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Port of Potosi Fall Classic Sunday
Book written about early brewery days on sale
Dutcher book

The 12th annual Port of Potosi Fall Classic Breweriana and Flea Market will be held in the Potosi Brewery parking lot Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event will also feature the first public showing of a new book about the Potosi Brewery in the second half of the 19th century, along with the Civil War.

John Dutcher of Darlington wrote A History: The Potosi Brewery of Hail and Albrecht 1855–1880 and the John Hail Civil War Story, copies of which will be available at the show or for order.

“A lot of the recent history of the brewery located at Potosi, Wisconsin contained factual errors as well as hurtful made up stories that cast the Hail family in a negative light,” wrote Dutcher in the preface. “While I am sure most of the errors were not intentional, they did get the attention of the Hail heirs who visited the National Brewery Museum and Library.”

Those heirs heard the introduction kiosk recording about the origins of the brewery and “were hurt by the made up stories of family relations and financial problems,” wrote Dutcher. “The Hail Brewery was in fact one of the top breweries in the state of Wisconsin outside Milwaukee. …

“Sometimes when stories are told they tend to become reality, as in ‘perception is reality.’ This doesn’t necessarily make it true, but the reality is in the eye of the beholder.”

Gabriel Hail Sr., a Bavarian hotel, restaurant and brewery owner, and John Albrecht Sr. came to the U.S. for the first time in 1849. They built their brewery on three lots in Potosi, one of which was previously owned by Nelson Dewey, the state’s first governor. Hail and Albrecht owned the brewery for 17 years, getting significant business from Iowa, then a dr state.  In 1972, their sons, Gabriel Hail Jr. and John Albrecht Jr., took over the brewery. After John Jr. exited the business to run a tavern in Lancaster, Gabriel Jr. took over the business and ran it until his death in 1879.

Upon Gabriel Jr.’s death, his brother, John Hail, ran the brewery for just two years, until John’s death in 1881. John Hail was a Civil War veteran who suffered from what today would be called post traumatic stress disorder and malaria. He also dealt with several deaths in his family and the sabotage of a year’s worth of beer by an employee’s putting a dead fly into each vat of beer.

After John Hail’s death, a relative, Theodore Hail, ran the brewery until it closed in 1880. Six years later,

The book includes photos of the families’ houses, a map of the brewery in the village, and information on John Hail’s 25th Wisconsin Infantry, which suffered the largest death toll of any regiment that left Wisconsin. Hail’s Company H included soldiers from Potosi, Lancaster, Ellenboro, Beetown, Glen Haven, and the towns of Harrison, Waterloo and Paris. The book includes excerpts from the diary of Philip Roesch, a fellow member of Company H whose diary is in the Passage Thru Time Museum in Potosi.

The 25th participated in major Civil War battles under command of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. Hail missed six months of the war in a military hospital but, Dutcher wrote, returned to the fight when he probably could have received a medical discharge and gone home. Hail participated in the Grand Review of Washington lin May and June 1865, before Hail was mustered out.

“Records tell of how proud they were when they marched in the Grand Review — arms swinging, chests out, legs in perfect step,” wrote Dutcher. “John was one of them — and had a special reason to be proud. He was there! He finished the fight in spite of his ongoing bout with malaria. He probably could have gone home but chose instead to hjoin his friends and neighbors, the Company H volunteers from Potosi, Wisconsin. …

“With malaria, we know that he was not ‘well,’ in any sense of that word. So, he was sick when he fought, he was sick when he was mustered out, he was sick when he went home, and he was sick when he died. But he was a soldier — he returned to the fight, and was discharged, in what had to be a moment of pride and glory for every Northern American, with the men with whom he had fought.”

Profits from the book sale will go to the Potosi Township Historical Society.