212 – Eat, Drink, and Prosper

It’s 1890. Sedalia remained a railroad hub, although the cattle trailhead had moved on.

There were still seedy joints and houses of ill-repute, but they were now localized along West Main Street. Downtown Sedalia was safe and respectable.

By 1890, Sedalia had become a cosmopolitan city. The population was 14,000, up from 4,500 in 1870. That made Sedalia the 6th largest city in Missouri.

Sedalia – Ohio Street, looking south – 1890s

A good job

The Sedalia Democrat – October 8, 1889

Will Riley had been working as a salesman for E.G. Cassidy beer and liquor distributorship since 1882. Cassidy had married Will’s older sister Kate Riley in 1881, and Cassidy was a mentor to Will.

Will was very good at his job and was popular around town.

Mr. Riley is about 24 years old and single. He is tall and fine looking, standing nearly six feet when erect. He is slender, dark complected and weighs about 140 pounds.

The Sedalia Democrat – October 8, 1889

Will traveled for his job. A lot. Will sold to liquor stores, bars, and restaurants in the small towns around Sedalia.

With Sedalia as a railroad hub, Will could catch a morning train to a surrounding town, make his sales calls, and be home by dinner time. How convenient.

Railroad map – 1894 – Will Riley sales trip news articles

The newspapers stationed reporters at the depot to report on everyone’s comings and goings. There are dozens of news reports about Will’s sales trips.

Sedalia eateries

In 1893, Andy and Kate Pensa Gardella bought into the Silver Moon Restaurant in Sedalia.

  • Porterhouse steak 20¢
  • Ham and eggs 15¢
  • All kinds of choice pie 5¢

At those prices, why not eat there often?

In 1894, Gardellas took over Fulton Market Restaurant and Oyster Bar. You could get fresh oysters on the half shell in Sedalia, Missouri.

Sedalia drinkeries

E.G. Cassidy opened a saloon in the early 1890s. A few years later, Will Riley would partner with Peter Pehl to open Pehl & Riley Bar, while Pehl kept his interest in another establishment, Pehl’s Bar. Cassidy, Pehl, and Riley had 3 of the 12 drinking establishments in town.

Pehl & Riley’s was at 309 South Ohio Street. It was an upscale bar, and it served food. Women were welcome.

Peter Pehl also held the Budweiser beer distributorship. Cassidy and Riley had the distributorship for Lemp Beer.

Nibbles Extra Credit – Lemp Beer

Good lager beer

Johann Adam Lemp immigrated to St. Louis from Germany in 1838. He opened a grocery. His two best-selling products were his homemade vinegar and lager beer, which he’d learned to make from his father.

By 1840, Lemp opened a small brewery and gave up the grocery business. The business soon outgrew the small brewery, and a large parcel of land in south St. Louis was acquired.

A new brewery

Just south of the city limits were limestone caves and the cave’s climate combined with ice farmed from the nearby river provided the perfect atmosphere for the lager process.  

Legacy Lost: The Tortured First Family of St. Louis Lager

On Adam Lemp’s death in 1862, his son William J. Lemp built the company into a powerhouse. By 1870, it was the largest brewer in St. Louis, with Anheuser coming in second.

By the mid-1890’s the Lemp brewery was well on its way to becoming a nationally known shipping brewery. In fact, Lemp was the first brewery to establish coast-to-coast distribution of its beers. Lemp beer was being transported in some 500 refrigerated railroad cars, averaging 10,000 shipments per year. The brewery proper employed 700 men. Over 100 horses were required to pull the 40 delivery wagons to make St. Louis City deliveries.

William J. Lemp Brewing Company: A Tale of Triumph and Tragedy in St. Louis, Missouri

E.G. Cassidy becomes agent for Lemp

Ed Cassidy knew a good thing. In 1882, he became the sole agent for Lemp Beer for central Missouri. Meanwhile, Peter Pehl from Sedalia became agent for Anheuser Busch.

Ed Cassidy and Will Riley represented Lemp Brewing for 37 years, from 1882 until Prohibition in 1919.


Falstaff ad – Teddy Roosevelt – 1903

Around 1900, Lemp began brewing a beer named after Shakespearean character Sir John Falstaff. The beer became so popular they renamed the company Falstaff Brewing Company in 1903.

A Sedalia warehouse

In 1898, Ed Cassidy and Will Riley made a pitch to William Lemp to build a distribution warehouse in Sedalia. It would be refrigerated, so it could host an ice business too. And it would generate electricity, perhaps selling electricity to Sedalia residents.

The Sedalia Democrat – history of Lemp distribution warehouse in Sedalia
The Sedalia Democrat – February 14, 1899

Lemp agreed. The Lemp Brewing distribution facility was built. In addition, William Lemp, E.G. Cassidy, and W.J. Riley were the stockholders and directors of Lemp’s Ice and Refrigeration Company.

Triumph and tragedy

Lemp Mansion – St. Louis

William Lemp built a fabulous 33-room mansion on the St. Louis brewery site. It was connected by the underground caves to the offices and brewhouses. It’s open today as a restaurant and event space.

In 1897, Lemp’s daughter Hilda married Gustave Pabst, son of William Lemp’s good friend Frederick Pabst of Milwaukee brewing fame.

In 1901, William Lemp’s fourth son Frederick died at age 28. Distraught over his son’s death, William J. Lemp shot himself.

The business passed to his son William “Billy” Lemp Jr.

Success and growth

Falstaff Beer was a major success. It continued to be a major source of revenue for Lemp Brewing, and certainly for E.G. Cassidy and William J. Riley.

Cassidy and Riley were close with the Lemp boys, hosting them in Sedalia and visiting them in St. Louis.

The Sedalia Democrat – September 13, 1993


After the onset of Prohibition, Lemp breweries were shuttered. The company began to liquidate assets. William “Billy” Lemp, Jr. became despondent and isolated. In 1922, as his father had done, he shot himself.

Will Riley bought out Ed Cassidy in 1907.  After years of success, Prohibition slammed on the brakes.  Prohibition wasn’t kind to the Riley family’s finances, as we shall see in a future story.

After Prohibition

Falstaff Beer regained popularity. It was advertised by Harry Carey and the Chicago White Sox and by Dizzy Dean and the St. Louis Cardinals.

The business passed to three remaining brothers, Charles, Edwin, and Louis. All three left the company for other pursuits. Charles remained living in the mansion until 1949, when he, too, shot himself.

By the 1960s, Falstaff was the third-largest brewer in America with several plants nationwide.

Production peaked in 1965 with 7,010,218 barrels brewed, and then dropped 70% in the next 10 years. While its smaller labels linger on today, its main label Falstaff Beer went out of production in 2005. The rights to the brand are currently owned by Pabst Brewing Company.

Wikipedia – Falstaff Brewing Company


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s