Ephraim Boots, Sussex Brewery
by Fred H. Keller
Posted: Living Sussex Sun, May 15, 2012
There is a very small, one-inch entry in “The 1880 History of Waukesha County” about Ephraim Boots.
It reads, “E. Boots, proprietor of the Sussex Brewery, PO Sussex, is a native of Sussex Co. England. He was born Jan. 7, 1831. In 1850 he came to this country and located in the Town of Lisbon, Waukesha, Co. He married Eleanor Weaver, daughter of William Weaver, an original Lisbon settler in 1838-39. Mr. Boots and his wife were members of the Episcopal Church. Mr. Boots is an enterprising citizen and a good business man. He became the proprietor of the Sussex Brewery in 1861 and has done a successful business since that time.”
Left unsaid was that Stephen Stone started the Sussex Brewery around 1850 and Boots was something of an original employee at that time and when Stone wanted to get out of business, Boots bought him out.
Ephraim Boots’ parents were Edward and Eleanor (sometimes spelled Ellenor). His wife was also born in Sussex, England and came to the United States when she was 1 in 1830. Her father, William Weaver, and his wife, Mary, had two children in England. When the family arrived in the U.S. five more children were born and all lived to adulthood. Her father claimed the land that is bounded by Main Street to approximately the Sussex Methodist Church and then south to Clover Drive and back north to Maple Avenue. Being related to the well-known, Sussex-Lisbon area Weaver family, was a good opportunity for Ephraim Boots.
Historical accounts show that Boots’ Sussex Brewery produced 476 barrels of beer. Beer bottle collectors for years have sought a Boots brewery bottle made of glass or pottery, but none have ever turned up. It is believed that all the beer was sold by the barrel.
There was a Fred G. Boots, probably a relative, who had a mini saloon on Main Street in Sussex where today Strobel’s Sussex Auto is located. In time, this became too small and Fred Boots built a multi-story saloon and home across Main Street where the parking lot sits for Tony Maroni’s Pizza today. The name of the saloon was Boot’s Saloon and also Peace and Plenty Saloon.
It seems that Ephraim Boots ran the Sussex Brewery, that was located northeast of Champeny and Maple Avenue, until sometime in the mid-1800s and possibly as late at 1891. In 1874, the brewery burned and Boots had it rebuilt by 1875.
Stories have it that Boots had some cellars below his brewery. They had vaulted ceilings lined with thick limestone rock. There was a constant temperature around 54 degrees according to early accounts. The late Jerome Mudlitz said in the 1920s, when he was a kid, that he played in these cellars with his friends. He mentioned two entrances. One in the brewery and another from the outside. He estimated they were 25 feet below the ground.
Al Otto acquired the brewery lot in the 1930s and constructed a home and the brewery disappeared along with the basement caves.
It is known that in the mid-1880s, that Fred and Eleanor were out of Sussex living for some years in Janesville. Both came back to Sussex to be buried at St. Alban’s. Ephraim died on April 16, 1915 at age 84. His wife, Eleanor died just short of her 100th birthday on July 18, 1929.
In a side note, Ephraim served as the Master of the Sussex Ashlar Lodge from 1880-81.