Saturday, July 28, 2018

Whiskey Men as “Impresarios” of Recreation

Foreword:   How did Americans “have fun” in pre-Prohibition day a century and more ago? More people were living in cities and feeling the stress of an increasingly mechanized environment.  Looking for new ways to recreate, many Americans were eager to spend their leisure time in more adventurous forms of entertainment.  Better transportation options like the railroad, streetcars and automobiles made it possible to travel distances to recreate. Liquor sales had given whiskey men the money to extend their enterprises to include such opportunities.  This is the story of four of them.

Edwin S. Hughes, shown here with a fancy mustache, was New Jersey born but early in life gravitated West.   After stints in Leadville and Aspen, Colorado, in 1887 he moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and started his own bottling company.  Shown below, Glenwood Springs, originally called “Defiance” by its rambunctious residents, was anything but a tourist hub.  Located in a mountain valley at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork River, many more saloons, gambling houses and brothels existed than grocery stores and restaurants.  As one local historian has put it:  “More saloons existed here than a city needed, honestly, but we had them.”   

As a newcomer, Hughes had the wisdom to see the potential of the area in the extensive geothermal resources that existed, most famously in hot springs, shown here.  It was an era when many believed that mineral waters held restorative qualities and could even cure diseases.  He saw that a market existed. The arrival of railroads, the Denver and Rio Grande from the east, the Colorado Midland from the south, meant that people could travel to Glenwood Springs in relative comfort.  Hughes would provide encouragement.

Over time Hughes gained control of the hot springs, garnered the exclusive right to bottle the “medicinal” waters, and was elected to the town board where he became a force for better streets and sidewalks and curbing gambling and prostitution.  Opening his own liquor store in 1894, for a time he exercised a monopoly in Glenwood Springs to dictate whiskey and beer supplies, pricing, and even the establishment of new saloons.

After helping to tame this “rowdy” town and make it a tourist destination, Hughes capitalized by buying the Hotel Colorado, patterned after the Villa de Medici in Italy.  Hotel Colorado became a favored destination for Easterners lured by the mineral water baths.  Arriving mostly by train, they reveled in the comforts it afforded as well as its firework displays, live music and elegant dining.  After extended stays there by Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, Hotel Colorado gained the name “Little White House of the West.”  With considerable help from Ed Hughes, Glenwood Springs had become a retreat for the rich and famous.

Able to prosper as the proprietor of a liquor house in Salt Lake City, Utah, the heart of Mormon country, Jacob Bergerman seems quickly to have achieved recognition in local business circles as a canny operator.  During the early 1900s, he was entrusted with being the proprietor and manager of Calders Park, a well-known Salt Lake City recreational site and resort.  He ran a saloon on the premises where both boisterous drinkers and more respectable sorts, as the pair shown in a 1900s John Held New Yorker cartoon, could have their leisure.  

In 1904, Bergerman was awarded a lease to manage what the press called “an ideal pleasure resort” named “The Lagoon.” Hired by a regional railway company,  Jacob was put on notice that his contract was dependent upon enforcing order among patrons and insuring that “all concessions in the shape of restaurants, bars, etc. must be conduct (sic) in first class manner.”   It was not until 1817, and statewide prohibition, that Bergerman had to cease all liquor sales at Calders Park and the Lagoon.

As a partner in The Levy and Lewin Mercantile Company, Albert Lewin, who came from Germany with his family as a baby, had made a reputation in Denver as an accomplished liquor dealer but found his interests moving in other directions.  In March 1907 he joined a group of investors that incorporated the Lakeside Realty and Amusement Company to create a large amusement park adjacent to Denver.  Managed by Lewin, Lakeside also incorporated as a municipality in order to be free of Denver’s restrictive laws on the sale and serving of alcohol.  An employee of Levy & Lewin Mercantile was elected mayor.  

Lewin became a darling of the Denver press.   When the 100,000 lights in the park were turned on for a test, the whiskey man was quoted.  The Denver Republican also reported that Lewin had successfully tested the motors on all the park rides.  When the park opened the same paper declared that the Lakeside management had given the people of Colorado “the greatest and finest amusement park ever attempted West of Chicago.”  Shown above, it was, indeed, a spectacular scene.

Two years after his success at Lakeside, Lewin looked for a new challenge.  He found it in an earlier amusement park built near Denver called Manhattan Beach.  After it burned in 1908, Lewin headed an investment group that rebuilt it, adding a roller coaster, shown here, an over-the-water dance pavilion, and a new theater.  Renamed “Luna Park,”  venture was not as successful as Lewin’s earlier venture.  Lakeside has remained a favorite recreation spot for Coloradans;  Luna Park eventually was razed.

While still a teenager, Columbus Ed Carmichael, known as “C. Ed,” moved to Ocala, then just a sleepy Florida town, where he helped his father establish a combined saloon, wholesale whiskey business and grocery store, and eventually took over its management.  By 1906 Carmichael had sufficient funds to buy land in an area near Ocala called Silver Springs, shown here.  The springs are among the largest artesian spring formations in the world, producing nearly 550 million gallons of crystal-clear water daily.  They 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.

At the same time anti-alcohol sentiments were rising in Florida.  As an alternative to selling liquor, C. Ed determined to develop Silver Springs into a tourist destination.  The old freight depot and other ramshackle buildings were torn down.  In their place he constructed a large bathhouse with facilities for men and women. He also built a pavilion at spring side, shown here.  Almost single handedly Carmichael had turned Ocala into a tourist destination.  

In 1924, now 61 years old, Carmichael leased his Silver Springs holdings to other entrepreneurs who greatly expanded the tourist facilities he had initiated.  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 Ocala often featured the boats with passengers eager to feel the beautiful cool waters.  Today Silver Springs is a national landmark, advertised as Florida’s “original attraction.”  Thanks to the whiskey man, C. Ed Carmichael.

Note:  Longer treatments of each of these individuals can be found on this blog: Edwin S. Hughes, November 23, 2016;  Jacob Bergerman, July 18, 2012;  Albert Lewin, May 13, 2018;  C. Ed Carmichael, December 11, 2016.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

John Forrester and His Shoot-out Saloon

In August of 1907, John C. Foster, a transplanted Arkansan, in an ad in the Eastern Utah Advocate, claimed about his Senate Saloon:  “We cater to the best of trade.”  This might have amused some of his customers who well remembered a fatal shoot-out that occurred in the Senate Saloon only a few years earlier.

At the turn of the 20th Century the town of Price, Utah, shown above, had a reputation as a “A hell-roaring…bawdy, saloon-filled oasis for miners, gamblers and recluses.”  A local poet penned this verse:

Here rots what is left of the city of Price
Whose officers never would take good advice.
"Twas a haven of riches for all sons of witches,
Who reveled in crime and flourished in vice.

The gun play in the Senate Saloon in Price was the outcome of a long series of circumstances involving one of the last major outlaws in the West, Butch Cassidy, shown here.  On April 21, 1897, Cassidy and an accomplice pulled off a daylight robbery in Castle Gate, Utah, about twelve miles from Price, making off with $7,000 in gold.  Given a tip about Cassidy’s camp a posse from the town went out, killed two sleeping gang members and claimed they had killed Butch himself who had a $4,000 bounty on his head (worth $144,000 today) rather than on other gang members who had only $500 value.

When the corpse proved not to be Cassidy’s, the posse of twenty men each had a share of  $500 or $26.30.  Even so, it was more than the average two months pay — enough for a posse member named Wurf  to cheat another named Watson out of his share.  When Watson found out he came gunning for Wurf inside the Senate Saloon.  Drunk, he fumbled the shot and Wurf plugged him in the groin and followed with a second bullet that traveled up Watson’s rectum and lodged in his rib cage.  Although Watson was dying, Wurf ran across the street to the Price Trading Company, got a rifle to finish the job but was arrested while loading it.  A friendly judge later dismissed all charges.

At that point John Forrester was living and work in Colton, Utah. Shown here, it was a line of shacks and saloons in Carbon County about a dozen miles north of Price. Born in Boone County, Arkansas, about 1860 (records differ), John was the son of William and Sarah Forrester and raised on a farm along with four other siblings.  When and why he determined to move the 1,250 miles west to Utah is not recorded.  He likely was hoping for a bonanza through mining.  The 1900 Federal census found Forrester in Colton with a wife, Margaret C. (called “Maggie”) Curtis, native-born in Utah, who was about ten years younger than he.  They had married in Carbon County in 1897 and by 1900 had two children.  A third would arrive two years later.  Forrester’s occupation was given as “miner.”

Forrester must have been fully aware in Colton of the Wurf-Watson shootout but that event seemingly had little impact on his decision to move to Price and buy the Senate Saloon.  My hunch is that he had made a decent strike, sold his mining rights, and had the cash to purchase the booze palace.  This likely occurred in the early 1900s, not long after the shoot-out. By 1904 Forrester was sufficiently established in Price to be chosen as treasurer of Carbon County.

The saloonkeeper’s claim that he was catering “to the best of trade” was reinforced by serving quality whiskey over his bar.  He advertised that the Senate Saloon featured “Crystal Brook Sour Mash Whiskey” and “Quaker Maid Rye,” two  “top shelf” brands from the Simon Hirsch company of Kansas City.  As a frequent customer, Forrester likely would have enjoyed the giveaways for which Hirsch was known, including a large paperweight advertising Crystal Brook and a racy saloon sign for Quaker Maid.

At the same time Forrester was buying his beer closer to home, from the Becker Brewing and Malting Company of Ogden, Utah. In 1890 John S. Becker and his two sons, Gustav and Albert, had established the brewery, shown above, along the banks of the Ogden River.  Becker produced good beer and had a strong customer base in the West, something Forrester recognized.  With a token attributed to his saloon, he would give you a 12.5 cent break on a full stein of Becker.  As a saloonkeeper, John Forrester appears to have kept the peace at the Senate Saloon.  No further deadly altercations were reported.
Although it is not recorded how many years Forrester guided the fortunes of the Senate saloon, he would not have been forced to shut down by prohibition laws in Utah until 1917, one of 24 states to have adopted statewide “dry” statures by that year.  The 1920 and 1930 censuses found him living in Price with Maggie.  In both surveys his occupation was recorded as “none,” suggesting that Forrester had accrued sufficient wealth during his years as proprietor of the Senate Saloon to retire. 

The 1940 census revealed that the Forresters had left Price and moved to San Gabriel, California, where they were living with their daughter, Venable, and a grandson.  When John died in 1940 according to his gravestone he was 79 years old.   Maggie would live another 13 years, dying in 1953.  The couple is buried together in San Gabriel Cemetery.  

Note:  Butch Cassidy and his gang figure prominently in another vignette on this blog, posted November 18, 2015.  It features Jack Ryan, a Wyoming saloonkeeper who was Cassidy’s friend and possible accomplice.  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Hamlet, N.C., Was Built on Eli Lackey’s Liquor

A regional history, commenting on a North Carolina town adjacent to the South Carolina line, concluded:  “In a manner of speaking, much of early Hamlet was built on money from liquor production…The Lackey liquor fortune….”   Indeed, the day in 1890 when Eli Alexander Lackey settled in Hamlet made possible the day in 1917 when the famous Enrico Caruso sang in the city’s Opera House.

Lackey was born in Idrell County, North Carolina, in 1861, as the Civil War was raging.  His father, Joseph, a farmer, was twenty-four at the time of his birth and his mother, Frances, was 20.  Of his early life, little is recorded.  It would appear that as a youth he became acquainted with the liquor trade, possibly working in a saloon that had its own distilling facility.  

It is evident that when Lackey arrived in Hamlet, he was newly married, perhaps the impetus for the move.  His bride was Ellen (“Ella”) Halyburton of McDowell County, North Carolina.  She was the daughter of Hoyle, a farmer,  and Harriet Halyburton and the youngest of nine children.  When they married Eli was 28 years old and she was 21.  They would go on to have a family of four children who would live to maturity.

Lackey had made a wise choice of a destination.  Although Charlotte was closer to his home place than Hamlet, he had bypassed it to arrive at this this southern most city in North Carolina.  In the early part of the 20th century, more than thirty trains stopped in Hamlet daily at its spacious station, shown here, en route to New York City, New Orleans, Richmond and cities in Florida. Known as "The Hub of the Seaboard," Hamlet boasted seven hotels and numerous boarding houses and restaurants catering to rail passengers.  

Recognizing that many of the transients as well as the locals would have a thirst and the requisite cash, 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 retail sales.  He erected a building on Hamlet’s Main Street that he called the “recified house” where he stored his bottles and jugs.  He also built a shed just across the railroad tracks on Hamlet Avenue he called “the grain house.”  From there he used an eight-horse wagon to haul grain to his distillery, shown below.

Lackey featured a number of brands including "N.C. Corn Whisky," "Pride of N.C. Corn," "XX Anchor Rye Whisky," "Old Henry Rye," as well as gin and brandy. His flagship brand was "Eli Lackey’s Pure N.C. Silver Top Corn Whiskey."  Its label carried a picture of the owner himself.  

Ever the canny businessman, Lackey, unlike many of his North Carolina competiors, took the trouble and cost of registering this brand with the Patent and Trademark Office — the first in the state to take that step.  He sold his whiskey in ceramic containers:  “No charge for jugs.” Sizes varied from gallons, shown above, and two and three gallon containers, as below.

Courting an express mail order trade, including to areas that had gone “dry,” his ads emphasized railroad access:  “Train goes out every day.”  His jug labels boasted:   “Shipping advantages not Equaled by any other Mail Order House in the South.”   Lackey also was shipping his liquor in quart glass bottles, emphasizing that the products were coming “direct from distiller to consumer.” Four quarts of Silver Top Corn were $3, the glass a bit more expensive than the $2.50 for a gallon jug.  Both were shipped in plain cottonwood cases:  “No marks to indicate contents.”

Lackey’s vigorous merchandising paid off handsomely and he amassed significant wealth.  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.  Called “Lackeytown,” the neighborhood is shown above as it looked circa 1909.  About the same time Eli built his family a mansion home, later to become a church property, shown below.

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.  Examples of Italianate style, they feature distinctive cut-away corners and exterior metal declaration.  Chiseled on the corner of each building in large letters above its cornices is the name “E. A. Lackey.”  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.

Although these construction projects were a source of pride to the Lackey family and brought them considerable community recognition, Ella and Eli dreamed of bringing something cultural to Hamlet.  They decided on contributing an opera house at 55 Main Street, where one of Eli’s distillery warehouses earlier had been located.  Building commenced in 1912. As shown here the opera house originally had a Greek Revival facade with an ornate interior to match.  

The theatre provided a venue for the people of Hamlet to hear 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 Eli and Ella Lackey to their pinnacle of success.

Unfortunately the glow was not to last.  The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 ravaged Richmond County and caused the governor to put Hamlet and other towns under a strict quarantine.  It did not save Eli who succumbed on October 11, 1918.  His two brothers and business associates, Ollie and Fred, died of the same epidemic within three days of Eli’s passing.  Ella and their four children survived.  With his wife and family looking on, Lackey was buried in Hamlet’s Mary Love Cemetery in a plot that contains other family members.  A tall obelisk marks the place.

Ella Lackey lived another 38 years, long enough to see the family fortune wiped out.  A survey of his estate following his death showed that Eli had left a vast amount of real estate to his widow.  It included much of downtown Hamlet and other properties.  The onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, however,  hit the Lackey family hard.  By 1935 Ella and other heirs had lost almost all their Main Street holdings and other tracts through foreclosure.  Their mansion home was sold and later torn down.

Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Main Street buildings that Lackey financed still stand.  Although its facade was altered to “Art Deco” in the 1920s, the opera house continues to be in use.  These structures are constant reminders to residents and visitors alike of Eli Alexander Lackey and how he used his profits from distilling and selling whiskey to build up his adopted home town.

Note:  The information for this post was gathered from a number of sources, the principal one being Linda Harris Edmisten’s report, dated 1991, proposing Hamlet’s Main Street as a historic district. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Elliott & Burke on the Prohibition Merry-Go-Round

When Thomas G. Elliott and the Burke brothers, Leonard and Ed, teamed up to sell “fine whiskey” in Aberdeen, Mississippi, they likely were unaware that they had taken their places on a circular ride dictated by the prohibition movement that would take them from Aberdeen to Memphis, Tennessee, and eventually back again to Aberdeen. 

Born in Aberdeen in 1841 of parents both from Georgia, Elliott was considerably older than his partners.  He had left home in May 1861 to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War, joining Company B (the Hamilton Guards) of the 20th Mississippi Infantry as a private. He served the entire course of the war until the surrender at Appomattox, seeing considerable hot combat over that period.

The 20th had the distinction of being the first Mississippi regiment to serve in the field under Gen. Robert E. Lee, initially campaigning in the West Virginia mountains.  After Lee’s transfer elsewhere, Elliott’s unit was sent to counter Gen. Grant’s combined naval and army advance up the Cumberland River.  From there the 20th was engaged in battles and skirmishes throughout the South.  In  1865 the unit was sent to central Mississippi where its final major combat was the “Battle of Raymond,” depicted above.

Discharged in April 1865, apparently never seriously wounded, Elliott found his way back to Aberdeen, a busy port  during much of the 19th Century and at one time the second largest city in Mississippi.  Twenty-four years old when the war ended, his early post-war employment has gone unrecorded.  By 1871, however, Elliott had opened a saloon at the southeastern corner of  Commerce Street, a major business avenue, and Meridian Street. 

After running that establishment as a single proprietor for eight years, in 1879 Elliott formed a partnership with Helio E. Stoddard, who likely was related to Thomas’ stepfather, Cassius Stoddard.  They did business together for three years until a fire in their saloon in March 1882 put them out of business and ended their partnership.   Elliott went back to his single proprietorship for a short time before taking the Burkes as his partners.

The Burke boys also were Aberdeen locals, Leonard born in 1856 and Edward in 1863, the sons of James L. and Mary E. Burke.  Their father apparently had died at an early age. The 1870 census found the brothers as children living with their mother, a widow, and three siblings, a girl and two boys.  All of them were under 15 years. 

The situation suggests that the brothers must have gone to work at an early age to help support the family and that their industriousness had come to the attention of Elliott, now in his early 40s.  He partnered with them despite Leonard being only about 26 and Edward barely 20.  Known as Elliott & Burke, the trio seems quickly to have found success in selling liquor, both over the bar and as a retail outlet.  After selling one saloon in 1889 they soon opened another located at 76 Commerce Street, the building shown here as it looks today.
The partners were buying whiskey by the barrel from a range of sources and decanting it into a variety of ceramic jugs.  As seen here, these ranged in size from quarts (right),  gallons (left) and two gallons (left below).  Of indeterminate size is the jug (right below) with a Bristol glaze body and Albany slip brown top.  Each carries the name of the partners, the motto “fine whiskey” and the name of their home town.

Aberdeen, however, was poised to disappoint and dispossess them.  Mississippi had been edging toward prohibition of alcoholic sales for some years, initially adopting “local option” laws that allow individual cities and counties to go “dry” by forbidding the making or selling of liquor within their boundaries.  In March 1902, Richmond County that included Aberdeen took that step and put Elliott & Burke out of business.

The partners wasted no time in moving their operation.  Although many Mississippi whiskey men facing a liquor ban moved to neighboring Louisiana, a state that stayed reliably “wet” until National Prohibition, Elliott & Burke chose to relocate 145 miles north to Memphis, Tennessee, a problematic choice.  The state legislature there in 1887 had passed a law that prohibited selling intoxicating liquors within four miles of any country school, virtually banning the whiskey trade in rural Tennessee.

Because cities were still “wet” Elliott and the Burkes were counting on Memphis to buck the trend toward prohibition.  Almost immediately they began newspaper advertising in Mississippi towns that had gone dry.  Among them was Okolona, a village about 20 miles from Aberdeen.  They advertised there: “All the best grades of Kentucky and Tennessee whiskies” as well as gin, brandy and wine.  Orders would be filled and shipped by railroad express from their Memphis store at 459 Main Street.

Although Elliott does not seem ever to have married and spent much of his life in rented quarters, the Burke brothers both had families that they uprooted for the move to Memphis.  In 1883, Leonard had married Sarah Rush, Mississippi-born of parents from Alabama.  That couple appears to have had no children.  In 1889, Edward had married Eva, a Mississippi native with parents from Virginia.  This marriage resulted in at least one son, Robert, whose middle name was Elliott, perhaps indicating Ed Burke’s respect for his older partner.

The Memphis iteration of Elliott & Burke appears to have been as successful as their Aberdeen saloon and liquor house.  As shown here, once again they were filling a variety of ceramic containers that advertised “fine whiskey.”  Both their Aberdeen and Memphis jugs are avidly sought with the Aberdeen examples seemingly commanding higher prices from collectors.

With each passing year, Tennessee became increasingly prohibitionist.  The Four Mile rule was extended to cities in 1909, but had little effect in the four largest, including Memphis where saloons continued to operate openly.  One liquor trade publication claimed that more whiskey was being sold in Tennessee than before the law.  In 1917, however, a “bone-dry bill” advocated by the governor passed and completed the prohibitionist campaign in Tennessee. The legislation made illegal the receipt or possession of liquor and banned the transportation of liquor into or out of the state.

After a run of 15 years in Memphis, Elliott & Burke were forced to close down for a second time.  Sensing the impending end, Ed Burke in 1916 purchased a stock of goods and fixtures from a bankrupt drugstore and moved back to Aberdeen to open a pharmacy where “medicinal” whiskey could still be made available.  Thomas Elliott and Leonard Burke appear to have returned as well.  By this time, both men were advanced in age,  Thomas at 76; Leonard 61.  Both today lie buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Aberdeen.  I have been unable to find Ed Burke’s burial information.

Amid the travails of the anti-alcohol forces, the partners had been able to maintain their business for a quarter century by riding the merry-go-round that took them from their home town of Aberdeen, Mississippi, to Memphis,Tennessee and back again.  In the process Elliott & Burke left behind a wealth of whiskey jugs to help remind us of their persistence in the face of public pressure and restrictive laws.