Digger Odell Publications ©2010

Henry arrived in Cincinnati, eighteen and on his own.  The trip downriver, the final leg of his journey, reminded him of the long voyage from Germany, of the smell of the ship, of the terrible illness, of the palpable hope of the mass of immigrants like himself and of the chaos he left behind.

His parent’s lives, disrupted by the Napoleonic Wars and occupation by the French of his home town Hanover, Germany in 1803, were marked by turmoil.  When Henry was seven, the union of the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Handover ended when William IV’s heir in the United Kingdom, Queen Victoria, a female, was forbidden by law to inherit the throne.  Young men Henry’s age were prime candidates for conscription into military service in the ensuing battle for power among the German States. Known as the “March Revolution of 1848,” it was a struggle was between the liberal “Forty-eighter’s” who believed in a more democratic form of government, greater guarantees of human rights and the unification of the German states, and those who favored the existing monarchy. The conflict ended quickly with the installation of William IV’s brother, Ernest Augustus.  Henry’s parent’s fearful and wanting better for him helped him leave Hanover. More than a million of Henry’s countrymen followed in his footsteps over the next decade attracted to America by the liberal ideas that had led them to flee their native country. 

So he had come, alone and unable to speak English, Henry did not have time to dwell on the past. Unlike the majority of his fellow immigrants, who came from modest backgrounds, with only farming skills, Henry was born to a more privileged urban family and had been educated in the traditional German manner.  This edge he hoped would enable him to find work quickly in New York so he could move on. His parents told him of a distant relative whom they believed had recently settled in Cincinnati, home to a large German population.  It was there he would find this relative and the promised opportunity.

CINCINNATI 1867 (Cincinnati Historical Society)

Henry found Cincinnati to his liking. The riverfront was bustling with commercial activity. As far as Henry could see riverboats lined up like cows waiting patiently to be milked. Before him, horses strained under the heavy load of wagons which dotted the wide expanse of sandy riverfront which lay before him. Everywhere laborers, working like ants, sweated to load and unload great casks, barrels, crates and boxes of goods. There seemed to be some strange and wonderful organization to it all.

 As he moved toward the city, the noise of construction pervaded the air. New steamboats, buildings and houses seemingly appeared erected before his eyes.  Cincinnati’s population was nearly 100,000 and growing at a phenomenal pace, faster than anywhere else in the country. The smell of pigs was everywhere.  It was nothing like New York. Smaller and more inviting, Cincinnati was compressed into an area of less than seven square miles.  Only blocks from the riverfront Henry found the center of German life in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and joined John Verhage.

Like Henry, John was a newcomer to Cincinnati who boarded at a small place on Walnut Street.  Within weeks, Henry made the acquaintance of John Ganter, owner of the American Restaurant, on 3rd below Walnut and Vine. Ganter liked Henry and hired him on as a porter.  

Henry was, if anything, ambitious. Throughout the year of 1851, he worked honing his command of English and carefully studying the intricacies of the restaurant business. By 1853, he saved enough money to open his own confectionary and restaurant on Walnut. Henry it seemed had a knack for business and his operation prospered.  By 1857, he moved to a new location two doors down and no longer clerked the business himself but instead hired young Mr. Hulson to wait on customers. Henry busied himself making plans and forging relationships with other business owners.  He expanded his acquaintance with James Todd, an oyster dealer and agent for oyster companies whose business was located in the same block as his confectionary.


Initially, Cincinnati was a jumble of wood frame houses. As the city prospered, brick became the building material of choice because it could be manufactured on the spot. In the 1850s, with the completion of the railroad system, builders imported more exotic materials like granite and marble to cater to the varied tastes and demands of an increasingly wealthy public.  Marble (or more properly marble dust) was also used in making soda and mineral water. The dust, loaded into a lead or copper sealed container, called a generator, was bathed in “sulphric acid” producing carbon dioxide which was piped off to another tank containing water; the infusion of the gas through the liquid under pressure, gave the liquid a bubbly texture. The whole process was propelled by a miniature steam engine producing about four horsepower.

Bottling was all done by machinery. To make soda, a bottle to be filled was fitted with a cork and then syrup was introduced by means of a rubber tube. When about two thirds full, the soda water was injected by way of another pipe and the cork fitted tightly and secured by a wire bale. Two men were capable of bottling many hundreds of bottles a day. The work was dangerous, as the occasional bottle would burst from the pressure, or worse, a ‘receiver’ worn with use would explode.

New businesses of all types were as plentiful as the walnut nuts in forests surrounding the city. Cincinnati’s large population invited many to try their hand in mineral water or soda as it became increasingly popular in bottled form. Thomas M. Rutherford, proprietor of the Brighton House, located about a mile North West of Cincinnati, was among the first to capitalize on the market. Rutherford started his own mineral water business about 1845, and supplied the trade with the necessary materials his competitors needed. His son, John in partnership with George Walton expanded the operations. Rutherford’s success selling mineral water, supplies, equipment and installing soda fountains enabled him to open a second downtown restaurant bearing his name on 5th Street between Walnut and Vine. There, his customers could order his premium mineral water served up in attractive deep blue paneled bottles.


Rutherford was no doubt acquainted with the Postel Brothers, George and John, who arrived in Cincinnati six years before Henry Verhage.  George J. Postel began work as a cabinet maker and shortly thereafter his younger brother, John, opened a grocery store that failed quickly. Undaunted, John went into manufacturing mineral water with the help of his brother.  For more than a decade, the brothers occupied the property at the north east corner of Lodge Alley and Gano between Walnut and Vine Streets.  In the front end of the building which backed on 7th Street, George J. Postel worked his cabinet making business while John manufactured mineral water at the other end.

In 1856, the brothers split and sold out to Frederick Goosmann who owned and operated a liquor store.  Goosmann planned to expand the mineral water and soda business and the property at 66 Gano and Lodge Alley was perfect. In 1857, he made mineral water put up in attractive 12 panel bottles with his name prominently blown on one side.  Goosmann used the equipment left by the Postels at the Gano and Lodge property to make his own mineral water and root beer, competing with other manufacturers, among them Hiram Nash, Chancey B. Owens and Charles Overdeik. But in November of 1857, Goosmann’s plans went up in smoke when his liquor store caught fire. The conflagration entirely demolished both building and stock. Insurance covered only $1000.00 of the damage and he suffered a devastating $5000.00 loss.

1858 was a busy year for Henry Verhage. He made a good profit in the confectionary shop but decided it was time to sell. The exchange was complete by 1859 when John D. and George B. Shroder took over the store at the 282 Walnut Street address. Perhaps Henry knew something about the business that the Shroders did not or perhaps they were just not as astute as Henry - by 1860, they had moved on to the grocery business.

Henry, now nearly 30 years of age, had amassed $4000.00 in less than a decade but he owned no real property.  In 1859, he joined Frederick Goosmann in his mineral water business.  Circumstances were fortuitous for both men.  Henry was flush with cash. Frederick had just suffered a terrible loss and was in desperate need of capital. Together the men planned the details of the operation.  They ordered new bottles similar to the ones Goosmann had been using except with both men’s names blown into the glass. But Frederick’s heart was not in the mineral water business and within the year, he sold out to Henry and went back into to the liquor store business with the help of a new partner.


The mineral was business was very competitive and Henry was a bit late in getting started.  Ever since 1850, when the railroad connected Cincinnati with towns outside of the state, businesses popped up like plants in early spring. In 1851, Cincinnati was host to eight mineral water factories with 64 employees who produced one hundred and five thousand dollars in annual output.

Henry’s new bottles were blown with his name on the front and the large letter “V” on the reverse. Within a few months, he took in Henry Creiger, a laborer, as a boarder.  In 1861, He hired John Cristal, a bottler, and Henry Wonderhide, a wagon driver, who often went to the riverfront to retrieve the large casks of bottles off the steamboats when they arrived from Pittsburgh. For the next few years Henry concentrated his energies on mineral water.

Henry Verhage was a gregarious man who never missed chance to expand his sphere of influence. Kiddy-corner, from his mineral water factory was the livery stable of Hugh Quinn. Quinn, a hardworking prolific Irishman, had numerous family and relatives working for and with him.  It was there that Henry first met Helen, a sweet 16 year old Irish girl, who charmed Henry such that within the year they married. Henry bought a house at 284 Race Street and there began his family. Family life agreed with Henry. His first child, a girl, arrived within the next year.  Blessed at home and blessed at work, his business pursuits gathered steam and over the next decade years he multiplied his family fivefold and his fortune tenfold.




In the middle of the 19th century, a visitor to Cincinnati might think with all the signage for tripe and pigs feet that every third person was a pig merchant.  Cincinnati was famous for its pigs even in far away New England. The New Hampshire Gazette, June 10, 1851 wrote of Cincinnati:

About fifteen years ago, when it contained one fifth of its existing population, a few bold speculators began the trade.  Selecting the hams and sides of the animal, they made pickled pork-of the rest they took small account.  Soon, however, the idea occurred to one or more acute than his fellows; that the head and the feet-nay even the spine and the vertebrae might be turned to account.  Trotters and cheeks had their partisans, and these parts looked up in the market.  About this time the makers of sausages caught the inspiration; they found these luxuries saleable and so many pigs were to be slaughtered, that the butchers were willing to do it for nothing, that is to say, for the perquisite of the entrails and offal along.

The next step was due to the genius of France. A Frenchman established a brush factory, and created a market for the bristles; but his ingenuity was outdone by one of his countrymen, who soon after arrived.  This man was determine, it seems, to share the spoils and thinking nothing else left, collected the fine hair or wool, washed, dried and curled, and stuffed mattresses with it.  But he was mistaken in thinking nothing else left. As but little was done with lard, they invented machines and squeezed oil out of it; the refuse they threw away.  Mistaken men again! This refuse was substance for stearine candles, and made a fortune for the discoverer of that secret.  Lastly, came one who could press chemistry into the service of Mammon.  He saw the blood of countless swine flow through the gutters of the city; it was all that was left of them, but it went to his heart to see it thrown away.  He pondered long; and then collecting the stream into reservoirs, made prussiate of potash from it by the tone.  The pig was then used up.

This was the creative milieu in which Henry was immersed. James Proctor and Gamble had just invented the process for making candles. Thomas Rutherford, a mineral water manufacturer, expanded into the brush manufacturing business and operated a large factory not far from Henry’s mineral water operation. Everywhere men were making fortunes.

Sometime around 1860 Henry opened an ice cream saloon, an idea he might have gotten from Morris Nicholas who operated an ice cream saloon and confectionary several doors from Henry’s home.  Henry’s was not profitable and lasted only a short time.

In 1864, Henry purchased James Todd’s Oyster, Fish and Game Store adjacent to his Walnut street store. Within three years due to good management, he advertised in the Cincinnati City Directory. A wise administrator, Henry never hesitated to hire help.  John Keiser, was his book keeper in the Oyster business. Harry Lloyd and Barney Huesmann, were wagon drivers and John Prior was Porter in the new business at 251 and 253 Walnut.

Things could not be going better.  One of Henry’s most profitable endeavors came together in 1869 when, Hugh Merrie, an engineer, William Merrie, Hugh’s son, a machinist and Henry, the financier, started a lead pipe firm called Merrie & Verhage Company. Shortly thereafter, John McNeil, a plumber, pump and hydrant maker joined them.  The business set up operation at Henry’s Gano and Lodge property, the same building where Henry ran his mineral water factory. As sewage and plumbing became increasingly important in city planning, Henry positioned himself to capitalize on the opportunity.

With the opening of the new lead pipe and block tin concern on Gano Street, space was at a premium. Henry had a plan. He organized, Wm. Beins & Company, in 1869, and moved mineral water operations to 449 W. Liberty.  August Beins, William’s son, was made clerk in 1871.  Apparently not happy with this lowly position, he set out to make mineral water on his own in 1874 at 417 W. Liberty.  The venture failed within two years. Likewise, Henry pulled out of the operation - which was always part of the plan, because he had a better offer. With Henry out of the picture, William Beins took on Fredrick Nolker as a partner.  By 1876, Beins was gone and Nolker had control of the Liberty Street factory. The short-lived partnership with Beins gave Henry the time he needed to rejuvenate his aging mineral water business.

Although Henry had a knack for avoiding failure, it was not a perfect record. The Buckeye Ice Company formed in 1870 with Henry as a minor partner, intended to cut ice from Lake Erie in winter, haul it to Cincinnati to be stored and sold at a profit in warmer weather. Unable to carry out the plan, the company disbanded within a year. Despite this minor setback, life was good for Henry. At 35 years of age, He had four children, a house with servants, and $40,000 in real property.

About 1865, Henry began experimenting with preserves. Vinegar was needed for the process and Henry began making his own at the Gano and Lodge property. Tripe, pig’s feet, tongues and spare ribs were sold at the Walnut street store along with cider and vinegar. In 1876 Henry purchased the property adjoining the 7th street end of the Gano and Lodge Alley property at 269 Walnut to open a proper “cider factory”. By now, Henry had dozens of employees working for him, clerks, butchers, cutters, sausage makers, drivers and porters, but like Frederick Goosmann before him, Henry’s big plans for the new factory very nearly went up in smoke.

On Saturday evening, a few minutes after 6 o’clock, Henry Verhage’s cider factory, No. 269 Walnut Street, caught fire, and an alarm was turned in from box 249 corner of Sixth and Vine streets.  The factory runs back to Lodge alley, where it has a front of forty-eight feet.  The fire stated in the rear, and as this is separated from the Walnut street part by a fire wall, the flames were confined to the rear, which was filled with sausage, vinegar, pickled pig’s feet, crout, meats, etc. all of Mr. Verhage’s manufacture.  The fire was very hot and there was great danger that it would spread in the closely built block, but the firemen, with their usual skill, fought it successfully, and after an hour’s labor, put out the flames.  The rear building was, however, almost entirely burned out, the walls only remaining solid.  Mr. Verhage estimates his loss at from $5000 to $6000.  How the fire started is not known, but it may have been caused by a leakage of high wines stored on the upper floor.  November 19, 1877 Cincinnati Daily Gazette

To accommodate the growing operation, Henry bought property adjacent to 66 Gano and Lodge running down to 58 Gano Street. The burned portion of the old Walnut Street building was rebuilt. It was there, Henry continued making cider, vinegar bologna, pickles and other preserves.  Around the same time, he opened a livery stable for his workers and customers, at 254 Walnut.


For Merrie & Verhage the initial years were tough going. While Henry exhibited tact and congeniality in his relationships with people, Hugh Merrie, his business partner, had a different character.

The usually placid existence of the Water Works office was slightly disturbed yesterday afternoon. Some time ago Messrs Merrie, Verhage & Co., lead-pipe manufacturers, put in a bid for furnishing lead-pipe to be used by the Board.  They were disappointed, however, by the award of the contract to another house.  Yesterday Mr. H. M. Merrie, the head of the firm, called at the office of the Board to unburden his mind on the subject, and in the course of an animated conversation with Superintendent Earnshaw, his gestures became so wild that his hand, which happened to be closed at the time, came in violent contact with Mr. Earnshaw’s dome of thought, raising a protuberance on it about the size of a baseball.  Mr. Merrie was arrested for his oratorical flourish, and will answer to Judge Straub this morning on the charge of assault. Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, Oct. 4, 1872.


Hugh Merrie was convicted the next day, fined $50 and ordered to keep the peace for one year. Apparently the dispute grew out of a concern that Superintendent Earnshaw had regarding the quality of the pig lead that Mr. Merrie & Co. furnished that was not of the quality called for in the contract which lead to the rejection.

Henry had words with Hugh about the incident and on their second try Merrie & Verhage Co. got their big break when the Board of Trustees for the Water Works awarded the company a contract in 1873 for half of the city’s total business in lead pipe and block tin, selecting them from a large number of bids.

The next year they picked up the contract for lead pipe for the city of Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. In 1874, they again submitted the lowest bid for the Cincinnati contract. Business prospered. Lead for company use was shipped in from St Louis by steamer. With continued contracts in hand, the growing company picked up 973 pigs of lead from one steam ship in 1878, a sizable amount given that the weight of a pig of lead was from 150-250 pounds.

After the fire gutted the building adjacent to the firm of Merrie & Verhage, they moved from the Gano and Lodge property to 11 W. Seventh Street to more accommodating quarters where they remained until Henry’s death.  Like any profitable business, the firm continued to expand and in 1883, with a ready supply of lead on hand, Merrie and Verhage opened the Cincinnati Shot Works at neighboring 10 W. Seventh Street. 

With his new found wealth, Henry invested in recreational property. With William Reynolds as partner, Henry purchased two plots of land, Parker’s Grove and Orange Grove both long used as picnic grounds. Parker’s Grove was eight or nine miles upriver from Cincinnati and like Orange Grove was available for lease by groups and individuals.

Parker Grove Picnic Ground best arranged, best conducted, and best adapted for Picnic purposes of any ground in the Western Country. Committees would do well to secure this beautiful grove at once, before the desirable days are all taken. For terms and information apply to Henry Verhage, 253 Walnut St., WM Reynolds 242 West fifth.
 Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, March 22, 1874

At times, Henry found his personal life more difficult for him than his business life.  He and his wife Helen were graced with four girls: Mary Elizabeth, Clara, Emily and Theresa, born in 1873. Now in his forties, Henry desperately wanted a boy, a man, to follow in his footsteps, to inherit the empire he was still building.  

The 1877 fire which destroyed the cider factory at 269 Walnut was in some ways a blessing for Henry. It forced him to upgrade and Henry had a plan. Just as he was in the middle of implementing his ideas, a miracle happened, and in 1878 Henry’s son, Harry A. Verhage, also called Henry A., was born. The couple was delighted and fawned over their latest as did the doting daughters. Henry’s dreams were coming true and he had much to do to get this world ready for Harry.


Herman Knuwener, was born in 1848 in Hanover, Germany to parents William and Lizzie Knuwener. Henry and Herman had much in common.  Their parents both lived in Hanover. Despite the age difference, Herman being the younger, they found each other to their mutual liking.

[Herman] was educated in the elementary schools, under the compulsory system of school attendance long in vogue throughout Germany. In his fourteenth year he began active life among total strangers at Diepholtz, some distance from his native place. He engaged as an apprentice in the dry goods business, serving according to the German system, not only without pay, but at his own cost for instruction in the business. For four years he sustained this burden, not being allowed the use of any money, and being pledged against the use of tobacco in any shape, his father signing a bond that he would observe an agreement to this effect. At the expiration of his apprenticeship, feeling opposed to the stern, severe military laws, which would presently have called him into needless service for three years, he resolved to emigrate to America, and again started out alone in the world, landed in New York in 1866, came on at once to the Queen City, and for about a year did not engage in business, but improved his time in learning the language of his adopted Country and taking a full course in Nelson's Business college.

Herman worked for a few years as a salesman for Steinkamp & Co. where he rose to junior partner before leaving in 1874, the year he married John H. Overdiek’s daughter and moved into her family home at their comfortable residence at the corner of Court and Cutter.  John’s father was Charles Overdiek, a member and partner in the mineral water firm of Henry and Charles Overdiek that began bottling mineral water around 1853. After the death of Henry, Charles and his son John H., managed the business. In 1855, operations moved to 17 Home Street, two blocks west of where Thomas M. Rutherford’s mineral water factory operated a decade before.

As partners, Henry and Herman made an odd couple - Herman, a staunch Republican, was a member of the Lincoln Club and other similar organizations and Henry, who had been a delegate to the 1861 Democratic County Convention, helped Herman in his bid for a seat on City Council:

In 1880, though a Republican, [Herman] was elected, against his inclination, in the strong Democratic Sixteenth ward, a member of the board of councilmen, in which he is now acceptably serving his constituents. When the new Committee of the Council was formed on the consumption of smoke, under a recent act of the legislature, he was appointed a member of this important committee. In the council he has kept a vigilant eye upon the public interests, particularly the plunder of the city treasury, and not long since moved a resolution of inquiry into the vast expense of the city advertising, which was passed and has already been productive of much good.

When they joined forces, Henry’s aging mineral water business was in need of investment and Herman, in need of a livelihood. Herman sold his share in Steinkamp & Co. and bought out his father-in-law’s mineral water business. The partnership of Knuwener & Verhage was completed in 1876. Herman had only minimal experience in the mineral water business; he had worked at John H. Overdiek & Co. for only a short time as a bottler at the 500 Central Avenue site, but because of his business acumen was made president of the new firm. That first year, while they readied what was to be a more modern company, Herman worked out of the old establishment at 17 Home Street, while Henry maintained an office for all of his businesses at the ill-fated property at 269 Walnut.

The monetary Panic of 1873 followed by the “Long Depression” strained profits for the soda and mineral water manufacturers. Henry Verhage, in conspiracy with a group of other mineral water makers in the city, posted a notice in the paper in mid-1876:


THE UNDERSIGNED, FROM THIS DATE, will furnish the public with mineral water at 50 cents per box, and will charge 5 cents for each bottle lost.

G. C. WareJ.                                         J. F. Nolker,
George Kratner,                                   R. Meinhardt,
George Deffren                                     M. Gilligan,
B. Bick & Co.                                         J. Hudepohl & Bro.
A. Best                                                   Carstens Bros.,
H. Knuwener & H. Verhage                   D. Fugel
W. T. Wagner                                        P. Sorg                       

The firm of Knuwener & Verhage, organized under the name of Cincinnati Soda and Mineral Water Works, began operations at their grand new offices at 270-272 Sycamore Street late in 1876. In 1877, for a short time, they assumed control of bottling for the Star Lager Beer Bottling Co., bottling beer and mineral water at the Sycamore address.  At the same time, Knuwener & Verhage engaged in business as dealers in and shippers of Oysters at the same location.

The horse and wagon of Kunwener & Verhage, oyster dealers, at 272 Sycamore Street, and $60 worth of oysters were stolen from a driver in the employ of the firm at 6 o’clock last evening.  The property was taken from the corner of Central Avenue and Colman Street.  Policeman Fritz recovered the horse and wagon later in the evening, but the oysters were gone.  Cincinnati Daily Gazette, December, 26, 1877.

New bottles were purchased embossed with the name of the new company, not the names of the proprietors. They ordered the usual style in vogue at the time, a squat shaped thick-walled bottle with their newly registered Trademark, a six pointed star with the word ‘CHOICE’ in the center. But times were changing. A fellow in Chicago, by the name of Hutchinson, had just invented a new stopper for soda bottles, one that had fewer losses from leakage, was cheaper, and overall a more effective stopper, than one used by some of their competitors.

At the time Knuwener and Verhage joined forces, severe economic conditions made the mineral water business in Cincinnati cut-throat. Unlike the earlier days, dozens of companies now competed for business and many attempted to undermine their rivals. With friends in high places, Henry and Herman were instrumental in prodding the State Legislature to enact House Bill No. 153, passed April 9, 1880. The purpose was to protect manufacturers, bottlers of, and dealers in ginger-ale, seltzer-water, soda-water, mineral-water, and other beverages from the loss of their bottles and boxes. Anyone engaged in the manufacturer of these articles, with their name(s) or initials, blown, stamped or marked could register their bottles (or boxes) with the Office of the Secretary of State. The Act made it unlawful:

for any person or persons hereafter, without the written consent of the owner or owners thereof, to fill with ginger-ale, soda-water, mineral-water, or other beverage, or any other articles of merchandise, medicine, compound, or preparation, for sale, or to be furnished to customers, any such bottles or boxes, with their names or initials so marked or stamped, or to sell, dispose of, buy, or traffic in, or wantonly destroy any such bottle or box so marked or stamped by the owner or owners thereof

If the aggrieved owners of any registered bottles or boxes were to make oath in writing, before a justice of the peace or police judge, that they believed:

 any junk dealer, or other dealer, or manufacturer, or bottler, has any bottle or box secreted in, about, or upon, his, her, or their premises, the justice of the peace or police judge shall issue a search-warrant, and cause the premises designated to be searched…. Search-warrant may be issued on affidavit of owners of bottles.


The Act called for stiff fines to be imposed for violators, $5 per bottle or box for the first offense and $10 on conviction of a second offense. Knuwener and Verhage were quick to capitalize on the provisions of the new law and just as quickly reprimanded for doing so by the courts. A decision was handed down in 1881 dismissing a charge brought by Henry and Herman:

Judge Bigley Says his Court is Not a Court of Collection.

The famous mineral water bottle case, which has been taking up the time of the Police Court and trying the patience and worrying the diminutive brains of sundry juries, was dismissed yesterday by Judge Higley, who, at the same time, ordered the Clerk to pay the costs amounting to $128.  The case has been explained time and again, and amounted to simply this: It was a fuss among mineral water manufacturers about the using by one of the bottles of another manufacturer.  Each one, of course, thought his compressed, marble dust and gas was the best, and on that account feared damage to his business if his bottles were used by any other manufacturer.  Campbell, attorney for Verhage & Knuwenjer, it is said, framed a law to obviate the difficulty, which passed the Legislature. Judge Higley, in dismissing the case, reprimanded Messrs. Verhage & Knuwener, the plaintiffs, for attempting to make of his court a court of collections to settle their difficulties, and wished them to understand that there was to be no more of it. Cincinnati Daily Gazette, November, 11, 1881

That however, was not the end of it. In 1882, Henry and Herman filed two suits in the Superior Court one against mineral water bottler Fredrick Schorr for $1500 and the other one against mineral water maker George Deffren for $3000. Schoor was alleged to have obtained and refilled 100 dozen of the Knuwener & Verhage bottles with his “inferior” ginger-ale. Deffren was accused of making similar use of 200 dozen of the plaintiff’s bottles. Henry and Herman were quick to use the legal system to settle difficult business affairs filing dozens of suits in their years together.

September 11, 1879 was festive day in Cincinnati. It was the first day of the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. President Rutherford B. Hayes spoke at Music Hall in the opening ceremonies that morning, accompanied by General Sherman, Ohio Governor Bishop and Cincinnati Mayor Jacob. For months, Henry planned his part in the parade procession, the route of which snaked through the city and came within a block of his business. Henry and Hugh worked out the details for the Merrie & Verhage entry, while Herman and Henry plotted a grand show for Knuwener and Verhage. Thousands lined the streets hours before the pageantry was to begin and more than 23,431 attended the Exposition on the first day.

Merrie & Verhage, marched in the fourth division with two wagons, gaily decorated with pigs of iron and lead along with samples of the lead pipe they manufactured.  It was a rather simple affair compared to the display put on by entrants in the fifth division with several dozen companies represented. In front of Knuwener and Verhage marched Brunswick & Balke Company and their three parade wagons each of which held a billiard table with attractive young ladies enjoying the amusement as they rolled along. Knuwener and Verhage followed with twenty-six mineral water wagons well decorated and amply supplied with beverages, together with twenty-five men and a drum corps, in turn followed by P. T. Barnum’s six elephants, another marching band and the Cincinnati Fire Department. 

The next morning when he read the paper, Henry was disappointed in seeing how little coverage his efforts had gotten him.  He was eclipsed, in the fifth division, by 150 well dressed butchers on horseback, by the H. F. Busch sausage manufacturer employees who made sausage right on the wagons, and threw the finished product into the crowds, and by the fourteen Brewer’s Association wagons with their display of German beer making including the Gambrinus Stock Company’s single, yet memorable wagon, with a gigantic hogshead of beer fully twenty feet in diameter, ornamented with a fine painting of the brewery on one end and a painting of King Gambrinus himself on horseback on the other.

 With Hugh Merrie running the prosperous lead pipe business and Herman Knuwener managing the mineral water business, Henry devoted himself to improvements in his sausage business.  In 1880, he registered a patent with the United States Patent Office for a process of cooking and canning meat in steel cans.  Henry’s object was:

 to secure certain advantageous results connected with curing, packing and canning of sausage meat…preventing shrinkage of meat when packed in the can, greater excellence in the flavor and quality of the meat when packed, greater expedition in the packing of the meat into the cans or metal cases and an improvement in the process of curing it whereby the meat is better prevented from decay.

In Henry’s patented process, a cloth bag was put into a steel packing tin and filled with cut up pork. Once filled to above capacity, the bag was removed, smoked and cured, a process that shrank the meat into a solidified mass. When cured, a bit of tallow and some cloves were put in the bottom of the can, the bag placed back in the tin, tied closed and secured with a lid soldered on to seal it. The sealed can was immersed in water and cooked for two hours. Upon removal, the lid was immediately punctured by a small hole, the built up pressure forced out the hot tallow and other liquid, after which the tiny hole was immediately soldered shut again thus creating a vacuum. Finally, the can, placed in sealed chamber, was cooked for another half hour by steam and under pressure to keep it from exploding.

Henry and Herman’s partnership lasted exactly ten years. In 1886, the partnership dissolved. Herman Knuwener went full steam into politics and gave up his position as President of the Cincinnati Soda and Mineral Water Works.  Henry took over the operation which he renamed The Cincinnati Soda and Ginger Ale Company with himself as president and treasurer. Henry ordered new bottles with the new style Hutchinson stoppers. These bottles, like the previous ones, had only the company name embossed.

Fortunately for Henry, the lead pipe business flourished and despite the added sole responsibility of running the mineral water firm, Henry continued to modernize his sausage company which he renamed The Banner Preserve Works. As his businesses grew, so too did his land holdings.  Henry now controlled all of the property from 270 to 280 Sycamore.

Most men would have been satisfied with the operation of three successful businesses, but not Henry. Enterprises like his mineral water business, and other beer bottling establishments, needed large amounts of clean water to function. Cincinnati had sandy substrata and wells were impractical; most homes had large cisterns which captured rainwater for family use.

 In 1841 the fledgling city had but four miles of iron and wooden pipe; by 1868 the city buried 102,249 miles of cast iron pipe of varying dimensions. This labyrinth fed the growth of the city from a population of 45,000 in 1839 to one quarter million residents in 1868 - who consumed eight million gallons daily. In 1867, Henry Pearce, one of the trustees of the Cincinnati Water Works, visited several European cities to study their means of delivering water. He noted that all of the major European cities used sand and gravel filtering systems. The Ohio River, polluted with industrial waste especially on the Cincinnati side, was the local water source and city water was at the time unfiltered. It was proposed in 1880, and earlier, to use the sandbar on the Kentucky side for a filter system, but the idea was never implemented and the problem remained.


Locally, in the 1880s, small companies began offering water filters for home and business use. In 1887 S. G. Durham and Co. ran a fledgling company which made filters and filter bags. Henry, who had long studied the problem of filtering water to supply his mineral water and sausage businesses, saw opportunity and partnered with Mr. Durham, who had recently invented a new water filter, but lacked the resources to scale up the business. With Henry Verhage, owning a half interest, in 1892, together they registered a patent for a water filter system. By 1894, Henry organized the Henry Verhage Filter Company at 327 Broadway. That same year, a second simpler filter design, also invented by Durham, was patented by the new Verhage Filter Company.


So many plans, so little time - Henry’s son, Harry A Verhage (Also Known as Henry A.) was only nineteen, and hardly ready to assume the full weight of his father’s handiwork, when on January 10, 1897, Henry Verhage quite suddenly died. That month in the Chamber of Commerce meeting, he was memorialized in the minutes:

Henry Verhage was a plain, unassuming, but earnest and energetic business man. He was content to see honors and dignities fall to others, he never aspired to any, but found his delight in close application to his own affairs. He was a most useful citizen. He erected many buildings here and he helped materially to build up the trade and commerce of Cincinnati. He had an abiding faith in our city and her future greatness, and never made investments elsewhere. He was a wealthy man, but every dollar he owned was made by hard work and industry, and his word was as good as his bond.

Although he never knew it, Henry Verhage was responsible for one the best things that every happened to me.



Peter B. Barbeau was a prominent merchant and community leader in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, born June 29, 1800, in LaPrairie, Quebec. He died in the Sault on October 17, 1882. Barbeau arrived in the Sault in 1817 and was initially employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, but eventually entered the service of John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company.

Mr. Barbeau continued in the employ of the company until 1842, when, after being refused an increase in salary, he resigned his position to embark upon his own commercial endeavors. He eventually opened a general store and trading post in Sault Ste. Marie and organized an extensive fishery on Lake Superior.

During his years of residency in the Upper Peninsula, Barbeau acquired extensive holdings of property in the area. A log house at the corner of Barbeau Lane and Water Street served as the first Barbeau home and remained in the family until 1895. He purchased and resided in the former Indian Agency house, previously the residence of Henry Schoolcraft. He owned and took possession of Chippewa Street, which was later changed to Barbeau. The settlement of Barbeau, its post office and Barbeau Point were named after him. Bass Lodge, built on Neebish Island around 1840, remained in his family until 1873.


Patrick E. Roach stood on the wooden porch of Bass lodge and looked out across the North Channel of the St. Mary’s River at St. Joseph Island on the Canadian side, feeling pride in his purchase and his accomplishments.  Downriver several miles lay Drummond Island on which the Boyle & Roach quarry was located. Behind him was only wilderness, except for a single family who had come to Little Neebish Island to homestead after it was organized as part of Chippewa County in 1867. Further still to the northwest were the “boiling waters” of the South Channel, the other branch of the St Mary’s River, from which Neebish Island took its Chippewa name. The channels emptied Lake Superior into Lake Huron, Lake Huron resting twenty-one feet below the level of Lake Superior. This was the reason he was here. Nine miles upriver, situated between the big lakes were the Soo Locks at Sault St. Marie. The original locks, finished in the mid-1850s, were not sufficient to bear the increased boat traffic.

It had been several years since his company, Boyle and Roach, building contractors, had been awarded the contract in June of 1872 to excavate and prepare a new lock pit and lay the foundation for the building of a new lock at the Soo. The lock pit was to be 515 long 80 feet wide, narrowing to 60 feet at the proposed gate and 17 feet deep, all cut out of solid rock. 

Patrick considered the size of task before him – quite a job for a man who had graduated an engineer in 1866 and began business in Cincinnati the next year as a bridge builder. John Boyle, his business partner, also ran a liquor store out of the same building as Boyle & Roach contracting company at 104 W. Pearl St. They had never taken on a project of this magnitude. To provision their employees, Patrick and John purchased and outfitted a general store in Sault St. Marie, and hired the dozens of men and procured the heavy machinery needed complete the job.

Work progressed only in summer and autumn. More than 145,000 cubic yards of rock was removed before laying the foundation in the lock pit could begin. The contract was completed by April 1875. In May, the government awarded a second contract to Boyle & Roach for the building of the masonry for the new lock, the stone to be taken from their quarry on Drummond Island. Since little or no work took place in the winters, Patrick traveled back and forth between Cincinnati and Sault St. Marie. The arduous trip by boat and train traveled a distance of more than eight hundred miles and took many days. Because of the distance, he was forced to stay in the North Woods through the warm season. Although Bass Lodge was his refuge, Patrick missed his wife Margaret.

In 1881, an Indian brought into a saloon in Sault St. Marie, an unusual bird he had killed about 12 miles downriver from the Locks which had just been finished. When he saw it, Patrick was fascinated by the odd specimen.  It was tentatively identified by a Captain at the fort as an Anhinga, or snake bird. The bird, taken not far from Bass Lodge, interested Patrick such that he purchased it from the Indian and vowed to learn what it was. Patrick was a member of the Curvier Club which prepared bird specimens for the Cincinnati Zoo. Hoping to get the specimen identified, he gave it to Charles Drury, curator or the Curvier Club when he returned to Cincinnati.

Patrick’s marriage was blessed with two children, a daughter, Ruby born in 1879 and his son in 1882. During his work on the locks, Patrick had grown fond of the North Country. He and his family, traveled with other Cincinnati families to the Sault in the summer.  Some stayed at the Chippewa House in Sault St. Marie, and all enjoyed fishing the St. Mary’s River. Patrick, Margaret and family would stay at Bass Lodge.

His business in Cincinnati fared well after the large government contract. He worked railway contracts and other large jobs in the area. He and John Boyle remained business partners into the 1890s. Patrick was very involved in the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and it was there that he first met Henry Verhage. The men had much in common; both were immigrants of about the same age, ran successful businesses, had done well financially, and were devoted to their families.

Patrick Edward Roach died in 1909.  It was from her father that Ruby inherited Bass Lodge. She had gone there with the family as a child and still loved going there in the summer months. Additions to the ancient cottage made it more livable for the family.

In 1898, Henry A. Verhage, took control, as president of the Cincinnati Soda and Ginger Ale Company. Henry A., like his father, he was a futurist but also a bit of a dreamer. One of the first business decisions he made was to install telephones in the businesses, something his father had been hesitant to do.  He sold his father’s interest in Merrie & Verhage, which became O’Neil Manufacturing Co. plumbers, dealers in brass goods and plumber’s specialties. The sausage business and filter company were managed under the name of Henry Verhage Estate under the control of Henry’s widow, Helen, passing eventually to Henry A.

At the time of his father’s death, Henry A. had been dating Ruby Roach and the tragic and unexpected passing prompted the marriage of the two.  A son was born to them almost immediately and in honor of his father, named Henry. Sadly, within the year, the child died, but the couple was later blessed with two other sons.

Henry A. never had his father’s ambition.  He had grown up, like his wife, not wanting for anything - even privileged.  Lifestyle was more important than business ever could be. Ruby, took delight in ceremony, society and travel. On her dining room wall she kept a picture of her sister dressed to the nines as she was presented to the Queen of England. Ruby was involved in all manner of Cincinnati society goings on. Henry A. likened himself to an English countryman and took to a more gentlemanly pursuit - raising racing horses.



Memory is funny; there are thousands of days in my life which I cannot remember. There are others, some long since passed, emblazed in my mind sharp as though they happened yesterday.  I was nearly fourteen when my parents moved us to Pontiac, Michigan and I knew almost no one.  I vividly remember the day I met Dennis. It was after school, when I first saw him sitting on the steps inside old Washington Junior High School singing and strumming a guitar.

We were about as different as two kids could be but despite the oil and water nature of our relationship from that until this day, he and I are best of friends. We went through high school together, played guitar together, and went off to separate colleges and different lives. There were stretches of time we never talked but when we resumed, no beat was skipped, we just picking up where we left off.

 My neighbor, Ted and another fellow digger, Mike and I have been digging together in the Cincinnati area for 25 years.  I cannot remember the first Henry Verhage soda we dug - there seemed to be so many different ones to be had. They were plentiful and when found, it was just another Verhage soda.

 In 1985, I moved to Cincinnati. I knew Dennis lived there as a child and knew his Dad had run a car business there and had heard about the house they lived in how Dennis thought Cincinnati was a great town. He also told me about the cabin called “Bass Lodge” owned by his mother and now by him after her death, and how he wished sometime I would visit it. I cannot recall exactly how or when it all came together when I realized that his mother grew up in Cincinnati as Patti Verhage, the great great granddaughter of Henry Verhage.


Last summer was my second visit to Bass Lodge. Dennis and I went on the first trip together and for weeks before we left, my mind was filled with visions of treasure, of following in Henry’s footsteps, of digging the outhouse for Bass Lodge, which I was sure was crammed to the top with Verhage sodas.  The outhouse was easy to find in the soft sandy soil of Northern Michigan. Not surprisingly, it was a shallow pit, no more than four feet deep and yielded only 20th century artifacts - with the exception of a single shard of stoneware. The only evidence of 19th century occupation I ever found was last summer, and it was only the tiniest fragment of yellowware at the base of the remains of a large tree. Wherever the secrets Bass Lodge are hiding, I did not find them. Nevertheless I found something more important. I am grateful to Henry Verhage and Patrick E. Roach for they have given me something far better than anything I could ever unearth.  They gave me a real treasure, a friend for life.