1920's Joseph Alexander Studer

Joseph A. Studer farms in St. Cloud, Minnesota

Joseph Alexander Studer was the fifth child born of Joseph and Catherine Studer. Joseph A., was Amandus Studer's grandson.

Joseph A. was employed by A.A. Eich and Company, of St. Cloud. Joseph had married Margaret Dowling who was originally from Haven Township. Sometime after Joseph's father (Joseph Sr.) had moved into St. Cloud, Joe A. and his bride moved onto a farm.

Their first five children were born while the couple lived on the farm. Named in order of birth: James (born 1905), Robert (born 1907), Charles (born 1909), Genevieve (born 1910) and Joseph M. (born 1913).

Sometime close to 1920 Joe A., his wife Margaret and children, moved to a farm 2 1/2 miles south of the Mayhew Lake church and store. The farm was owned by the Sartell Brothers of Sartell, MN. The farm consisted of 280 acres with a large white two story house, large red barn, about 100 acres of tillable land, huge pasture and meadow with the Mayhew Creek running through the property. Between approximately 1920 and 1925 Joe produced moonshine whiskey on this property.

Following their tenure on the original Haven Township farm, Joe A. and Margaret moved their growing family to a series of different farms over a relatively short period of time. The first move was to a farm just south of St. Cloud, in Stearns County. It was located near Pleasant lake. They stayed at this location for only a brief period of time before they packed up and moved to a farm a few mile northeast of Sauk Rapids, in Benton County, Minnesota. About the time of the move from Pleasant lake to Sauk Rapids, the Studer's had their sixth child, a boy who they named Vincent W. (Willard), born in 1915. After only one year at this location they moved again to a farm one quarter mile east. It was known as the Tarpenning farm. One year later they moved yet again to another far, this time a full one half miles East. It was called the Keikow farm. It was on the Keikow farm that the seventh child was born in 1917. Another son, a fine lad named Lawrence. He too was destined to move! 

The next home of the wayfaring Studer's was a farm several miles to the North, along the Sauk Rapids/Mayhew Lake road. It was known as the Sartell farm. Located three miles South of the Mayhew Lake Catholic Church, this was a large farm with a large red barn. It came complete with silo and spacious two-story white house. While living in this idyllic place the four children were born: Willard (born 1915), Mary Ellen (born 1920), Richard (born 1922) and Daniel (born 1926). 

This era of the American experience was unique in many ways, not the least of which was the legal prohibition of the manufacture and use of alcoholic beverages. This meant everything! This well intended, but impossible to enforce legislation, was meant to preserve the moral fabric of the society, which many of the pious felt was drowning in a sea of alcoholic abuse and promiscuity (this sounds familiar). The human desire for occasional intoxication added to society's discomfort with that intoxication, led to a situation in which more people (rather than less) became criminals. Interest in booze did not disappear but rather went underground. (Or into the back Forty, if you follow my drift). 

Minnesota 13. That was the name for home distilled (brew) or moonshine, made in Minnesota. It was illegal. But a weakening economy created the need for an alternative source of income. The ingredients had to be purchased in several locations to avoid suspicion. Minnesota corn was easy to get, but sugar and yeast purchased in large quantities, were usually reported to Federal agents. As far away as New York and California, it was said that people in soft drink parlors were asking for Minnesota 13. 

In most small operations the still used to produce the liquor was a wash boiler. A copper tub was used to heat water for washing clothes. With the lid welded on and a "worm" (a coiled copper pipe) fitted to the lid, the steam condensed and was lead into containers. This crude but efficient apparatus was at the heart of an industry that while illegal, was the mainstay of many farm families before and during the Depression. On the farm, back in the woods; that was the place to cook the mash. If any other site or location was used, the smell of mash working and being cooked would give them away. 

Joe A. Studer met the situation head on, doing the only thing that a proper God fearing Catholic could do under similar circumstances. He immediately started distilling the finest bourbon in Benton County. Through his relatives in Avon he secured the recipe and secrets of the still. He and his son Robert then cooked moonshine before and throughout the days of prohibition. The legendary still has been made available to the Benton County Historical Society by the children of Joseph and Margaret Studer. 

Lest the casual observer think that the Studer family was a group of thugs, let it be know that after the repeal of the prohibition laws, Joe A. choose to move on to a legitimate business. He purchased his first truck, a 1925 Model "T" Ford and used it for hauling gravel to road construction sites. Later the truck was converted and used in the transportation of local cattle to the stockyards of South St. Paul. Thus was born the Joe A. Studer and Sons Livestock Hauling Co. As the company prospered Joe A. and Margaret could finally begin to entertain their long time dream of "owning" their own farm. In 1929 they found a farm for sale located three fourths of a mile East of the Mayhew lake Church with 120 acres of farmland. Of which 40 acres was taken up by Mayhew Lake itself. They bought the farm at the price of $7,500.00. Here Joe A. and his sons Robert and Joseph M. continued to operate their livestock trucking service, expanding it to include the buying, selling and trading of livestock as well. 

Margaret, beloved spouse and friend of Joseph A. Studer, succumbed to the ravages of heart and kidney disease in 1944. Joe A. moved into St. Cloud proper the next year, living in the home built by his father on 2nd Avenue Northeast. He lived there until his death in 1959. Always the loving grandparent, he had been caring for his son Richards children, while Richard worked and Evelyn was away attending her fathers funeral. It was late that evening that he was rushed to the hospital. Although he lived for several more months he never was the same gruff but adorable fellow this writer (Ric Studer) had grown to love. I was one of the grandchildren grandpa was taking care of. I was one of the last people to see him hale and hardy. Joe A. died from complications following a heart attack suffered during the Thanksgiving holiday of 1958. My grandparents are buried in the Mayhew Lake Catholic cemetery.