Captain Pabst was born on March 28, 1836 in the small town of Nicholausreith, Saxony, Germany. In 1848, at the age of twelve, his parents, Gottlieb and Fredericka Pabst, made the momentous decision to immigrate to the United States. At the age of 14, young Frederick signed on as a cabin boy on a Great Lake steamer and by the age of 21, he became a Captain. Henceforth, until the day he died, he always retained the title of Captain.
Captain Pabst’s vessels plied the waters between Chicago, Milwaukee and Manitowoc. As Captain of a side-wheeler christened Comet, he found his future wife, Miss Maria Best. Maria, born on May 16, 1842, was the eldest daughter of Phillip Best, a brewer from Milwaukee. Frederick and Maria courted for two years and were married in Milwaukee on March 25, 1862. Two years later Captain Pabst took his father-in-law’s offer to buy a half-interest in the Phillip Best Brewing Company.
Captain and Mrs. Pabst would eventually have ten children from 1863-1875. However, only five survived to adulthood, a common occurrence during the nineteenth century.
Elizabeth 1865-1891 Gustave 1866-1943 Marie 1868-1947 Frederick, Jr. 1869-1958 Emma 1871-1943
They raised their new family in a home built in the shadow of the brewing company buildings. After the company’s name was changed in 1889 to the Pabst Brewing Company, Captain Pabst pursued the idea of building on property he had acquired some years earlier on Milwaukee’s prestigious Grand Avenue. During the summer of 1892, the Pabst family moved into their new home. Eventually all their children and spouses would live in the Mansion until each of the children’s homes were completed.
At the turn of the new century, Captain Pabst’s health started to deteriorate due to a number of ailments including pulmonary edema, diabetes and emphysema. In 1903, while traveling in California, he suffered two strokes before returning to Milwaukee. After his family rallied around him, Captain Pabst slipped away and died shortly after noon on New Year’s Day 1904. His funeral, which took place in the Music Room of the mansion, was meant to be a private affair, but the enormous crowds of mourners that surrounded the mansion made it all but impossible.
Mrs. Pabst continued to maintain the house for another two years, spending her summers in Germany. During one of these trips, she fell from a carriage and injured her hip. She returned home but during her convalescence at the Milwaukee Hospital she developed pneumonia and died on October 3, 1906. She was later laid to rest next to her husband at Forest Home Cemetery. Both Captain and Mrs. Pabst were sorely missed by not only family and friends, but by the countless numbers of people that they helped through acts of kindness and charity during their lives.
Captain and Mrs. Pabst would no doubt be amazed at the interest their mansion has garnered.
With their descendants now down to the great-great-great-great grandchild level and over two hundred and fifty direct descendants, the Pabst family still finds interest and meaning in their family home, as do all those who visit.