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Beer, or Down Comes the House!

In mid-January 1884 a group of Duluthians of German extraction objected to the marriage of “the ancient and much married” Peter Arimond, a seventy-one-year-old five-time widower, to a twenty-four-year-old German immigrant named Louise, who lived in St. Paul. It would take beer made with pure Lake Superior water to calm a raging mob.

Arimond, also a native of Germany, had arrived in Duluth in 1867 with his thirty-four-year-old wife, Margaret, and six children between the ages of one and fifteen. He began working as a stone mason and plasterer and they settled in at 120 Tenth Avenue East, just two blocks east of Duluth’s first brewery. Margaret died by 1875, when the state census lists Arimond as a widower, as does the 1880 national census. It is unclear whether Margaret was his first wife or the mother of all six children, and research uncovered no information about his other four marriages.

But in 1884, someone in Duluth believed that those marriages didn’t end well. The day before the wedding, Louise received an anonymous letter suggesting that Arimond had caused the deaths of his previous wives. She abruptly packed and tried to return to St. Paul, but Arimond caught up with her at the railway station and persuaded her to stay. They were married the next day.

But that night about fifty men, described as mostly “Dutchmen” (then another term for “German”), stood outside Arimond’s home and held an old-fashioned charivari. In this old European custom a community’s disapproval of a marriage was expressed by a mob making as much noise as it could in order to disrupt the couple’s coupling. But rather than the traditional banging of pots and pans, Duluth’s Dutchmen shouted as they threw stones, breaking doors and windows. Arimond told the newspaper that it was as if “all the devils of hell have broken loose and come on earth for the special purpose of making trouble for me.”

Arimond asked what he could do to make them go away, and they shouted “Beer!” More precisely, they wanted five dollars so they could purchase some of the beer. And not just any beer, but specifically the beer Mike Fink’s crew was cooking up at the Lake Superior Brewery. Arimond told the crowd he would order two kegs from Fink and have it sent to the mob the next day if they would just “leave him alone in his glory.” The crowd countered, demanding five kegs. Arimond said no. The group spokesman then demanded, “Five kegs of beer, or down comes the house!” Arimond gave in.

The crowd dispersed, but the next day Arimond told Fink to delay the beer delivery until the mob had paid for the damages to his house. Unable to retrieve their beer, the crowd returned to Arimond’s home and raised “a bigger racket than before.” Fink’s men rushed two large kegs of beer to the scene and the crowd dispersed.

Peter and Louise moved to Anaheim, California, in 1890 for Arimond’s health. He was eighty-nine when he died suddenly in 1902 on his way home to Louise from the post office.