A Whiff of Fresh Bread – Portsmouth Bakeries


By Bob Boldman



Living on Eleventh Street near the 1000 & 1100 block of Offnere Street the smell of baked bread would fill the air. The wonderful aroma of fresh bread was coming from the Adams Baking Company located at 1009 Offnere Street. Around the corner of 11th and Offnere where Amos Vaughters maintained a gas station, was located Phoenix Pies at 1223 Offnere. Sweet smells of fresh bread and pastry was a typical part of the air in that location. The bakeries of old are gone and baked goods are found in the large grocery chain stores of today. What we buy off the shelves in the super stores of today and shipped from other locations. The freshness of the baked goods of yesteryear gone-no more pop in’s to the many bakeries in the West End. The purchase of a fresh baked loaf of bread and walking out with it wrapped in a brown bag remain a memory. As a kid going to school at Saint Mary’s on 5th Street, my classmates and I, would slip up to Market Street to Counts Bakery for one of the many sweet treats available. Under penalty of a paddling – we would head to Counts for a sweet reward, it was worth the chance.

Bakeries were bountiful in the City once upon a time, giving the community a taste of manna from the hands of master bakers. As Portsmouth grew in the early days of its growth, the baker came from the old country and plied his craft; to a hungry population. John Adam Pfau was a man that came and pursued his trade and brought with him a sense of pride in his work. Mr. Pfau in the early history of Portsmouth established a thriving business and left a get-up-and-go for future generations to follow.

Pfau Bakery

From the Evans Book – “History of Scioto County,” it was stated that, “John Adam Pfau was born in the town of Schopflah, Wurttemberg, Germany, on February 28, 1839. His father followed the occupation of farming, but being desirous of having his son learn a trade, apprenticed him at the age of fourteen to a master baker, in a near-by city. Young Pfau served four years of apprenticeship and at once immigrated to the United States. After working at his trade in several cities, he reached Portsmouth and secured work with the late Jacob Oehlschlager, who at that time had a bakery on Front Street, near Madison, where afterwards Pfau carried on business for himself. He worked at his trade in Portsmouth until October 18, 1861, when he enlisted in Company B, 56th Regiment, O. V. I. organized by Capt. Charles Reiniger. He was discharged upon surgeon’s certificate of disability, September 30, 1862. He returned to Portsmouth from the army.

In the fall of 1862, he returned to his old home in Germany and established a bakery in Wurttemberg. In 1865, he was married to Johanna Schott, at Bessengen. He had ten children: One died in infancy and the remaining nine removed with parents back to Portsmouth. In November 1868, he returned to the United States, and like everyone who has resided in Portsmouth, he had a special desire to return here and did so. When Mr. Pfau landed in Portsmouth with his family, he had but fifteen cents in money. He soon found friends who assisted him in starting a bakery in the building on Front Street, in which he had served as a helper for so many years. His struggle was a hard one but he succeeded. Possessed of a Herculean frame, he endured work which would have broken down a man of less physical power. He would work in the bake-shop all day, making bread, and in the evening would fill a large basket with it and deliver it walking from house to house. Next he used a hand cart in his business for several years, until through economy and increasing trade; he was able to have a horse and express to deliver his goods. He remained on Front Street until 1889 when he purchased property on Second Street near Jefferson, where he continued the bakery until his death, which occurred on April 9, 1896. Mr. Pfau had for his motto, “Be honorable.” When his word was given, he held that as sacred as a written contract. He had the confidence of the business men of the city. Mr. Pfau left his family in a prosperous condition. His sons were all good business men and did well. Three of them, Jacob, Adam, and John H. conducted flourishing bakeries in Portsmouth. Jacob stayed at his father’s old locality, 175 W. Second Street, Adam in a new establishment at 97 East Eleventh Street and John H. in the East End.”

On 2nd and Washington Street where buildings are being torn down – there was a painted sign on one of the brick side-façade, in white signage a glimpse of a time when bakeries were prevalent. The white print simply read “Jake Pfau’s Bakery.”

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By Bob Boldman

Bob Boldman can be reached at g.boldman5@gmail.com

Bob Boldman can be reached at g.boldman5@gmail.com