Saloons and Liquor dealers of Pocahontas

M. Kwass & Son / Kwass Brothers / Kwass & Gross / L. Lazarus & Co. / Bluefield Brewing

Pocahontas Virginia was a town built around the booming coal mines in the area and the hard working men who mined this resource. As always happens hard working men usually become hard playing men and this is where the consumption of alcohol comes into play. From it's earliest days Pocahontas became a hotbed of the alcohol producing industry whether it be in the form of beer or hard liquor. As early as the 1890's Anheuser-Busch (the company that now makes Budweiser) established a "Branch House" in Pocahontas, VA (4) and soon others followed including the Pabst Brewing Co.(4), Virginia Brewing Company(4), Bluefield Brewing Company (1910-1914)(1), Hoster-Columbus Associated Breweries (1912-1913)(1), and Robert Portner Brewing Company (1916-1916).(1) Due to the difficulty in transferring beer long distances at the time, due to it’s perishable nature, many of these branch houses actually bottled beer on location in whatever town they were set up in. This is the case for the Pabst Brewing Company, due to my having acquired artifact evidence of their operations in the form of an actual bottle embossed with "Pabst Brewing Co. Milwaukee, WIS. POCAHONTAS BRANCH" which is pictured below. Of course with the state of Virginia going dry in 1916 the glory days of the local Brewery branch houses were over.

One of the pit falls of this type of research is establishments that share a common name. This can get very confusing at times and can have you racing down the completely wrong track, until you hit that fact that proves that your theory is completely wrong. One such conundrum was dropped in my lap lately when fellow bottle historian and collector, who had been sent the link to my site by another collector/historian, contacted me that he had a whiskey bottle with Kwass & Gross Pocahontas, VA that he wished to sell me after seeing that I was dealing with the Kwass Bottling Works in particular and Pocahontas bottles in general. He assumed that they were one and the same for obvious reasons. I took him up on his offer; however, while doing some research found that these two establishments aren't the same at all.

According to a crock ware whiskey mini-jug with stenciling on the side,"M. Kwass & Son Harry Grass (?) as Sec. & Treas." Harry Gross was the Secretary Treasurer for that company. Knowing that Harry is Meyer Kwass' son in law(3), I wonder if the "Son" is referring to Harry; however, as it turns out it is most likely referring to his son Joseph Kwass who is eighteen in 1900(3). The only mention of M. Kwass Liquors that I have found appear in the 1904 Bluefield City Directory(1); however, by 1910 there is no mention of the company whatsoever.(1)

It appears that M. Kwass turned over the saloon/company to his son Joseph I. Kwass by that year and Gross who was the Secretary Treasurer is now a partner in ownership of the enterprise, thus you have Kwass & Gross which is listed as a Saloon on Center Street near Railroad Ave.(1) A 1914 ad claims it is the "second door from depot"(2) which according to the Sanborn map puts it at 113 Center Street which is indeed a Saloon. I know that Kwass & Gross is still operating by July 1914(2); however, they aren't listed in the 1915-16 Bluefield City Directory.(1) One has to assume that the saloon / mail order house went out of business when Virginia went dry in 1916. On an interesting note there was a Kwass & Gross Company Inc. in Roanoke, VA that incorporated on February 15, 1911.

The Kwass Bottling Company was a partnership between Solomon (Saul according to 1910 census records) Kwass and his older brother Norman Kwass(1), they also operated a saloon themselves on St. Clair Street called Kwass Bothers.(1)

Pocahontas, VA was literally covered in Saloons and wholesale liquor dealers before 1916 with each having its own story and possibly artifacts; however, I am firstly a Soda bottler researcher, and branch out only when I have an artifact associated to it and the area isn't being covered by a researcher already or they have made the transition from saloon/dealer to soda bottler like in the case of the Kwass Bottling Company. With that being said I continue with a quick mention of the L. Lazarus & Co. Liquor dealers, and Bluefield Brewing Company's distribution center which were located in Pocahontas at one time.

The Bluefield Brewing Company was located in Bluefield WV and its story can be found on that site; however, this is what I know of the distribution center that they had in Pocahontas, Va. They first show up at 124 Railroad Avenue near Center Street(1) in the 1910-11 Bluefield City Directory. They also show up in the 1912-13(1), and show up on the 1913 Sanborn map. This company had to change what they produced due to West Virginia going dry in July 1914(2), so I assume that their Pocahontas location would also close down as well.

L. Lazarus & Company was originally located in Bluefield, WV until 1914 when they move to Pocahontas due to the impending Prohibition Drought which was about to drive them out of business.(2) They first show up in the 1915-16 Bluefield City Directory listed as being located on St. Clair Avenue.(1) They were actually a local agent for the larger L. Lazarus Company and obviously went out of business with Virginia going dry in 1916. That's what I know about these alcohol dealers in Pocahontas at this time, there are quite a few more that I didn’t even mention.

A September 15, 1893 receipt for crates returned to the Anheuser-Busch “Pocahontas Branch” Brewing Association with M. R. Black listed as Manager.

The aforementioned "Pabst Brewing Co. Milwaukee, WIS. POCAHONTAS BRANCH" beer bottle

Advertising Mini-jug from M. Kwass & Son

Kwass & Gross Whiskey bottle from Pocahontas, VA

A June 27, 1914 Kwass & Gross ad from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph

An envelope from the L. Lazarus Company. I particularly like the "Licker Dealers" instead of the more proper Liquor Dealers due to it's being very Southwest Virginia to spell it that way.

The May 31, 1914 L. Lazarus & Co. ad from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph announcing their relocating to Pocahontas, VA.

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(1) Polks Bluefield WVA City Directory 1904 through 1915-16

(2) Bluefield Daily Telegraph May-June 1914

(3) Federal Census Records 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930

(4) Tazewell County by Louise Leslie 1982