Thursday, August 8, 2013
Stills and Spirits
Most frontier farmers had a difficult time getting their crops to market. The roads were poor and in some cases non-existent. The distances were great and there was always the issue of spoilage. They soon found that if they distilled their grain into whiskey that spoilage was a non-issue. So stills and distilleries were a part of my Kentucky and Pennsylvania roots.
My Pennsylvania ancestors moved into western Pennsylvania about the time of the Whiskey Rebellion. The Whiskey Rebellion was a result of of the federal government’s attempt under George Washington to apply a tax to spirits but not grain. Because of the tax, the frontier farmer carried a disproportional share of the cost of the government and it cut into profits as well. I know that some of the Hugus ancestors must have been distillers, especially since Jacob Hugus was issued a patent for distilling spirits in 1828 and another issued in 1832 for making wine from cider1. Hugus Patents
Distilleries were also an important part of life in Nelson County, Kentucky. The town of Samuels was named for the Samuels Family which has been distilling spirits for hundreds of years. Present day Maker’s Mark Whiskey was founded by members of the Samuels family. Even though we know that John G. Gates worked at a distillery and there was a Mattingly Distillery near Samuels, we are unaware of any family owning distilleries in Nelson County. William R. Gates (the second son of Elisha Gates) married Elizabeth Mattingly. Elizabeth’s brother, Miles P. Mattingly was owner of several distilleries in Owensboro2. There was even a court case as a result of one of his purchases. Old W. S. Stone Distillery; M. P. M. Distiller, Hand Made Sour Mash Whiskey became a famous brand at the time.3
1. Ellsworth, Henry-Leavitt. Unites States. Patent Office. Digest of Patents, Issued by the United States from 1790 to January 1, 1839. Washington D. C.: Peter Force, 1840.
2. The History of Daviess County, Kentucky. Chicago, Illinois: Interstate Publishing Company, 1883.
3. Mattingly v Stone, Court of Appeals of Kentucky, 1889 Southwestern Reporter, Vol 12, page 467-69