church of Christ which became today's Pelham Public Library. The first butcher in what is today's Village of Pelham was Frank M. Lyon whose father -- David Lyon of "Vernon Bottling Works" fame -- built a butcher shop adjoining his home on Third Avenue.  See Souvenir Program - Golden Jubilee Celebration of Village of North Pelham Westchester County, New York, p. 17 (Village of North Pelham, Aug. 29, 1946).

In about 1898, Henry Straehle bought the old Anthony Wolf homestead located at Fifth Avenue and Third Street.  (Wolfs Lane is named after Anthony Wolf and his farm).  Straehle opened a competing bottling business in the old Wolf homestead that he named the "Straehle Bottling Co." (occasionally referenced as "Straehle Bottling Works").The company was billed as "soft drink dispensers."   The office and plant of the firm were in the Wolf homestead with the bottling equipment in the basement of the home.  For some period of time around 1909-1910, Henry Straehle and his wife operated a hotel / boarding house in the structure as well (see article below).  

Once Straehle opened his competing business, David Lyon apparently threw in the towel and liquidated his business.  It is possible that he sold his bottling business to Mr. Straehle, although that is still somewhat unclear and has not been established. The only evidence to support this presumption is the reported existence of bottles marked "Straehle & Lyon." 

The Westchester Brewery on Sparks Avenue

A complete history of The Westchester Brewery that once was located on Sparks Avenue in the Village of Pelham is beyond the scope of this posting.  I have written a little about it before.  See, e.g., Thu., Jan. 12, 2006:  The Beer Battle of 1933.  

Briefly, The Westchester Brewery (not to be confused, as it so often is, with The Westchester County Brewery), was built just off of Sparks Avenue in 1910.  Until 1918, The Westchester Brewery manufactured ice and beer at the facility.  Once Prohibition loomed, the facility was sold to The Knickerbocker Ice Company which used it for the manufacture of ice.  Within a few years, however, The Knickerbocker Ice Company ended its operations at the site and the facility sat unused until shortly before the end of Prohibition when it was leased by The Metropolis Brewing Company which planned to manufacture so-called "3.2 beer" at the facility.  A zoning ordinance battle followed until the Village of Pelham prevailed and blocked such use of the site.  

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Below are transcriptions of obituaries, articles, and other materials I have unearthed in my research regarding local bottlers.

Louis C. Epple

Had Been Member of Liberty Engine and Hose Co. No. 1 for Many Years His Total Service In the Fire Department Extending for More Than Half a Century.
Had Retired from Business as Florist, but Maintained Interest in Fire Department Matters Until Recent Illness.

The oldest volunteer fireman in the Town of Pelham, in point of service, passed away on Monday when Louis Charles Epple, died at his home, 717 Pelhamdale ave. North Pelham following a long illness.  

Mr. Epple had been a member of the Volunteer Fire Department of the First Fire District since it was instituted 53 years ago.  He also served as assistant chief of the department and was treasurer of the Pelham Fireman's Association for 11 years.  For half a century he was a member of Liberty Engine and Hose Company, No. 1.  

He was one of a well-known trio of volunteer firemen, known as The Three Musketeers.  The other two were Philip Godfrey of Relief Hook & Ladder Co., No. 1, and William Dollny, of the same company who served as treasurer of the Fire District for many years and is now custodian of the Town Hall.  Mr. Godfrey is hale and hearty and past 80.  The combined years of service given to the fire district by these three men are 148 years.  If Mr. Epple had lived until next November, the total ages of the three men would have been 241 years.

Louis Epple was a native of Switzerland.  He was born on July 4th, 1866, in Geneva, Switzerland and came to America as a young man.  He was a florist by profession and after settling in Pelham he conducted a nursery and florist's business at Seventh street near Fifth avenue.  He retired about 15 years ago and built an apartment house on the brow of the hill at Pelhamdale avenue North, where he lived.  He was a resident of Pelham for 55 years.  His wife, the former Louise Gauthier, died in 1931.  He is survived by one daughter, Mrs. Florence Waser, who resides at the North Pelham address; two brothers, Ernest of Yonkers and Frederick Epple of Ridgewood, N. J.

The Board of Fire Commissioners have ordered the firehouse at Fifth avenue draped for thirty days in honor of his memory.

Firemen of the First Fire District conducted memorial services at the George T. Davis Chapel, New Rochelle, on Wednesday evening.  Masonic services conducted by members of Winyah Lodge F. & A. M. followed.

Funeral services will be held this Thursday afternoon at 2 o'clock from the Davis Chapel.  The Rev. Wallace W. Downes of the Congregational Church of the Pelhams, will officiate."

Source:  LOUIS C. EPPLE, 79, FIREMAN FOR 53 YEARS, IS DEAD, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 28, 1945, Vol. 36, No. 11, p. 1, col. 3.


The Three Musketeers of the Fire Department, with their total of 144 years of service in the Fire District, have lost the oldest of their trio through the death of Louis Charles Epple, who passed away on Monday.

They were a remarkable trio, the Three Musketeers.  Alexander Dumas could have written another book to tell about their adventures  and their loyal friendship.  They dated back to the Pelhamville that existed half a century ago in what we now call North Pelham and Pelham.

The total service in years rendered by the Three Musketeers as volunteer firemen was a remarkable testimonial of fidelity.  They knew the fire-fighting business when it was a matter of borrowing horses to pull fire apparatus, aye, before that when the hose reel with a single line of hose aboard was pulled by runners, and Phil Godfrey, Louis Epple, and William Dollny were among those who pulled the hose cart, as part of the team of a dozen or more who manned the pulling lines.

There was the time, too, when the horse that pulled the two-wheeled hose carrier, ran away, and yanked one of two members of the fire company all over the two villages before it quieted down.  'We hit the ground about every half block,' they used to say.  They were athletic men half a century ago.  They worked a manual pumper which took strong men to keep it going so that a stream of water was put on the fire.

They experienced the advent of the steam pumper and the pride with which they manned the apparatus that was pulled by horses to the scene of the fire.  If steam was up by that time, and it usually was, because James Reilly was the man who saw that it was, they manfully pulled the hose out and attacked the fire without being out of breath from running.  

Then came the motorized apparatus, the chemical extinguishers, the scientific study of ways and means of controlling fire and directing the progress of a fire so that it could be attacked without fear of death to firemen through suffocation from accumulated gases or lack of oxygen.  The Three Musketeers had become gray-headed men, still maintaining their interest in fire fighting.  At the annual parade of the fire department and on Decoration Day the Three Musketeers would be up in front, Louis Epple, hale and hearty with his 6 ft. 3 in. of manhood, carrying the colors, and Phil Godfrey and William Dollny marching abreast with him.  They typified an unflagging spirit of public spirit of public service which prompted them half a century ago to join up with those who took the risk of fighting the fires of their neighbors.  That was citizenship of a high type -- a peacetime service in which they were willing to risk their lives as the men in the armed forces of the present day are risking theirs.  One can take off his hat to them for their service.

So in the course of time, comes the end to one of the Three Musketeers, Louis Charles Epple.  A naturalized American of Swiss birth he was a fine citizen.  His garden which bordered Pelhamdale Avenue immediately north of the Sanborn Map Company was always a delight.  He had achieved a competence through his industry and lived quietly and happily as a good neighbor.  He was one of the original members of Relief Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, and was serving his 53rd consecutive year.  The members of the department and the members of Winyah Lodge of Masonic fraternity accorded him due honors and to these we add our record of praise for a fine decent citizen who willingly gave yeoman service to the community in which he lived."

Source:  THE SCHOOLBOYS OF YESTERDAY, The Pelham Sun, Jun. 28, 1945, Vol. 36, No. 11, p. 2, cols. 1-2.

Henry Straehle

"HENRY STRAEHLE DIED AT HUDSON [NOTE:  This is the son of pertinent Henry Straehle.]
Had Been Pelham Resident Since Boyhood; was a Member of Relief Hook & Ladder Co. of First Fire District.

Henry Straehle, Jr., 54, resident of North Pelham since boyhood, died on Monday at the Volunteer Firemen's Home at Hudson, N. Y.  He was for many years a member of Relief Hook & Ladder Co., of the First Fire District, and the Pelham Firemen's Association.

Mr. Straehle was born in New Rochelle, the son of the late Henry and Tessie Larkin Straehle.  His father established the Straehle Bottling Co., soft drink dispensers, in North Pelham in 1898.  The office and plant of the firm was in the old Wolf homestead, which was located at Fifth avenue and Third street.  When the Westchester & Boston Railroad was constructed in 1909, the building was moved to Sixth avenue, just north of the railroad right-of-way, where it still stands, one of North Pelham's landmarks.

Members of Relief Hook & Ladder Co. paid last respects to their deceased member at services at the Sullivan & Toal Mortuary in North Pelham on Tuesday night.  A Requiem Mass was offered on Wednesday morning at St. Catherine's Church in North Pelham.  The Rev. Henry F. Hammer of Saint Catherine's Roman Catholic Church officiated.  Interment was at Holy Sepuchre Cemetery in New Rochelle.  Volunteer firemen formed a guard of honor.  

Mr. Straehle was also a member of the Westchester County Volunteer Firemen's Association.

Surviving are five sisters:  Mrs. William Lyon of Pelham; Mrs. Adolph Holzworth and Mrs. Edwin Hemminway of Mount Vernon; Mrs. Edward Whalen of Greenwich, and Mrs. John Reilly of White Plains."

Source:  HENRY STRAEHLE DIED AT HUDSON, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 29, 1939, Vol. 29, No. 39, Second Section, p. 1, col. 2.  

"PELHAM NOTE. . . . 

A swarm of bees made their nest in an over-turned soda box which was under a shed at the Straehle Bottling Works.  How long they were their, no one knows, but they were rather unexpectedly discovered yesterday by Joseph Burke, a driver.  Burke overturned the box and the bees overturned Burke; the laughter of several spectators attracted the bees and they left him for the onlookers and a wild scramble ensued.  Joe is resting easily but the bees have been dispossessed. . . . "

Source:  PELHAM NOTES, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 26, 1904, p. 3, col. 4.


A team of horses belonging to the Straehle Bottling Works, of Pelham, ran away yesterday afternoon at City Island.  Mr. Straehle was delivering an order at the time.  The horses were caught but not until they were cut and bruised and the harness broken. . . . "

Source:  PELHAM NOTES, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Nov. 19, 1904, p. 8, col. 2.

Straehle Bottling Works Advertisement Seeking Delivery Driver.
Reads:  "WANTED -- Young unmarried man to drive soda
water delivery wagon; can board and lodge with employer.
Address Straehle Bottling Works, North Pelham.  --85
Source:  HELP WANTED, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY],
Aug. 9, 1905, p. 3, col. 1.


Many of the bottlers of Westchester County and thereabout have issued the following circular and are mailing them to the customers:

The great losses sustained by the bottling trade compel us to ask your co-operation in our efforts to secure the return of our siphons and bottles, and we feel that if your employees realize the value of these packages they will seek to safeguard our mutual interests.  For these reasons we have resolved to charge the following deposits on all siphons and bottles delivered to you on and after February 1st, 1907.

Each siphon.........................10 cents.
Each box of beer.................25 cents.
Each box of quart bottles....25 cents
Each box of small bottles....25 cents.

If proper care is taken of these packages the losses will be stopped and it will cost you nothing.  If you sell to others we ask you to charge them a similar deposit.

Thanking you for past favors and feeling confident our arguments will secure for us your good will and continued patronage.

We beg to remain,

Yours respectfully, 

Henry Straehle, Pelham [Note Names of Numerous Other Signers Omitted for Brevity]"

Source:  Association Affairs, The American Bottler, Feb. 15, 1907, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, p. 32.


Last week a construction car passed along the Boston & Westchester Railroad and a crew removed the overhead wires and braces that supported the feed wire.  It brought to my mind an incident that took place when the road was constructed in 1910.  First, let it be understood that these railroads are all built by roving mechanics and laborers who specialize in that work.  They are known to every big contractor and are welcomed and hired on the spot when they arrive at a new job.  They are thoroughly posted on all new work and may finish a job in one place and a week later be starting another a thousand miles away.

Before the work was started here, men began arriving and looking for boarding places.  Mr. and Mrs. Henry Straehle's hotel in the old Wolf House was visited by a couple of Irishmen, husky, well dressed and with healthy coats of tan.  They took out a roll of bills and treated the house.  The introduced themselves as two foremen on the new job, seeking rooming houses for their workers.  Mrs. Straehle agreed to take in six, but they must be high class men only  They soon returned with four others.  These men having traveled all over the states could entertain for hours with interesting and humorous anecdotes.  They could sing and give recitations.

Weeks passed.  One day one of the men remarked that this was the best place he had ever boarded at.  He had been in boarding houses and hotels in every state in the union.  Mrs. Straehle gave a loud laugh as she remarked that he probably said that any every place they stopped.

'Did you ever beat a boarding house out of payment?' she asked with a broad smile.  The man smiled and for a moment seemed embarrassed but finally told of 'a man I knew' who did and to Mrs. Straehle's question told how he did it.

'By golly, that was clever,' exclaimed Mrs. Straehle as she picked up their glasses and asked them to have a drink on the house.

Thus encouraged, another told of 'a man I knew' who beat his board bill and again she laughed heartily as she refilled their glasses 'on the house.'

Each one gave a different version, always the culprit was 'a man I knew.'  The work was now winding up and the men were lounging about in their best clothes waiting for pay day.  Pay days were the first and fifteenth of the month and for the past week they were constantly talking of a new railroad being built at Sand Patch, Pa.  Lathrop & Shea had the contract and they were going as soon as they drew their pay.  Pay day came and they went to the contractor's shack and soon returned with the doleful story that an error had been made in the pay roll.  It had to be sent back for correction and the paymaster would probably be around for the next day.

Mrs. Straehle confided to her husband that she felt sure the men had been paid and were planning a getaway without paying their board and bar bills.  While cleaning up their rooms and making up their beds she had taken a quick mental inventory of their possessions.  Their small grips were locked and their old working suits and overalls were on chairs but they were wearing their best clothes.  She recalled that when they arrived each had but one suit and new overalls.  They would have to buy new overalls for the new job and a suit of second-hand clothes would cost a couple of dollars.  That evening she sat in the barroom showing no evidence of her suspicions.   One of the boys remarked that he was going to the theatre and would not get back until around midnight.  He went upstairs to 'get ready' and Mrs. Straehle turning to her husband said:  'Henry, you tend bar, I have got to go downstairs and mix a batch of bread.'

She went downstairs but quickly came out through the alley way and took a seat on the porch behind the wisteria vine.  Here she could watch both entrances.  It was quite dark when she saw a dark object come hurtling out a window above and land on the lawn.  Leaning out she could see a head disappear in the bedroom window above.  Three more followed and then the window was softly closed.  Mrs. Straehle hustled out and gathered four valises and brought them into the living room whose door facing the barroom she had thoughtfully closed when she left the group.  Turning down the light she waited for the boarder to come downstairs.  When he did, he waved goodbye to them, assuring them he would see them later.  Out on the lawn he crept feeling about.  Then he stood up, looked the house over and satisfying himself that no one was looking, lit a match and looked about.  He looked up at the bedroom window and was now satisfied that someone had picked up the bags.  He returned to the barroom and was just carrying a chair to a corner and calling one of the others over when Mrs. Straehle entered with the four bags and said 'Who wants to come to Sand Patch with me?'  The men exchanged glances and the leader stepped up to the bar with a sheepish grin and taking out a roll of bills paid his board and asked the amount of his bar bill.  The others followed suit.  As she turned over their bags and filled their glasses she said:  'Do you remember the time you told me all the tricks your friends played to beat their board bill?  Well, says I to myself, if you beat me you will have to think up a new trick.'"

Source:  Minard, J. Gardiner, THE OLD DAYS, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 28, 1939, p. 2, cols. 5-6. 

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