According to historical documents, the American Busch family beer legacy began in 1848 with a small brewery located at Elm and Plum streets in Saint Louis. Plum Street Brewery is where 17 year old John Baptiste Busch joined his brother George, a brewer at Plum Street, when he migrated from Germany in 1850. After two years of learning the brewery business, John attended several area schools and then joined his brother Henry in Washington, Missouri. It was here, in 1854, the two brothers along with Fred Gersie established Washington Brewery. The surrounding community was predominantly German and although the first brewery in town was founded in 1843, the Busch brothers' product was happily welcomed.
The partnership between the three men continued for five years, with other Busch brothers contributing to their success. Ulrich, Adolphus, Henry, George, and Joseph are all mentioned in company records as employees, account holders, or financially assisting with operations.
During this time, John B. met and married Antonia Krumsick; the daughter of a German immigrant doctor who settled his family east of Washington. Antonia became vice president of brewery operations and the couple had seven children who survived to adulthood. The J.B. Busch family made their home next to the brewery facility in what is now the Washington VFW Hall.
Several of John and Antonia's children stayed in Washington and worked at the family business. Others left for Saint Louis and were employed by one of Uncle Adolphus' companies - Anheuser-Busch. John B. Busch Jr. went to work at Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Company in nearby Belleville, Illinois but returned home to manage and operate the family brewery with sister Lily and Ulrich W. Sr.
Through the Civil War (in which John served as first lieutenant with the EMM), and Prohibition; through several fires that consumed most of the building and floods from nearby Buschs Creek escaping its banks, the brewery later known as John B. Busch Brewing Company pushed onward. During Prohibition, the local Buschs sold the brewing equipment to a brewery in South America. They began making soda-pop, sold ice, and even tried getting into producing potato chips, but as no one in the 1920s had heard of a potato chip, it nearly bankrupted the company. Even after Prohibitions repeal, the company never made beer again.
John Busch Sr. died at his home in 1894 at the age of 62 with the cause of death listed as dropsy. After his death, John B. Busch Jr. was company president until his death in 1937, when Ulrich W. Busch Sr. took over. In 1953, after 99 years in business, grandson Ulrich Busch Jr. locked the door on the brewery for the last time. Thereafter, one of the local corn-cob pipe companies used the building to store cobs as they dried.
Today, nearly 200 years after John Busch started his brewing business, the doors of this historic building are open once more and it seems some of its visitors never left.
Paranormal investigators who have visited report experiencing voices, odd sounds, shadows, and heaviness in parts of the brewery. Numerous witnesses have seen a man walking through the first floor kitchen area and the feeling of being watched as they investigate.
Psychics have picked up on several Civil War soldiers and children within the caverns where beer kegs were once stored. Other floors within the massive structure have proven quite active as well, with the uppermost floor housing a very heavy energy.
Many thanks to Slava at Re-Discover Washington for this photo blog about the brewery!
Thanks to Washington Historical Society, American Breweriana Journal (Issue #86 May-June 1997), National Register of Historic Places documents, and the current owners of the property for providing Busch family history.