O’Dill pop factory restored
By LISA M. REED
NORWAY – The O’Dill farmhouse and former soda pop factory in Norway was restored and will be open for tours again this summer.
Carol (Brisson) Zechlin, director of the Jake Menghini Historical Museum, said the soda “pop” that was made at the O’Dill house was awesome. Zechlin attended Norway school and left the area after graduating high school only to return 50 years later and become director of the museum in 2009.
She shared her knowledge of the O’Dill farmhouse, her experience with the pop factory and the history of the Jake Menghini Museum.
“The O’Dill farmhouse was owned by Antone O’Dill who was an interesting guy in that he found the first ore products in Norway,” Zechlin said. “Then mining followed.”
According to an article in The Current on June 19, 2002 by Bill Van Wolvelaere, Antone O’Dill was a businessman who was known to have operated a saloon, a furniture store, an ice house, a tenement building and dabbled in real estate following a devastating fire in the 1880s that almost destroyed Norway.
He then left the saloon business in 1897 for health reasons.
In November of 1897, Antone O’Dill purchased the soda water and mineral business from Mat Wirtz with plans to make that his full-time business. In 1899, he purchased the previously rented equipment and moved it to the farmstead on O’Dill Road to make use of “good spring” water.
Today, that water is known as Norway Springs water.
Zechlin said the O’Dills, an immigrant family from Luxembourg, Germany built the O’Dill farmhouse in 1900. The house is one of the earlier homesteads in Norway.
In 2012, the downstairs of the farmhouse was restored into a museum.
“It’s representative of a typical farm in our area. When you walk in, it reminds you of your grandparents place,” Zechlin said.
Antone O’Dill had married twice and had six children.
Zechlin said when she was a child Antone’s son, Johnnie, ran the pop factory that his father started.
After Prohibition, soda was manufactured in a back room of the farmhouse.
Zechlin said there was a private room to mix colors and flavors.
“He bought the syrup and tinkered with it,” she said.
Local young men were hired to help out in the shop.
“Townspeople had to order ahead as Johnnie only made so much a week,” said Zechlin who recalled some of the soda flavors as orange, strawberry, cherry, and grape.
Zechlin said orders for the flavored soda had to be given well in advance.
“One would say we would like a box of mixed soda for a Sunday school picnic,” she said.
“Johnnie would deliver one day a week to Norway stores and bars. He gave them what he thought they needed. When the owner would ask for another case, he would think about it for a minute and then say no. He knew what he could do,” Zechlin said.
Tours of the farmhouse began in June of 2012 and will resume again this year.
“It’s a delightful place,” Zechlin said of the restored farmhouse.
About the museum
Adjacent to the O’Dill farmhouse is the Jake Menghini Historical Museum.
The museum was built in memory of August “Jake” Menghini, a Norway boy who loved collecting artifacts and had a passion for the history of the Norway-Vulcan area.
Zechlin said Jake found his first artifact, an old whiskey jug, in the fourth grade.
“He loved this town and the young people and its history,” she said. “He was largely responsible for hockey and baseball and helped coach and get young people involved.”
He also ran the ice skating warming house.
Jake passed away on Aug. 14, 1996 at the age of 83.
But not before he discovered a log cabin on Felch Mountain Road, now referred to as the “Norway Truck Trail.” Zechlin said he dismantled it log by log and hauled it to his childhood home at 807 Chestnut St. in Norway.
This is where Jake re-assembled the log cabin and it became known as “Jake’s Museum.”
School children were given tours in the spring.
That tradition continued when Dan Olson, the benefactor who gifted 40 acres to the museum and Cornerstone Ministries, for the new Jake Menghini Historial Museum to be built.
The museum was built in the early 2000s and opened to the public for tours in 2006.
Those who tour the museum can see the school room, creamery, mortuary, market, jail and hardware store and learn about iron mines and pine logging.
Lisa M. Reed’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.