A True Small-Town Brewery

Marine, Illinois

Reprinted from the Spring 2005 issue of The Breweriana Collector
Written by Kevin Kious and Donald Roussin.  

The village of Marine, Illinois, so named because a number of its early settlers were former sea captains, is one of the smaller towns in Madison County, and seemingly an unlikely spot to have ever had a brewery. But the town had grown to several hundred residents in the decade of the Civil War and after, and was able to support a surprising number of industries, including a brewery operated by Rudolph Nicolay. In his wonderful historical booklet "A Walk Through Marine", the late local historian Ronald Loos said, "there is no way can prove that there was some type of brewery operating at or close to Marine in the 1850s. But I get small bits and pieces of information indicating that it was probably true." There was indeed a brewery, and it was located in the heart of town, as can be found from census records and the old land records preserved in the bulky bound volumes kept in the county recorder’s office.

The Village Brewer
On July 18, 1856, Rudolph Nicolay, a resident of St. Louis County, Missouri, purchased four lots of land in Marine. For $1050, he received from Adam Weber title to lots 5,6,11 and 12 in Block 4 of the village. The selling price would indicate that there were already improvements on the parcel, perhaps a house if not a brewery. Within the next few years Nicolay must have constructed or improved a brewery on the site, for the 1860 census for "Marinetown" lists him as a brewer, forty years old, and a native of Hesse, Germany. His real estate was listed as being worth $2000, his personal property $200. His wife Louisa, nearly two decades his junior, was from Baden, Germany, while their three young children had all been born in Illinois, presumably Marine. Living with the family was John Sinthrimer, a 22- year-old from Frankfurt, Germany. He also listed his occupation as brewer, indicating that the Marine brewery was at least a two-man operation.

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