I did not have the privilege of knowing Edna Berray or enjoying her famed schaum torte at Berray’s Lodge, which operated at 416 West Main Street throughout my childhood.
The first owners of Lot 3 of Block 15 in the Rosebrook Addition, platted in 1867 by Ezra Rosebrook, were John and Mary Ann Rosebrook, Ezra’s son and daughter-in-law.
The property, sold with Lot 4 through the early transactions, passed to J.P. Radway, an artist who painted wagons for August Swanke and had a photo studio on Water Street, in 1867 (Deeds, Volume 26, Page 516); Gustav Teske, who had a general store on Water Street, in 1870 (Deeds, Volume 31, Page 380); Dr. Gustav Hoyer, who graduated from the Rush Medical College in Chicago and opened his practice in Princeton in April 1882, in 1883 (Deeds, Volume 44, Page 165); John Schneider, owner of the American House at 444 West Water Street, in 1885 (Deeds, Volume 45, Page 488); Frederick Schwenzer, a Civil War veteran who listed his occupation in 1900 as capitalist, in 1891 (Deeds, Volume 49, Page 566); and Frank Giese, local lumber merchant, in 1920 (Deeds, Volume 80, Page 614) before being purchased by Earle and Edna Berray later that year (Deeds, Volume 93, Page 104, and Volume 92, Page 177).
Earle “Earl” Berray married schoolteacher Edna Halford in 1903. They resided in Redgranite before moving to Princeton in 1912. They lived on Howard Street before buying the property on Main Street. Earle worked for R.H. Miller & Son as a cigarmaker at their riverside factory on Short Street.
Princeton Republic, July 31, 1913 – “Excitement ran high on the banks of the old Fox last Saturday when a crowd of people saw three boys – Elmer Schultheis, Arthur Schultz and Emmanuel Mackowski – go to the bottom of the river after their boat capsized. A watery grave was the sure fate of the boys if it were not for the timely assistance of Earl Berray, Hugo Miller, A.H. Rimpler and G. Krause who took boats and hurried to the scene just in time to get hold of two of the boys who were sinking for the last time. The boys were taken in the boats and put in Dr. Froehlich’s car and carried home.”
Earle was involved in the local poultry industry, serving on the board of directors of the Princeton Poultry and Commercial Rabbit Association in 1919 and with the Princeton Chick Hatchery Company in 1921.
Princeton Republic, May 1, 1919 – “Thursday evening of last week a number of our poultry fanciers and rabbit breeders met at the First National Bank and formed an organization known as The Princeton Poultry and Commercial Rabbit Association. A poultry and rabbit show will be held next winter. The following officers were elected: president, Chas. Fulton; vice president, A.H. Rimpler; vice president, A.G. Oelke; secretary and treasurer, H.O. Giese. Directors: Al. Humphrey, Geo. V. Kelley, Robert Schaal, Earl Berray and Abe Fishkin.”
Berray’s Rhode Island Reds and Silver Spangled Hamburgs won awards at the group’s annual shows.
Princeton Republic, Sept. 15, 1921 – “Messrs. Al. Humphrey, H.O. Giese, Earl Berray and Ralph Giese autoed to Oostburg on last Sunday and purchased a Candee incubator of 8,800 egg capacity for the Princeton Chick Hatchery Co. The company contemplates the erection of a new hatchery building on the poultry farm of A.G. Humphrey in the near future.”
Earle Berray was also a member of the Princeton Home Guard and Loyalty Legion during World War I.
Edna quit teaching and stayed home to raise their two children, Harland and Anona, who battled health issues from a young age. Edna belonged to the Home School Association, Social Club and Princeton Woman’s Club. She enjoyed playing cards. She was a member of the Emmanuel United Methodist Church. The family enjoyed camping near the White River locks and traveling.
Edna attended the World’s Fair in Chicago and attended a Chicago Cubs baseball game while visiting her brother there. She traveled to Arizona seeking treatments for Anona’s health problems, and to visit her son and grandsons in later years, and to Florida for the winter some years.
The Berrays purchased Lot 3 and part of Lot 4 in 1920.
Princeton Republic, April 29, 1920 – “Earl Berray bought the Mrs. F. Schwenzer dwelling including two lots located on Main Street directly east of the city hall.”
I do not know when the house we see today at 416 West Main Street was built. When Radway sold Lot 3 to Teske in 1870, the newspaper said the property included a “nice little cottage,” near the southwest corner of Farmer and Main streets. With seven children, Schneider needed more than a cottage for his family. The Republic noted in 1885 that Schneider was making improvements at “the beautiful home” he purchased from Hoyer.
But here’s the rub. The Sanborn fire insurance map of 1892 shows no buildings on Lot 3. The 1898 map shows a house on the corner of the lot but nothing else. We don’t see the Berray house on Lot 3 until the 1904 map. My theory is the 1892 map omitted the house on the corner, which had been occupied Teske, Hoyer, Schneider, et al, by mistake, and that the house known as Berray’s Lodge was built during Schwenzer’s ownership. Or Giese, who owned a lumber yard, built and sold it to the Berrays. Please let me know if you have a better explanation.
Frank Nickodem, longtime postal carrier, fire chief and school board member, purchased the house on the southwest corner of Farmer and Main from Schwenzer’s heirs in 1926 (Deeds, Volume 87, Page 412).
Princeton Republic, Sept. 23, 1926 – “Last week in a deal consummated between Miss Ida Schwenzer and Frank Nickodem, the latter became the owner of the former’s fine residence located on Main and Farmer streets. The new owner with his family will take possession in the very near future, while Miss Schwenzer and her brother William will occupy the rooms on the second floor of Mr. Schwenzer’s billiard parlor.”
But I digress. Back to the Berrays …
Princeton Republic, Dec. 20, 1923 – “In the drawing of the Ford touring car last Saturday afternoon as the climax of issuing coupons for the past number of weeks for each dollar purchase at the business houses of the Ford Garage, A. Sommerfeldt & Co., G.J. Knaack, John Shew Sr., Mrs. Earl Berray, this city, held the lucky number, 7766, and drew the car. Long before the contest took place, a large mass of people had assembled from this community and the surrounding cities and great interest was manifest. The drawing took place near the First National Bank (501-503 West Water Street, today RiverBank Dry Goods) and Eugene Thomas, G.J. Knaack and E.H. Priebe were in charge. The sixth number drawn from the container won the car. Samuel Kohnke had been selected to do the drawing.”
Earle Berray passed in October 1927 at age 51. He suffered from bronchial asthma and had been sick for several months. Earle passed the property to Edna about a month before he died (Deeds, Volume 81, Page 548).
Following Earl’s death, Edna turned their home into a boarding house, renting rooms and serving meals to her guests. She eventually began catering special events and hosting Sunday dinners.
Edna lost Anona (Mrs. Raymond Priest), who had been hospitalized at various times in Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, in October 1933 at age 27.
Princeton Times, Dec. 10, 1936 – “Mrs. Earl Berray will close her boarding house next Friday for the winter and will leave for Florida.”
Berray’s Lodge advertised rooms, meals and pleasant accommodations, with Sunday chicken dinners a specialty in 1937. I do not know how many boarders she could accommodate. She listed eight lodgers in the 1930 U.S. Census, two in 1940 and three in 1950, when she also was caring for her father and employed a maid, Clara Wahoske.
“This popular stopping place is known from one end of the state to the other, and its register shows guests from almost every state. And there’s a reason,” the new Princeton Times-Republic reported in September 1937. “Rooms are comfortably furnished, the entire lodge is spick and span from one end to the other, and the meals always offer a tempting variety of the most carefully prepared dishes to select from. And while the service meets the most exacting requirements of the best class of trade, the rates are very reasonable.”
Princeton Times-Republic, June 29, 1939 – “Berray’s Lodge is enjoying an excellent summer season. Their weekday as well as Sunday dinner trade is exceptionally good. People come from miles around to partake of the delicious home cooking.”
Open later only on Sundays and for special occasions, Berray’s Lodge was known for its fried chicken and schaum torte. Edna also hosted all types of events, from local club meetings to celebratory dinners for graduations, confirmations, communions, baby and wedding showers, and more.
Edna loved children. She always had a special place with bib for her younger guests and enjoyed hosting family dinners. No matter how busy she was in the kitchen, she always greeted her guests and had “a pleasant word for the children,” the newspaper said. “… Her home-cooked, family style chicken dinners with all the trimmings and variety of desserts have a reputation from coast to coast.”
Edna also supported the local Girl Scouts. It was customary for her to be the first person to donate toward any of the Scout projects or events, and the Girl Scout committee held its annual meeting at Berray’s Lodge for years.
Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 13, 1956 – “An honor was conferred recently on Mrs. Earle Berray who everyone near and far knows as a most pleasant lady. She owns Berray’s Lodge and serves wonderful chicken dinners. She was named ‘Grandmother of the Year’ by the Brownies and Girl Scouts at the Woman’s Club Christmas party. When Mrs. Bob Prellwitz, the Brownie leader, announced at the party that the grandmother of the year was to be named, Mrs. Berry said she looked around to see who was present that could be eligible for the title. ‘I just couldn’t believe it was I,’ she added, She was presented with a corsage of red roses by Nancy Mashuda, representing the Girl Scouts. Two Brownies, Diane Prellwitz and Candy Giese, and another Girl Scout, Jolene Rozek, were also present. … On Feb. 13, Mrs. Berray will celebrate her 77th birthday. She loves her work and has other hobbies like stamp collecting, playing cards, and going to movies. A few years ago, she tried to give up the business, but she was too lonesome and ‘missed seeing the nice people who come to my place.’”
Edna Berray passed in June 1966 at age 86 at a nursing home in Ripon. She had been hospitalized a few weeks earlier for a broken hip and in the nursing home for less than two weeks. She is buried alongside Earle in the Princeton City Cemetery. Her son passed in 1989 in Arizona.
In 1973, the booklet published in honor of the city’s 125th anniversary reported that Clara Wahoske continued to operate Berray’s Lodge, “which has a few permanent residents.”
I do not know when the boarding house closed.
Please let me know if you spot any errors or can fill in any gaps in my timeline.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.
My Grandfather, Hyman Swed went to Berrays for his evening meals for decades. I had the pleasure to go with him on occasion as a treat. It is a wonderful memory.