Oktoberfest Findlay was started in 2015 as a way to honor the German heritage of Hancock County.
Hancock County holds the history of another well known Oktoberfest. The Jenera Oktoberfest began in 1973 and and for over twenty years, the weekend-long festival was celebrated in August. The community lead effort created a very successful festival, drawing locals and out-of-staters alike to enjoy this German Heritage celebration. There was a full German food menu, chicken barbecue and pounds of homemade noodles. Circus-sized tents covered a large dance floor where hundreds kept step with the traditional beer music played by well known polka bands.
HANCOCK COUNTY'S OG OKTOBERFEST
September 23, 2023
Downtown Findlay, Ohio
THE FAMOUS DOVE
In the village of Raidelbach, in western Germany’s Hesse-Darmstadt, “American Fever” ran high in the summer of 1831. Adam Traucht, a respected former army captain, heard that in the state of Ohio, land was cheap by German standards, work was plentiful, and there was freedom. Two ships were set to make this 82 day voyage to America; the Famous Dove, and a smaller, slower ship (no record of its name survives). Why Famous Dove? This has been a mystery, even to descendants of the emigrants, but it has been suggested that in western Germany, the dove symbolizes peace and freedom. They were “flying” over the waves to America. The ship would remain the Famous Dove in the collective memory of its passengers and descendants.
Disaster threatened the Famous Dove and its passengers as a storm hit and the ship began to take on water. It is said that a young girl started singing hymns and the rest of the passengers joined in. As the night wore on, the wind and wave diminished and by morning the sea was calm. Miraculously, the ship had grounded on a sandbar only 100 yards from the beach. In 1834, twelve families aboard the Famous Dove settled in Hancock County. By 1843, thirty-six families had gathered in the vicinity of Jenera, Ohio, where they made up a sizeable percentage of the population. They founded a Lutheran Church, and the community prospered.
The memory of the shipwreck became central to the Jenera communal identity and is well remembered today, celebrated with Shipwreck Sunday on September 17th in Hancock County, where many Famous Dove descendants still live today.
German immigrants that traveled to Hancock County went into many different businesses, from farming to medicine. Many of the ventures became significant parts of our local history. Among the notable arrivals was Dr. Charles Oesterlin, who was a well-known doctor from Germany. He is known as the ‘Father of Oil and Gas’ in Findlay, encouraging people to use the petroleum instead of wasting it.
Bickelhaupt Grocery. Bickelhaupt-Eagle Block was built at 513-515 South Main Street in 1874 in Downtown Findlay. Frederick Bickelhaupt inherited the business when his father retired in 1881. Frederick retired in 1896, though he resumed the grocery business in 1907, and continued to work until the late 1910s. The building stayed in the family for over 100 years until it was sold in 1975. It is the current home of Main Street Deli.
Christian Heyn was the editor and proprietor of the Wochenblatt German-language newspaper in Findlay. He also helped to establish the American Mask Manufacturing Company with fellow Germans Otto and Oscar Kirsten. This was the only company in the United States that made Halloween and Mardi Gras masks at that time.
Carl Karg opened a meat market in 1852, and it was near the Karg Meat Market that the famous Karg Well was drilled in January of 1886.
FINDLAY'S BREWING INDUSTRY
Beer was a staple of the native German’s diet. When Germans transplanted to the US, they also brought the skill of brewing beer. Surprisingly, Findlay had a booming brewing industry. In Findlay, Brilliant City Brewing Co. was established in the spring of 1890. It was located on two acres of land along the Blanchard River just north of the T.C. & C. Tailway bridge. Their first beer was marketed on June 1, 1891. While business was initially good, by October 1893, the company was in receivership and sold to Anthony Grossfield of Detroit, one of the stockholders, who was planning to operate it under the name Findlay Brewing Co. In May 1898, the company was sold to Peter Krantz. While it was sold again in 1900 to others, it retained the name Krantz and became well known for its “Old Dutch” beer. During Prohibition its name changed to “Krantz Products Company”, and began producing non-alcoholic “Old Dutch” root beer and ginger ale. The brewery reopened in 1933, once legally allowed. In 1937, the Krantz Brewing Corporation was formed. In 1957, Krantz merged with International Breweries Incorporated and became the IBI-Old Dutch Division. In 1966, the Old Dutch plant closed in Findlay, due to a changing American palette.
The Schneyer Brewery, established by John Schneyer, was located on the west side of Main Street next to the bridge. The brewery also had large storage cellars underground in Chamberlain’s Hill. In August of 1901, it was sold to Joseph and Frank Kwis.
Christian Nusser, a German immigrant whose father was a coverlet weaver in Hancock County, had a brewery on East Sandusky Street near Eagle Creek in August 1901.