Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Rock ’n’ Roll Rye of Maryland’s John Ahalt

John D. Ahalt, one of Maryland’s storied farmer-distillers, believed that “rocking and rolling” his whiskey barrels on sea journeys to far-off places improved the quality of the liquor.  Accordingly he shipped his products to Rio de Janeiro and back, marketing the result as “Whiskey that is all Whiskey.”

Ahalt’s Mountain Springs Distillery was located in Frederick County, Maryland, in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains near Burkettsville, the picturesque small town shown below.  In 1848 a flour mill had been erected on the site, about four miles from a railroad station on the Baltimore and Ohio line.   Ahalt in 1879 saw the possibility of turning the structure into a distillery.  He hired a professional distiller named Francis Hughes, who stayed with his family, to make Maryland rye whiskey while Ahalt concentrated on farming the required crops.  

In a commentary dated 1898, a History of Western Maryland observed: “It is a well known fact that the grain grown on the fertile plains of Frederick and Washington Counties is of a quality so fine that no matter what it is converted into it always produces the best of its kind.  Recognizing this fact and comprehending its value, J. D. Ahalt started the distillery for the manufacture of pure rye whiskey.”   With his location at the foot of South Mountain, Ahalt also had the benefit of good spring water.

He called his facility “The Mountain Spring Distillery,”  known in Federal parlance as Maryland Registered Distillery #14.   The output of the distillery appears to have been variable.  The State Tax Commissioner reported in 1897 that the taxable value of distilled spirits for the year was $5,086.  In 1905, the value had jumped to $19,048 only to fall in 1907 to $10,680 and to $5,944 in 1909.  As the business grew in the 1890s, Ahalt built a five story warehouse for aging his whiskey.

Ahalt was known as an innovator, carrying out on his own what was described as “costly scientific experiments.”  One result of his efforts was a move to “triple distillation,” a method of making whiskey favored in Ireland but not used in Scotland or widely employed in the United States.  A diagram shown here graphically illustrates how the process works.  Note that at the end the triple distilled whiskey would be contained in casks or barrels. 

Ahalt would age the whiskey a few months in his warehouse, then ship it in barrels by railroad to the Port of Baltimore, above. There the casks would be carefully loaded into the hold of a steamship, likely a side-wheeler, and sent on its way.  

A map shows the route south from the North Altantic, around the horn of Brazil to the port of Rio, a trip of more than 4,800 miles as the crow flies, longer by sea.  The whiskey might be unloaded and stored for a while in Rio or be sent immediately back to Maryland for bottling by Ahalt.  Given the rough Atlantic waves, the barrels would get plenty of rocking and rolling along the way.  

The theory was that sloshing around on the high seas mellowed and aged the whiskey in beneficial ways that sedentary storing in warehouses did not do, imparting a “unique and most agreeable softness.”  The distiller also was advantaged by not being federally taxed for warehouse withdrawals for shipping.  Moreover, the costs were relatively low.  A typical barrel yields about 212 quarts of whiskey.  Ahalt’s trip to Rio and back added only pennies to the production cost of each bottle.

As his whiskey braved the briny deep, Ahalt was enjoy a landlubber’s home life in  Burkettsville.  Born in Maryland in 1847, he was educated in local schools before settling on a Frederick County farm.  In  1870, according to state records, he married Harriett Jeanette Willard.   She was a native of Maryland and of a similar age.  Their first three children were girls, Blanche, Anna, and Callie with a son, John H. Ahalt, born in 1883.    The 1900 U.S. census found the family living together in Burkittsville,  Ahalt’s occupation given as “farmer.”  In the 1910 census, however, he was recorded as a “farmer-distiller” and John H. was listed working as a salesman for his father.

John D. Ahalt marketed at least two proprietary brands: “Antietam Rye,” named for the famous Civil War battle that had taken place nearby in Maryland, and “Mountain Spring Rye.”  He never bothered to trademark either label, an omission he might have regretted when Loeb-Bloom & Company of Paducah, Kentucky, registered Mountain Spring as theirs in 1905.  The Ahalt version was marketed in clear embossed glass quarts that read:  “Ahalt’s Pure Old Mountain Spring Maryland Rye.”

In 1916, Ahalt, only 56 years old, died and was buried in the Burkettsville Union Cemetery.  His plot is recorded in section 3, row 7, and grouping 5.  A headstone for his grave indicates that his wife, H. Jeanette, and a daughter, Anna, are also buried there.  Ahalt’s, son, John H., apparently had no interest in managing the property and shortly after moved to Hagerstown, Maryland, where his occupation was listed as “laborer.”  

The business was sold and, according to one report,  the name changed to “Pure Rye Distilling Company.”   Not long after, the plant was closed permanently by National Prohibition.  Both Antietam Rye and Mountain Spring Maryland Rye disappeared as whiskey brands.  In time the distillery that John Ahalt built was torn down and the land returned to agriculture.  Today no trace exists of the facility.  There is, however, an Ahalt Road in Burkettsville to remember a man among whose “costly scientific experiments” was rocking his whiskey to Brazil and rolling it back.

Note:  This is a belated thanks to Paula (nee Ahalt), a distant relative of John Ahalt, from whose "Sweet Pea" website I obtained some of the information found here, as well as the image of the glass jug shown above.  Her post of August 8, 2016 contains additional good material and images related to the Ahalt distillery at Burkettsville.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

C. Ed Carmichael and the Making of a Tourist Town

During the 19th and 20th Centuries whiskey men dealt with the forces of prohibition in a variety of ways.  Some fought it.  Others tried tactics to get around it.  Still others submitted, went into a different occupation or retired.  C. Ed Carmichael employed a considerably different strategy.  He used “going dry” as a incentive to make his home town of Ocala, Florida, into a tourist destination through a distinctively “wet” idea.

The youngest of four children at his birth in 1869, he was christened Columbus Ed Carmichael, likely a capricious choice of his father, George, and a laugh for his older siblings. Shown above as a young man, he preferred through his life to be known as C. Ed Carmichael.  His father initially worked a farm in Alabama and that is where C. Ed was born.  George Carmichael, a native of the state, eventually grew tired of  both agriculture and Alabama, and in the late 1880s found Florida a more appealing prospect.   It is something of a mystery, however, why he chose Ocala, at that time a sleepy town located in Marion County.  Downtown Ocala in the early 1880s is shown below.

Developed around the site of a fort about 1849, Ocala did not get rail service until a relatively late 1881, a development that spurred modest growth by allowing greater access to markets for citrus and other agricultural products.  In 1883 much of the downtown was destroyed by fire on Thanksgiving Day.  Encouraged to rebuild with brick, granite and steel, by 1888 Ocala was known statewide as “The Brick City.”

C. Ed, while still a teenager relocated to Ocala with his family.  He helped his father establish a combined saloon, wholesale whiskey business, and grocery store there.  He also met Lula Wilkins, shown right.  She had been born in Georgia, the daughter of Robert and Eliza Wadsworth Wilkins.  At the time of their marriage in 1899, he was 19 and she was 15.  They would have one son, born in 1894, whom they named Weller Larue.

The liquor business of Carmichael & Son proved very successful as they developed a thriving mail order business for their whiskey.  Even then under local option, communities in Florida and adjoining states were going “dry” but their residents could still obtain liquor shipped from elsewhere under the protection of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution.  

The Carmichaels shipped their liquor, perhaps distilled on their premises, usually by rail in ceramic jugs. These half-gallon and gallon containers in several formats are shown here and elsewhere in this post.  They have been found at sites far from Ocala.  The Carmichaels also are known to have used embossed glass containers for their beverages.

The wealth generated by the liquor trade allowed C. Ed in 1906 the money to buy land in an area near Ocala called Silver Springs.  Those springs are among the largest artesian spring formations in the world, producing nearly 550 million gallons of crystal-clear water daily.  The springs form the headwaters of the Silver River, a part of the St. Johns River System.  Carmichael initially used the site as a steamboat landing for passengers and freight, shown here.  At the other end of the steamboat line was Jacksonville, Florida.  A railroad spur ran to Ocala. 
Carmichael also was sensing a rising tide of prohibitionist feeling in Marion County, as groups like Women’s Christian Temperance Union went on the warpath.  They forced a “wet-dry” county referendum in 1908 that apparently sent off alarm bells for C. Ed.  If it had passed, the Carmichael enterprises would have been summarily terminated.  As an alternative to selling liquor, he determined to develop Silver Springs into a tourist destination.  The old freight depot and other ramshackle buildings were torn down.  In their place C. Ed constructed a large bathhouse with facilities for men and women, shown below. He also built a pavilion at spring side.  Plans to build a large hotel on the site were derailed by the onset of World War One.

In 1915, same year his father, George, died, Marion County by referendum voted to ban all alcohol sales within its boundaries.  Carmichael & Son with its thriving mail order whiskey business was forced to close down.  Meanwhile, C. Ed had been concentrating his attention on Silver Springs.  He built a house there made of bamboo.  A newspaper photo showed its location at the edge of the water and featuring a small dock.

Meanwhile Carmichael’s marriage to Lula was faltering.  Perhaps she was not happy about moving away from town life in Ocala to the banks of Silver Spring.  They divorced.  C. Ed later married a second time.  She was Helen Hoag, a school teacher originally from Minnesota who was considerably younger.

In 1924, now 55 years old, Carmichael leased his Silver Springs holdings to other  entrepreneurs who greatly expanded the tourist facilities.  Among innovations were glass bottomed boats that floated over the lucid waters allowing people to see more than forty feet to the bottom.  Postcards from Silver Springs often featured the boats with passengers eager to feel the beautiful cool waters.

Carmichael remained active in on the Ocala scene, serving as a Marion County commissioner and owning a successful tourist court near the springs.  Shown above is a postcard view of C. Ed’s bamboo home on the adjacent Silver River. I speculate that the man sitting comfortably in a rocking chair at the right side of the porch is none other than Carmichael himself, content to look out at the tourist mecca he had helped create.

C. Ed died in 1940, age 71, and was buried in Marion County’s Woodlawn Cemetery as his widow and his many friends mourned by his graveside.  Helen would join him there twenty-six years later.  Carmichael had lived long enough to see National Prohibition come and go.  As he contemplated his long life, he must have smiled at his decision not to let the forces of “dry” alter his commitment to his adopted town but rather to use them as an incentive to make Ocala the tourist destination that it remains today.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Albert Fyan Made Whiskey Where Rebellion Failed

When Albert E. Fyan put Bedford, Pennsylvania, on the label of his rye whiskey and advertising shot glasses, he must have recognized that he would be conjuring up memories of an earlier day when President (and Commander-in-Chief) George Washington marched into town at the head of government troops and quickly put down what has come to be known as “The Whiskey Rebellion.”

Born in Bedford County in 1841, Albert grew up hearing the stories of those fateful days in area history when Pennsylvania farmer-distillers staged a major revolt against the national government over a whiskey tax mandated by the Federal Excise Tax Act of 1791. The national government had agreed to pay state debts after the Revolutionary War amounting to $54 million.  From the viewpoint of Washington, D.C., taxing whiskey was a good way to get the money. 

Compared to the taxes paid on liquor today, the levy does not seem oppressive. The farmer-distillers of Western Pennsylvania, however, detested any tax.  Paper currency was disfavored in commercial exchange but whiskey was a valuable commodity for barter.  Even though the excise rates meant the average distiller would pay only a few dollars in liquor tax each year, even $5 would have consumed a good portion of the average farmer-distiller’s cash income.  In 1794 an angry group of protesters gathered in the Jean Bonnet Tavern just west of Bedford, shown above, and agreed to join others in armed resistance.  They raised a “liberty pole” as a sign of their non-conpliance.

 The rebellion brought a swift answer from President Washington: The laws of the United States WILL be obeyed. Some 13,000 militiamen were called to Bedford at Washington's direction.  The Whiskey Rebellion quickly collapsed.  One historian has observed: "It was at Bedford that the new federal government was finally to establish itself as sovereign in its own time and place.  Some disgruntled distillers left Pennsylvania at that point and headed to Kentucky to began making whiskey again.

Enter the Fyans.  Albert’s father was Louis (sometimes, Lewis) Fyan, born in 1819 in County Cork, Ireland.  He had immigrated to America with his brother Robert and settled in Bedford, shown here as it looked about 1840, and later moved to Shanksville, Somerset County.  In 1841 he married Susanna Burkett in Berlin, Pennsylvania.  Although a Catholic, Louis was married in a Lutheran church.  Albert was born a year later, destined to be an only child.

Returning to the Bedford area, Louis eventually became a wealthy farmer and storekeeper on the western edge of the county at Juniata Township.  The 1850 census found the family there, with Louis listed as “merchant,” living with wife Susan, son Albert, his mother Mary, and two servants. Ten years later, records indicate that Louis had become the equivalent of a millionaire today.  

Albert, now 18, was listed as a “farm hand” working on his father’s extensive acreage.  Registering for the Civil War draft in 1863, he called himself a merchant, likely working in his father’s store.  (Albert never served.)  The 1870 census listed both father and son as dry goods merchants.  The following year Albert, now 29 years old, married Ida Virginia Burns, a native-born Pennsylvanian who was 11 years his junior.  They would have four children, including Robert in 1872; Lena, 1873; Lula, 1881, and Louise, 1882.

Meanwhile Louis was faltering in health and died in 1876, leaving management of his businesses and property to his son.  In addition to selling dry goods, Albert moved into “wet” products like whiskey and revived distilling in the Bedford area.  A snippet from an 1877 topographical map shows the west side of Filson District No. 5.  At the far left a crossroads is evident with identification of the Fyan store at the north and the distillery and Fyan home on the south.  

The plant was identified in federal annals as Registered Distillery #33, Pennsylvania Tax District #9. Unlike his distilling predecessors, Fyan was resigned to paying federal taxes — and at much higher rates than the Rebellion fomenters could ever have imagined.  Warehouse records disclose that Fyan under the scrutiny of government agents regularly was making whiskey, storing it on site, and withdrawing it from time to time as it aged.  The distillery location was known as “Kegg,” about twelve miles west of Bedford, named not  because Fyan’s whiskey came in kegs but for a Bedford county family.  At one time Kegg even merited its own post office but now simply is a blip off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

From the artifacts we have from Fyan it is clear that not only was he distilling whiskey, he was marketing it himself, likely from his Kegg-located complex to restaurants and saloons throughout Western Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, and perhaps beyond.  The Fyan’s Rye whiskey bottle shown here provides evidence.  Known as “label-under-glass,” such bottles were given to saloons and restaurants for display behind a bar as a marketing strategy.  Those glass containers were relatively expensive to produce and usually were deployed where competition among brands of whiskey was highly intense.  Fancy etched shot glasses, while more common, served a similar purpose.  Fyan seems to have had a flair for advertising.

As his father before him, Fyan prospered in business, affording to take trips to Europe with his wife, Ida, and other family members in 1890 and 1907.  As the decade came to an end, Albert’s health began to fail, however, and he died in January 1910.  As his family grieved around his casket, Fyan was accorded a Requiem Mass at his parish church, St. Thomas in Bedford.  He was interred at the Fyan family mausoleum in Bedford Cemetery.  It is shown here marked with a plaque that discloses that Albert lies there in company of his mother, father, wife,  son and daughter-in-law.

What happened with Fyan’s whiskey enterprise is not clear.  Federal records show 1904 as a final date for Fyan’s warehouse transactions.  In 1914,  a transaction was recorded at RD #33, Dist. #9, by Rohr McHenry Distilling Company.  This was a well-known Pennsylvania rye-maker, located at Benton, about 172 miles from Bedford.   Whether the McHenry’s had purchased Fyan’s distillery or just the stored whiskey is unclear.  

Today Bedford is a quiet town of 2,800 that attracts tourists interested in its historic buildings.  Many people visit sites of the Whiskey Rebellion, particularly the Jean Bonnet Tavern.  That hostelry continues to provide food, drink, and lodging.  A plaque has been placed at the inn as a reminder of the tumultuous events that once occurred there.  It reads, in part:  “In mid-1794, during the Whiskey Rebellion, embattled farmers met here and raised a liberty pole to protest the federal excise tax on whiskey.  The October troops called by President Washington camped here on their march west to quell the insurrection.

The Rise and Fall of the House of Goetzmann

When Frederick G. Goetzmann, a Jewish immigrant, took proprietorship of his own liquor business in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, he likely dreamed of building this enterprise into major whiskey wholesaler in Rochester, New York,  and he succeeded.   Frederick could hardly foresee the fate that would befall his liquor house after his death, and luckily so.

The Goetzmann story began in 1828 in a German-speaking part of France, called Rittershofen, Bas Rhin (Lower Rhine), Alsace Province.   Frederick was the son of David aka “Dahfeat” and Jean Frederic aka “Sarah” Goetzmann.  When he was just a small boy, his father during the 1830s uprooted the family and emigrated to the United States, settling in Rochester.  Frederick likely received primary and perhaps some secondary education in local schools, before going to work.

In 1850 Frederick made the public record in Rochester by getting married.  His bride was Sarah S. Feiock, apparently known as Salome, who had been born in the same French-German town as he had.   Since  they could hardly have been sweethearts in the homeland, it suggests that they met on American shores.   They would go on to have nine children, girls: Louise born 1851; Julia, 1856; Elizabeth, 1857; Clara, 1871; and Wilhelmina, 1873;  and boys:  Frederick Jr., 1855;  Henry, 1860; Charles, 1863; and William, 1873.

Census data from 1860 indicates Frederick began his career working as a machinist.  By 1863, however, he was reported in local business directories as a partner in Goetzmann and Caring, liquor dealers located at 14 South St. Paul Street.  The following year Caring had departed the scene and Goetzmann was listed as sole proprietor of the St. Paul Street business, described as a distiller and liquor dealer.  This occurred during the waning years of the American Civil War and Rochester, like many other Northern manufacturing cities, was booming from war work.

Goetzmann met with considerable success and as the trade card above indicates had added importer and “rectifier” to his credentials.  The latter meant that he was blending raw whiskeys in order to achieve particular taste and color and bottling them as proprietary brands.  Among Goetzmann’s offerings were "Beaver Valley Rye,” "Blue Bell,” “Brookdale,” "Conemaugh Pure Rye,” "Fern Leaf,” "Spring Water,” "Star Light Pure Rye,” and "Tuscarora Pure Rye.”  Of those labels, Frederick trademarked only Brookdale in 1890.

The growth of Goetzmann’s business and the requirements of rectifying meant that he needed more space.  An artist’s rendering of his new quarters at 9 Atwater Street shows the building as three stories with large display windows in front, indicating retail as well as wholesale sales. The structure also became the centerpiece of one of the several trade cards the company issued.

Goetzmann like to claim the title of distiller, declaring as his “The Goetzmann Distillery Co., 23rd District of Pennsylvania.”  That facility was reputed to produce his Brookdale Rye.  It was, in fact, the Guckenheimer Distillery, one of the Nation’s most notable.  Asher Guckenheimer and his family had made the Guckenheimer brand tops in America, scoring 99 out of a possible 100 points for quality at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and winning a gold medal.  Although Goetzmann’s advertising that this distillery was his own was a stretch, such claims were commonplace in the whiskey trade.  Wholesalers frequently made such assertions if they held major contracts for product from particular distilleries. 

As his sons matured, Frederick took them into the business.   Henry appears to have been the first.  He was on board when likely needing even more space the firm moved from 9 Atwater to 134 North Water Street.  A letterhead from 1882 shows significant differences from the earlier headquarters.  Gone are the large show windows inviting retail sales.  Now a center door allows horse-drawn wagons to carry barrels and jugs of whiskey and other spirits directly from the building to retail customers.  The depth of the structure and two side ports also suggest a substantial wholesale trade.

By this time the Goetzmanns were claiming ownership of two other distilleries, both in Kentucky.  The Spring Water Distillery was located outside Bowling Green at a place called Memphis Junction.   Apparently a relatively small plant, the owner, according to court documents, was R. B. Meyler.  The Fern Cliff Distillery in Jefferson County was located on the east side of Logan between Breckinridge and Lampton.  Originally called “Pride of Anderson Distillery” it later was renamed The Fern Cliff Distillery, with its president listed as Joseph Schwab.  It is highly doubtful that the Goetzmann’s had anything but contracts or minor investments in either of them.

By that time 67 years old and seeking other avenues for his growing wealth, Frederick was taking forays into insurance and banking.  He was a founding member and first secretary of the Rochester German Insurance Company and became a director of the German-American Bank.  Both were housed in the German Insurance Building on West Main Street, shown here.  About 1888, F. Goetzmann & Sons Co. moved there with a street entrance.  By that time another Goetzmann son, Charles, had joined Frederick and Henry in the liquor business.

In 1890, like many whiskey barons before him, Frederick decided to build a spacious house for his family and chose noted Rochester architect, Otto Block, to design it.  The resulting structure was of sufficient interest that drawings of the exterior and interior of the building were featured in the October 1890 issue of the American Architect and Building News.  The prestigious address was No. 9 in the Hyde Park District of Rochester.  The interior illustration was of an unusual fireplace, replete with fancy moulding and shelves for treasured items.

In 1899, Frederick Goetzmann, age 71, died and was buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester.   In the 1900 census, three sons —  Henry, Charles and William —  were all listed as working for the liquor house.  Henry now was the president and chief executive officer.  Then something went terribly wrong.  Within months the business that Frederick painstakingly had built for more than 35 years was in bankruptcy.

The failure merited a substantial story in The Wine and Spirits Journal, a major trade paper.  According to the account,  company indebtedness approached $50,000 (equiv. to more than $1 million today) and its assets were only $22,515, including the value of whiskey in its warehouses.  The claims against the Goetzmanns help tell the story.  Guckenheimer Co. stated that it had delivered them goods — likely whiskey for their brands — amounting to $8,950 for promissory notes that had not been paid off.  Fern Cliff Co. alleged it delivered $11,733 worth of product on the basis for an unpaid promissory note.  P.W. Engs & Sons Co., a New York wholesaler, had the same experience with its $1,455 bill for whiskey supplies.  The Goetzmanns defaulted on all of them.

Moreover, criminal intent was alleged.  Valuable warehouse certificates, the property of Fern Cliff, reputedly had been transferred illegally to the German-American Bank to the favor of the Goetzmanns.  Worse yet, Henry had disappeared.   As related in the article:  “It is charged that Henry Goetzmann, head of the company, left home in July for parts unknown….but that he has since been drawing funds from the company.  It is claimed he has been heard from in Butte, Mont., Boston, and Chicago, but that he refuses to return to Rochester.”

In other words, Henry had left others, including his brothers, “holding the bag.” How low the House of Goetzmann had fallen!  The bankruptcy proceeded and eventually the claimants received some compensation.  The family sold their mansion and moved to a less pretentious homestead.  William and Charles, both bachelors, went into business together manufacturing pianos.  Henry eventually came back to Rochester.  Frederick Goetzmann & Sons Co., however, disappeared forever.

Both Mother Sarah Salome and William died in 1914, Charles in 1934.  Henry lived until 1921 when, apparently having contracted an incurable disease, he committed suicide. He was laid to rest in the New Hope Cemetery with other Goetzmanns, including his father.  Shown here are the gravestones of the two men: The father whose energy and intelligence guided the Goetzmann liquor house to the top and the son whose business practices are alleged to have brought it to ruin.