Susan McDaniel Havre Daily News email@example.com
From beer to hot dogs, the buildings on the 500 block of First Street West until this last month held a long-standing place in the history of Havre business. The first inhabitant was the Havre Brewing & Malting Company. According to the book “Grit, Guts and Gusto, A History of Hill County,” published by the Hill County Bicentennial Commission in 1976, the company was organized on Nov. 9, 1910, and the plant completed and equipped, ready for operation by the spring of 1911. Three of the four men listed as officers of the incorporated company had extensive backgrounds in the brewing trade and the company thrived under their leadership and experience. George Kuehhorn, from Germany, was the president and chief executive officer. Kuehhorn was apprenticed in the brewer’s trade in Germany. When Kuehhorn came to America in 1898 he worked in New York, Milwaukee and Butte before becoming involved in the Havre Company. Aloys Wutz served as secretary, treasurer and manager of the brewing company. Also from Germany, Wutz finished his apprenticeship and became a brewmaster by the time he was 18. Wutz came to America at age 25 and worked in Butte until coming to Havre in 1910. Fred Denninger began learning the brewing trade at age 14. Denninger came to the United States in 1904 when he was 26. He worked in various breweries until 1910 when he joined the others in starting the Havre Brewing & Malting Company. The 1915-1916 Polk Directory calls the company “Brewers of the Celebrated Mountain Brew, West Havre.” Marie Gibson, widow of the late George Gibson, said she believes the building probably was turned into a packing plant during Prohibition. The nation prohibited alcohol with the adoption of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1918, which was overturned by the adoption of the 21st Amendment in 1933. After the company closed down, the buildings and area were sold to Rocky Mountain. The earliest reference available listed Richard Wagner as the owner of the Rocky Mountain Produce Company in 1929. The original hot dog recipe was created during this time. George Gibson began working for Rocky Mountain Produce Company in the early 30’s as a bookkeeper. He became partners with the owner Richard Wagner and bought the business shortly after. The 1936-37 Polk Directory lists both men as owners and the next year’s issue of the directory shows the name had changed to Rocky Mountain Packing Company. During World War II the severe food shortages and rationing of meat caused problems for Gibson, so he and a friend Clair Dell the distributor from the Great Falls Brewery, made a trip to Helena to convince the governor to allow his business to process more meat. As a consequence of their visit Gibson was allowed greater allotments and could process more meat. Aaron Swallow began working at Rocky Mountain Packing in 1949. The packing plant had been a long standing business at that time. “He was George’s right hand man for many years,” Gibson said. The company continued to grow and prosper over the years. The new kill floor area of the plant was installed in 1954. Aaron and David Swallow bought the company in 1974. David Swallow has been connected with the meat packing plant ever since his father started working there, when David was 9. “My first job as a boy was cleaning the yards, there were lots of weeds and wire and things that needed to be cleaned out,” David Swallow said. “I also worked in the old brewery slaughterhouse (the gold colored building), sweeping up debris to keep the floor clear for the butchers. We had to keep all the entrails on the floor until after a kill was over, then we loaded them up to take to Krezelak’s rendering plant just east of Havre.” “The highlight of working with my dad was working with the ammonia refrigeration,” Swallow said. “We did all the overhauling and maintenance of The refrigeration units at the plant and doing the general upkeep of the building together.” Swallow sold the business to Thomas Shumaker in 1988. Ownership reverted back to Swallow two years later. Rocky Mountain hot dogs, which have been a local favorite for years, will continue to be sold. The recipe for the hot dogs will stay with the family. Swallow now works closely with a company in Denver as a copacker. His continued participation in the processing insures a quality product. Although the buildings and corrals have come down, “the product will carry on,” Swallow said. Rocky Mountain, whether the products or the people, has been a great addition to the community of Havre. The newest owner of the property former NFL great Mike Tilleman has a great history to build his business on.