Thursday, December 12, 2019

Sam Jaggers — Montana’s “Tattle Tale” Saloonkeeper

It has always been somewhat of a mystery to me how Western saloons, often in isolated mining camps or other communities with no easy access to the outside world, managed to get the liquor needed to satisfy their thirsty clientele.  For many “Old West” locations, railroads were distant, stage coaches sporadic, and mule trains infrequent.  The answer may lie with Samuel Jaggers, a saloonkeeper and liquor dealer in the mining town of Bannack, Montana, during the 1860s.  In a 1903 newspaper interview Jaggers told all.

Sam Jaggers was an Englishman, born in March 1832 in Beulah, a small town in Wales, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Jaggers.  He was baptized into the Church of England.  When he was 16 he emigrated to the United States along with other family members and settled in Illinois near Galena, a town on the Mississippi River, famous for being the home of Ulysses S. Grant and other Union generals after the Civil War.  Sam’s earliest career is lost in the mists of history.  His first recorded employment was in the hospitality industry, spending three years as manager of Galena’s United States Hotel.  He also appears to have gained some standing in the community, serving as the town’s justice of the peace for eight years.

In 1851 at the of 23 Sam married Jane Moore, 20, a woman of Irish ancestry, in Lafayette, Wisconsin, a town about 35 miles from Galena.  They had six children: James, Mary Anne, Joseph, Robert, Elizabeth and Henry Manuel.  After 12 years of marriage, Jane died in 1863, leaving her husband to raise their minor children.  In 1866, apparently drawn by a gold strike in Montana, Jaggers uprooted the family and headed for Virginia City, a boomtown of thousands of prospectors and fortune seekers in the midst of a frantic gold rush — today a “ghost town.” 

Apparently not finding rowdy Virginia City to his liking, Jaggers soon looked 85 miles west to Bannack, Montana.  Shown above during its heyday, the town was founded in 1862 after an area gold strike.  Named after the local Bannock Indians. it had served as the capital of the Montana Territory briefly in 1864.  

At its peak, Bannack had a population of about ten thousand.  There were three bakeries, three blacksmith shops, two stables, two meat markets, a grocery store, a restaurant, a brewery, a billiard hall, three hotels, including the Meade shown above, and four saloons. All of the businesses were built of logs as were the private houses.   Jaggers settled his family in one of them. 

In 1870 Sam also married a second time.  His new wife was Mary Catherine Hamilton, born in Huntington County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of native Pennsylvanians who had migrated to Montana.   The couple would have four children, Grace, Fanny, Harry and Madline.  Grace and Harry died as youngsters. 

Extremely remote, Bannack was connected to the rest of the world only by the Montana Trail. This was a wagon road that served settlements during the gold rush era of the 1860s and 1870s. The trail was used for freighting and shipping supplies and food goods from Salt Lake City to sites in Montana.  It could be a dangerous journey.  Outlaws and marauding Indians, as well as uncertain weather, made the Montana Trail a risky road to travel. 

Arriving in Bannack, Jaggers looked around for opportunities and found one in a saloon for sale by local James Harvey.  As later described by the Englishman, Harvey’s was one of the best in the mining camp.  “It had a first class bar, not one of the hand-made ones like the majority of the saloons of pioneer days had, but it had real oak furniture and it had a real plate glass mirror behind the bar.”

Those remarks were part of an extensive interview Jaggers gave in 1903 to reporters for the Dillon (Montana) Examiner in which he described the life of a frontier West saloonkeeper and confided:  “I now want to tell you boys about how we made our liquors…,” adding humorously I suspect, “…and I am sure you will not give it away.”

According to Jaggers, all the liquors coming to Bannack saloons originated from Los Angeles in a form he called “high wines,” in effect, “white lightening.”  Once the high wines had been safely landed in our cellars, us saloon keepers set about making various liquors demanded by the horny-handed miners….If a man wanted any kind of liquor, he got it, and it did not make any difference whether he asked for whiskey, brandy, rum, gin or some brand of wine, he got it, and it all came originally from the same barrel.”  The taste could be altered, Jaggers said, by the amount of fusel oil the proprietor added, a mixture of alcohols extracted from the fermentation process.

Remember events in 1867 Jaggers continued, “…There was a whiskey famine in the territory and for while it seemed as if a dire calamity was staring the country in the face.”  Hearing that there were two barrels of whiskey for sale at Deer Lodge, Montana, Sam in haste made the 115 mile journey there on horseback and bought the whiskey for $750 in gold dust— equivalent to $16,500 today.  One of the barrels was good stuff, he related, but the other was the worst whiskey he had ever tasted.  While the liquor was being delivered, Jaggers got an idea.  He bought two cases of peaches and returning to Bannack mashed them into pulp and dumped them into the rot-gut, mixing them well.  “…The result was it was converted into a whiskey that miners would walk ten miles after the close of a hard day’s work, in order to pay 25 cents for a sample of it.”

After about five years running his Bannack saloon and serving a term as justice of the peace, Jaggers may have sensed that the boom in Bannack was headed toward “bust.” He sold his saloon and for several years tried his hand at prospecting. By now a wealthy man, Sam subsequently purchased a ranch outside of Bannack and began to raise cattle.  An ad for a lost cow at Horse Prairie and the Big Hole range displays Sam’s brand, a horseshoe-shaped mark burned on both sides of his steers.

Jaggers’ life as a rancher was not placid.  Montana was still the Wild West where dangers lurked everywhere.  His young daughter, Fanny, caught the eye of Bob Wells, described by a local newspaper as “a bold, bad man of Montana.”
When Sam objected to his attentions to Fanny, Wells “in true brigand style” met her returning to her father’s ranch home on horseback, with a male escort.  Drawing a gun the outlaw forced the man to ride on.  He then tied the girl’s bridle rein to the pommel of his saddle and headed for Idaho.  Jaggers was quick to offer a reward for Wells’ capture.  In the end Fanny was returned home, apparently unharmed, but not long after was married to a 39-year-old man from Horse Prairie, Montana.

Three years later Sam and his family would be embroiled in a murder trial.  The dead man was John Bushnell, a Bannack saloonkeeper with a grudge against Jaggers and his sons.  Drunk, in mid-September 1887 Bushnell met James “Jim” Jaggers in the bar of a local hotel and began cursing him.  According to a press account in the Helena Independent, Jim tried to be friendly and did not retaliate.  Nevertheless, Bushell went home, got his six-shooter and went back to the bar.  Bushnell took “deliberate aim” at Jim’s back but was seen by the hotel proprietress who screamed, alerting Jim Jaggers.  He drew his pistol and the two fired almost simultaneously.  Bushnell missed and Jim got off a second shot that killed his assailant instantly.  A sheriff’s inquest and trial ensued in which the jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide.

Sam Jaggers survived these traumatic incidents to live just short of 83 years old, ancient by Western standards. In 1885 he earned a biography in a book on Montana history, hailed as “one of the extensive stock men of the prairie.”  He died on March 2, 1810, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery at Dillon, Montana.  Sam’s family provided him with a unique gravestone, featuring an elaborate carved design, a poem, and the motto, “Gone but not forgotten.”  I agree. Jaggers will forever be memorable for his candor in revealing how drinking establishments in isolated Western towns could obtain enough liquor to satisfy their thirsty clientele. 

Note: The impetus for this post came from the verbatim publication of Jaggers’ 1903 interview with the Dillon Examiner in the book, “The Golden Elixir of the West: Whiskey and the Shaping of America.”  by Monahan and Perkins. I was able to find other information about Sam from a variety of sources, but sadly no picture of him.  The photo below shows Bannack as it looks today, a ghost town registered as a National Historic Landmark and preserved by the State of Montana as a park and tourist attraction.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Unraveling of Bellows Family Ties

Established in America by early colonist John Bellows in 1635, his extended family became one of the country’s historic clans, a close knit group with a motto meaning “All from On High” and a crest of a disembodied hand pouring something into a goblet.  It ironically might have been whiskey, the liquid that led to the unfortunate unraveling of the Charles Bellows family of New York City.

Born in February 1825 at 21 Leonard Street in Manhattan, Charles Bellows was educated in New York schools and began his business career in the employment of Arthur Tappan, a well known New York merchant and abolitionist.  An indication of Charles’ grit was his being one of the defenders of Tappan’s store when it was attacked by pro-slavery rioters in 1845.

By that time Charles had moved to the leading New York mercantile house of Archibald Gracie where he learned the wine and liquor business.  By 1848 he had gained sufficient funds and experience to buy the company’s interest in that trade, moving in 1850 to open his own store at 42 New Street, selling whiskey and wine, both domestic and imported.   From 1853 to 1862 his brother Theodore was in business with him. Operating as Charles Bellows & Company, the firm outgrew its first quarters and moved to 50 Broad Street, shown below in the 1800s,

An 1898 history of the Bellows family described Charles’ success: “The business of the firm became very extensive and profitable, and brought them into relations with wine producers all over the world.  In the extent of their business they stood at the head of the wine merchants of the United States.”  Also dealing in imported whiskey, Charles made buying trips to the British Isles and Europe in 1860 and 1864.  Shown here is a bottle of Glenlivit Scotch with a Bellows label.

In 1848 Charles, age 23, had married Eliza Delano in New York in May, just after her twentieth birthday.  She was the daughter of Christopher and Rachel Fenton Delano.  Hers was an even more distinguished American lineage.  Eliza’s Delano family forebears include the pilgrim who chartered the Mayflower, seven of its passengers, three signers of the Mayflower Compact, and later two American Presidents.  The couple would have only one child, a son born in 1852 that they named Charles after his father. 

Eliza proved to be of frail health and after only thirteen years of marriage, she died in April, 1861.  After waiting the obligatory year and few days after her death Charles married again.  This time his bride was Eliza’s older sister, Mary Ellen Delano.  That is when the family ties began to unravel.  Charles Jr., age 14, now was faced with a stepmother who also was his aunt.  Moreover, Charles and Mary would have four children of their own, a daughter who died in infancy and three sons:  Arthur C., born in 1865;  Clarence Ernest Stanley (known as “C.E.S”), 1866; and Albert Edward, 1871.  Charles Jr. may well have felt himself the “odd man out” of the family.

Meanwhile his father was continuing to flourish, said to be “in receipt of a large income.”  He soon found a way to spend it.  In addition to a residence in Brooklyn, Bellows bought a country mansion sixty miles north of New York City at Cornwall on Hudson, shown above.  He lavished large amounts of money on the property, improving and terracing the gardens to resemble those at Versailles that he had seen and admired on one of his trips to Europe.  He also began to entertain his friends extravagantly, providing them with food and drink on the scale of a rich country squire.

By 1878, because of business reverses in his liquor and wine house, Bellows found himself deeply in debt.  Forced to sell his country house, he declared Charles Bellows & Co. bankrupt and what few assets remained were allocate by a judge to his creditors.  Not long after, Charles started a new spirits business at the same 50 Broad Street address.  Perhaps apprehensive about his post-bankruptcy reputation, this business was in the name of his wife, Mary Ellen.  He called it “M.E. Bellows Co., Charles Bellows, Agent.”  A bottle closure shown here bore the new name.

Meanwhile Charles Jr., shown here in 1897, was reaching maturity.  During his father’s years of luxury he was able to gain a college education, including some legal training, and spent the three years from 1873 to 1876 traveling throughout  Europe.  He made hiking trips through France, Switzerland, and Germany;  visited Belgium, Holland, England and Scotland, and took a series of cruises around Europe and the British Isles.  While Charles Jr. may have been working on behalf of Bellows business interests in those jaunts, his Bellows family biography mentions only that he sent “occasional letters” to the New York newspapers.

Summoned home as his family’s finances failed, Charles Jr. joined his father in a management role in the new Broad Street enterprise, now operated under the name of his stepmother.  Over the next 12 years the pair rebuilt a successful liquor house.  Then Charles Bellows, the founding father, died in March 1890 at the age of 65.  He was buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery,  Section 111, Plot 379.  A statue of a grieving woman marks the grave.

Tasked immediately with managing the liquor house, Charles Jr. after several months asked his stepmother, Mary Ellen, to buy the business outright.  She refused.   By this time her sons were well grown and had experience working in the 40 Broad Street establishment.  Arthur C. was 35 and married, with a child on the way.  Clarence was 34 and engaged.  Their mother wanted her boys to have the company.  In 1891 she assigned a half interest in the firm to Arthur and in her will gave the other half to Clarence.

The crack in the Bellows family was now irreparable.  Charles Jr., clearly disappointed and angry, set up his own wine and liquor establishment, opening at  42 Broad Street, immediately next door to M. E. Bellows and in direct competition.  When that location apparently proved problematic, Charles Jr.  moved to 52 New Street, not far from the address where his father had first started.  An 1898 Bellows family history described him as the head of a firm he called “Charles Bellow & Company”:  “He is an enthusiast on the subject of wines, and by long study has become an expert as to the quality of rare old wines, to the care and sale of which he devotes his principal attention in business hours.”

Meanwhile Arthur Bellows was proving to be a highly competent manager of the enterprise his father had begun 43 years earlier.  Once again the name changed, this time to M.E. Barrows Son (and later, Sons’).  The company was selling its own brands of whiskey, including Monogram 1880 Rye and 1890 Scotch Whiskey.  As shown above, the brother sold it in unembossed clear and amber glass bottles with paper labels that have been damaged or destroyed over time.

The company also was bottling its own Scotch whiskey, including a brand it called “Old Mackenzie,” some labeled as “expressly” made for Arthur G. Vanderbilt,  a wealthy American businessman and a member of the famous Vanderbilt family.  The bottle is shown right.

Arthur and C.E.S. Bellows carried on their business under the firm name of M.E. Bellows Sons, representing themselves as successors to the business carried on by their father as “Charles Bellow, Agent” until July 1897.  At that point, for reasons unknown, they assigned the firm to Arthur’s wife, the former Kittie Strang.  As a result of this change Charles Bellows was now identified as the forerunner of Kittie Bellows Company,   Charles Jr. was infuriated.  He sued and in August 1898 the case of Bellows vs. Bellows came before the Supreme Court of New York County.  Now the family unraveling was on view for all of New York to see.

Charles Jr. claimed that his New Street enterprise was the successor to the firm of Charles Bellows and exclusively was entitled to the use of the name.  Moreover, the continued use of the founder’s name on his half-brothers’ business was a fraud on the public.   Judge J. Stover disagreed.  “The business at 50 Broad Street has been continued since the death of Charles Bellow by various successors and there is no attempt now to deceive the public…There is no fraud practiced upon the public or the plaintiff.”  Stover then dismissed Charles Jr.’s charges and charged him with court costs.

Both Bellows firms continued to exist in Manhattan until at least 1915, according to Manhattan directories.  Charles Jr. died in 1934 at the age of 74, the same year as his half-brother, Arthur, age 69.  Clarence followed in 1937 at 71.  Both are buried adjacent to their father, Charles, in the family plot.  But the family ties remained broken:   Charles Jr. appears to have been buried elsewhere, outside the family circle.

Note:  The information for this post was drawn from a variety of sources.  Two principal were “The Bellows Genealogy,” a family history compiled by Thomas Bellows Peck and published in 1898.  It contains biographies of both Charles and Charles Jr.  A second source was the lengthy decision of Judge Stover in Bellows v. Bellows.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Whiskey Men In & Out of Court

Foreword:  In researching the lives and careers of pre-Prohibition distillers, liquor dealers and saloonkeepers, court records often are an excellent source of information.   They provide insights into the activities and sometimes the character of whiskey men.  Featured here are vignettes of three such proprietors who spent copious amounts of time and effort involved in the justice system, often for different reasons.  

Billy Sunday
To suggest that Kinsey “Stormy” Jordan of Ottumwa, Iowa, was a complicated character is an understatement.  The famous Prohibitionist preacher, Billy Sunday, hailed him “as the only liquor owner who told the truth about booze,”  after Stormy had called whiskey “The Road to Hell.”  On the other hand, Jordan was described by another anti-alcohol zealot asa man, known the State and nation over for his shameless, law-defying wickedness….” 

In the late 1879’s Jordan opened a saloon in Ottumwa, one he called “The Corn Exchange.”  The local newspaper called it “the finest in the city.”  He prospered until 1881 when legislators added an amendment to the state constitution essentially voting the state “dry.”  With the law due to go into effect on July 4, 1881, Stormy was faced with the prospect of having to shut down The Corn Exchange.  Taking the advice of a sympathetic Chicago federal judge, however, the saloonkeeper decided to sue the state. 

Accordingly Jordan brought suit in U.S. District Court and continued to run his saloon. He was arrested, convicted in a local court, fined — which he refused to pay — and tossed into the Ottumwa jail, shown here behind the courthouse.  His attorneys took Stormy’s incarceration to Federal Judge Love.  Love was not a “Dry” sympathizer and, despite the pleas of state officers, ordered Stormy released and ruled that his saloon could continue to operate until the federal case was settled.  

Undetered, local officials jailed Stormy a second time and again the matter was referred to Judge Love.  This time he scolded, not Jordan, but the local prosecutor.  Any subsequent arrest of Stormy, the judge asserted, would taken as meddling in a case pending before his court and would result in the offending local official being fined or even jailed.  With this ruling, Stormy kept his drinking establishment wide open day and night.  His defiance made headlines across America.  As result, Jordan was able to conduct what was said to be the only operating saloon in Iowa.  Only many months later when the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled against him did Stormy shut down The Corn Exchange.  Then, in a startling about-face, Jordan became an advocate for National Prohibition.

Harry W. Metcalf,  a Florida liquor merchant, frequently had a case, but not of whiskey, for the courts of justice.  The Florida State Supreme Court building in Tallahassee, shown here, must have seemed like a second home to him.  Metcalf won, he lost, but the results never seemed to affect his growing prosperity. 

Orlando was the scene of Metcalf’s first court fight.  In 1907 an election was held to determine if the sale of intoxicating liquors, wines and beers should be prohibited in Orange County.  The Commissioners certified that in the the election 592 votes had been cast against liquor sales and only 589 for them.  His saloon in jeopardy, Metcalf took the Commissioners to court, charging that the election was rigged and the results should be voided.  In a 3-2 split decision, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with him and nulled the vote.  His saloon stayed open.

The year 1915  found Metcalf back in the Florida Supreme Court.   In 1913 he had taken a five year lease on space in the Terminal Hotel, located on Bay and Johnson.  There he ran a saloon and package liquor store.  The Florida Legislature, in another move toward Prohibition, passed what became known as the Davis Package Act.  It decreed that a business selling liquor by the bottle on the same premises could not sell liquor by the drink.   With other affected whiskey men, Metcalf fought the law right up to the State Supreme Court.  This time he lost; the law was declared valid.  

Although forced to shut down his liquor business in 1919, ending sales of his flagship whiskey,"Briar Cave," Metcalf, by now a rich man, began to invest in fruit orchards. Despite his prosperity, however, Harry could not stay away from the Florida Supreme Court. In 1935, he sued a fruit wholesaler for failing to abide by a contract to take produce from his citrus grove.  After losing in the local court, he once more repaired to Tallahassee where the Florida Supreme Court justices rewarded him by once more finding in his favor.  

Metcalf’s “last hurrah” in the courts was in 1939.  He was 77 years old. He sued to void a deal in which he had sold some road bonds then in default, to speculators in return for warehouse receipts representing 400 barrels of whiskey.  When the bonds suddenly became valuable and were sold at a huge profit,  Harry claimed he had been cheated.  This time the Florida’s highest court upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed his complaint.  That marked the last time Metcalf shows up in official records.

A lightning rod for trouble, Isaac Ettinger ran a liquor business and saloon in Cleveland for about twenty years.  In the process, through his own stubbornness or just bad luck, Isaac seems frequently to have ended up in court.  A photo, showing Ettinger in a tender scene with his granddaughter, Doris, seems to belie the fiery and litigious nature of this whiskey man.

Ettinger made headlines in the Cleveland Plain Dealer  in a early morning of February 1893 when he, his wife and two of her lady friends, were forcibly ejected from a horse-drawn street car operated by the Woodland Avenue & West Side Street Railroad, the line shown here.  After a verbal battle with Ettinger over buying tickets the conductor threw the four off the trolley and called the police. Isaac was arrested.  Taken to the police station at 3 a.m., he made bail and the group was not detained but forced to tramp home through the snow.  After a judge dismissed the charges against him,  Ettinger filed a damage suit against the streetcar company for $2,000 ($44,000 equivalent today.)  The case hopped in and out of Ohio courts for two years — results unknown.

The saloonkeeper frequently was suing and being sued.  In 1881 he hauled a woman named Rosa L. Block into court for default of a loan, asking for compensation in money and land.  Isaac himself had faced a  bankruptcy suit in 1878 but emerged relatively unscathed.   Then Clevelander Mathias Nickels claimed that as he was passing by Ettinger’s saloon a heavy sign had fallen, breaking an large arc light and a piece of glass had flown into his eye.  He sued Isaac for $10,000 (equiv. $220,000) in damages.  In 1899 Henry Russon, Ettinger’s business partner in a company called Buckeye Hair & Fiber, charged in Cleveland’s Common Pleas Court that Ettinger had converted to his personal use the company’s entire stock and accounts worth $2,400.  It is unclear how either lawsuit turned out.   

Note:  More complete biographies of each of these whiskey men have appeared earlier on this website:   Stormy Jordan, March 30, 2017;  Harry Metcalf, May 12, 2012; and Isaac Ettinger, August 9, 1018.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Arizona’s John Keller and his Fashion Saloon

In 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome, Arizona, to be "the wickedest town in the West.”  As the proprietor of the Fashion Saloon, Johannes “John” Keller knew that his establishment, advertised as “The Leading Sporting House in Northern Arizona,” was an important element in that reputation.  There is no reason to believe Keller cared.

Shown here in a passport photo about age 40, Keller was born in Oberlengingen, Wurttenburg, Germany, in 1880.  When he was just thirteen, likely with family members, he came to the United States, embarking from Bremen, Germany, aboard the steamship Darmstadt, shown below.   Keller seems almost immediately to have headed for the Arizona Territory, settling for a time in Prescott, a town noted for its “Whiskey Row.”  He may have learned the saloon keeping in one of those drinking establishments.

What would have brought the German youth to Jerome is unclear.  The 1890s had been important decade for what heretofore had been a small mining camp at the edge of a low mountain called Cleopatra Hill.  Eastern money men, seeing a future in copper mining, built a small smelter there and constructed wagon roads connecting it to larger Arizona towns and a railroad junction. 

Shown here as it looked in 1893, Jerome’s population grew from about 250 in 1890 to more than 2,500 by 1900.  By then its United Verde Mine had become the leading producer of copper in the Arizona Territory, employing about 800 men, and was one of the largest mines in the world.  Experts have attested that the copper deposits of Jerome were among the richest ever found, with an estimated value of $1 billion.

By 1900 Jerome boasted a post office, a school, a public library, churches and a downtown with telephone service and electric lights.  Holding a population that was 4/5ths male, the town’s fleshpots were thriving.  Saloons, gambling parlors and prostitutes proliferated, the last, as shown here, openly plying their trade on the streets.  Looking at Jerome from 2,400 miles away the New York Sun declared it “the wickedest town in the West.”

Meanwhile, Keller, aware that fires had ravaged Jerome and its wooden buildings repeatedly in the past, set out to construct in brick the most elegant drinking and gambling establishment the Territory had ever seen.  As testimony to its construction, the building, shown here at far left in a photo, still stands today. 

When it opened in the late 1890s, Keller christened it “The Fashion Saloon.”  It featured fancy chandeliers and eleven different games of chance, including stud poker, roulette, faro, craps and monte, a card game of Spanish origin.  In the rear was a stage for musical and dance performances; the basement held a beer and lunch hall with separate rooms for couples and families.  Elements of the Fashion Saloon’s interior have been reconstructed at the original site by the local historical society.

In addition to selling drinks over the bar Keller apparently was retailing whiskey received by the barrel via the railroads and bottled in his own establishment.  He  sold the liquor in ceramic jugs or glass containers.  Half-pint jugs bearing the name “Fashion Saloon” have drawn considerable collector interest. 

The jugs feature both medium and dark brown tops and an underglaze label.  Those containers would have been given away to special customers, possibly at holidays.  Free in their own day, today these jugs command fancy prices.  As shown below, the Jerome museum also contains a variety of old glass bottles found around the town but I have been unable to establish any belonging to the Fashion.

After running the Fashion for about 25 years, Keller was forced to shut the doors on his saloon and gambling hall in 1915 when Arizona, with women allowed to vote, passed laws prohibiting the making or sale of alcohol. He soon fetched up as the manager of the Connor Hotel.  Built by a local businessman in 1898, the hotel for a time was the height of luxury. Originally designed with 20 rooms upstairs, the lodging house also offered a barroom, card rooms, and billiard tables on the first floor. Rooms rented for $1.00 per night.

Under Keller’s management the Connor continued to enjoy a reputation as one of the finer hotels in the boom-and-bust mining towns of the West. The hotel had its own bus for delivering guests to and from the train depot and was full to capacity much of the time. It was one of the earliest buildings in Jerome to be fully wired for electricity, and each room had a call bell for service. Keller and his wife lived there.

Because he seemed always to avoid the Federal census taker, little is known about Keller’s personal life.  He was married and his wife appears with him in a 1924 passport photo.  Her name and other details about her background, possible children, and other details remain to be filled in.  In the post-Prohibition years, Keller made several trips to Europe, recorded on passport applications.  In 1919 he returned to Germany to see his aging father.  In 1922, ostensibly on business, his itinerary included Germany, France and England.  In 1924, taking his wife with him, the couple visited the same three countries, adding Switzerland, Holland and Belgium.  This time the objective stated was “travel and business.”  On the application, Keller reassumed his original given name, “Johannes.”

Meanwhile the fortunes of Jerome were beginning to reverse.  Fires continued to ravage the largely clapboard downtown and periodically had to be rebuilt.   One observer has noted:  “In 1918 underground mining phased out after uncontrollable fires erupted in the 88 miles of tunnels under the town. Open pit mining brought dynamiting. The hills rattled and buildings cracked... the surface began to shift and sections of the business district slid downward.”  Among the damage, the town jail slid 225 feet and ended up across the road from its original site.

Despite these setbacks, Jerome today is not a ghost town, still boasting a population of about 450 and offering a number of attractions to visiting tourists.  Keller’s “Leading Sporting House in Northern Arizona” today is the Jerome Historical Society Museum, containing artifacts of the mining town’s heyday. The Connor Hotel once again is open for business, offering a “Western lodging experience.”

Note:  So far I have been unable to ascertain much about Johannes Keller’s private life or his date of death and place of interment.  My hope is that, as has happened with some frequency in the past, a sharp-eyed reader will see this post and provide additional information about this extraordinary saloonkeeper.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

How Lem Motlow Got Away with Murder

When describing Lemuel ”Lem” Motlow, the nephew of Jack Daniels and eventual owner of Daniel’s distillery, a company website mentions his service in the Tennessee legislature and his reputation as a businessman, concluding that he was “known to be a fair and generous man.”  What it fails to mention is that in 1923, Motlow, shown here, shot and killed a man in cold blood and got away with it by playing “the race card.”

Jack Daniels, the famed Tennessee distiller, never married. His sister, Nettie, wed Felix Motlow and had four sons, among them Lem, born in November, 1869.  The  young man early on began working for his uncle at his Lynchburg distillery, learning the whiskey trade from the ground up.  When Daniels became enfeebled near the end of his life, about 1907 he gave the distillery to Motlow.

For the next 13 years, Motlow ran the Daniels distillery with intelligence and skill, increasing its capacity and its reputation for good whiskey.  Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey cost more than than other whiskey.  The company claimed no other distiller made whiskey with “pure limestone water” or mellowed the product through hard maple charcoal — both adding to the cost.  Recognizing the need to market the price differential effectively, Motlow coined the slogan:  “All Goods Worth Price Charged.”

Lem used that slogan with his name on jugs of Jack Daniels whiskey.  Shown throughout this post, the ceramic containers came in several varieties, including two-toned jugs with Albany slip brown tops and bristol glaze bodies.  The jug at left recently sold at auction for $1,576.00. Motlow also featured a range of jugs below with a bail handle, a feature that made carrying easier.

In 1920 when National Prohibition shut down his distillery, Motlow started a mule auction.  Tiny Lynchburg became one of the largest mule trading centers in the southern U.S.  This success meant little to Lem who was seething at having to shut down making whiskey.  Morover, he had been left with a sizeable amount of liquor on his hands with nowhere legitimately to sell it.   As a counter, he moved his operations to St. Louis, taking over a building on Duncan Avenue, shown below, and moving his liquor stash there.  In 1923 he made a deal to sell it to a local St. Louis businessman.

Before the deal could be concluded, an incident occurred that cast suspicion on Motlow.  Prohibitionary laws dictated that liquor already distilled had to be kept under strict guard and a crew were employed by the Feds to watch Motlow’s 1,000 barrels of Jack Daniels whiskey. In August 1923, however, thieves in St. Louis managed skillfully to siphon away 893 barrels of liquor through a hidden hose that fed the whiskey to containers outside and disappeared.  Federal authorities fingered Motlow as the culprit and charged him with bootlegging.  

Whether Lem was a habitual drinker seems unlikely but the stress of suspicion and a court appearance early on March 17, 1924, may have impelled him that afternoon to drink heavily with friends.  Drunk and packing a pistol, Lem boarded the Louisville & Nashville night train back to Tennessee.  Tired, he headed for a Pullman berth.

A black sleeping car porter named Ed Wallis asked Motlow for his ticket.  When Motlow was unable to produce one, Wallis refused him a berth. Motlow became enraged at being balked by a person of color.  Hearing the argument, Conductor Clarence Pullis, who was white, tried to intervene.  As the train slowly made its way through a downtown tunnel toward the Mississippi, Lem reached for his pistol, apparently to shoot Willis.  In his drunken state, he fired two shots, one errantly, the second striking Pullis in the gut.

Taken off the train, Pullis died in a local hospital, leaving his widow and two minor children.  Motlow was charged with murder.  Local sentiment ran high against the Tennessee distiller.  The newspapers gave the story front page treatment.  As  wealthy man, however, Lem had ample resources at his disposal.  He hired a phalanx of lawyers to defend him.  They included Patrick Cullen, a prominent St. Louis attorney.  Shown below is a photo from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showing Motlow, seated far left, and seven of his legal team.

Wallis testified that an enraged Motlow had asked Pullis, Where did you get that black….”  The porter related that he was shoved by the defendant, who then pulled the pistol from his coat and fired.  The defense built its case on Wallis’s race.  The porter was quizzed on whether he belonged to any civil rights organizations.  Cullen mocked him by adopting a black dialect.  In his testimony Motlow, seen here as sketched on the witness stand, claimed that Wallis had been arrogant.  The newspaper reported:  “…He said Wallis grabbed him by the throat.  ‘I reached for my pistol,” Motlow said, “‘then somebody grabbed my hand from behind and the pistol accidentally discharged twice.’”  

No subtlety attended the defense playing “the race card.” In closing arguments one of Motlow’s lawyers said:  “There are two kinds of (blacks) in the South. There are those who know their place ... and those who have ambitions for racial equality. ... In such a class falls Wallis, the race reformer, the man who would be socially equal to you all, gentlemen of the jury.”  The all white, all male jury took little time in bringing a verdict of “not guilty.”  The foreman told reporters:  “We didn’t believe the Negro.  Jurors shook hands with Motlow as he left the courtroom on December 10 — a free man.  The photograph above shows him, third from left, departing with his attorneys.  

In time, to his great relief, Motlow also was cleared of the bootlegging charges. If convicted he could have been stripped of his ownership of the Lynchburg distillery and subjected to other penalties.  Again ably defended, his lawyers convinced the jury that the Tennesseean had been double-crossed by his associates.  For a second time a St. Louis jury absolved him.

With the slate clean, Motlow returned to Tennessee to resume trading mules and subsequently decided to run for office when local courts denied him the right to begin distilling immediately after Repeal.  He was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1933 and was successful in being licensed to distill in 1938, although his county officially continued to be a “dry.”  In 1939, Lem ran and won a seat on the Tennessee Senate.  With his wealth, Motlow bought thousands of acres of farmland in at least two counties while engaging in his hobby of raising Tennessee walking horses.

Motlow was married twice. His first wife, Clara Reagor died in 1901, leaving him a son, J. Reagor Motlow.  He then married Ophelia Williams with whom he had a daughter, Mary, and three more sons. Connor, Evans — called “Hap” — and Robert.  As the boys matured he employed them in the Jack Daniels Distillery learning the business.  After Lem suffered a stroke in 1940 the youths began to play more important roles in the operation, Reagor as general manager.  Dying in September 1947 at the age of 77, Motlow was buried in the Lynchburg Cemetery.

The Motlow brothers, with Reagor now as the president of the company, continued to increase production and maintained the reputation for quality initiated by Daniels and their father.  Although Jack Daniels remains the titan of Tennessee whiskey, Lem has been remembered from time to time with a brand of his own.  In 1956 the Motlow family sold its distilling interests to Brown-Foreman of Louisville, Kentucky.