Thursday, April 24, 2014

W is for Wenzeslaus and the Winter Brothers: Blogging the #atozchallenge

Wenzeslaus Opelt and the 3 Winter Brothers are not large characters in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Secrets of Marienstadt, but they are important because they are early founders of the town. Wenzy Opelt owned the woods that Oliver now owns and the Winter Brothers--Judah, Silas, and Mathias--are each fascinating in their own way.

from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall:
Of the diverse business enterprises that formed the foundation of Marienstadt, Pennsylvania, in its early years only one of them could not claim an immigrant from Europe as its founder. Wenzeslaus Opelt came from the Rhine River Valley and bought up hundreds of acres of woodlands in the Allegheny Highlands for his logging business. Bavarian Ollie Eberstark built a sawmill on the banks of glittering Pistner's Run to mill all that timber. Craftsmen from the Old Country flocked to the densely wooded timberland to open bakeries, meat markets, and a brewery to serve the usual collection of farmers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, and shopkeepers forming the bedrock of the growing community. As immigrants filled the railroad cars coming from New York and Baltimore only Jubal Winter arrived from the west.
Titus Winter thought about that a lot when he was a boy. His father, Ezra – all the men in the Winter family had biblical names – had inherited the management of Jubal Winter & Sons Construction Company from his own father, Silas. Ezra reminded Titus frequently that he would one day be responsible for its operation. From the time Titus was old enough to walk Ezra brought him to the office in the Winter Company shop for a few hours every week. Now, some forty years later, Titus sat behind the same desk from which Ezra, and Ezra's father Silas, and Silas' father Jubal, ran Winter Construction.

from Drugs, Alcohol, Bacon, Firearms
Being the son of Jubal Winter was not the easiest life, Ezra's father always told him. Not only was Jubal a physical giant, standing well over six and a half feet tall, but everything about him was huge – his energy, his intellect, his appetite for life. If he had any weakness at all it was his love for Charlotte Opelt, his wife and the mother of his three sons and six daughters. Jubal openly adored Charlotte. He was an indulgent, though practical, father to his girls, but to his sons he was formidable competition.

Judah, the oldest, the brilliant one, solved the problem by taking off to see the world. Mathias, the youngest, the dashing one, pursued his dreams of flying. It was Silas, the middle son, the steadfast, loyal, hard-working one, who went to work for Winter Construction. He assumed he would one day inherit the business, when his father ever got old, which he obviously had no intention of doing. Silas was a quiet man who liked hard-work and sharing a few drinks with his friends after putting in a long day. Of the three sons he was the largest, not quite as tall as his father, but a big man with a robust physique and a quiet manner. For this reason it seemed all the more improbable that he'd build his own legend as a moonshiner.

In 1919 when the Volstead Act was passed and the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was enacted into law it was a disaster for businesses throughout the entire country. Much of Marienstadt's economy was based in its two breweries and half a dozen saloons. But the German farmers of Marienstadt were not likely to give up their beer. Since private clubs were allowed to serve their reserves of alcohol to members, new private clubs were opening on a weekly basis. They were dumbfounded to discover reserves that seemed to magically renew themselves like so many loaves and fishes.
  Thanks for reading.

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