Wilton’s 19th-Century beer brewery
Long before Wilton’s wet versus dry issue and prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s, Wilton was home to at least one brewery, run by a man named Jehiel Grumman.
Grumman, a man later described by late town historian David Van Hoosear as a “very candid and moral man,” operated his brewery in South Wilton in the 19th Century, according to an unpublished manuscript by the late Wilton historian and Bulletin founder G. Evans Hubbard.
In 1839, Grumman opened a store west of Danbury Road, “a little north of Kent Road,” according to Hubbard. He went bankrupt in 1843 and began serving as chorister of St. Matthew’s Church. He then went on to serve as selectman from 1840 to 1849.
By 1850, Grumman was making 28,000 bottles of “small beer” annually and listed as a “brewer” in the 1850 census.
In the 1860 census, Grumman was listed as a 60-year-old “beer maker” who owned 22 acres of land, three horses and two cows, and had $3,000 in real estate and $2,000 in personal property. His youngest son, George Grumman, was also listed as a “beer maker” in 1860.
An 1858 town map shows a factory north of William Sturges’s sawmill at the Kent Road corner — a building marked “J. Grumman” on an 1867 map of the town. North of this was a store and a house, which both maps show were owned by a J. Grumman.
Sam Young photos
By 1867, “temperance had taken effect,” Hubbard wrote, and the business had become Grumman & Brothers, manufacturers of sarsaparilla and soda water.
After Grumman died in 1875, his nephews, Henry and George Grumman, moved the business to Norwalk, where they made “Old Time Root Beer,” according to Hubbard.
Although the stoneware bottles for Grumman’s root beer were still remembered in Wilton, Hubbard wrote, “it [appeared] that the original beverage was somewhat more potent.”