By DAVID GREEN
As Russell recalls the event, a friendly wager was made one day in Archbold after some area farmers argued about who could produce the biggest hog.
Burt Merillat, who lived southeast of Fayette, claimed he could raise a thousand-pounder.
Burt went home, looked over his hogs and came up with the chosen one.
“It was his boys’ job to make sure there was food available at all times,” Russell said.
That was a pig that received a lot of special treatment.
When animal weighed in at 1,055 pounds before it was carted over to the Beaverson Slaughter House.
There was a lot of coverage in area papers, Russell said, and that included a photo of a more typical 200-pound hog hanging beside the giant.
“It was too large to fit in the scalding vat,” Russell said. “We had to scald it on the floor with live steam.”
The head of the hog weighed more than 100 pounds. The hams came in at 88 pounds each and the loins at about 11 pounds. Forty-three gallons of lard was produced.
That didn’t matter to Russell’s father, Carl. He just enjoyed the publicity.
“That was quite an advertisement for the slaughterhouse,” Russell said.
The Beaverson Slaughter House was located just west of U.S. 127 on County Road S, a little over a mile south of the Wabash Railroad tracks.
Russell believes it was 1932 when his father converted an existing building into a slaughterhouse. Several Beaverson children helped with the business in one way or another, especially Russell, the oldest.
“I worked there from the time I was knee high to a grasshopper,” he said.
Several area farmers also put in time there—Earl Zuvers met his future wife at the slaughterhouse—since it was open only during the colder months. It was too warm for slaughtering in the summer, and besides, there was field work to do.
“He and I worked across from one another skinning beef. We could do it in 10 minutes—from the time it went down to the time we had it hanging.”
Russell became quite proficient at a young age. He got a call one Saturday when his parents were in Toledo. An area farmer had a hog with a broken leg and wanted it slaughtered quickly. Russell told him to bring it over, but warned the farmer that he would have to help.
“He didn’t know the folks weren’t home,” Russell said.
“Where’s your dad?” the farmer asked when he arrived.
Russell told him he was in Toledo.
“Who’s going to butcher?” he asked.
“You and I,” Russell said.
Russell had to stand on a bench in order to reach his work.
Carl Beaverson started the business in the throes of the Great Depression when hogs were selling for 2¢ a pound. Out of desperation, Russell said, he began picking a few hogs from his own herd and then peddling the meat in nearby towns, from Morenci to Alvordton.
The word spread that Carl was set up to butcher and farmers began asking for his services rather than getting the equipment ready at their own farm.
“That’s the way business grew,” Russell said.
He remembers the most hogs slaughtered in a single day—55—and remembers the day it was done, with his father saying, “We’re going to break the record if we have to go over to the barn and run some of our own through.”
Saturday became beef day and the record for steers stood at 17.
“At one time we had eight people working there,” Russell said.
An advertising flyer from around 1939 lists the cost of $1 to rough dress a steer or a large hog. The complete job—with rendering and sausage—could run $3 for a 550-pound pig.
Russell’s mother furnished the meals for the staff and some neighbor ladies helped clean casing (small intestine) for sausage.
Russell remembers when one new worker was sent to the slaughterhouse for more casing and she came back to the house with it looped around her neck—a special “treat” from the men doing the butchering.
Mary Ferris of Morenci—one of Russell’s sisters—remembers the girls being sent out to get casing, too.
“We’d put our arms out and they’d wrap the guts around them,” she said. “We didn’t know any better.”
Shine was always a joker, she said.
“He would cut the eyes out of the pigs and slip one in our pocket. He’d say, ‘Take this to your teacher or put it in your mother’s apron pocket.’”
She remembers Shine as a good-hearted fellow who almost started crying the day they made him a birthday cake—his first cake ever, he said.
Another sister, Doris Leininger, said Shine had a heart of gold. He went to town with his weekly pay and kids would come running because they knew Shine would buy them ice cream.
Russell was 22 years old when his father closed the slaughterhouse. He hired in at Lugbill’s where up to 600 hogs were killed in a day, but after a few months it was time for a change.
“In March I went into the Air Force and that was the end of my butchering,” Russell said.
He spent a few years in Alaska before returning to northwest Ohio.
“At one time Dad considered building a new plant with a locker room,” Russell said, but that never materialized.
One of the reasons Carl gave it up and started farming full time was the growth in state regulations. The days of draining blood into creeks and spreading the offal onto fields were coming to a close. Slaughterhouses would soon be required to install commercial coolers.
Russell will always remember the old slaughterhouse as an interesting place where farmers would come to talk about their lives and exchange stories.
And that reminds him of one last tale.
“When Dad first started butchering, we didn’t have electricity and we had a hand grinder.”
He rigged up the family’s Model T Ford by jacking up a corner of the car and connecting the axle to the grinder. It worked well, but one day his father lost a finger when the blades grabbed it.
“Dad let the car down and drove himself to Doc Patterson’s office in town. Uncle Earl [Zuvers] cleaned out the grinder, found the finger and threw it over the fence to the hogs.”
Word of the incident quickly spread and customers were a little leery of Beaverson’s meat for a while.
”We had trouble selling sausage for a couple of weeks.”