Friday, November 29, 2013

Jim Hogg: The Active Life in Poplar Bluff, Missouri

 During a highly energetic lifetime James R. “Jim” Hogg, shown left managed to juggle the responsibilities for making and selling a nationally recognized brand of whiskey, managing an array of successful local businesses, and serving as Mayor of Popular Bluff and four terms as County Sheriff.  With enough activities to keep most men exhausted, Hogg also found time for five marriages over his 74 years.

Hogg was born in Jennings County, Indiana, in July, 1863.  In 1870 his parents pulled up stakes and headed off in a covered wagon for Missouri,  a hazardous trip of several weeks.  There his father, a farmer, settled in the Oak Grove area of Butler County, whose seat was Poplar Bluff.  The elder Hogg, a farmer, helped organize the first schools and tried to get his son Jim as good an education as possible in those pioneer times.

Poplar Bluff circa 1907
As Jim Hogg grew to manhood, he showed unusual business ability and expanded from farming into a number of enterprises.  Among the most important as a money maker was a distillery he established on one of his farms.  It became a registered distillery with the Federal Government.  There Hogg began producing  liquor brands he called “Jim Hogg Whiskey” and “Jim Hogg’s Corn Whiskey,” illustrating his jugs with three swine munching on ears of corn.  Initially he sold it in the vicinity of Poplar Bluff, still a frontier town as seen in this 1907 post card.  He established a sales office on South Fourth Street downtown.  Hogg bottled his booze in large ceramic jugs, marked with his logo.  He also used small pottery jugs as merchandising items to favored customers.  Hogg’s customer base grew to regional and eventually national dimensions.

After the turn of the century, along with other distillers, Hogg moved from pottery to glass,   as automatic bottling machines drastically lowered the cost of glass containers. The local Poplar Bluff press in January 1915 marveled that the Hogg Distilling Co. had just received a shipment of 8,000 individual pieces of glassware,  gallon jugs from the Illinois Glass Company.  They were a full carload, the largest such shipment of glass containers ever recorded in Southeast Missouri.   Moreover, each jug had the Jim Hogg trademark blown right into the bottle.  It was an attribute, the newspaper opined, “that not even time itself can efface.” 
Illinois Glass Co gallon jug

Running a large distillery and tending to several farms might have been enough for some men, but not Jim Hogg.   Likely unsatisfied by the prices the blooded stock of cattle and pigs he raised were bringing at market,  he established his own slaughter house and began selling meat from the back of a wagon.  When that was successful in 1884 he opened his own meat market, the first of three he would own in Poplar Bluff.  Known as the Jim Hogg Markets,  during hunting season they made a specialty of fresh venison, wild turkey and bear. The photo here is attributed to be the interior of one of them.

Hogg's Meat Market (attrib.)

The juxtaposition of “Hogg” with a meat market became a common joke in Poplar Bluff.  The Daily American Republican newspaper told its readers that a local bank had received a received a check from Hogg payable to P. L. Pigg in payment for pork.  “If the statement was not sworn by reliable parties, we wouldn’t believe it, but anyone who doubts the veracity can go to the Bank of Poplar Bluff and see for themselves.”

His numerous enterprises, including a blacksmith shop and a boarding house, were not sufficient to absorb Hogg’s high octane energies. Reportedly at the insistence of his friends,  he ran for the office of sheriff of Butler County on the Republican ticket in 1892 and was elected.  During that first term he became highly popular for his kindly acts.  One of them later was reported in a Popular Bluff publication called the “Ozark Beacon:”  The story told of a $200 license fee charged to every circus that came to Poplar Bluff, a cost that one circus manager was unable to meet.  The publication reported:  “Although Mr. Hogg was not particularly fond of the early day circus people who came to the city, he had a soft spot in his heart for the many children who would be unable to witness their first circus unless the necessary license fee was paid. Mr. Hogg never discussed the incident but friends confided in later years, the beloved sheriff paid the $200 circus fee to the city and the children were not disappointed.”

Unable to succeed himself as sheriff by Missouri law,  Hogg ran to become the third elected mayor of Poplar Bluff and won a two year term.  But his true love apparently was being sheriff of Butler County.   In 1902 he was again elected to that office and served through 1906. Once again he was prohibited  from succeeding himself and he retired to private life at the expiration of that term but ran for the office again in 1920. He was elected and served through 1924.  Although hailed for his thoughtfulness and diligence in solving crimes,  Hogg also had difficult moments as sheriff.  In 1903 he accompanied two convicted murderers to the gallows, the first public hangings in 12 years in Butler County.  The first hanging went badly.  Although the condemned man’s neck was broken by the fall, according to press accounts,  he was able to speak for a while and his body twitched and contorted for almost 15 minutes before he died.

To his occupations as farmer, distiller, businessman and public servant, the indefatigable Hogg added a fifth career:  Marriage.  He was married five times, divorced four times, and married to one woman twice.   She was his first wife, Ida Dillard, the daughter of Louis Dillard, a pioneer farmer who was one of the founders of Hilliard, Missouri, and a man of some wealth.  Although the record is somewhat murky, it appears that Hogg married Ida about 1880.  From her father he also obtained a 160 acre farm in exchange for a wagon and a team of horses.  That marriage produced one son, Marion, in 1881.  By 1884, however,  Hogg had divorced Ida and was married to Susan S. Klutts who gave him twins, George and James in February 1885.  George seems to have died in infancy.

Ida Dillard Hogg gravestone
Fast forward to about 1887. Hogg had divorced Susan and had remarried Ida.  In December of 1888, she bore him another child, a girl they named Ida Belle.  Then, possibly as a complication of childbirth,  Ida Dillard Hogg died.  She was buried in Poplar Grove City Cemetery with a headstone, shown here, that identified her as “Beloved Wife of J.R. Hogg.”  Her husband’s grief, however, appears to have been short-lived.  Barely a year later he married Clara Catherine Smith of Poplar Bluff, possibly to have a mother for his children.  Jim and Clara would have three sons of their own in what appears to have been the longest of Hogg’s marriages.  Son Walter John was born in 1890, James Benjamin in 1895 and Cloyd in 1899.  The 1900 census found a family of five children,  two of Ida's, three of Clara’s, living with the couple.

Sometime during the next decade, Hogg divorced Clara. The 1920 census found him, now age 57, married a fifth time to Ruth Naoma Hawass (or Haas), a woman 23 years his junior. Jim’s occupation was given as “running meat market.”  Ruth was a clerk in a dry goods store.  Perhaps because of the age difference this union also was not fated to last. In the 1930 census Hogg gave his marital status as “divorced” and he was living with his brother.

Meanwhile the Jim Hogg Distilling Company and the lucrative market for the Missourian’s liquor had been terminated permanently with the coming of National Prohibition.  Over the years the distillery had given employment to dozens of Butler County residents. Because of his diversified business interests, however, Hogg did not suffer financially as much as other whiskey men did.  By then he owned multiple farms on good Black River bottom land and fertile plots near town.  He  operated his meat markets.   Hogg continued to be active in the local Republican Party and social organizations, including the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and the Red Men.

Jim Hogg gravestone
As he aged, Jim Hogg turned over management of his farm and businesses to relatives, some of whom stayed in the meat business until the 1990’s.  Death came to him in July 1934, just as National Prohibition was rescinded.  According to reports while out walking one day Hogg fell into the Black River and drowned. He was 74 years old.  Interred in the City Cemetery of Poplar Bluff, his headstone seems ironic, given the active, one might say frenetic, life Hogg had lived.  It reads: “Peace be thy silent slumber.”

This much-married farmer, distiller, businessman, and politician was greatly mourned in Popular Bluff. The tributes were many, including this one from a contemporary biographer:  “No resident of Butler County was ever closer to his  fellow men than the beloved Jim Hogg during his lifetime.”   The writer might have added “And closer to his fellow women.”

Notes:  This Sheriff Jim Hogg is not to be confused with a famous Texas sheriff known as “Big Jim” Hogg.  Information for this post principally was obtained from “Deem’s History of Butler County, Missouri” and the May 1973 issue of the “Ozark Beacon.”


  1. I dearly love the history of Jim Hogg .Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men .Poplar Bluff missouri 1909 photo of Poplar Bluff,Mo Butler county main street..I LOVE THIS HISTORY OF JIM HOGG so very very much..I am going to share it on my facebook for all to see because it is so WONDERFUL..thank you so very much for allowing me to be able to see this and read the story. I already had been told some of Sheriff Jim Hogg and his WHISKEY DISTILLARY at Hogg's Creek,,formally Otter Creek and Palmers Slough..I love it..thank you again..please put more stories like this soon as you can...I can't get enough of these histories that are real life......I think I did not do the comment correctly because if you see two of these comments from's because this page told me to do it again..geezzz

  2. This site is the best I have ever been on and I appreciate your hard work and letting us know of the real history ,,in life..I LOVE IT..

    1. Dear Sherrie: You can make all the comments you want and repeat them over and over so far as I am concerned. They are most appreciated. There are more than 265 posts on this blog so lots to read. All the best. Jack

  3. Great story. Thanks for posting...Great Grandson of James R. Hogg.

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