Benjamin F. Walker was one of the more persistent brewers in nineteenth century Maine, judging by the historical record. He started brewing small beer at 46 Portland Street (around 98 Portland Street today), with Tristram Walker. Benjamin moved his operation about a block away to 25 Adler Street (approximately 41 Adler by today’s numbering) in 1857. He would relocate his brewing operation—first to 303 Congress and then to 366 Congress—over the next dozen years. But he would continue to live at 25 Adler, apart from a period in debtors’ jail at the end of his career, until his suicide in 1876.
Benjamin Walker was born in Livermore, in central Maine, ca. 1819. In 1850, at age thirty-one, he was farming there. He was married to Mary A. Walker (maiden name unknown), who was 26. The two had three children—Emery O. (age 5), Edmond S. (1), and Frederick (2 months). A fourteen-year-old girl, Eliza P. Smith, lived with them as well. The seventy-five-acre Walker farm was valued at $1012; they owned an additional $60 in machinery and $294 in livestock.
By 1852, Benjamin and family had moved to Portland, where they were living in a house at 24 Brattle Street. He had joined Tristram Walker as a brewer at 46 Portland Street. In 1857, he had branched out on his own, brewing out of his house at 25 Adler Street (roughly 41 Adler in today’s numbering). He was joined by a housekeeper Cynthia Huston, age thirty-five. Sons Emery, Edmund, and Frederic—from his previous marriage—lived there as well. Ferdinand Walker, age 21, was also a part of the household and was listed as a brewer in the census records. Benjamin would marry twenty-two-year-old Lucetta Smith in 1860 (who, it would seem, was Eliza P. Smith’s younger sister, from back in Livermore). At that time, he held assets of $2500 in real estate and and additional $2500 in the family’s personal estate.
A city report provides some details of his business in 1860. Walker had invested $2000 in his small beer business in 1860, including ten thousand pounds of sugar ($1000), four hundred gallons of syrup ($192), twelve boxes of lemons ($40), twelve boxes of cream tartar ($84), six cords of wood ($30), and “other articles” ($36). That year, he made nearly 48,666 bottles of “pale beer” at a value of $2919.96; 22,500 bottles of small beer (value of $1000), and 2250 bottles of “hop beer” (valued at $100). On average he employed four men, at an average monthly cost of $104.
Walker relocated his brewing operation to 303 Congress (511 Congress by current numbering) ca. 1865. In January of 1866, Walker and his wife, Lucetta, were divorced. Walker married Fannie C. Smith, from East Port, in July 1867. They were married in Dover, New Hampshire. It was his third marriage, but her first. He was 48; she was 29.
By 1869, he was brewing at 366 Congress (562 Congress today) with his son, Emery. In 1870, at age 51, his occupation was listed as “Fruit & Beer Retail.” He owned $3500 in real estate and $3000 in personal estate. Fannie kept house. Fredric, 19 at the time, was a store clerk. Emery, 25, lived there as well, with his wife, Ellen L., age 23, who also kept house. Benjamin and Fannie had a one-year-old daughter, Francis A.
Emery Walker would relocate to Saco in 1872, where he brewed small beer and soda. And things would take a bad turn for Benjamin, who was soon deeply in debt and subsequently imprisoned. After being released, he committed suicide on February 19, 1876. His widow and daughter moved in with Fannie’s brother, a machinist in Portland.
See the precise locations of Walker’s brewhouses on the Maine Beer Map.
Will Anderson, The Great State of Maine Beer Book (Portland: Anderson & Sons’ Publishing Co., 1996), 28.
Industry Census, Portland Ward 5, Cumberland, Maine, 1860.
Maine, Divorce Records, 1798-1891
Maine, Marriage Records, 1713-1922
New Hampshire, Marriage and Divorce Records, 1659-1947
Portland City Directory, 1869.
U.S. Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880.
U.S. Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880.