Funeral procession of William Lemp Jr. in front of the Lemp Mansion, 1922 | Source
Often, when a structure or area is rumored to be haunted, the explanation offered is a chapter from local folklore. A beautiful, Native American princess was said to be murdered by a warring tribe there. “Legend has it” that star-crossed lovers were killed on the spot. A cemetery may have occupied an area near the grounds. The reasons offered for the paranormal activity are as nebulous as the reported ghosts.
Yet the story of a mansion in St. Louis, Missouri, a property declared in a 1970 issue of Life magazine to be one of the nine most haunted places in America, is no undocumented tale. In fact, the Lemp family, one of nineteenth-century beer barons, was plagued with as many suicides and untimely deaths as they were blessed with wealth and power. So much so, that many Lemps believed their family was cursed.
A BREWING DYNASTY IS BORN
Johann Adam Lemp left Eschwege, Germany to try his luck in America. He settled in St. Louis in 1838, opening a grocery store in which he sold beer that he brewed himself from a family recipe. By 1840, demand for Lemp’s beer became so great that he closed the grocery store and established Western Brewery.
The beer of German immigrants such as Lemp was new to America, as it was lager. The term is derived from the German “lagern,” meaning “to rest” or “to store.” Lemp, like other German brewers who moved to St. Louis, did so primarily due to a large system of limestone caves that ran for miles underneath the city streets. Lemp bought a property above a natural cave, in which he stored and aged his lager. In this time before refrigeration, the cave was a perfect, cool environment for the task, made cooler by ice blocks carved from the frozen Mississippi River. Adam was the first brewer in St. Louis to manufacture this light, effervescent beer called lager, and its appeal was not lost on the citizenry.
By 1860, Adam Lemp was a leader in St. Louis beer brewing. He brought his only son William into the business, who proved to be an even more astute businessman than his father. When Adam died in 1862, William was there to ensure the business would continue to prosper.