Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Louisville’s Greenbaums Were Grandpa’s Guys


In profiling whiskey men I find it was common for a father to bring one or more sons into his business as the young men completed their education, often before they turned twenty.  The three Greenbaum Brothers were unusual in having a father who seemingly rejected dealing in liquor while they themselves embraced the Louisville, Kentucky, whiskey trade their immigrant grandfather had founded.  They honored grandpa by dubbing their flagship whiskey, “Old Joe Gideon.”

Joseph “Joe” Gideon was born in 1817 in Baden-Wittenberg, Germany.  Of his early education and occupation little is recorded. When Joe was in his early twenties, he married Mina {Minnie) and their only child, Mary, was born in 1844 in Germany.  Almost ten years would elapse in their homeland until the family arrived in the United States in 1853.  Soon after they moved to Louisville, Kentucky.

With Louisville the epicenter of the Nation’s liquor trade, Gideon appears to have spent the ensuing several years learning the business, working for one of the many liquor houses located there.  Listed as a “merchant” in the 1860 Federal census, by 1870 Gideon was heading a household that included his wife, daughter Mary, her husband, Herman Greenbaum, and five Greenbaum grandchildren, a total that later would grow to eleven.

Having saved his money and waiting for an opportunity, about 1877 Gideon was able to strike out on his own. He opened a liquor business at 63 Sixth Street, near Main, wholesaling whiskey to the many saloons in Louisville.  If Gideon, now 53, had wanted his son-in-law to join him in his liquor house, Herman Greenbaum was more interested in selling haberdashery, as a partner in a Louisville clothing store.  Joe continued to operate the business for the next dozen years before dying in May 1890.


Enter the Greenbaum boys — Isaac, Joseph and Samuel.  Having known and revered their grandfather, they decided to follow in his footsteps and opened a liquor house in 1902 they called Greenbaum Brothers.  Their flagship brand of whiskey was “Old Joe Gideon” and their slogan “From grandfather to grandsons.”  A saloon sign issued by the partners emphasizes the importance they placed on the generational link.

A key to their marketing success was making a presence at national expositions with displays of their whiskey.  Shown here is the Old Joe Gideon exhibit at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon.  Company representatives sent out circulars to saloons and retail whiskey dealers up and down the Pacific Coast urging their visit to the Greenbaum display in the Agricultural and Horticultural Building. The flyers also promised guide service:  “Please do not fail to call on us, as we will be in a position to tell you how to see the Exposition to advantage.”  A year earlier the Greenbaum Brothers had sponsored a similar exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis.


Aiming for a nationwide market for Old Joe Gideon, the Greenbaums were rewarded when the whiskey was given gold medals at both events.  Copies of the awards are shown here, left from St. Louis, right from Portland.  The brothers wasted no time capitalizing on their good fortune, placing a neck label on every bottle of Old Joe Gideon that broadcast the awards. They also embossed the message in the glass of their bottles and flasks.


With sales of their whiskey expanding, the Greenbaums soon needed more space and moved in 1907 to 123-125 East Main Street, and relocated again two years later to 115 East Main, their final location.  This site was in the heart of Louisville’s “Whiskey Row” and indicative of the brothers’ success. They advertised by issuing shot glasses with their brands.


By this time the Greenbaums were featuring whiskey labels beyond grandpa’s.  Those included “Elmhurst.” “Midvale,” “Shannon,” “Stratford.” "The Buffalos,” and “Wicklow."  They never bothered to trademark any of them, not even Old Joe Gideon.


Thoughout this period of growth, the Greenbaums were demonstrating the closeness of familiar ties.  The 1900 Federal census found Isaac, Joseph and Samuel, along with other seven siblings living with their widowed mother on Breckenridge Street in Louisville.  Isaac, 36, and Joseph, 33, were still umarried and would remain bachelors all their lives, living with their mother until she died.  Samuel, 27, was single but would marry later and have three daughters.

Not everything the Greenbaum’s touched turned to gold.  Like many liquor wholesalers, the brothers saw profits in marketing a highly alcoholic medicinal nostrum.  They called theirs “Vigor-Lux, the Drink for Tired People.”  Sold as a 
“tonic beverage,” they trademarked the name in 1914.  By this time, however, the Food and Drug laws had been in place for eight years and federal authorities increasingly were scrutinizing alleged remedies like Vigor-Lux. 

In June 1915, the Greenbaums’ tonic appeared on an FDA list of dozens of concoctions as: “Alcoholic medicinal preparations…held to be insufficiently medicated to render them unfit for use as a beverage….”  A special federal tax was slapped on Vigor-Lux and the other potions, reducing substantially any hope of profits for the Greenbaums.  The brothers continued in the wholesale liquor business together until shut down in 1920 by the coming of National Prohibition.  They then proceeded to other occupations. 


Today in Louisville’s Temple Cemetery, a substantial granite monument marks the location of the Greenbaum family plot.  Of the three brothers only Isaac is buried there.  To be seen at the rear left with an old weathered gravestone lies Joe Gideon, the man who sparked such devotion by his grandsons.  As the Greenbaum brothers proved over and over, they were grandpa’s guys.


















Saturday, February 22, 2020

Tom & Sophia McGovern: Love Among the Blackfeet




The setting is the Blackfeet Indian Reservation located in Montana east of Glacier National Park and bordering Canada, an area larger than the state of Delaware.  There Thomas Patrick McGovern, an immigrant from Northern Ireland and saloonkeeper, fell in love with Sophie Gill Longevin, a half-Indian girl just out of her teens, and they wed. The couple is shown above. Often such marriages ended badly, but the McGoverns’ union lasted until Tom’s death, still living among the Blackfeet. 


McGovern was born in July 1863, likely in County Cavan.  Of his early years the records are silent, nor is it clear when he immigrated to the United States and settled in a small Montana town called Dupuyer.  This hamlet drew French fur trappers, sheep ranchers from England and Scotland, and a motley group of adventurers.  As one observer put it:  “The settlement was typically wild and unruly, as were most western towns.”

There in the 1890s the Irish immigrant opened a drinking establishment he called “The Beaver Slide Saloon,” a reference to the slick, muddy trails that beavers made along the banks of Dupuyer Creek.  McGovern’s letterhead  promised “First-class wines, liquors and cigars always on hand.”  Given the relative isolation of Dupuyer, keeping that promise would not have been easy given the difficult logistics of bringing supplies overland by mule train.

Meanwhile Sophie was growing up within the Blackfeet Reservation. Born in 1872, she was the daughter of a French Canadian trader named Michele Longevin, shown here, and an Indian woman named Mary (or Anna) Many White Horses.  While Sophie was still an infant, her mother died in childbirth.  Unable to care for the infant girl because of his traveling occupation, Longevin took her to live with her uncle Jerry Potts in Canada until she reached about fourteen.  Then her father returned her to the Blackfeet reservation to live with her mother’s brother, Bear Leggings.  

It is not clear how Tom and Sophie met.  Interaction between the white and indigenous populations in that region of Montana was an everyday occurrence.  This was captured by famous Western artist Charles Russell in his painting of the trading post on the Blackfeet reservation run by a legendary figure named Joe Kipp.  Kipp would have been a familiar figure to both Thomas and Sophia.


The couple married in 1892 when Thomas was 29 and Sophia just 20.  The next year their first son, James, was born, followed in 1894 by a daughter, Margaret, and in 1896, a second son, John.   A composite photo of the family taken around 1899, shows the McGovern family, with the parents in the foreground and behind, from left, Margaret (called “Maggie”), John and James.  An 1896 “Indian census” of the reservation shows the family living on the Blackfeet Reservation.

 The census also points up an interesting contrast.  Sophia as half Native American  blood and the children as one-quarter were still considered “full-blooded” Indians by the U.S. Government and thus counted.  All four, however, had  Anglo-Saxon names.  They can be contrasted with others on the census form where parents have names like “Mad Plume,” “Killing in the Night,” “Good Cleanup,” and “Sits Long Time.”  Their children, by contrast, at U.S. Government urging, have been given names of European origin.

Meanwhile Tom, while living on the reservation, was prospering at his drinking establishment in Dupuyer.  Local lore describes how McGovern dealt with those who turned drunk and rowdy in his saloon:  “…The Beaver Slide Saloon went so far as to have a man-made "beaver slide" that extended from the back door to the creek. When the locals had a wee bit too much to drink, they were tossed down the slide and into the creek for a ‘sobering’ experience.”   Unfortunately, the Beaver Slide Saloon burned on December 19, 1901, and was not rebuilt.

McGovern’s occupation in ensuing years is not clear.  He may have held a government position.  He was listed as an official dealing with the eligibility of people voting in Montana’s Electoral District No. 6:  “Notice is hereby given that objections to right to vote of any party in this list will be received at my office… such objections to be made only by a qualified elector, and in writing setting forth the ground of objections.”  McGovern also witnessed to land claims.

After 18 years of marriage Tom and Sophia in 1910 would have a fourth son, William Henry.  Records indicate that in the interim at least two early infant deaths may have occurred.  The McGoverns saw their children grow into adults, all of them continuing to live in or around the Blackfeet Reservation.  Photos exist of John, a handsome youth who worked as a ranch hand, and Maggie, a very Irish-looking young woman, who married a man named Chatterton. 

In 1927, Tom, age 64, died on the Blackfeet Reservation after 35 years of marriage to Sophia.  A long way from his Irish birthplace, McGovern had found a home and family among a Native American tribe that had accepted him into their midst.  McGovern was buried at Montreal, Quebec, where he may have resided before coming to Montana.  Sophia lived another 30 years, dying in 1957 at the age of 84.  I have not been able to identify her burial place.

Note:  Unlike many of these posts, this one has no principal source of information. The details and photos have been gathered and organized from material available on more than a dozen Internet sites, including ancestry.com























Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Will Headley, Distiller, & His Fall from Grace



Foreword:  In January 2012 when I posted a piece on a Kentucky liquor house entitled “Crigler & Crigler,  a Family Affair,” it never occurred to me that lurking within that story was a tale of deceit, theft, desertion, and, if my reading of the evidence is correct, adultery.  Everything swirls around the disgrace of Lexington, Kentucky, distiller William H. “Will” Headley.

Will was from a highly respected Kentucky family.  It was founded by James Headley, a linen weaver from Cork, Ireland, who immigrated to the United States as a youth in the late 1700s.  He married, sired eleven children, and about 1800 moved his family to Fayette County whose seat is Lexington, Kentucky.  Among James’ descendants was John A. Headley, a distillery owner and a man with banking interests.

In 1869, John and a partner, James A. Farra, likely a relative, purchased four acres of land for $2,000 and built a whiskey plant they called The Henry Clay Distillery.  The facility was located a mile outside the Lexington city limits on Old Frankfort Pike.  The location was favorable because of nearby Royal Spring, shown here, and a grist mill.  The distillery operated for about three years until destroyed by fire in 1871. The loss was set at $15,000, equivalent to $330,000 today.


The conflagration also cost Headley and Farra their ownership of the property.  A wrinkle in the Federal law at the time decreed that even if their whiskey had gone up in flames, pending taxes still had to be paid.  Authorities argued that distillers could siphon off their whiskey and then avoid discovery by firing their plants, thus avoiding payment.  The government seized what was left of the Henry Clay Distillery, principally the land, and sold it.  

Undeterred by this setback, John Headley, now in partnership with a brother-in-law, Charles Y. Peck, in 1872 at the cost of $30,000 built another distillery a mile south of the Lexington city limits.  Enter the Crigler whiskey family.  The site was 100 acres of farmland owned by Robert Crigler and leased.  This second distillery had the mashing capacity of 300 bushels per day, operating for ten month of the year. It produced 30 barrels of whiskey per day and employed 25 workers.   Through an agreement, the bourbon — called “Woodland Straight Kentucky Whiskey” — was almost exclusively bottled and wholesaled by Crigler & Crigler of Covington, Kentucky.


After some 15 years of operating this distillery, John Headley died.  His son William H. “Will” Headley, at the age of about 34 succeed to his father’s share in the company.  In 1891 under the name Headley & Peck Distilling Co., the organization was incorporated with officers having respected local reputations.  The president was Logan Hocker, the son of a banking partner of John Headley.  Major Garland R. Bullock, a Civil War hero, was secretary.  Will Headley was named treasurer.  His seemed like a particularly good choice.  He was trained as a bookkeeper and had a reputation for integrity.   After events later unfolded, his banker was quoted saying he “had done business with Will Headley for 25 years and that he was alway straight in his dealings.” 

Headley was also known as a good family man.  His wife was Nancy “Nannie” Willis, born in Boone County, who had moved to Lexington as a child.  Nannie was 19 at their marriage, a year older than Will.  Their first child, Madge, was born out of wedlock, an event apparently kept quiet. The birth took place in Earlham, Iowa, 690 miles from Lexington.  More than a year later the couple was married and in rapid succession had another daughter, Laura Virginia, and a son, John Alexander, named for his grandfather.  To outsiders the family seemed a close and loving one.

Another 15 years would elapse before the couple would have a fourth child, a boy born in January 1893 whom they named Willis Arnold.  Then misfortune struck.  The following November Nannie died, leaving Will with three children in their late teens and a baby not yet a year old.  Sympathy for Headley and his children was widespread among friends and acquaintances.

The year 1893 likewise proved to be a difficult one for the Woodland distillery. A  financial panic had depressed the sales of whiskey and severely affected company cash flow.  Locker resigned his presidency for lack of a salary, his place taken by Major Bullock.  Meanwhile, to no one’s knowledge, for several years Treasurer Will Headley diligently had been siphoning money from the distillery his father had founded.

Will’s scheme was one fairly common in the liquor industry.  Crooked distillery owners were known to sell forged warehouse receipts on whiskey said to be aging in their warehouses, whiskey that actually did not exist.  Or to sell securities on the same whiskey to several buyers. When legitimate, selling warehouse receipts fulfilled a useful purpose, allowing distillers to have an income while their product was aging.  For their part, buyers could anticipate a substantial return on investment when the aged whiskey was released from the warehouse and sold.  Headley as treasurer was the only officer at the Woodland Distillery authorized to issue warehouse receipts and he was cheating.

In February 14, 1894, a wind storm damaged roofs of the company’s bonded warehouses, leaving many barrels inside uncovered.  Apparently fearing discovery of his misdeeds, the following week Headley told his family he was leaving on a business trip.  Before departing he visited his local bank and withdrew $900 in company funds.  Several days later, Madge, who was looking after the other children, received a letter from her father indicating he had absconded to Mexico and admitted having issued $50,000 in fraudulent warehouse receipts over the past several years, equivalent to $1,100,000 today.

When Major Bullock learned of Headley’s message, he immediately summoned  Robert Crlgler, who not only owned the distillery property but was a major holder of warehouse receipts. According to an account:   “Mr. Crigler assumed control and ordered that no whiskey be removed from the warehouses until an inventory was taken and more information was discovered. A locksmith had to drill the lock to open the safe and gain access to the company records. The Warehouse Receipt Book, with the stubs indicating whom the receipts were issued to, was located inside.”

The ensuing investigation discovered that Headley had issued receipts for 1,800 barrels of bourbon, allegedly produced in 1892 and stored in the warehouses.  Woodland Distillery, however, had produced only 600 barrels that year.  The losses from just one year of fraudulent receipts totaled more than $30,000, equivalent today to some $660,000.  Robert Crigler discovered that half the loss was to himself and his family.

What could have caused Will Headley to have executed such a massive theft?  He was not known as a gambler or heavy drinker, character flaws that might have made his behavior more understandable.  My judgment that it was love, likely an adulterous affair, that had led to Headley's downfall.  The fraud had begun more than a year before his wife’s death, to my mind an indication of Will’s earlier need for funds to bankroll a “back street” love affair.  This speculation is backed up by the document shown here.  It is a visa certificate Headley received from the U.S. Consul General in Mexico City, dated October 1, 1910.  


It indicates Headley was living in Penjamo, city in Guanajuto State, about 370 kilometers from the capital.  Shown below,  almost a mile high, Penjamo was a resort town, one that attracted the wealthy, including rich Americans who enjoyed the moderate climate and luxury accommodations.  It also was noted for the tequila manufactured in a local factory.


Will had married again, his wife’s name given as Aanna Nelson, originally from Peoria, Illinois.  They were accompanied by a son named Nelson W. Headley who had been born to the couple in Penjamo the previous February.  Since Will could not have returned to the U.S. without going to jail, the assumption must be that Aanna joined him “South of the Border.”  He had abandoned one family in Lexington to start another in Mexico.  Somewhat ironically, Headley gave his purpose for staying in Mexico as “extending American trade.”  He died there three years later at the age of 59, once again leaving a small child without a father.  No evidence exists that Headley ever returned to the U.S. or made any restitution.

Meanwhile, back in Lexington, the distillery and the Woodland brand was sold to Robert Crigler.  Two years later he sold the distillery and land to a buyer who demolished the plant and returned the land to growing tobacco.  Distillery warehouses were converted to tobacco barns.  The Criglers retained the use of the Woodland name and continued to bottle bourbon under that name until National Prohibition.  While the wealthy Criglers were able to survive the losses, a number of local investors, including proprietors of saloons, were left bereft.

What of the children Will Headley had left behind?  Indications are that the three older ones were advanced enough in age to fend for themselves.  The baby, Willis, was another story.  Census records indicate that the child was taken into the home of an aunt and uncle, Virginia and Charles Johnson, a Lexington wool importer, and raised by them into maturity.  Whether any of the Headley children ever saw their father again is unclear.

Note:  This post is based significantly on research by William M. Ambrose of Lexington, Kentucky and published initially in his book, “Bottled In Bond under U. S. Government Supervision,”  by the Limestone Press, Lexington, 2008.  Information in ancestry.com, including the image of the Mexican visa, helped to round out the story.






















Friday, February 14, 2020

Whiskey Men Who Invented Cocktails


Foreword:  Mixing whiskey with a range of ingredients ranging from sugar to citrus to yet other forms of alcohol goes back perhaps centuries but it was only at the beginning of the 1900s when the term “cocktail” was applied.  While the origins of the word are disputed and likely lost in time, the cocktail has become the name for an entire category of alcoholic concoctions.  Considered here are three men in the liquor trade who are credited with inventing and publicizing mixed drinks of varying character.   

From a historical guidebook to Baltimore:  “Often times the weary traveler desired a somewhat stronger potion than mineral water, he could stop in the establishment of Charles W. Geekie’s at Number 123 Baltimore Commons (street) and purchase a decanter of “Lady’s Blush” to satisfy his thirst.”  

Shown here, Geekie’s claim to fame lay in a cocktail he contrived in his saloon and billiards parlor and dubbed “Lady’s Blush.”  It was an alcoholic drink whose main ingredient was creme de noyaux, which, translated from the French, means “cream of pits.”  The liqueur is well named.  Although almond flavored, creme de noyaux is made from the kernels within the pits of apricots, peaches and sometimes cherries. 


Geekie’s alcoholic concoction brought him fame in the drinking public of Baltimore.  The saloonkeeper provided multiple incentives, issuing tokens in both brass, above, and a zinc amalgam known as “German silver” that provided five cents toward purchase of the libation.  For favored customers he also provided an official looking paper token good for a 25 cents toward a Lady’s Blush or other mixed drinks. 


When Charles died in 1892, his two sons continued to run the Geekie enterprises and serve Lady’s Blush.  As the coming of National Prohibition became more and more evident, the business was shut down for good.  With the demise of the firm came the end of the elder Geekie’s celebrated libation.  The cocktail recipe seems to have disappeared along with the company.

“Colonel” Joseph K. Rickey was a well-known Washington, D.C., lobbyist at the turn of the 20th Century and eventually the owner of the National Capitol’s most famous saloon, Shoomaker’s.  Evidence suggests that Rickey himself first conceived his signature drink at his establishment on one typically hot, Washington summer day.  The bartender, George Williamson, prepared the drink to the Colonel’s instructions and the first “Rickey” was born. It was a rye whiskey cocktail made with Shoomaker’s house brand.   Very soon, gin would eclipse rye as the favored liquor for the cocktail and the Gin Rickey was born, a concoction that spawned a myriad of cocktails called “Rickeys”.  Colonel Joe initially disavowed publicly that he had invented the gin drink connected with his name.  

In an interview published in the New York Telegraph, Rickey was quoted to say:  “The drink named after me was always made by the experts in Shoomaker’s .…Only here in New York was it  perverted and made a thing of shame. Here they make it with gin, which is a liquor no gentleman could ever bring himself to drink. In fact, the gin rickey is about the only kind known in this city and the average barkeeper looks surprised if you ask him for one made with rye whisky.”  Despite this extensive disclaimer, in 1899 Colonel Rickey trademarked the name Rickey for both the whiskey and gin cocktails.  

After Rickey’s death in 1903, the drink became almost totally identified with gin.  By order of the D.C. City Council, The gin rickey is the official cocktail of Washington.  The recipe:  Into a tall glass, 1.5 oz. of gin, 5 oz of fresh lime juice, add soda water.  Garnish with lime wedge and/or sprig of mint.  Drink slowly and remember Colonel Joe who, albeit reluctantly, gave it his name.  

I have spun a fantasy for myself.  It is 1915 and I am among the “beautiful people” who have gathered for cocktails late on a summer afternoon at a mountaintop mansion located not far from Hartford, Connecticut.  But there is no bartender.  Just a man named Gilbert Heublein and he pours out already prepared drinks from bottles that bear his name.  We are witnessing a revolution in the liquor trade:  Premixed cocktails.  

The story is told that Gilbert, shown here, worked in this father’s  Hartford liquor business and had prepared a quantity of premixed cocktails for a large annual picnic.  It rained and the event was canceled.  A few days later an employee of the Heubleins was told to dispose of the unused beverages.  Deciding to taste them first, he found that the drinks had suffered no deterioration and announced the discovery to his bosses.  The Heubleins took note and began selling the premixed libations in their saloon and restaurant.   The cocktails proved very popular with customers and increasingly became the focus of the family’s attention.  

Following the father’s death, in 1890  the company became Gilbert F. Heublein & Bro.  The new firm concentrated on the premixed cocktails, advertising them widely.  As shown here, Heublein’s ads called them “Club Cocktails.”  “Would not such a drink put new life into the tired woman who has shopped all day?   Would it not be the drink to offer to the husband when he returns home after his day’s business?”  


The Heubleins offered a wide choice of premixed drinks, including martinis and manhattans.  Their ads offered snob appeal, catering to the “carriage trade.”  They issued a recipe book that discussed popular cocktails and their ingredients but — why bother? — Heublein had taken the work out of the preparation.  

With the advent of National Prohibition the production, transportation and sale of all Heubleins' alcoholic products was made illegal.  For 13 years Heublein Cocktails were only a memory.  The company was able to survive by inventing A-1 Steak Sauce, a staple at the dinner table as well as in the restaurants of America.  When Repeal came Gilbert was 85 years old and it was his grandson, John Martin, who resurrected the bottled cocktails and for a time made Heublein the largest liquor distributorship in America.  Gilbert Heublein died in 1937, having revolutionized the drinks industry.

Note:  More complete vignettes of these whiskey men can be found elsewhere on this blog:  Charles W. Geekie, March 1, 2019;  Col. Joseph Rickey, September 12, 2013, and Gilbert Heublein, May 5, 2014.
















Monday, February 10, 2020

The Two Sides of Tombstone’s Milton Joyce

        

Milton Edward Joyce, proprietor of the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona, has been called “one tough old bird” and, as above, pictured as a mean-eyed Western gunslinger.  Most often cited is Joyce’s violent clash in 1888 with the notorious “Doc” Holliday. “…That’s just one small slice of this remarkable man’s life” argues one observer, noting that the characterization ignores Joyce’s civic and business contributions.  Both depictions are valid.  There were two sides to Milton Joyce.

Born in New York in 1847, Joyce arrived in California in 1862 at the age of fifteen. He was recorded in the 1870 Census working as a blacksmith in San Mateo, California, twenty miles from San Francisco.  By 1880 he had moved to Cochese County, Arizona, when silver was discovered there, initially recorded as a miner living in Tombstone.  Founded in 1879 this boomtown quickly attracted a mix of those digging for treasure and gamblers, scam artists and gunslingers looking to take it from them.  

A proliferation of drinking establishments marked Tombstone — more than fifty for a population of 3,000.  Having accrued some money from mining, Joyce opened a his own richly furnished saloon, shown here, on Allen Street and called it  “The “Oriental.” It was hailed by the Tombstone Epitaph, the local paper, as the most elegant saloon, “this side of the Golden Gate.” 

The Oriental boasted twenty eight gas chandeliers that, as the reporter rhapsodized, made the barroom “sparkle like a December iceling in the sunshine.”   The bar was carved, furnished in gilt and capped with a highly polished top. The saloon had two rooms, the main bar and behind it a club room furnished with plush carpets and ivory ornamentation.  There Joyce leased out gambling concessions, including briefly to Wyatt Earp, right.

For all the glitz and glitter, however, the Oriental Saloon was still located in a rowdy and sometimes dangerous Western town.  Gunfights on the main drag, Allen Street, were frequent.  Joyce would gain his tough guy reputation by taking on the notorious dentist cum gunman, John Henry “Doc” Holliday, left.  Lectured by Joyce for starting a row in the Oriental, the drunken Holliday stormed out of the saloon, looking for a gun. Finding one, he returned and opened fire.  Unsteady in his aim the Georgia-born dentist sprayed bullets around the barroom, striking a bartender in his right foot, tearing off his big toe.  Joyce, who was carrying a six-gun, fired back but missed.  Joyce then attacked Holliday with the butt of the gun and beat him senseless.  Only then did the saloonkeeper realize he had been hit by a shot in the hand and was bleeding copiously.Local police authorities rushed to the scene and escorted Joyce to medical help.

For a while it appeared that the saloon keeper might lose his hand.  Meanwhile, surviving his pistol-whipping by Joyce, Doc Holliday was arrested by Deputy Marshall Wyatt Earp on a complaint filed by Joyce.  He was held in the Tombstone jail on $200 bond which he paid and was released.   The Arizona Weekly Citizen covered the story but mistakenly called him “Hoyle.”  A matter of months’ later, after the famed “Gunfight at OK Corral,” everybody in the state knew who Doc Holliday was.

On October 12, 1880, Holliday appeared in court in the custody of the town marshal.  None of the prosecution witnesses appeared in court. The defendant offered a plea of guilty to assault and battery. It was accepted and the charge of assault with a deadly weapon was dismissed. Holliday was fined $20 and costs of $11.25.”  In the same period the Epitaph was reporting regularly on Joyce’s condition, noting on October 24:  “During the past day or two inflammation set in on M.E. Joyce’s wounded hand and at one time it looked as though amputation would have to be resorted to in order to save life. Yesterday, however, showed a change for the better, and chances of saving the hand are much improved.” In the end Joyce had a complete recovery.

At the restored Oriental saloon Milton Joyce today is depicted as a hard-eyed gunslinger surrounded by cleavage-baring, high-skirted dancing girls.  That fanciful image is balanced by the “other” Joyce.  The only photograph I can find is of a man with gentle Irish eyes and a benign expression, shown below.  This is the Milton Joyce who is said to have advanced community benefits wherever he lived.


In 1881, the appointed Governor of Arizona, John C. Fremont, the famed explorer, first Presidential candidate of the Republican Party, and former Civil War general, was called upon to create a Board of Supervisors for Cochese County.  Fremont selected Joyce as one of three.  The saloonkeeper subsequently was named its chairman.

Among Joyce’s first acts was to advocate strongly for a new county courthouse.  Through his efforts a county-backed bond issue of $500 for its construction was authorized.  Shown here the bond was signed by Joyce.  A town landmark when completed in 1882, the court house, shown below, has been restored as a historical site.  During his years in Arizona, Joyce also invested in land, mining and other businesses.


The Oriental saloon burned in the Tombstone conflagration of 1881, spreading so quickly that Joyce was not able to save anything, watching hopelessly as his carved bar, chandeliers, and plush carpets went up in flames.  Although the building was quickly reconstructed on site, the next year saw the Oriental once more threatened by fire but saved.  By this time Joyce appears to have become increasing disenchanted with his life in Tombstone.  When an opportunity arose in 1883 to join a group of local residents on a prospecting expedition to find gold in Baja Calfornia, he joined.

The expedition turned out to be a “fool’s errand.” The group took a train south to the Sonoran port of Guaymas in Mexico, sailed across the Gulf of California, then tracked inland to the deserts of Baja, near Mission Santa Gertrudis.  This “gold rush” was doomed virtually from the beginning as the strikes quickly petered out.  The Tombstone party, like others lured by the prospect of riches, not only failed to find gold but suffered from extreme heat and lack of water.

The expedition brought Joyce back to California, however, where it may have rekindled memories of his early day in the San Francisco area.  In 1884, he sold the Oriental and headed back to the Golden Gate.  Reported as having “accrued a fortune” in Arizona, Joyce with a partner opened a saloon and billiard parlor on the ground floor of the swank Baldwin Hotel downtown.  Shown here, the hotel was owned by Comstock Lode millionaire Elias “Lucky” Baldwin.  Apparently noting the profitability of Joyce’s enterprise, Baldwin after four years decided to take charge of the property himself.

Joyce and his partner promptly opened a new establishment and named it Cafe Royal.  The Daily Alta newspaper called it “the finest saloon and billiard hall on the Coast.”  About the same time, the bachelor Milton met, wooed and married a woman 14 years younger than himself.  She was Louise Mockler, a native Californian of German ancestry. 

Their wedded life was short.  Married in February, Joyce died of tuberculosis at his home on Van Ness Avenue the following November.  He was only 42 years old.  He may have known he had a fatal disease at the time of his nuptials.  Joyce was given the funeral rites of the Catholic Church and buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in nearby Colma.  Joyce left his ample estate to his widow, Louise.  She remarried five years later.

Joyce’s San Francisco obituaries emphasized his wealth and contributions to the public weal including memberships in the Knights Templar, Odd Fellows, and Knights of Pythian.  There he was remembered, not as a Western “tough old bird,” but as a civic minded, successful entrepreneur, popular with his patrons and the local business community alike.  His showdown with Doc Holliday was left unmentioned.

Not so in Tombstone.  After Joyce sold the Oriental, it operated as a saloon for the next 30 years until Arizona went “dry” in 1914.  The building became a drug store and later was occupied by a series of tenants.  Tombstone was rescued from being a “ghost town” when the 1881 gunfight became a mainstay of Western lore.  Numerous dramatic, fictional, and documentary works have been produced about the event.  With more than 400,000 tourists visiting the town annually, the building has been restored as a saloon under its original name. There, for the edification of visitors, Milton Joyce is depicted as a gun-toting tough guy who once pistol whipped Doc Holliday almost to the point of death.