Monday, April 2, 2012

I.C. Shore and the Town That Lived for Whiskey

Frequently a collector attempting to track down the origins of a whiskey jug and noting that it was made in “Shore, North Carolina,”  will consult a map only to discover that Shore is not to be found there.  In a sense, the town never really existed although it bore the name of the man responsible for the jug,  Irvin Calvin (I.C.) Shore.

Shore was a descendent of a Swiss immigrant named Friedrich Schor who emigrated to the United States in the mid-1700s and settled in North Carolina.  By the third generation,  the family had changed the name to Shore or Shores and the extended family was well-known in that part of the state.  He was born in October 1870 to Calvin E. Shore, a farmer in Forsyth County, and his wife, Permelia.  The 1900 Census found Irvin, still living with his parents and two siblings on the Shore farm.  Although no occupation was given for him, it is almost certain he was running an active and legal distilling operation, making whiskey.

 In 1903, the North Carolina legislature, in an attempt to appease Prohibitionist forces,  passed a law that required all distilleries to operate in incorporated towns.  Some were forced out of business, others took the expedient of incorporating.   They assigned a post office, chose a mayor and aldermen, wrote bylaws and ordinances. There were four distilleries in the area, including the Valley Liquor Co., Yadkin Valley Distilling Co. and Riverside Manufacturing Co. as well as I.C. Shore’s.  The owners got together to decide on a name and thus did the Town of Shore come into being.  The “townsfolk” voted to name the place after Shore and his family.  Imagine the fun Irvin and his colleagues had as they chose town officials and adopted ordinances.

Shore’s distillery became particularly well known for the attractive jugs in which he sold his whiskey.  His ceramic containers ranged in size from quarts to four gallons.  All prominently displayed their origin as “Shore, N.C.”   As the local drumbeat for the “dry” cause grew louder,  several distilleries located in Shore sought other sites in North Carolina as outlets.   Irvin chose to open an business in Rocky Mount, N.C., as indicated here on a bailed jug.

In 1909 North Carolina dealt all its distilleries a final blow by passing statewide Prohibition.  The very next year found Shore living in Petersburg, Virginia.  By this time he had married a woman named Maude Flint.  The 1910 census found them living in a  boarding house with their their first-born, a son also named Irvin.  Shore’s occupation was given as “merchant,” selling liquor.  Almost immediately after North Carolina went dry,  Irvin had moved his whiskey operation into Virginia, as shown here on a bottle. 

From this location, like other Virginia-based distilleries,  Shore could send product to the thirsty denizens of North Carolina.  Although that traffic was curtailed by federal law in 1913,  the Shore distillery was able to operate in the Commonwealth until 1916 when Virginia, following North Carolina, also voted statewide prohibition.  Thereupon the I.C. Shore distillery moved a third and final time, to Jacksonville, Florida,  located at 722 West Bay Street. National Prohibition ended the business for good.  By that time Shore, N.C., had disappeared.  In 1911, recognizing the sham the town had been, the State Assembly revoked its incorporation.  

The 1920 census found Shore, now entirely out of the whiskey business, still only 49 years old, living near Petersburg and listed as president of a battery factory.  He had moved from distilling into the booming automotive market.  With him there was wife, Maude, and two younger children, Gray, age 15, and Hoke, age 3.  At some point over the next few years,  Irvin and Maude moved back to the land of their kinfolk,  settling again in Forsyth County in a section called “Old Township.”  Son Hoke is still with them, a farmer.  I.C. Shore was listed in the 1940 census, age 69, as secretary and treasurer of a bank.  In their later years, the Shores experienced considerable sadness.  Son Gray is recorded as dying at a young 28 years in 1932 and Hoke in 1945 at 29.  Shore himself passed away in 1953, age 83.  He was followed in death by Maude thirteen years later.
Today the jugs created by I.C. Shore and other town distilleries are the only reminder of the town called Shore that once lived because of whiskey.  They are avidly sought by collectors who often are puzzled about their inability to find the town on North Carolina maps.  The original site of the Town of Shore has not been preserved or even memorialized through a plaque. A few try to find it by driving through Forsyth County. A few years ago a Chicago Tribune writer advised them to drive Flint Hill Road between the towns of Enon and East Bend, just west of Winston-Salem. That was it. No mileage, no road marks.  Trying to find Shore, N.C., one might say, is a fool’s errand.


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