Although she's never drunk a beer in her life, a Eudora woman interested in Kansas history recently published a book about what once was the state's fourth largest industry breweries.
Cindy Higgins authored "Kansas Breweries & Beer," which chronicles the history of Kansas breweries from 1854 to 1911 and includes detailed anecdotes about the men and women who operated them.
Her interest in breweries was triggered by a walk along the Wakarusa River, where she saw the rocky remains of a former Eudora brewery, Higgins said. Her attempts to research the brewery were fruitless.
"I tried to find some stuff on it and there was nothing," she said.
Over the course of four years, she spent many Saturday mornings at the Kansas State Historical Society library in Topeka and traveled to former brewery sites across the state.
"I call it my hobby," she said, adding she worked on the project during her elusive spare time.
SHE VISITED almost all of the 93 brewery sites, and scanned years of old newspapers for tidbits of information about Kansas brewers. Historical stories were hard to come by, and many that she found were inaccurate, Higgins said.
she said. "I tried really hard to be accurate."
Her persistence paid off in the first thorough account of the brewing industry in Kansas, said Chuck Magerl, proprietor of the Free State Brewing Co. in Lawrence, who wrote the book's forward.
"Up to this point really the only information available was just a few unreferenced accounts of the numbers of breweries," he said. "People will be amazed to realize some of the history of this area that's kind of been buried."
HIGGINS devoted a chapter of her book to the story of John Walruff, a native of Prussia, who operated a 5-acre Lawrence brewery that featured lawn bowling, swings, croquet wickets, strolling peacocks and a shooting gallery. Walruff was instrumental in the anti-prohibition movement, serving jail time, paying huge fines and even attempting to market his product as "medicinal beer" to keep his business going.
The Kansas State Historical Society awarded Higgins a research grant in 1991, and she authored an article to be published in the 1993 summer issue of "Kansas History," the society's magazine. Higgins said the article delves more into prohibition and German customs, while the book focuses on the brewers and breweries.
In the three weeks since the book was published, Higgins said she's sold more than 200 copies, including five ordered by Anheuser-Busch for its corporate library. Several local and Kansas City bookstores carry "Kansas Breweries and Beer," and Borders Bookstore in Overland Park is planning a January promotional party complete with German food and music.