|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 an 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 Poplar Bluff newspaper 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 said to be the interior of one of them.
|Hogg's Meat Market (attrib.)|
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|
Sometime during the next decade, Hogg and Clara divorced. 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|
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.”
Note: 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.”