Friday, December 9, 2016

You Can't Blame the Beer Hops : Lemp Family Triumph and Tragedy

How many families have your researched having a constant history of suicide?  The Lemp family had it's share, that is for sure.

The Lemp family moved from Germany to the United States.  They started their own brewing company along the banks of the great river city, St. Louis, in 1840, after having dabbled in the grocery store business. Adam Lemp distilled vinegar and brewed beer for customers.The beer brewing became so popular that he scrapped the grocery business.  He focused solely on beer brewing and established his company, which was named Western Brewery. Adam Lemp passed away in 1862, and William, his son, inherited the business. William Lemp, who was only 12 years old when he came to America. became a naturalized citizen in 1841.  He graduated from St. Louis University and started his own brewing company, which eventually merged with his deceased father's brewery.  He named this the William J. Lemp Brewing Company. The company incorporated in 1892.

William served in the Missouri Union troops during the Civil War, and became a member of the GAR.  He and his family were becoming very well respected as he rose to the ranks of the elite class. Lemp had invested interests in many breweries, mostly in the southern states of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

The Lemp family life seemed perfect.  William and his bride, Julia, raised a family of four daughters and five sons.  Life seemed to be great.  He renamed his company as Lemp, and built a rather nice house not far from the cool caves where he brewed his product.  There supposedly was an underground tunnel connecting the Lemp home to the Lemp cave brewery. Eventually, Lemp's Falstaff Beer outsold the Budweiser product for quite some time.

beer bottles, free

William was getting along in age by the turn of the century, so he decided to go into partial retirement and travel with his wife.  He appointed his sons as custodians of the business.  Of the five sons, Frederick seemed to be the favorite.  However, Fred wasn't feeling so well, so he left for California to attend to this health, when he died suddenly of heart failure in December of 1901 at the age of 28.

Mr. and Mrs. Lemp took the loss very hard, although William seemed to bear the most grief.  Not more than three years after the passing of his son, he learned that his old friend, Frederick Pabst, of Milwaukee, had passed away.  William Lemp seemed to be filled with unending grief.  Frederick Pabst was the father-in-law of William's daughter, Hilda.  William could not take any more of his depressed life, so he took his life by shooting himself in the head in the bedroom of his home.  His wife, Julia, passed away two years later, in 1906, It was said that she, also, suffered from bouts of deep depression since the suicide of her husband.

Lemp Brewing, Falstaff Beer Logo, free

The brewing business was passed onto William Lemp, Jr.  He established the offices of the company in the family home.  He is credited with naming the premier product, Falstaff, William Jr., known as Billy, married in 1899.  His wife, Lillian, was of the aristocrat status, and she insisted on wearing the color of lavender everyday, all day.  This marriage was doomed.  He didn't like her having a different carriage for every day of the week, and her use of profane language.  She charged that he brought women to their home and beat her, threatening her life with a revolver. Lillian was granted a divorce in 1909, and gained full custody of their son.  She did not feel satisfied with alimony of $6,000/yr., and eventually took her case to the state supreme court, and was awarded a lump some of $100,000.00.  Cha Ching! She never remarried, and continued to wear lavender every day.

Billy's younger sister, Elsa, was also in a very unhappy marriage.  She was granted a divorce from her husband, Thomas Wright, in 1919.  They remarried in 1920....WHAT? One week after their second wedding day, she seemed to be dealing with depression, which was a family affliction.  She was having one particularly bad evening, so she excused herself to her bedroom overnight.  The next morning a loud sound was heard coming from her room.  Elsa was found deceased, having shot herself in the heart.

Prohibition did not make things very good for the Lemp brewing family.  They tried to brew some non-alcoholic beverages, but sales were very low. Family members quarreled over what to do with the company.  Billy did not want to update to modern brewing standards.  He preferred to brew with old traditional ways.  Eventually, the brewery was closed.  The buildings were sold.  Billy became overcome with depression, just like his father and sister.  He shot himself in the heart while sitting in the business offices of their Lemp family home in December of 1922.

Lemp Brewing Company cave where brewing took place, free com

William Lemp, III, tried to revive the Lemp Brewing Company after the repeal of Prohibition.  For a while it seemed that partnering with another  company in the early 1930s was a good idea.  He had relocated to Illinois on the east side of the Mississippi.  Unfortunately, his company went bankrupt..  In 1943, the disappointed man died of a massive heart attack.  He was only 43 years old.

Charles Lemp, son of William Lemp, Sr., brother of Billy Lemp, had once been president of the brewery.  But in 1911 he withdrew from the business and went into a banking career. He was never married, and became a reclusive person, moving back into the Lemp home.  In 1949, at the age of 77, he, too, shot himself in the head. He had pre-arranged for his funeral and left a note requesting cremation, having his ashes spread over his farm.

Lemp family mausoleum, Bellfontaine Cemetery, free images,
The Lemp family has a large mausoleum in Bellefontaine Cemetery, in St. Louis.  It is among the largest ever built there.  It was constructed by William Lemp, Sr., after the death of his beloved son, Frederick, in 1901.  Thirteen members of the Lemp family are interred here. There are no living family with the Lemp name.  It is said that the Lemp family home, now a restaurant venue, is haunted.

Lemp Mansion, free

I wonder, how many of the Lemp family are still hanging around the house?

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