Monday, February 25, 2019

“White Beaver” and His Alcoholic Nostrums

Forward:  It may be a stretch to call Dr. Frank Powell, aka “White Beaver,” a whiskey man—but only slightly.  A medical school graduate, comrade of Buffalo Bill, Western hero of dime novels, and inventor of patent medicines, Powell was peddling nostrums, more alcoholic than most whiskeys.  Moreover, his story is so bizarre as to merit telling.

Many a boy, fetching the dime novel hidden in the corn crib, thrilled to the adventures of “White Beaver” as in story after story the hero overcame all odds to best his evil enemies.  White Beaver, in reality Dr. Frank Powell, found one adversary too strong:  It was the federal Food and Drug Agency that declared fraudulent the heavily alcoholic patent medicines that the doctor had invented and sold.

Born in a Kentucky log cabin in 1845, David Frank Powell was the son of a physician of Scottish descent and a mother who was half Seneca Indian.  When his father died at an early age, his mother took him and his brothers to live in New York State during the Civil War.  During the postwar period, the Powells moved to Chicago where Frank went to work as a drug clerk and then on to Nebraska.  In 1868 he entered medical school at Louisville University in Kentucky graduating at the head of his class.

While in Nebraska, Powell had met Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, and other figures of the old West.  After graduation he went back to the state and was named to a government post as surgeon in the Department of the Platte and later made Medicine Chief of the Winnebago Indians.  According to legend, Frank got his name, “White Beaver” from riding into the camp of a hostile group of Indians, in order to inoculate the residents against small pox.  Others say he got it by rescuing a Sioux princess.  Regardless, he embraced the title, let his hair grow long, and began to polish his legend.

During this period he also had become reacquainted with Buffalo Bill.  An excellent marksman, Powell from time to time provided Cody’s touring show not only as a doctor but also a sharpshooter.  Shown here is a photo of the two (Frank right) as they looked in their touring days.  With his Indian nickname, his time in the West, and his association with Buffalo Bill Cody,  Frank Powell was a natural for dime novel fiction, a boom business in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The stories were about his “daring do” against a string of fictional adversaries.  

Powell is depicted here on the cover of Beadle’s Dime Library, on the trail of evil-doers.  Among his titles were “White Beaver, the Indian Medicine Chief: the Romantic and Adventurous Life of Dr. Frank Powell;” “The Wizard Brothers, or, White Beaver’s Red Trail,” that also featured Powell’s brothers; “Buffalo Bill’s Sharpshooters, or, the Surgeon Scout to the Rescue;” “Buffalo Bill’s Swoop, a Buffalo Bill and Surgeon Frank Powell Adventure.”   Although some stories  were attributed to him as author it is doubtful that he wrote any.

In fact, much of the time Powell was working as a small town doctor in placid LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  By now divorced and remarried, he also was putting his energies into mixing up and marketing a series of patent medicines.  This was an era when Indian remedies were very popular with the American public and Dr. Powell was quick to jump on the bandwagon.  Buffalo Bill helped him by investing in manufacturing the nostrums.  

Best known of these concoctions was “White Beaver Cough Cream.  The cough cream was described as:  “A soothing compound of lung healing root and herb juices, an unrivaled remedy for the cure of coughs, colds, croup, pleurisy, bronchitis, and all other diseases of lungs or bronchial tubes.”  Fifty cents would buy a generous helping of the cream in an apothecary type glass jar with a removable top.  Smaller amounts came in clear embossed flask-shaped containers.  

In his advertising Powell often used testimonials.  W. G. Smith of Mahias, Michigan, opined on the cough cream:  “I consider it the Best Cough Medicine in the Country.”  N. F. Wetmore, a M.D. from North Freedom, Wisconsin, hailed it for “excellent satisfaction.”   Another potion was “White Beaver’s Wonder Worker” said to “instantly relieve either internal or external pain.”  A third product Powell dubbed “Yosemite Yarrow.”

Although for a time the remedies sold well, with Frank regularly visiting Milwaukee and other larger cities in Wisconsin and neighboring states to push his merchandise.  With the passage of the Food and Drugs Act in 1906, however, Federal authorities were on White Beaver’s trail.  In 1915, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin filed suit in federal court alleging that both White Beaver’s Cough Cream and Wonder Worker were in violation of the pure foods statute.  Analysis by the Bureau of Chemistry showed that the cough cream contained morphine, chloroform, creosote, ammonium chloride, and methyl slicylate.   It also contained alcohol, one estimate putting the strength at 82% (164 proof).  The cough mediciine was declared misbranded by claiming that it was “a remedy for croup, pleurisy and all other diseases of the lungs and air passages and effective as a lung healer in consumption when, in truth and in fact, it was not,” according to Federal officials.

White Beaver’s Wonder Worker came in for similar harsh treatment.  In liquid form, it proved to be just under 75% alcohol, that is, 150 proof — putting it among the strongest alcoholic liquors on the market.  In addition, it contained 1.70 grams of chloroform, and .09 gram of morphine and traces of camphor, capsicum, oil of turpentine and free ammonia.  This concoction was not a cure for the many ailments claimed in its advertising, including cholera infantum, fever and ague, and “summer complaints of children.”  The company admitted guilt, paid a $300 fine, and White Beaver’s products disappeared.

Meanwhile Powell had complemented his doctoring with politics, winning two elections for mayor of LaCrosse and unsuccessfully running for governor of Wisconsin.  His campaigning involved handing out a card with his portrait, one without the long hair and leather garments, shown here.  It did,however, contain a reminder that the candidate was White Beaver.  Eventually Powell’s entrepreneur sights shifted Westward, taking him into lumber, mining and other ventures, likely with Buffalo Bill in tow.  He was on such a business trip to California in May 1906 when he died on a train near El Paso, Texas, at the age of 61. 

Even White Beaver’s going was the stuff of legends.  Powell reportedly had asked that he be cremated and his ashes be spread at Red Butte, Wyoming, shown here.   According to a biographer, the friends transporting his remains got drunk and failed to notice that his ashes were leaking out of a pack on their mule.  By the time the funeral cortege got to Red Butte, Powell's ashes were spread across a wide swath of the West.  

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Whiskey Men and Fire

Foreword:  Fire was a constant plague of pre-Prohibition distillers and others dealing with liquor.   The alcohol in whiskey is highly combustible.  An ethanol-water solution that contains 40% alcohol by volume will catch fire if heated to 79 degrees Farenheit and an ignition source is applied to it. This is called its flash point. The flash point of whiskey, therefore, is just about room temperature.  Because open flames were common in pre-Pro distilleries, the threat of fire was ever present.  From among a number of conflagrations that might have been chosen as examples, I have selected three of the most disastrous.

William C. Patterson, a wealthy Philadelphia businessman, neither made nor sold liquor.  His role was in providing storage for whiskey as it aged from Pennsylvania distilleries that entrusted their product to him for safe and sanitary keeping.  To that end, on Front Street above Lombard, he had erected a structure known as Patterson’s Bonded Warehouse.   It comprised eight buildings, all but one seven stories high and 220 by 135 feet.  Each was supposed to be completely fireproof, and built without connection with the others, and therefore supposed to be safe from total destruction by fire.

On the night of August 4, 1869, however, one wall of a building facing Lombard Street collapsed, reputedly because of excessive weight from 25,000 liquor barrels on the floors.  Stored whiskey went down with the ruins and in a few moments a violent explosion occurred, scattering timbers, bricks and flames.  Firemen appeared to have isolated the damage and it was thought other sections of the warehouse could be saved.  Then a second building exploded in fire and soon the entire facility was engulfed.  The front page of the Harpers Weekly of August 21,1869, shown above, told the story. 

When the smoke cleared the entire warehouse complex lay in ruins.  Although no lives had been lost, the monetary loss was placed at $5,000,000 — more than 20 times that in today’s dollar.  Of that amount only $2,299,000 of the lost whiskey was covered by insurance.  The bottom line for Patterson was the personal responsibility to make good all uncovered losses.  The cost is said to have swept away most the wealth he had amassed earlier.  Said his obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “From this blow his fortunes never entirely recovered, but as he had borne prosperity without being spoiled by it, so he met adversity with a calm front and an equal mind.”  

Being a close neighbor to a pre-Prohibition distillery was, at best, a mixed blessing.  It provided employment but put its surroundings at peril from explosions and fires.  A case in point was the distillery owned by George W. Robson Sr. near Newport, Kentucky, located in a small settlement on the Licking River called “Finchtown,” shown on a map here.  Because the massive plant, below, whose flagship brand was “Old 76,” provided residents with steady employment,  Finchtown was the picture of a thriving community. 

On September 4, 1888, residents got a rude awakening when an explosion rocked the community.  Around 10 p.m. as a night watchman was making his rounds on the third floor of the distillery, he was flattened by a blast from a still.  The force of the explosion collapsed the south wall of the distillery onto a boiler shed.  The watchman suffered severe burns but survived.  No other injuries were reported.  Robson quickly rebuilt with fireproofing in mind.  He issued a statement that cited how much his improvements had decreased fire insurance rates on whiskey held in its warehouses.  The danger of another fire was seen as low by insurers.

That is, until January 24, 1907.  About 9 p.m. that day, a watchman came across a blaze, one that quickly spread out of control into the community.  As the flames raged, a popular saloon and the Finchtown drug store were consumed.  The fierce conflagration moved rapidly toward the warehouses that were at maximum capacity with aging whiskey.  As the flames engulfed the storage areas, the barrels are said to have exploded like rockets in the night sky.  Once again Robeson rebuilt.  This time the people of Finchtown had had enough and many moved away.  The town ceased to appear in area directories and in 1938 the area was annexed to Newport.  

No American distiller before or since has ever been faced with the death and destruction that plagued Franklin T. Corning during an period of just over five years when three major disasters in succession ravaged his Peoria, Illinois, distillery, below.  As one writer described it, Corning faced “torrents of fire.” 

The first disaster occurred in October, 1903 when a huge steel tank used for cooking the mash exploded, hurling it through the north wall of the distillery and landing 250 feet away.  The entire north wall of the distillery was blown down and other walls badly damaged.  Bricks and other debris were propelled throughout the distillery complex.  More important, seven workmen were killed.  Two in the cooker room died instantly in the explosion;  three others, badly scalded by steam, died in the ambulance or later in the hospital, and later two others were found dead amidst the rubble.

Although Corning quickly rebuilt, he could not ward off disaster.  On the afternoon of a warm June day tragedy struck Franklin Corning a second time. Fire was seen billowing out of control from an 11-story warehouse containing some 30,000 barrels of aging whiskey.  The fire touched off explosions that caused the warehouse to collapse. The flames spread rapidly to adjacent buildings. An observer captured the scene:  “Torrents of blazing whiskey that were a foot deep spread quickly through gullies in the street and towards the river.  The burning spirits also spilled into the sewers….The flood of fire continued on its destructive course until it reached the stockyards.  Three thousand head of cattle in their pens were suffocated from the smoke and surrounding buildings that were completed a few months before were burned as well.”  This time fifteen men, including a worker who was visiting from another Peoria distillery, lost their lives in the fires and explosions. 

Although Franklin Corning must have been weighed down psychologically by the death of twenty-two workmen during the past eight months, the owner almost immediately announced plans to rebuild a second time.  Within a year the distillery once more was in full operation. Despite his efforts, however, Corning was not through with fire.  In April 1908 a blaze began on the fourth floor of a six-story mill building and spread to adjacent four-story elevators, engine and cooperage rooms, and threatened to engulf an eight story tower containing 125,000 gallons of whiskey.  By quick action Corning this time was able to save substantial whiskey from the flames.  As a result an original damage estimate of $750,000 ($18 million equiv.) was considerably reduced to $187,000 ($4.7 million).  Unlike the two previous disasters, this time no lives were lost.  A third time Corning repaired the damage and continued his distilling.  After overcoming those “torrents of fire,” Corning remained a well-recognized and regarded Peoria “whisky baron” until his death in 1915.

Note:  Longer posts on each of the three disaster prone whiskey men treated here can be found elsewhere on this blog:   William C. Patterson, January 7, 2018; George W.  Robson Sr., September 23, 2017; and Franklin T. Corning, January 26, 2016.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Keeping Up with the Joneses in Liberty, Mo.

With a population of under 1,000, Liberty, Missouri, would seem an unlikely place to build a distillery.  Undaunted, James Jones, shown right, and his wife, Amelia, had the vision to settle there before the Civil War and begin making whiskey.  Although their output was relatively small, the Jones Distillery is reported to have enjoyed a trade throughout the West and a life span of at least a half century.

James was born in Kentucky in 1824;  Amelia (nee Barkley), born in 1828, was a native of Pennsylvania.  Each gravitated to Missouri, marrying on March 28, 1844 in St. Louis.  There is no record of children from their union.  The 1860 census found them living in Liberty where James’ occupation was given as “merchant tailor.”  Living with them apparently were two relatives of Amelia and two tailors working for James.

Although the exact date of their opening the A. M. Jones Distillery, named for Amelia, is uncertain, but a letterhead appears to date it to the 1860s.  That dating would coincide with the coming of railroads to Liberty.  In 1867 the Hannibal & St. Joseph (later the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy) made Liberty a stop on the line from Kansas City to Cameron, Missouri, the station shown here.  In 1868, the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad passed through the southern part of Liberty. 

The need to cultivate a wider territory for their whiskey was essential for the Jones.  Although Missouri was assuredly “wet,”  Liberty had been settled by Methodists, Presbyterians and Evangelicals, all of whom were against the consumption of alcohol. Carry Nation, the famous ax-swinging prohibitionist had attended a lady’s seminary there.  Murray Road, on which the distillery stood, was named for a local judge who was a leading Missouri “dry” and is said to have “hated his road having a distillery on it.”  Seemingly cautious about his occupation, Jones told the 1870 census taker that he was a farmer.

The distillery itself is reported originally to have been three log cabins that were joined to form the building.  A 10,000 gallon spring supplied water.  Outbuildings included two ice houses and a barrel plant. Two photographs, circa 1880, from the Liberty Historical Society show the distillery complex.  The buildings were frame with what appear to be metal roofs.

A Sanborn insurance map of the property indicates how simple the operation was. The process was fueled by coal.  There was no electricity and no watchman.  The plant boasted just a single warehouse.  As the map of the property indicates, the couple were raising pigs, feeding them the spent mash from the whiskey-making process.  The Joneses also kept cows on the property, also to be given residuals from the distilling. 

Despite the size of their town, the modest size of their distillery, and the disapproval of neighbors, the Joneses persevered in making what was almost certainly quality whiskey.  One observer has commented that they “shipped whiskey throughout the West.”   Since they had a cooperage on premises, some of their product clearly was shipped in large quantities.  For retail sales the Joneses relied on glass.   Shown here in several shades of amber are embossed “lady’s leg” bottles.  These might also have had a paper label proclaiming “Liberty Springs Whiskey,”  the flagship brand of James and Amelia.

Having succeeded in guiding the fortunes of the A. M. Jones Distillery through most of three decades, James sicken and, at age 70, died in 1891.  He was buried in Liberty’s Fairview Cemetery,  Block 39, Lot 11.  A large monument marks the gravesite.  James’ plaque bears the inscription, “Gone but not forgotten.”

Amelia, who had been a business partner of her husband throughout the operation of the distillery, appears to have taken over the reins of management. One of her initiatives was in 1893 to open a sales office in the Boston Building of Kansas City, shown here.  Down the road 14 miles from Liberty, Kansas City was a hub for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, providing the Jones distillery with markets for its whiskey as far away as Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Five years later in 1896, however, Amelia too passed away at age 68.  She was buried next to James in the family plot.  Because there apparently were no children to inherit the distillery, ownership fell to other hands, principally those of Abraham Rosenberger, a successful Kansas City liquor dealer.  While assuming the titles of distillery president and treasurer, Rosenberger was careful to keep the name and tradition of the Joneses in his advertising materials, as indicated by a letterhead.

When the “Bottled in Bond” legislation was enacted by Congress in 1897, Rosenberger was quick to register the A. M. Jones Distillery.  It became unit No. 97 within Missouri’s Sixth District.  Federal records show transactions under the Act beginning in 1898 and extending through 1914.  

The Kansas City whiskey man also was responsible for issuing shot glasses bearing the registration number.  These would have been given to favored customers — saloons, restaurants, and hotels — selling Jones whiskey, including a second flagship brand, “Jones Old Storage Bourbon.”

The distillery appears to have ceased operation after 1914 and a number of the buildings are recorded having been torn down after 1920.  The home that James and Amelia shared on the distillery site has been maintained although renovated and expanded.  Efforts have been made to include the site on the National Register of Historic Places.  Despite its “dry” proclivities, Liberty had been good to James and Amelia.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Baker Boys and Swastika Whiskey

Sometime in the latter third of the 1800s, three sons of a veteran steamboat captain on the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers, determined to make distilling their career.  George Baker, William Jackson Baker and Richard Alexander (R.A.) Baker went on to found Baker Bros. Distillery in Franklin County, Kentucky, not far from Frankfort.  Then they chose a name for their whiskey that later would become a hated symbol of oppression and death:  the swastika.

The swastika -- until the Nazis appropriated it -- for ages had been considered a harbinger of good luck. An ancient symbol, the swastika dates back 3,000 years to India. It also is an Native American icon, with origins in prehistory.  Given its positive image, it is no wonder that in the early 20th Century organizations found it an appropriate symbol. Coca Cola used it as the shape for a watch fob and the Boy Scouts of America displayed it on the spine of their 1903 “Handy Book.” It also was the symbol for a Ladies Home Journal-sponsored girls' club.

Who among the brothers selected the swastika to represent the Baker flagship brand is unclear.   It may have been George, the first son, born in Marietta, Ohio, in 1850.  William, born in Carroll County, Missouri, arrived eight years later and Richard, the youngest, not until 1865.  Although Chester Zoeller in his book on Kentucky whiskey speculates that the Baker Brothers & Co. Distillery may have been founded as early as 1869, that date makes no sense as the boys would have been too young.  Moreover, when he retired from steamboats to farming in Missouri, their father was wealthy and able to send his sons to college, delaying their entry into commerce.

My guess is that, if built in 1869, the facility was under other ownership and only later purchased by the Bakers, possibly as late as the 1880s.  The distillery was located four miles east of Frankfort on the Georgetown Pike, one mile west of the junction of North and South Elkhorn Creek on the Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad Line.  Although details are sketchy, the original Baker Bros. distillery likely was run by George and William.  Richard did not arrive in Frankfort until 1887 when he went to work for John D. Hinde, a wealthy Kentuckian and horse breeder, who owned and operated a 600 acre model farm near Frankfort.

Hinde and his son Thomas apparently helped the Baker boys with cash to rebuild and expand their distillery and as compensation Thomas Hinde was named president of the company.  Subsequently the Hindes moved permanently to Chicago, apparently leaving the Bakers to run the operation.  Richard became vice president and George the secretary-treasurer.  William’s role at this time is unclear.  For a time he may have been running a small distillery in Pulaski County, Kentucky.  

The Bakers also were having personal lives.  George married Mary Chase Donahue in 1889.  They had one child.  In 1911 at Frankfort Richard married Irma Labrot, daughter of Leopold and Louise Welch Labrot.   Her father was the owner of the Labrot-Graham distillery.  Richard and Irma’s union appears to have produced no children.  No record exists of William marrying.

The name of the distillery changed several times, from Baker Brothers to Swastika Distillery to Kentucky Sour Mash & Rye Distillery (1903-1905) to the name by which it became best known, the Frankfort Distillery Company.  By that time the distillery was capable of mashing 700 bushels a day and had four bonded warehouses, as shown on the 1910 Sanborn insurance map here.  By 1912 the daily mashing capacity had been increased to 1,250 bushels.

The company’s flagship brand continued to be Swastika Whiskey, available in half-pints, pints and quarts.  Over the years the distillery issued a variety of other brand names, among them:  “Baker,” "Baker Bourbon,” "Baker Rye,” “Coronet,” "Elkhorn Mills,” "Gallant Knight,” "Kerry Patch,” "Old Chief,” "Old Woodpecker,” Shandon Bells,” and “Victoria.”  Of these in 1906 the company trademarked only Baker, Elkhorn Mills, Kerry Patch and Shandon Bells. Interestingly, Swastika Whiskey was not among them.

In 1913, George Baker died, age 63.  He was buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.  After his death, William took his place as secretary-treasurer of the distillery, continuing in that post until he died in 1918.  With the death of his father-in-law in 1915, Richard with wife Irma also controlled the Labrot-Graham Distillery, twelve miles from Frankfort in Woodford County.  This facility was a successor to the venerable Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, founded in 1817. [See my posts on these distilleries, January 21 and 24, 2017].

Operating two major Kentucky distilleries brought Richard Baker considerable recognition in the whiskey trade.  He is shown here in the only photograph I could find, one taken from a passport application. When National Prohibition was enacted in 1920, Baker’s distillery was one of only six in the United States authorized to sell spirits through pharmacies for medicinal purposes. 

In 1922 Frankfort Distilleries Inc. was sold to  Paul Jones & Co. The new owners kept the name in order to retain the liquor permit.  [See my post on Paul Jones,  Sept 4, 2014.]  As shown here on a 1923 letterhead the offices were transferred to East Main Street (“Whiskey Row”) in Louisville. Richard Baker died in October 1940 at the age of 75 and was interred in the Frankfort Cemetery adjacent to his two brothers.  His grave is shown here.

Although the Frankfort distillery survived National Prohibition, Swastika brand whiskey did not.  By the time of Repeal, Hitler had begun his rise in Germany with the symbol emblazoned on everything from posters to postage stamps.  After the war when the Holocaust was fully understood, the swastika as a good luck symbol had disappeared forever— and with it, except for bottle collectors, any vestige of Swastika Whiskey.

Notes:  Details of the Bakers’ activities in the Kentucky whiskey trade are fragmentary and difficult to track.  While I have tried to cobble together an accurate narrative, the “holes” are evident.  It is my hope some watchful descendant will see this post and help me fill in details about this whiskey producing family.  In addition to Zoeller’s book, “Bourbon in Kentucky,” a key reference was a biography of Richard Baker in the “History of Kentucky,” by Kerr, Connelly and Coulter, dated 1922.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

George Fayle Saw Opportunity in the Nevada Desert

Born and raised in Los Angeles, George Arthur Fayle rejected big city life in favor of barren desert lands in Southwestern Nevada where he helped found two towns and a saloon that he appropriately named “Pioneer.”  Since Fayle’s untimely death in 1918 his establishment has become famous as the oldest working saloon in Nevada. Fayle is shown here in his youth.

Fayle’s parents had come to California from afar.  According to the 1880 census, his father, also George, was born in Ireland, likely County Mullingar, and his mother, Clara, hailed from Maine.  Born in February 1881 George was the couple’s first child, born when his father, a clerk, was 28 years old and his mother, 22.  He spent his early years in Los Angeles and was educated in its schools.  

When he was just 20 years old Fayle married Jean Henderson, a step that marked a sharp change in his life.  With Jean he headed out of the big city for a small isolated California mining town located in the Calico Mountains of the Mojave Desert. 

George Fayle with Team Hauling Ore

There he found work hauling ore from the silver strikes.  What Jean thought of this change has gone unrecorded, described as a mate who, “…Through the years of married life [was] a devoted and helpful wife, sharing in his struggles and cheering him through the dark places.”   The couple’s first son, George Junior, was born in Calico.

In 1904 family fortunes changed.  George’s uncle, Samuel Yount asked Fayle to come to work with him in a small settlement in the Nevada desert called Goodsprings Junction. “…Who would, of choice, want to live there?” queried one puzzled writer.  Fayle saw an opportunity, however, and moved his wife and newborn to Nevada.  Shown above, except for the railroad station, Goodsprings Junction came to be owned by the firm of Yount & Fayle, including a hotel and boarding house, general store, feed stables and camp yard.  Fayle became postmaster and renamed the place “Jean” after his wife.

Yount & Fayle became a highly profitable enterprise.  Eight miles across a mountain range was the town of Goodsprings, Nevada, shown left.  It was the home of the Yellow Pine mine that was producing prodigious amounts of zinc and lead ores. Yount was a major stockholder and secretary of the mine. Seventy tons of ore were shipped daily via a specially built railway from Goodsprings and off-loaded at Jean. From there it was distributed to smelting facilities across the West via the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad.

The Salt Lake Mining Review of March 1912 described George Fayle, calling him “…One of those pushing, energetic, and affable California boys whom it is always a pleasure to meet….and a rising man.”  We have a description from his draft registration for World War One.  Fayle was described as of medium height, “stout,” gray eyes, brown hair and at 36 years old a receding hairline. 

In 1912,  Fayle moved his family, now including a second son, Leonard Ray, and a daughter, Jean Nevada, across the mountains to Goodsprings.   With financial help from Yount, who already owned a general store there, George already had established a tent store for miners and begun an ore hauling business.  He then became a partner in Yount’s store.

Upon relocating in Goodsprings, Fayle built a saloon.  Not the usual ramshackle building, this watering hole featured interior and exterior walls of stamped tin plates manufactured by Sears Roebuck.  The bar was similarly impressive, crafted by the Brunswick Company of Maine in the 1860s, featuring a large mirror and a brass footrail.   It was shipped from Rhyolite, Nevada, from a defunct saloon in a soon-to-be “ghost town.”  Fayle called his establishment the “Pioneer Saloon,” shown right flanked by a crowd of his clientele.  He began shipping in whiskey by the barrel, decanting it into ceramic jugs, like the one shown here, and selling it to retail customers.  Note that the jug bears the year 1915. 

Running the saloon, however, was not without incident.  In July 1915, during a poker game at the Pioneer, a miner named Paul Coski was caught cheating.  When the dealer, Joe Armstrong, ordered him to leave, Coski refused and the dealer pulled a gun.  The two men scuffled.  Armstrong fired, hitting Coski several times and killing him.  Errant bullets pierced the tin walls of the Pioneer where the holes are still visible.  The coroner ruled Coski’s death as justifiable homicide.  One did not cheat at cards at the Pioneer Saloon.

Meanwhile, with ore increasingly plentiful, Goodsprings was growing, reaching a population of about 1,000 in 1915 — larger than Las Vegas.  The following year Fayle built a hotel, shown here. It was among the most luxurious in Nevada, providing 20 guest rooms, electric lights, hot and cold running water, steam heat, and a restaurant that claimed fine dining. Advertised as the “finest hotel in the west,” the Fayle Hotel opened with a grand ball on May 13, 1916. The hotel and restaurant initially were so successful that Las Vegas residents made the forty mile trip south to Goodsprings.  According to at least one historian, Fayle’s hotel not only served such clientele, but also provided a place where the “soiled angels” of the West could meet with their miner and prospector customers.

Fayle’s hotel, however, appears to have caused a financial break with Sam Yount.  The uncle objected to its construction, predicting that the hostelry could not survive financially.  When Fayle pressed ahead anyway, their partnership of eleven years came to an end.  Convinced that Goodsprings would be a success, George subsequently built the Fayle Department Store.  For a time his investments paid off and, according to one author, “finally reached the proportions of the most important business of southern Nevada.”

Understanding that mining was the key to Goodsprings economy, Fayle also invested in mines in the Yellow Pine District.  According to his obituary in the Las Vegas Age,  Fayle assisted prospectors who were attempting to make money from their claims:  “He handled the marketing and settlement for thousands of tons of ore for the miners and was foremost in every good work of a public nature.”  

Fayle’s public service included six years as an elected member of the Clark County Board and from 1916 to 1918 its chairman.  Of his performance in office, the newspaper said: “…His strict integrity, his unflagging energy, his boundless generosity in the expenditure of his own time, money, and efforts for the benefit of the county have been invaluable.”

Tragically, in 1918 Fayle fell victim to the Spanish Flu epidemic that was sweeping the U.S.  Contracting the disease in December, for several days he seemed to be recovering but then developed pneumonia and no medical response was effective.  His funeral services were held in the dining room of the Fayle Hotel, the ritual being that of the Fraternal Order of Elks, of which he had been a member, as indicated on his gravestone.  

The 37-year-old asked that he be buried in Goodsprings at the local desert cemetery at a spot that looked out on the mountain and the valley.  A photo of the cemetery shows the Fayle plot at left marked by the largest monument.

Jean Fayle, recognized as a pioneering figure in her own right, stepped in to manage the family’s business interests.  Shown here with sons, George, left, and Leonard, she indicated that she would continue in that role until the boys had completed their education and were able to assume running the businesses.  With the passage of time the Fayles sold the Pioneer Saloon. It continued to operate, with time out for National Prohibition, even as Goodsprings after World War One saw mining profits slump and the population plummet to fewer than 100 residents.  Jean died in 1950 and was buried next to her husband in Greenspring.

Today the Pioneer Saloon is a tourist stop, seven miles off Interstate 15, a  highway that stretches north-south across the entire Western United States.  A stop in Goodsprings yields the story of the 1915 shooting and other incidents occurring there over the generations.  A historical marker tells briefly of the contribution of George Fayle, shown here in maturity, who for a time was instrumental to making a town bloom in the Nevada desert.

Note:  Several references were particularly helpful in researching this post.  They include:  The Pioneer Saloon website; The Salt Lake Mining Review of March 1912; Legends of America website:  “Goodsprings Nevada — Still Kicking in the Desert Dust”; and George Fayle’s obituary in the Las Vegas Age of December 14, 1918.  Four of the photographs used here, including the two portraits of George Fayle come from the University of Nevada Los Vegas archive of dozens of photos of the Fayle and related families.  A treasure trove. I was directed to them by a great grandchild of George and Jean Fayle who contacted me without revealing a name.  I am hopeful that Anon. will come forward so I can give due credit for this amazing (to  me) addition of relevant photos.