Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Whiskey Men Building Their Towns


Foreword:  Having recently profiled three whiskey men who contributed in extraordinary ways to to the progress of cities as large as New York City, this post features four individuals involved in the pre-Prohibition liquor trade who were particularly important to the smaller municipalities in which they lived and worked.  Their personal exertions and investments contributed to the growth and prosperity of towns in states as various as Montana, North Carolina and Kentucky. 

 Few whiskey men did as much for their local communities as James Francis Jett, a distiller who called Carrollton, Kentucky, his home.  Born there in 1847, Jett joined with his brothers in 1881 to establish a distillery located at the confluence of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers near Carrollton, shown below. From the beginning James was the general manager of the enterprise, eventually becoming president of the Jett Bros. Distilling Co. 

With the growing success and wealth of his enterprise, Jett approached the Carrollton City Council with a proposition to establish an electric light company partly at his own expense.  He paid for all the poles necessary to distribute the electricity, including 26 arc lamps for lighting the streets of the town, at a estimated cost of $10,000 ($250,000 today).  On April 19, 1898, the switch was thrown and for the first time there was electric light in Carrollton.   

About the same time Jett was championing a bridge across the Kentucky River joining Carrollton to Prestonville where none had been before.  Against opposition from local ferry boat operators, he spearheaded a toll span that opened in 1900 and rapidly was seen as of “great value…as it has afforded facilities of inestimable benefit to the city of Carrollton and to the inhabitants on the west side of the river.”   

His public spirit was further evidenced by his erection of the an opera house, a venue that that, according to an observer, “…affords the best of facilities for the better class of dramatic and musical activities which it is now possible to secure to the city….and is a credit and a source of pride to the city.”   Opened about 1902, opera house had a seating capacity for 1,000, was heated by steam and lighted by electricity.  

Ever the entrepreneur, Jett in 1909 organized a second business, the Carrollton Leaf Tobacco Warehouse Company, and saw to the construction of its brick, steel and concrete warehouse covering a full acre of land and employ dozens of locals.  Not only accounted the oldest native-born resident of Carrollton, James Jett was hailed for gifts to local charities  and as a citizen for having manifested “the utmost loyalty and public spirit.” 

The day in 1890 when 29-year old Eli Alexander Lackey settled in Hamlet, North Carolina changed that town forever.  As one historian has written: “In a manner of speaking, much of early Hamlet was built on money from liquor production…The Lackey liquor fortune….”    Upon his arrival in Hamlet Lackey lost no time opening a saloon.  It was an ornate, well decorated watering hole — and highly popular.  


By 1891 he also had opened a distillery, located on Lackey Street, to provide liquor for his bar and for wholesale and retail customers.  He used his profits to purchase and develop 100 acres of land in Hamlet, constructing modest homes that were affordable to residents with moderate incomes.  It was called “Lackeytown,”  

The distiller also transformed downtown Hamlet starting in 1906 by building its first block of brick buildings on Main Street, structures that still stand.  He had surveyed and platted the downtown in 1898 and guided its development for the next twenty years. His contributions include two identical Lackey buildings, one shown here at 23-27 Main, and the other at 41 Main.  Nearby was the Central Hotel, constructed in 1911 with Lackey funding.  It rose three stories, again in Italianate style.  Lackey founded a bank and built a Neo-classical building to hold it  A fifth Lackey building on Main Street he gave a distinctive cast-iron store front.

As Jett had done in Carrolton, Lackey and his wife decided to build an opera house for Hamlet.  Building commenced in 1912 for a hall with a Greek Revival facade and an ornate interior to match.  The opera house provided a venue for lectures by Booker T. Washington and William Jennings Bryan, songs by Jenny Lind, and shows by Buffalo Bill Cody and other traveling entertainers.  “And for one glorious night in 1917,” according to an historian, “Hamlet was the center of the musical world as Italian tenor Enrico Caruso performed before a packed crowd….”   This performance brought the saloonkeeper and distiller to the pinnacle of his success.  Unfortunately, shortly after, Eli Lackey died at 57, victim of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.  

After an adventurous youth spent on the Western frontier, William Carvoso Whipps settled into Kalispell, a town in northwest Montana.  As a prominent businessman and owner of the Kalispell Liquor & Tobacco Co., Whipps, shown here, served four terms as mayor and became known as the “Czar” for his forceful advocacy of public improvements and for the creation of Glacier National Park.

Born in Ohio in 1856, Whipps about 1892 relocated to Kalispell where he founded The First National Bank and erected the first brick building in town to house it, serving as manager and cashier.   In 1903, Whipps or house, naming it the “Kalispell Liquor and Tobacco Company.”   


Throughout this period, Whipps also was pursuing a political career.  He became Kalispell’s first elected mayor in 1893 and served three consecutive two-year terms.  During this tenure, he was instrumental in installing a complete sewer system, paving the principal streets, and lining city thoroughfares with trees. In 1910, public clamor was for Whipps to run again.  He did and, without opposition, won a fourth two-year term.  

During that that term he pushed for and achieved the reclamation of some 43 acres of marsh lands and transformed it into public green space known as Woodland Park.  Whipps also oversaw the installation of cement sidewalks, a system of lighting for the business district, and new municipal finance auditing systems.  He also able to obtain lower consumer water and electricity rates.  “Most of what was accomplished by him had to be fought through against strong opposition,” according to a biographer.  To both his adversaries and friends, Whipps became known as the “Czar” of Kalispell.  

Whipps maintained a summer home at what was then the Glacier National Forest Reserve in Montana.  When the Forestry Department was considering the sale of timber from the reserve from a site near Lake McDonald, shown above, Whipps “showed himself an aggressive friend of conservation and took up the matter directly with President Roosevelt, describing its wondrous beauty….”  His was among a number of voices calling for the Glacier region to be made a national park, a process begun by Roosevelt and completed by his successor, President Taft.


When Whipps died in Kalispell in 1937, he was honored as an outstanding citizen of Montana and his adopted home town.  Said one tribute:  “It is the deliberate judgment of a large part of the citizenship of Kalispell that no one man has longer exemplified the strongest influence of his public spirit in behalf of all matters affecting the welfare of the community as William C. Whipps….”

On the morning of July 6, 1913, many people in Paducah, Kentucky, reached for their Sunday newspaper to be greeted by a front page headline that might have been used for declarations of war or major U.S. disasters.   It told them that the previous day a man named Joseph L. Friedman had died in Chicago while on his way to his summer home in Northern Michigan and that the announcement of his death had shaken “Paducah commercial life to its foundation.” 


Friedman’s story began in April 1857 when he was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to parents accounted as pioneers in Kentucky.  Moving to Paducah, about 1891 Friedman partnered with his brother-in-law in a liquor firm called Friedman, Keiler & Company.   Although their letterhead accounts them as “distillers,” the partners principally were “rectifiers,” blending and mixing whiskeys drawn from several Kentucky distilleries, including investing in one in Lancaster, Kentucky.  The business was highly profitable and Friedman eventually was accounted the wealthiest man in Paducah and among the richest in Kentucky.  His net worth at his death was accounted (in current dollars) at between $20 and $24 million. 

If Friedman had been only a whiskey merchant, however, he would not have merited the blaring headline in the Paducah News Democrat.  His involvement in the commercial life of his home town was intense.  He was a moving force for the development of the Paducah Traction Company, bringing street cars to the city,  and subsequently was its president.  Friedman  also served as president of the company that constructed and owned the Palmer House hotel, shown here.  He is credited with building the Kentucky Theater.  He was vice-president and director of the City National Bank, shown below, and a director of the Paducah water company.  Friedman had a financial interest in the Smith & Scott Tobacco Company, and Lax-Fos, a patent medicine firm.  He also owned considerable Paducah real estate.  

Friedman’s charitable work was legendary.  It was said that whenever a petition for funds was circulated, he frequently headed the list with a liberal donation and reputedly assisted every charitable institution in town.  His dedication to Paducah is indicated by the following story:   During one Ohio River flood, likely in 1884, Friedman was out of town.  He reached Paducah on the last train. Without a moment's hesitation, he assisted the rescue work. Not only did he contribute financial aid to the relief fund that was dispensed through the local flood committee, but personally purchased supplies for suffering families.  Insisting as well that he wanted to be physically involved, Friedman donned a pair of hip boots and waded into the water with flood workers bringing relief to stricken families.  

Upon his death The News Democrat told its readers:  "Joseph L. Friedman probably was interested in more enterprises in Paducah than any other man. There have been but few projects of consequence launched in Paducah in the last 20 years that he has not been one of the moving spirits in his untiring energy, combined with his keen foresight and his faith in the bright future of the city, is attested by the great success of all the institutions in which he was most interested."

Note:  Longer and more complete profiles of each of these whiskey men can be found elsewhere on this blog:  James Jett, May 12, 2016;  Eli Lackey, July 20, 2018;  William Whipps, January 13, 2018;  and Joseph Friedman, June 5, 2014.







































Saturday, August 25, 2018

Carl Nollenberger: Bowties and Booze in Boom Town


Described as “one of the most lawless and violent towns of the West,” Leadville, Colorado, hardly seems the place that would spawn a liquor dealer whose passion was giving mankind a better bowtie.  Meet Carl Nollenberger, wholesale dealer in domestic and imported wines, liquors and cigars, who clearly cared about sartorial elegance among the gunslingers, miners, saloonkeepers and heavy drinkers who frequented Leadville.

In February 2, 1904, Nollenberger received a federal patent on a “necktie, especially that class of ties known as bowties.”  Shown here, the purpose of his invention was to construct a cravat that could be quickly and readily attached to or detached from a neckband and reversed.  Ability to reverse was key to the invention.   

Nollenberger apparently had been noticing that his fellow Leadville denizens who wore ties frequently continued to wear them even when they became soiled.  Obviously a frugal man, he envisioned the wearer “carrying the former-front soiled face to the back and the rear unsoiled face to the front.”  Voila!  The wearer seemingly instantly would be transformed from slob to haberdashery hero.

Of course, such a bowtie needed, Nollenberger said, “simple, economic and conveniently manipulating fastening devices.”  Predictably, the same day he received another patent on just such a fastener, one specifically designed to hold his bowtie.  Shown here it had “wings” to be slipped under the collar but in case those too were dirty and unsightly, they also could be reversed to present new (and clean) surface and the loops for the wings similarly could be refreshed.  

Unlike many inventors whose bright ideas seem to have fallen into a void, Nollenberger’s neckties were publicized in a prominent haberdashery journal of the time called “The Clothier and   Furnisher.” In its February 1904 issue the publication took note of both the whiskey man’s patents and suggested the illustrations and specifications for each could be obtained by sending ten cents to a Washington, D.C., “counselor in patent causes.”

Although no indication exists that his brainchild ever went into commercial production, we assume Nollenberger wore a bowtie over much of his career. Born in Germany in 1856, his date of entry into the U.S. and his age at arrival are lost in time.  He likely was living in the Eastern U.S. and working as a bookkeeper.  About 1888, at the age of 36, Nollenberger married another German immigrant, a woman of the same age named Hermine.  They would have two children.

Nollenberger’s marriage may have one of the reasons he headed west to Colorado.  Leadville was a likely stopping place.  By 1880, three years after the town was founded, Leadville was one of the world's largest and richest silver camps, with a population of more than 15,000 — ballooning to over 30,000.  Income from more than thirty mines and ten large smelting works produced gold, silver, and lead amounting to $15,000,000 annually (25 times that today).  Wealth was rolling around the town, attracting both the genteel and the rowdy.  Another Nollenberger named Ed, almost certainly a relative, already had a thriving liquor house operating in Leadville.

Carl does not appear to have worked for his kinsman, rather he hired on with Ernest Keppler, a liquor dealer then doing business at 603 Harrison Street, a major north-south commercial avenue shown above that ran the length of the city.  A Keppler flask is shown here with that address.   By 1890 Keppler had moved from that location across the street to 606 Harrison.  Nollenberger was listed as his bookkeeper.  Some have speculated that he also was working as a bartender.

The 1891 Leadville directory suggests a major situational change.  Now Carl was running the former Ed Nollenberger wholesale liquor house and saloon in partnership with Ed’s widow, located at the 603 Harrison Street address.  The business name had been changed to Carl Nollenberger & Co. as the German immigrant launched his own operation.  The arrangement with the widow would be sustained, according to directories, until 1907 when Carl  became the sole proprietor.  

Nollenberger was buying whiskey by the barrel from a number distilling sources and decanting it into smaller ceramic jugs.  As shown here, they included containers entirely in Bristol glaze with his name stenciled in black on the front and others in beehive shape with Albany slip tops and natural stoneware bodies.  These would have been provided to Leadville saloons that would further have decanted the whiskey for sales over the bar.

Nollenberger also was a major distributor of beer, including those made by the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company.  His 1901 Leadville newspaper ad, likely subsidized by the St. Louis brewery, extolls the “lagering” capacity of Anheuser-Busch.  Unlike other dealers, however,  Nollenberger was not a “captive house,” unable to sell other kinds of beer.  Other ads also mention Nollenberger a sole Leadville agent for Coors’ Brewery in Golden and the Tivoli brewery in Denver.

As a wholesaler, Nollenberger was aware of the requirement to provide giveaway items to his prime customers — saloons, hotels,and restaurants.  For one of his gifts he repaired to Coshocton, Ohio, and the Meek-Beach Company known for its ability to do color lithographs on metal plates.  Termed by the manufacturers “Vienna Art Plates,” the items made excellent change trays.  The donor also could advertise on the back. Measuring ten inches in diameter, Nollenberger’s tray featured a  Rubenesque, lightly clothed young woman,  a stock image from Meek-Beach.

The 1910 census found the Nollenberger family living at 328 Sixth Street in Leadville, including Carl, wife Hermine, and children, Carl, 17, and Elsie, 13.  Nollenberger’s mother, Eliza, also was living with them.  Their home was located not far from the liquor house.  By this time the boom that had created the second largest city in Colorado had ended.  Leadville declined severely in population with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 that had underwritten silver prices.  Many liquor dealers and saloon keepers went elsewhere as the population dropped year by year to the present 2,600.  

Despite the diminishing market for his alcoholic wares, Nollenberger stayed in Leadville, operating his liquor business for a quarter century.  In 1916, however, Colorado joined the group of states that declared a complete prohibition on the making or sale of alcohol.  Nollenberger was forced to shut down his business.  Within a short period, the family moved to Denver where Carl, now 62 years old, appears to have retired, residing in a modest bungalow shown above.


Nollenberger lived to see National Prohibition imposed and subsequently repealed, along with Colorado’s “dry” laws.  He died in October 1942 at the age of about 86 and was buried in Block 8, Lot 113, of Denver’s Riverside Cemetery, shown above.  Other family members are buried adjacent to him.  Thinking of his interment, it would have been appropriate if Nollenberger had been buried wearing one of his reversal bow ties. 























Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nearest Green and the Education of Jack Daniels


The old adage goes:  “Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.”  So it goes with speculation on who taught Jack Daniels to make his famous Tennessee whiskey.  In past posts I have profiled two individuals that others have contended gave Daniels the secret of distilling.  Neither story is convincing.  Now comes Nearest Green, a former black slave, whose claim on being Daniel’s whiskey mentor seems to have the greatest validity, to the point of being recognized by the current distiller.  

In April 2014 I profiled Hop Lee.  According to a narrative in the Granville, Tennessee, local museum, Hop Lee, shown here as a mannequin in a display, taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey.  Lee’s having been part of the Jack Daniels operation almost certainly is apocryphal, however, since that distillery incorporated at Lynchburg, Tennessee, in 1866.  At that time Hop still would have been a youngster.  Later Lee became thoroughly familiar with distilling and it is possible he was hired for a time at Jack Daniels distillery — but no real evidence.

The second claimant is a Pennsylvania woman named Mary Stout Jacocks.  Her method for making whiskey was a prize procession of distiller Billy Pearson, illustrated here. Billy was the ex-husband of Mary’s granddaughter.  Ostracized from South Carolina, Pearson, so the story goes, went to Tennessee with Mrs. Jacocks’ recipe were he is reputed to have sold it to Jack Daniel.  Pressed by Pearson’s descendants on the issue, a Daniels’ spokesman in 2003 issued this ambiguous reply: “’Mrs. Mary Stout [Jacocks] of Bucks County, PA, deserves to be warmly remembered for her early distilling skills back in the mid-1700s.”

Both claims fade when the subject turns to Nathan Green, known as “Uncle Nearest.”  Beginning life as a slave of a minister, grocer and distiller named Dan Call, Green got short shrift from the Daniels distillery for many years.  Preacher Call himself frequently has been given credit for Daniels’ whiskey.  Shown here with his family in front of his Lynchburg plantation house, Call was said to have seen promise in young Jack and taught him the whiskey trade. 

More recently that story has been seriously challenged. In June 2016, The New York Times published an article identifying Daniel’s instructor as Green.  The Times asserted that Uncle Nearest’s story had been known to historians and locals for decades, even as the distillery officially ignored it. In lieu of any known photograph of Green, his proponents have commissioned an artist to paint a likeness, shown here.

A 1967 newspaper article reputedly recreates a conversation when Call introduced the young Daniels to the slave, the preacher’s master distiller.  Call is quoted saying to Green, "I want [Jack] to become the world's best whiskey distiller — if he wants to be. You help me teach him.”   Nearest apparently was enthusiastic about the assignment.  He is known to have loved children, siring eleven of his own with wife Harriet, nine sons and two daughters.  When slavery ended at the end of the Civil War in 1865, the Green family stayed with Call. 


A year later the now mature Jack Daniels opened his own distillery, employing two of Green’s son, George and Eli.  Speculation is that they are the two black men shown here, sitting in a gathering of the distillery workforce.  Immediately next to one of the brothers is Daniels wearing a white fedora and beard.  Yet another of Nearest’s sons, Edde, also was employed by Daniels. 

At least four of Nearest's grandchildren joined the Jack Daniel Distillery:  Ott, Charlie, Otis and Jesse Green. In all, seven generations of Nearest Green descendants have worked for the distillery , with three direct descendants continuing to work there in contemporary times.   As shown below, the larger distillery staff was an integrated group.


The success of Jack Daniels’ Tennessee whiskey was notable.  As the company letterhead shown here indicates, it was awarded gold medals for excellence at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, the World’ Fair in Liege, Belgium in 1905 and the Ghent International Exposition in 1913.  The brand’s cache’ with contemporary Americans has been signified by a recent auction of an early Daniels whiskey jug.  Shown here, it fetched in excess of $1,000.

The whiskey that Daniel’s originated now stretches toward a century and a half of success, a remarkable tradition.   As one author has written: “However, Green’s story — built on oral history and the thinnest of archival trails — may never be definitively proved.  Nevertheless, Author Fawn Weaver has founded and helps finance the Nearest Green Foundation to commemorate the former slave at Lynchburg.  Green is celebrated with a museum, memorial park, and with college scholarships for his descendants.  The Foundation is funded by the sales of “Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey,” not made by Daniels, and the sales of Jack Daniel's official biography entitled, Jack Daniel's Legacy.

Since August 2017, the Brown-Forman Corporation that owns the Jack Daniel's Distillery and brand name officially recognized Green as their first head distiller, adding his story to their website.  In October 2017, the company also added a narrative about Nearest Green’s contribution to their distillery tours.  Nevertheless, It remains to be seen if these steps end speculation about who taught Jack Daniels to make whiskey.
























Friday, August 17, 2018

Chief Red Jacket‘s 60-Year Buffalo Distillery


Named “Red Jacket” after a Seneca Indian chief, a Buffalo distillery founded in 1848 survived the Civil War, at least two national financial panics, and federal rules that shut down other New York distilleries, to flourish for six decades under the guidance of two remarkable whiskey men, Thomas Clark and his successor, James M. Merritt.

Born in England in 1921, Clark first settled in Perry, New York, then moved to Geneva where he likely learned the distillers’ trade.  He arrived in Buffalo about 1848 at the age of 27 and almost immediately opened his own small distillery in a frame shanty on Seneca Plank Road.  It is unclear why Clark named it after an Indian leader who had fought on the side of the British in the American Revolution and was named Red Jacket from his wearing British red coats.  The Seneca chief, whose real name was Sagoyewatha (He Keeps Them Awake), was adamant against the white man, his ways and especially his Christian religion. Red Jacket had died only sixteen years earlier, detested by many New Yorkers. 


Starting small, Clark seems to have met almost instant success. He not only was making his own whiskey, he also was a rectifiying spirits, that is, blending whiskeys to achieve desirable taste, smoothness and color.  By 1858 Clark was mashing 175,720 bushels of grain annually and producing 709,000 gallons of whiskey, a figure that increased to 790,542 gallons the following year.  

His production was assisted by the availability of grain in Buffalo, a major port on the eastern shore of Lake Erie.  In 1868 seeing an opportunity for further expansion and heading a stock company, Clark erected a grain elevator on the banks of the lake.  Towering 135 feet high, the elevator was called “one of the largest grain receivers in the country.”

Meanwhile Clark had married; his wife was Naomi Macey, a woman eight years younger than he and, like him, born in England.  The 1870 census found the couple living in Buffalo with a daughter and three servants, including a butler, a housekeeper and a gardener.  Indicative of the success Clark had enjoyed were census data on his net worth, $150,000 in business holdings and $60,000 in personal property, the total worth more than $5 million today.

By 1880 Clark was mashing some 600 bushels a day in the Red Jacket facility.  His plant, located on an acre and a half plot on Buffalo’s Seneca Street included a malt house, large warehouse and adjunct buildings.  According to one account, the distillery boasted:  “…The aid of every modern improvement…to produce a production as perfect as possible.”  Whiskey rectifying was carried out at a separate location at the corner of Washington and Perry Streets in a sizable four story building, shown below. It featured capacious storage space and large cellars for aging the liquor,

Clark’s strong production numbers both saved him and advanced his profitability. When he began, New York boasted multiple distilleries, many of them small.  With the Civil War the federal government began taxing whiskey heavily, levying 90 cents per gallon.  The feds also demanded that companies manufacture to at least 80 percent of their capacity, whether it meant a profit or a loss.   Many distilleries were forced to shut down, reportedly leaving only three in the entire state of New York.  One of the survivors was Clark’s Red Jacket.

Although financial “panics” in 1857 and 1873 menaced the distilling industry, Clark weathered both.  The Englishman’s success caused him to be recognized as a leader in Buffalo’s business circles and drew this commentary from a biographer:  “The position which he has invariably occupied in the transaction of a diversified business, has been justly rewarded in the brilliant success achieved, and the high esteem in which he is regarded.”  

As he aged, Clark’s health faltered and he died in September 1882 at the age of 61.  As his wife and daughter looked on at his graveside, the entrepreneur was buried in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery.  His wife, Naomi, would join him there twenty years later.  Their graves are marked by a large monument.

With no sons to take over the business,  Naomi sold the distillery to James M. Merritt, a native New Yorker who had come to the liquor trade initially as a federal government “guager,” that is, someone who inspected distilleries to determine the amount of alcohol they were producing and thereby set the tax.  The 1870 census found Merritt, age 42;  his wife, Helen (nee Derrick), 34, and two children, Cora and Frederick, living in Buffalo.

My guess is that Merritt was known to Clark because his was one of the distilleries regularly visited by the federal official.  The 1880 census suggests that Merritt subsequently was hired by Clark as his plant superintendent.  Merritt’s early advertising showed considerable deference to the deceased owner emphasizing that he was “Distiller, Rectifier and Manufacturer of all the Celebrated Thomas Clark Brands.” Merritt also maintained Red Jacket as the name of the distillery.  With the passage of time the reputation of the Native American chief had risen considerably among New Yorkers, some of whom recalled Sagoyewatha had received a medal from President Washington, evident in the picture above.

Merritt successfully piloted the Red Jacket Distillery for the next eleven years,  gradually putting his own brand on the company.  Although he continued to operate out of Clark’s four-story “rectifying” building, he substituted his own name.  In time Merritt no longer was citing the founder in his ads.  He also added his own flagship brand, “Canoe Club Rye.”  As his son Frederick reached maturity, the father brought him into the firm, first as a clerk and then as a traveling salesman, taught him the business, and circa 1900 made him the sole vice president.


Prosperity in making and selling whiskey meant that the Merritt family, which boasted family ties back to the Revolutionary War, could move into a house in a more fashionable Buffalo neighborhood.   Shown here as it looks today, according to the 1900 census, it provided a home for James; wife Helen; son Frederick; daughter Cora; her husband, Harry Reynolds; granddaughter Bessie; and two female servants, one Irish and one Scots.

Born in 1827, James Merritt no longer was a young man when he assumed control of the Red Jacket Distillery.  As he entered his mid-70s, Merritt’s health failed and he died in 1903 at the age of 76.  Like Clark, he was buried in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, his grave located in Section 9, Lot 193.  Red Jacket Distillery continued to operate for the next several years but was shut down in 1906.  

By this time Red Jacket had become Buffalo's favorite Indian. Streets, awards, memorials, and contests were named after him. Feeling guilty about the past, community leaders decided to exhume the chief’s body from an out-of-the-way Indian burial grounds and move it to Forest Lawn Cemetery.  Red Jacket’s remains were placed under a huge statue of himself.  This occurred in direct opposition to Sagoyewatha’s specific wishes that no white man dig his grave and that no white man bury him.  Moreover, the chief now lies not far from the graves of Thomas Clark and James Merritt, the two palefaces who appropriated his name for sixty years of successfully making and selling whiskey.


Note:  This post draws on multiple sources, principal among them the “History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County:  Volume II,” edited by H. Perry Smith and published by D. Mason & Co., Syracuse N.Y. in 1884.