James Vassar's brewery was destroyed by fire. Matthew Vassar's elder brother, John Guy, who had joined their father in the brewery business, was killed by fumes while inspecting the debris.

Devastated, James Vassar retired to farm life. His son Matthew started brewing independently, in a dye house owned by his brother-in-law, George Booth, a textile manufacturer.  The young Matthew also assumed responsibility for his sister-in-law and her two small sons, John Guy Vassar, Jr. and Matthew Vassar, Jr.