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Wednesday February 22, 2017
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Beloved Beer

 

continued

The clash of cultures that began that day would last almost a century. The Germans arrived in Ann Arbor amid a great temperance movement among native-born Americans--one that would culminate in nationwide Prohibition in 1920.

Most German settlers saw matters much like Schmid. Their attitude is enshrined in the constitution of Freedom Township's Bethel Church, in which only heavy drinking is condemned. In the churchyard is a gravestone with the date "February 31st." According to former pastor Roman Reineck, farm families would visit with the stonecutter as he worked. They'd bring some hard cider or wine, and by the end of the day the date didn't matter.

In the townships, where German were the majority, such socializing was of little concern. But the German love of alcohol was a much bigger problem in Ann Arbor. Between 1868 to 1918, city directories record 221 different places dispensing alcohol, more than half of them owned by German Americans.

Edith Staebler Kempf (1898-1993) told stories about the nineteenth-century saloon run by Charlie Behr. Professors, lawyers, and well-to-do German farmers went there. Behr also served food, and by Kempf's account, there was never any rowdiness.

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