Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Chicago’s Bennett Pieters and His Bitter(s) Fall


Born in Belgium, the youthful Bennett Pieters appears to have exploded onto the Chicago social scene about 1860, newly rich from sales of a medicinal he had invented called “Red Jacket Bitters,” sold as a remedy for stomach ailments.  According to the Chicago Tribune, “Pieters…was a popular man among the set: he kept good saddle and carriage horses; had rooms at the Sherman house; had excellent suppers, where the guests …were regaled with champagne.”  And then the bottom dropped out. 

Pieters arrival in Chicago is uncertain as is the date of his inventing the bitters remedy.  The earliest cited date is 1858 when he began a vigorous marketing  campaign for his nostrum from an address at 139 South Water Street.  Pieters was advertising not only in Chicago newspapers but in publications throughout America and said to have plastered his notices on fences and any blank walls he could find. Note the sign bottom left on the illustration of Chicago’s Rush Street Bridge.


Pieters’ ads emphasized that “there is unequaled virtue in the Red Jacket Stomach Bitters."   They are, he claimed, “A combination of rare herbs, prepared in the choicest old bourbon whiskey.”  Not only did his bitters aid digestion, they cured severe headaches and were a preventative against fever and ague (malaria).  By wrapping his remedy in an Indian motif, Pieters was tapping into the rampant myth of the times that Native Americans possessed special knowledge of medicines.

One author has conjectured:  “People had supposed that his bitters owed their rare virtues to samples unknown to the white man, gathered at midnight in primeval forests by grim Indian chiefs, or dusky Indian girls….The secrets having been specially communicated to Pieters under circumstances of so private a nature that they never became public.”  He trademarked the Red Jacket name in 1864.


Pieter’s bitters rapidly caught on with the public.  As an example, in 1969 as part of a Kansas archeological training program, a bottle was excavated at Fort Zarah along the Santa Fe Trail in Barton County.  This suggests that pioneers heading West were counting on Pieter’s nostrum to fend off illness.  The bottle he used was a distinctive rectangular shape that came in various shades of amber, as shown above and below.  When new they came with a label depicting Red Jacket, a chief of the Seneca tribe.


As sales mounted Pieters grew wealthy.  He also found time for a personal life, marrying in Chicago a woman named Amelia who likely was in her late teens when they wed.  She had been born in New York of immigrant Canadian parents.
Bennett ensconced Amelia in a home that the Chicago Journal described as “…Among the the most elegant and refined in the city, adorned in the most chaste and beautiful manner, and gracefully presided over by his wife, an estimable, accomplished lady.”   The couple would have one child, a son they called Frederick.  

Although he had been in town only a short time, Pieters soon gained a notable reputation in Chicago business circles.  The Journal extolled him as “…A man of fine abilities, and beside being shrewd and successful in business, he was possessed of superior scholarly attainments.”

With a partner, Pieters also was growing the business.  Leaving its Water Street address the company by 1864 had moved to 21 River Street.  Two years later Bennett Pieters & Co. moved to 31 and 33 Michigan Avenue, listed as distillers and wholesale liquor dealers.  An 1866 tourist guide to Chicago commented that the firm’s business had expanded beyond their former quarters and “now occupies a store of palatial proportions—solid stone and brick, five stories high.”


But trouble hovered on the horizon.  During the Civil War the Federal Government slapped a special excise tax on alcoholic beverages.  Considered medicines, bitters though alcoholic were taxed at a somewhat lower rate.  Selling both whiskey and bitters, Pieters was subject to the taxes and acknowledge it by printing up special revenue stamps to wrap on his products, letting the consumer know the reason for the added cost.  As did other whiskey men, Pieters put his own likeness on the stamp. (The stamp shown above recently was advertised by an auction house for $4,500.)


Having a revenue stamp was one things, actually handing the money collected over to the government was another.  In October 1867 the Feds swooped in, arrested Pieters and his partner, and their place of business was seized by the authorities.  They claimed that Bennett, Pieters & Co. had been deficient in keeping records and thereby defrauded the U.S. of a large amount due for tax.  Pieters and his partner quickly put up $10,000 (equivalent to $220,000 today), had their establishment returned to them, and continued in business.

Within a year, Pieters again was in legal trouble, this time for suborning a Western Union Telegraph operator into giving his liquor house free early A.M. wire service in order to be in touch with a company outlet in Omaha, Nebraska.  When Western Union discovered that its facilities were being used after its regular closing hour of midnight, it hired the famed detective Alan Pinkerton to investigate.  Pinkerton, shown here, quickly fingered Pieters and his partner as the culprits.

The Chicago Tribune had a field day, devoting multi-columns to the story and headlining “Startling Disclosures—A Possible Clue to Extensive Revenue Frauds—Whiskey on the Wires.”  Its story speculated that Pieters was running a secret, illicit distillery in Nebraska.  This apparently was never proved and only the telegraph operator was arrested.  Pieters and his partner paid his bail.  A jury subsequently acquitted the telegrapher and no action was taken against the liquor house.

Pieter’s downfall came when he attempted to defend his trademark against a Chicago rival who, likely sensing an opportunity for some easy profits, began manufacturing and selling a product called Red Cloud Bitters.  Claiming an infringement of his rights, Pieters brought suit in U.S. District Court.  As part of the deliberations, the judge had an expert chemist analyze Red Jacket Stomach Bitters.  The chemist found that the nostrum consisted of inferior whiskey flavored with ingredients that included tansey, a herb that can cause convulsions and liver and brain damage if taken in quantity, and jimson weed, a powerful hallucinogenic. The judge ruled that having misrepresented the contents of his bitters, Pieters was not eligible for trademark protection and Red Cloud Bitters could continue to be sold.

This appears to have been a final blow to the young Belgian entrepreneur. Profits from his nostrum nose-dived as newspapers across the country ran the story.  Profligate with his money when riding high, as one author put it: “…Hence when calamity came upon him he had nothing to fall back on.”  In addition, Pieters who always been a heavy drinker became an alcoholic.  As a result, he was forced in 1869 to merge his liquor business with another Chicago wine and whiskey wholesaler.  Within months he would be forced out of that company and forever lose control of Red Jacket Stomach Bitters.

As Pieters’ drinking increased, his family was required to sell most of its possessions and finally their home, leaving them virtually destitute.  Then in a stunning development,  Pieters, still a relatively young man, enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Fourth Cavalry, Company F, the insignia shown here.   After a physical exam in  Chicago, he was sent to for training in horsemanship and cavalry formation to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  

Pieters had traded in the fancy suits of a successful Chicago businessman for the uniform of a lowly private, the garb illustrated here.  At Fort Leavenworth, he was given a sorrel horse, the color everyone rode in Company F, and sent West to the Indian Wars.  In an apparent effort to put his woes behind him, Pieters rode off with his comrades, thereby abandoning his family.


In August 1871 Pieters’ company was part of an expedition into Indian Territory against the Comanches and Kiowas who had refused to stay on their reservation and were plundering on the Texas frontier.   Although the U.S. foray proved fruitless, the following year the 4th Cavalry with 222 cavalrymen destroyed a major Indian village on the north fork of the Red River about six miles east of the site of present-day Lefors, Texas.  Meanwhile newspapers all across the country, among them The McArthur Enquirer, of Vinton County, Ohio, and the New-Northwest of Deer Lodge, Montana, citing the Chicago press, reported at length on Bennett Pieters' fall from grace.  

A question arises about whether Pieters reformed his habits while in the service.  A special order was issued by the Department of War on Thursday, October 23, 1973 included a paragraph on three cavalrymen who had been discharged.  Among them was Private Bennett Pieters, Company F, Fourth Cavalry.   Was this a routine discharge of a soldier whose enlistment was up, or something else?  The context of the Army document suggests that a court martial might have been involved.

Evidence exists that after his discharge, Pieters returned to Chicago.  There he found that his wife, Amalia, had obtained a legal separation in February 1873.  According to newspaper stories her petition to the court alleged that she had been reduced to utter poverty and misery through her husband’s love of intoxicating drink.  When Bennett failed to show up for a hearing to answer her complaints, the court granted her the separation.

Amalia and her son were recorded in Chicago in the 1880 census.  Amalia was “keeping house” and Frederick was “at school.”   Bennett is not with them and Amalia was listed as a widow.  Whether this indicates that Pieters may have died in the seven years after his discharge is not clear.  Regardless, there the trail of goes cold.  I have been unable to find any further mention of him or his burial place. Bennett Pieters had burst like a shooting star over Chicago and almost as suddenly completely disappeared from view.

Note:  Preceding Pieters’ Red Jacket Bitters was "Red Jacket Whiskey" from the Red Jacket Distillery in Buffalo, New York, owned by two remarkable whiskey men, Thomas Clark and his successor James M. Merritt.  Their story can be found on a post dated August 17, 2018, on this website.  Thanks go to Ferd Meyer and his Peachridge Glass post of March 13, 2013, for bringing my attention to Bennett Pieters and for the use of images of bitters bottles included here.  Also appreciation to Joe Gourd for two illustrations from his extensive collection of bitters materials.


























  













Friday, January 25, 2019

Charles Mangold Led Dallas Development


When Charles A. Mangold, shown right, died in 1934, the Dallas Morning News devoted part of its front page to his passing.  Among tributes, he was hailed as “one of the leaders in developing Dallas from a small village to a major city” subsequent to his arrival in town 47 years earlier.  Mangold’s contributions to Dallas included land development, promotion of the arts, an amusement park, two hotels, horse racing, quality livestock and assorted other enterprises.  The cash behind many of these endeavors was provided by Mangold’s highly successful Dallas liquor house.

Mangold came by his career as a “whiskey man” as a heritage.  His father, Adam Mangold, a refugee from Prussian oppression in Germany,  had settled in Cincinnati in 1845, opening a wholesale grocery and liquor business. Charles was born there in 1860.  Shortly after his birth, the patriotic Adam marched away, having enlisted in the Union Army at the outbreak the Civil War.  When it ended he returned to Cincinnati and resumed his grocery and liquor trade.


As he matured Charles went to work for his father and soon discovered he preferred the liquor end of the business.  That impelled a move to Lexington, Kentucky, where he was employed at a local distillery until 1887 when he moved to Dallas, population then only about 35,000.  He coaxed a boyhood friend, Joseph Swope, to join him and together they formed the firm of Swope & Mangold, dealers in fine wines, liquors and cigars. Shown here, their headquarters were in a three-story building on Main Street, marked by a large sign.

Almost from the beginning, the liquor house was successful.  Dallas was growing rapidly and a thirsty workforce wanted strong drink.  An account of the city in the 1890’s said that Dallas had, “a nice lemonade stand, an ice cream parlor, and three hundred saloons.”  Two of them, both apparently called the Dallas Club, were owned by Swope & Mangold.  To other saloons the partners sold their proprietary brands, including S&W High Grade, a blend that they likely were mixing up on their premises.  Moreover, Mangold was traveling the entire State of Texas seeking customers and gaining friends.

Among Swope & Mangold’s most inventive labels was the whiskey they called Tarantula Juice.  It featured a heavy black label featuring skull and cross-bones and the large black image of a tarantula, large and often hairy arachnids belonging to the “Theraphosidae” family of spiders.  While the image was not the most enticing around, the name probably captured an audience from Dallas’ drinking population. 

Meanwhile, now being well established in the liquor trade, Charles was having a personal life.   At the age of 39, he married Anna Honeck, shown here.  She was from Herman, Missouri, the daughter of a Henry Honeck, a German immigrant and blacksmith. Anna had moved to Dallas in 1888 where she met Mangold.  She was ten years younger than her mate but was said to have good business sense and leadership skills, providing a true partner for her husband in his endeavors.  The couple would have four children, Lawrence W., Irma M., Olga A. and Charles Jr., known as Carl.  Married and with his business on solid ground, Mangold began exerting seemingly endless energy into making his presence felt in Dallas. Following are his areas of accomplishment:

Land development:  When Mangold died, one newspaper proclaimed him as the “Man Who Visioned Oak Cliff.”  Mangold was one of the first men to dream of “a city west of the river" when Dallas was only a straggling village and Oak Cliff was a wilderness of rocks and trees.  Along with other pioneers he helped lay out the first streets and constructing the first group of homes in Oak Cliff.  Mangold also led the effort to construct the Houston Street viaduct over the Trinity River to keep Dallas and Oak Cliff connected during floods. Today Oak Cliff is a neighborhood annexed by Dallas in 1901.  A founder of the Dallas park system, Mangold was appointed to the first city park board created in 1904.

The Arts:  Mangold was involved in the Dallas Opera, the Oak Cliff Little Theatre, and a German singing organization known as a Sangerfest.  He is said to have made it possible for several well-known musical artists to visit the city.  They included, according to reports, “…The first famous singer to be heard in this city, Marie Decca, as well as the great orchestra conducted by Michael Brand….In 1904…another great artist was seen by the people of Dallas, Mme Sembrich, as a result of his efforts.”

Amusements:  The whiskey man was the founder and manager of Lake Cliff Park, a well known summer amusement park on the outskirts of Dallas.  Shown here, the park was clustered around a large lagoon offering bathing, boating, carnival rides, 10,000 lights, fireworks displays nightly and other attractions that made Lake Cliff for a time the most prestigious amusement area in the American Southwest.  The park also featured a casino owned by Mangold.

Horse Racing:  As the owner of a nationally famous pacing horse named “Pentland,”  Mangold was deeply embedded in the race scene in Texas. For several years he  was the vice-president and director in charge of the racing department of the Dallas State Fair.  In 1905 the president of the State Fair told newspapermen that “to Mr. Mangold is due the entire credit,” for the suc­cess of the race meeting that was the “cleanest and best conducted ever held in the South.”  Mangold also was one of the organizers of the Texas Thoroughbred Association in 1904 to encourage the breeding of quality horses.

Ranching and Farming:  Some of Mangold’s energies were directed at the “wide open spaces” around Dallas.  He became the owner of the well-known Sam Lazarus Ranch, covering parts of two Texas counties.  He also owned a stock farm at Hutchins, Dallas County, where he raised quality livestock, specializing a fine breed of Angora goats.

Hotels:   Many in Dallas remember Mangold for building hotels.  Opened in October 1917, the  Hotel Jefferson stood across from the newly opened Dallas Union Station.  State of the art for its time, the hotel featured one floor for “the exclusive use of women unattended, no men were quartered on that floor.” Perhaps there the fine hand of wife Anna can be detected.  


The photo shown above is of a 50-ish Charles Mangold cradling a bottle of whiskey at the ground floor bar of the Jefferson.  Nine years later Mangold would erect a second major hotel, the Cliff Towers Hotel, overlooking the Trinity River, shown below on a postcard view.

Miscellaneous Activities:  In addition to banking interests Mangold ran a laundry business called the American Laundry Company.  He was an organizer of the North Texas Press, the leading German publication of the region.  He also was responsible for bringing the first national convention to Dallas, that of the Elks fraternal organization, and for staging the delegates’ entertainment.  Throughout he was running his liquor establishment until shut by prohibition.

In his latter years, Charles suffered from diabetes, dying in August 1934 in his and Anna’s apartments in the Jefferson Hotel.  He had been seriously ill for about two months.  Mangold’s funeral services were held at the Dallas Elk’s Lodge and his burial at the Hillcrest Mausoleum at the Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.  One newspaper obituary opined:  The city of Dallas owes a great deal of its present greatness to the dreams, the work and the money of Mr. Mangold.”Another account acknowledged that his financial means had been generated by years of hard work and intelligent management in the liquor trade.

After her husband’s death Anna Mangold stepped into run his businesses.  She maintained holdings in numerous hotels, laundries, and banks, as well as extensive ranch and oil properties.  Anna died in Dallas on September 1, 1947, and joined Charles at his mausoleum resting place.  


Notes:  There are several important references for this post.  Among them are the “Biographical Note” that Dallas/Texas History & Archives of the Dallas Public Library exhibits on its website related to the gift of documents by Mangold’s son, Carl, to its repository;  a Mangold biography in the volume “Greater Dallas & Vicinity” by Philip Lindsley & L.B. Hill, dated 1909; an article entitled “Courtesy Dallas Yesterday” by Sam H. Acheson, and Mangold’s obituary in the Dallas Morning News of August 27, 1834.





























Monday, January 21, 2019

Whiskey Men as Lawmen



Foreword:  It did not happen very often but upon occasion a saloonkeeper or liquor dealer would also pursue a career as a lawman.  Those instances generally were confined to the Old West where social and community ties were less rigid and a whiskey man could be seen as an effective keeper of the peace and nemesis to lawbreakers.   Here below are the stories of three such men.

 For decades the men of the Schwethelm (pronounced “Sweet-helm”) family were virtually synonymous with the Texas Rangers. A background as lawman subsequently gave Ernest Schwethelm important credentials for running saloons in the wild and violent Texas Hill Country.  Even a fellow Texas Ranger might find his demise, however, in one of Schwethelm’s drinking establishments. 

Ernest’s father, Henry Schwethelm, shown here, was born in Dusseldorf, Germany but at an early age with his family emigrated to Texas.  At 17 Henry joined Captain L. H. Nelson’s Texas Ranger Company stationed in San Antonio.  He moved on to serve with Capt. John W. Sansom’s company, headquartered in Kerrville, Texas.  Later two of Henry’s sons would be recorded as Texas Rangers, including Ernest shown above at a San Antonio reunion of the Capt. J. H. Callahan Rangers.   During the late 1800s Ernest with a partner came to own and operate saloons in Kerrville.   Among his drinking establishments was The Ranch Saloon, shown below still standing.   

The Ranch Saloon had a reputation for being a rowdy place and reputedly was the site of the murder of a Texas Ranger.  He was Tom Carson,  a tough, bad-tempered, and somewhat mysterious character.  About 1880, he was recorded as part of a small Ranger scouting party in the Fort Davis area looking for the perpetrators of a series of robberies.   Near del Norte they came across a gang of thieves carrying their loot toward Mexico.  In the firefight that ensued, a shot cut Carson’s hat brim and another passed under his leg, cutting his stirrup and wounding his horse.  Unfazed, he wounded one of the robbers and aided the killing and capturing of the band. Carson reportedly was shot and killed in the Ranch Saloon in April 1893.  Details about the event and Carson’s assailant are sketchy.  


Dodge City, Kansas, above, was known as the roughest, toughest, most lawless town in the West.  It was, that is, until Chalk Beeson, shown here, came to Dodge as a saloonkeeper and stayed to help bring law and order.  Leaving his native Ohio,  by the mid-1870s Beeson had moved near the town, purchased a ranch, and rapidly became wealthy in the cattle business. With a partner in 1878 Chalk bought what would become one of America’s most famous Western saloons, The Long Branch. 

The Long Branch is where Chalk became acquainted with noted lawmen and gunslingers of the time, men like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Bill Hickok, and Bat Masterson. Throughout this period Beeson’s reputation as an outstanding citizen — and perhaps a steady gun — had been rising.  He was asked to run for sheriff of Ford County, was elected and served two terms from 1892 to 1896.  Among his accomplishments while serving as sheriff was killing a member of the notorious Doolin gang after it had robbed the Spearville Ford County Bank in broad daylight and escaped into Oklahoma Territory.  Without waiting for a posse and almost singlehandedly Chalk tracked one of the bandits to his hideout and in the ensuing melee shot him fatally.  For that act, Beeson collected the rewards offered by the state, banks, the railroads, and the insurance company for apprehending, dead or alive, a member of the Doolin Gang. 

The newspapers of his time were high in their praise of Sheriff Beeson  They described him as “a quiet, almost noiseless man” who believed in stopping trouble before it began and yet someone who “always got his man.” “He came to Dodge City when every man carried a gun and the fittest survived,  Beeson survived.  But he is not fierce.”   After his stint as sheriff his fellow citizens elected Chalk to two terms in the Kansas State Legislature where he developed a reputation for avoiding bombastic speeches and working quietly among his colleagues to get things done.  

During a highly energetic lifetime James R. “Jim” Hogg managed to juggle the responsibilities for making and selling a popular brand of whiskey while serving four terms as County Sheriff.  He ran numerous enterprises, with his distillery as the largest money-maker as he expanded beyond a local market for his whiskey to regional and even national recognition.

His enterprises 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.  

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 twelve 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 fifteen minutes before he died.  Jim Hogg’s reaction to this scene has not been recorded.

Note:  Elsewere on this blog are longer biographies of each of these whiskey men who also served as lawmen.  The reference is:  Ernest Schwethelm, November 15, 2013;  Chalk Beeson, August 17, 2014; and Jim Hogg, November 29, 2013.














Thursday, January 17, 2019

F. C Knott and the Frederick, Md., Shootout

Today a bustling city of some 71,000 inhabitants Frederick, Maryland, in the 1880s was quiet village of 8,500 souls.  On Independence Day, 1881, Frederick Columbus Knott, a liquor dealer and grocer, had “a front row seat” for what became known as “The Shootout at the Square Corner,” among the most exciting incidents in Frederick’s generally tranquil history.

Knott, shown right, was born in June 1847 in Frederick County, the son of Francis A., a farmer, and Ruth (Slagle) Knott. One of twelve children and reared on the family farm, Knott received a public school education and at age 16 left home for work as a clerk in a Frederick grocery store.   After five years in that employ F. Columbus, as he was known, moved to a grocery owned by M. N. Rohrback.  After nine years working there, in 1877, with a partner named William T. Besant, Knott struck out on his own, opening a store on East Patrick Street that specialized in “fine groceries” and above all, liquor and wine.

Besant & Knott sold their own brand of whiskey, buying stock from area distillers by the barrel and decanting it into their own bottles and jugs.  Shown here is a quart bottle with the firm’s embossing.  Embossing was a sign that the firm was selling sufficient quantities to warrant the additional expense over plain bottles.  For wholesale and other customers, the firm provided half-gallon and gallon ceramic jugs of whiskey, as shown below.

Knott’s partner had a brother, Harry Besant, clerking for them in the store, a young man with a reputation as a rake and scoundrel.   One of his victims was Mary Need, a girl he impregnated and whose baby, sent temporarily to a orphanage, died.  Harry broke off with her and was courting other women.  Mary, already considered “high strung,” became violent, was adjudged insane, and sent to an asylum.  Her uncle, a Baltimore dentist named Joseph A. Webb, took strong exception to Harry’s treatment of Mary and arrived in Frederick on July 4, pistol in hand.  

What happened next was related by an eyewitness:  “I was sitting in front of my cigar store around 6 o’clock when Messrs. Besant and Debring came along….When the two had crossed the street at the crossing, Dr. Webb arose and began walking toward them. He drew his pistol at the same time and began firing at Besant when he was about at the middle of the street. The first shot went through the glass window. The second cut the brim off Mr. DeBring’s hat, the third shot hit Besant, and as he stooped over and partly turned about, a fourth ball passed over him. A great many fire-crackers were being exploded at the time, and the shooting attracted little notice until it had become known that Mr. Besant had been shot. The excitement spread quickly, and the details of the old scandal were revived.”


“The Shoot Out at the Square Corner” made headlines in newspapers from coast to coast as the story was told in its entirety.  At his store F. Columbus was certain to have heard the shots and likely rushed to the scene to find Harry lying in a pool of blood on the street. Shot in the groin, the clerk eventually would make a full recovery and returned to work at Besant & Knott.  Considered justified in his attack by most Frederick residents and even by Harry’s brother, Dr. Webb, after an initial arrest, returned to Baltimore without any charges filed.

Life in the grocery/liquor house returned to normal until 1896 when William Besant died and F. Columbus took over the business in his own name.  An embossed glass bottle with a label signals the change.  Knott continued to package his own whiskey and sell it in ceramic jugs as well as in glass.  The firm prospered under his management, earning this tribute from a local observer: “Mr. Knott has directed the affairs of the establishment with an ability and sagacity that stamp him as a man of high executive capacity and rare merchantile acumen.”








Among Knott’s business practices was advertising vigorously in area newpapers, including illustrated ads like the one shown here with a cigar-smoking Western gunslinger-type.  “We promise to send you home as satisfied as our friend in the sketch,” it declared.  Married with two daughters, F. Columbus also ventured into the financial world as a director of the Frederick Town Savings institution, said to be one of the leading financial firms of Frederick County.

Knott continued to run his company with considerable success into his seventies when forced in 1920 to cease selling alcohol by the onset of National Prohibition.  Unlike many whiskey men, Knott could fall back on his grocery trade once his liquor business had come to a screeching halt.  A photo from that period shows him with a visit from his sister, Laura, one of only three siblings then still living.  F. Columbus himself would pass in December of 1924 at the age of 77.  He was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick.  His gravestone is shown here.


Although the Shootout at Square Corner must have been a highly memorable moment in the life of F. Columbus Knott, I can find no public statement from him on the event.  As a final statement on this whiskey man, a 1910 history of Frederick County described him as:  “Honorable in all his dealings and a merchant of the old school whose business methods are characterized by the highest principles….”

Note:  The biographical material on F. Columbus Knott largely is taken from “History of Frederick County, Maryland, Volume II (From the Beginning of the Year 1861 Down to the Present Time)” by Folger McKinney, 1910.  Details and illustrations related to the Shootout are from a website, “Stories in Stone,” by Chris Haugh, described as an award-winning researcher, writer, documentarian and presenter of Frederick County, Maryland, history.