Facts and Events
- This was written and published in---1896---
- It is not my intention to overdo anyone's interest, and I am candid enough to confess my belief that, knowing me as the people of Kentucky do, they will credit what I say pertaining to this, as well as the other sketches which I am attempting to write, so that future generations may know the true facts as they actually happened. No one has given as much attention towards perpetuating the history of my county as I have. I have gathered my data from as reliable sources as was obtainable, and nothing will appear in this edition but what is known to me to be incontrovertible, as far as it can be ascertained.
- It was Daniel Boone who first gazed upon the broad and expansive fields of blue-grass that is celebrated the world over, and it was he who pronounced Kentucky the most beautiful land upon the globe. Boone's opinion is the opinion of the world to-day, and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. So it was that Wattie Boone, a near relative of Daniel Boone, and his friend Stephen Ritchie, were the first men to attempt to manufacture whisky in Kentucky. This was a long time ago. The first settlers of Nelson County were Isaac Cox and about twenty-five others. This occurred in 1775 on the waters of Cox's Creek. In 1776 Wattie Boone and Stephen Ritchie settled in this county.--Boone on Pottinger's Creek, where Knob Creek and Pottinger's creek now empty into the Rolling Fork. They began making whisky about the same time. Ritchie, though was living come ten miles distant from Boone, up on the Beech Fork. In 1780 they both began the manufacture of whisky for sale in their respective localities. In 1795 Wattie Boone enlarged his plant to two bushels capacity per day and did a thriving business. He took his son Charles Boone,, the grandfather of Mr. Charles H. Boone, one of the proprietors of the present Boone & Bros distillery in as a partner ant the next year "Old Uncle Johnnie Boone" who before his death, was famous all over the section as a great distiller was admitted to a third interest. Uncle Johnnie was the second son of Wattie Boone. Stephen Ritchie stopped distilling for awhile, but the Boones have never been out of the business since Uncle Wattie Boone first began to make it in 1780over one hundred and sixteen years ago. In 1830 George Boone son Charles Boone and father of the present Boones entered his father's distillery and was recognized as one of the very best distillers in the country. He, like his father and grandfather, made such good whiskey that the product was used entirely in Nelson and adjoining counties--It was too good to get far from home. George Robinson the maternal grandfather of Boone Bros. was a practical distiller, and made the fine whisky for over fifty years. He entered the business in 1810. So it will be seen that the present Boone Bros. ancestors both paternal and maternal were practical distillers and it is also true that their successors, Charles H. and Nicholas R. Boone are the only whiskey distillers in the State by that name.
- I am now engaged in writing a history of the boyhood days of Abraham Lincoln and I find that Thomas Lincoln, who then lived at Hodgenville, some ten miles from Boone's distillery, was in straightened circumstances and he applied to John Boone, in 1814, for work in his distillery. Boone gave him employment and found him to be a first class hand. Thomas Lincoln Having moved his family which consisted of his wife, Nancy Lincoln (Hanks) and son Abraham into a house about one mile from the distillery found it inconvenient to go home to dinner and sometimes the supper, so it developed upon young Abraham to carry his father's meals to him.
- The year before, Thomas Lincoln moved to Indiana young Abraham began assisting his father in the distillery and as Uncle Wattie Boone used to say, "That boy is bound to make a great man no matter what trade he follows and if he goes into the whisky business he will be the best distiller in the land. Of course where Lincoln located in Indiana there were no distilleries so Abraham was compelled to learn a new business. You all know the rest. Boone Bros. distillery is situated on the Bardstown and Loretto turnpike. The scenery along the road leading to the distillery is beautiful and the broad and expansive fields as you draw near their plant are perfectly grand, especially to the eye of an artist. The warehouse is situated upon an elevation and the distillery near the head of a ravine. Large springs of fine free-stone water pour from the earth in abundant quantities, there being no less than ten never-falling springs within a few hundred yards of the distillery. The capacity of the house is 71 bushels of grain per day. The very best of grain is used in producing this fine whisky. The warehouses are iron-clad and have the capacity of 2,000 barrels. Their brands are the celebrated "Boone Bros." and "Old Maid".
- ↑ David L. Morgan, State Historic Preservation Officer, Kentucky Heritage Council. National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form. (United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service), Page 9, 26 Nov 1990.
Distilleries were also common in the county as early as 1800. Whiskeymaking provided early settlers with a commodity which could be readily transported to markets and sold. Wattie Boone and Aaron Atherton both operated distilleries on the banks of Knob Creek in the 1790s and these distilleries were forerunners of the John M. Atherton Distillery built after the Civil War. Other small distilleries are known to have been operated on farms throughout the county.
- ↑ Miami Daily News and Metropolis. Audubon's Whisky (Louisville Courier-Journal), 11 Nov 1929.
The Miami News, 11 Nov 1929
Audubon's Whisky, (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Only a few years later, Thomas Lincoln, Abraham's father, loaded about 400 gallons of the best whisky he could find on his flatboat on Rolling Fork, near the mouth of Knob creek, and he took it to Indiana. Despite the upsetting of his craft at the mouth of Salt river, he recovered most of his cargo. Tom Lincoln was not a distiller, although an uncle of the same name owned a still house in Fayette county. However, the Rolling Fork country was noted for the quality of its whisky, both then and later. Possibly Lincoln bought his liquor of Peter Atherton, then the ferry-keeper of Knob creek. Atherton established nearby what later was to be the largest distillery in the world.
Ever since the revolution, the farmers of the west had made whisky. There were few roads. A pack-horse could carry only four bushels of grain over the mountains, but in the form of whisky the product of 24 bushels could be carried. It was when Alexander Hamilton sought to levy the excise tax on these farmers that the "Whisky Rebellion" broke out.
One of the chief mediums of exchange among the pioneers was "good merchantable whisky." Corn, therefore, was not only the principal food crop, but the main money crop. In liquid form, corn was a safer investment than in the shape of meat, either alive or packed. When Tom Lincoln carried whisky in barrels to Indiana, he was merely carrying the products of his farm, whether he made the liquor himself - which is unlikely - or took it to Peter Atherton or someone else to be distilled. When Audubon and his partner, Rozier, and years later Abraham Lincoln himself, dealt in whisky as merchants, they were selling it as a farm product, like so much tobacco, smoked hams, or meal.
Peter Athertons' father Aaron Atherton was already operating the Knob Creek distillery.
Thomas Lincoln, worked for a short time for Aaron Atherton and Wattie Boone's distillery. Thomas was efficient in wood making and probably made bourban casks for the distillery.