Monday, February 27, 2017

Pocatello Brewer and Soft Drinks Bottler Robert Hayes [otd 02/27]

Robert Hayes.
J. H. Hawley photo.
Pocatello businessman Robert J. Hayes was born February 27, 1861 in Oswego, New York. The family moved to Chicago about six years later. Hayes struck out on his own at age sixteen, making his way west by “night herding” – tending draft animals – for a freight outfit. He then landed a job with the Union Pacific Railroad, first in Cheyenne, Wyoming, then in Rawlins.

After three years of that, Hayes returned to night herding, working for a freight line that operated between Helena, Montana, and Fort Benton. For a time, he held a contract to furnish the Northern Pacific with wood. Then, for about six months, he operated a pack train out of Bozeman.

Unable to find steady work, he took odd packing jobs in California and Arizona. Meanwhile, the Utah & Northern Railroad, a UP subsidiary, built a narrow gauge railroad across Eastern Idaho into Montana. To support that operation, the company built yards and a set of shops in Eagle Rock (later Idaho Falls). In 1884, Hayes hired on at the shops.

However, after two years, he moved to Blackfoot to take a position as Deputy Sheriff. During his two-year tenure in Blackfoot, the railroad relocated its shops from Eagle Rock to Pocatello. That change fueled even more explosive growth in that junction town.

Sensing opportunity, Hayes also moved to Pocatello. There, he partnered with N. G. Franklin and went into the business of bottling soda water. Such drinks were growing rapidly in popularity at that time. The firm of Franklin & Hayes got in on the ground floor; there plant was one of the first, if not the first built in southern Idaho.
Franklin & Hayes Brewery, Pocatello, 1907.
Bannock County Historical Society.
They soon developed a full line of soda waters and soft drinks. In time, they also built a brewery and added beer to their product line. The business was not without danger. The Idaho Statesman reported (October 9, 1900) that Franklin had been hit by a soda bottle explosion “and it is feared the sight of his right eye is destroyed.”

The partnership flourished, shipping beverages to many points in Idaho as well as into Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. According to Hawley's History of Idaho, the company "grew to be one of the largest of the kind in the state, with one of the best equipped plants."

Hayes was very active in Republican party politics, being Chairman of the Pocatello Central Committee for a time. He also served on the Bannock County Board of Commissioners and chaired that body for awhile. Despite his prominence within the party, Hayes never ran for any higher political office.
Franklin & Hayes letterhead. eBay memorabilia image.

Although he sometimes hunted and fished, Hayes generally favored less strenuous activities. He enjoyed music and the theater, and was, according Hiram T. French, “very fond of lectures and a good speech.”

Hayes was perhaps plagued by poor health. Although he was only in his early fifties, he retired from active participation in the soda and beer business about 1914. Or, perhaps, he saw the coming of prohibition, which would ruin the most profitable part of their business. The partners had already been fined $500, each, for some violation of the local option liquor laws (Idaho Statesman, April 12, 1913).

Hayes passed away in August 1918.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]

3 comments:

  1. Is the brewery building still there? Where can I find more info on Robert Hayes?

    -iansberg@yahoo.com

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  2. So far as I know, the brewery building is no longer there. However, my information is not that solid.

    The only biographies I have found so far are the French and Hawley references. Luckily, his blog item is up for "renewal" this month, so I'll be doing some more research on him here in the next week or so.

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  3. Comment forwarded from John Sahlberg:

    "Thank you for the great note. Robert Hayes was my great grandfather and this is a very nice tribute. The brewery is long gone but in the first block just west of the underpass on the north side of the block Franklin & Hayes had a bar and, at least until a few years ago, the tilework going into the entry of the building still had Franklin & Hayes on it. My father who is 93 will get a kick out of this when I show it to him. Thanks again."

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