Turner, Clay & Company (1865 – 1871)
Wm. Tarr & Company (1871 – 1899)
Kentucky Distillers & Warehouse Company
(1899 – 1902, 1908 – 1923)
Stoll & Company (1902 – 1908
The facility was located on Manchester Street (Frankfort Pike) between Cox and Perry and was the first to obtain a Federal Register distillery license (RD #1, 7th District) in Lexington.
Turner, Clay & Co.
In 1865, Turner, Clay & Company established the Ashland Distillery on Manchester Street (Old Frankfort Pike at Cox Street, at the city limits). This distillery was the first to obtain a federal register distillery license in Lexington and was assigned RD #1. The firm was composed of Horace H. Turner, Samuel M. Clay and Thomas D. Mitchell. Turner, Clay and Mitchell were prominent merchants in Lexington. The property was purchased on November 12, 1866, for $10,000.
Sam Clay Jr.
Around 1875, Sam Clay, Jr. established a whiskey brokerage in Lexington, with offices located at 11 West Water Street. Clay was from Paris, Bourbon County, and associated with Thomas J. Megibben. In 1879, he became a partner in the Wm. Tarr & Company, which operated the Ashland Distillery. He marketed the firm’s Ashland and Wm. Tarr whiskies.
Bill of Exchange to Sam Clay, Jr. for whiskey
In 1880, he purchased the Paris Distillery in Paris, Kentucky, and produced a sour mash whiskey called Sam Clay Bourbon. In 1882, the plant produced forty barrels per day and had more than fifteen thousand barrels in bonded storage. Megibben operated the distillery from 1884 to 1890. In 1901, Clay sold the distillery to the Whiskey Trust.
Around 1884, Clay left the Old Tarr partnership over the disputed sale of the Kentucky Union Railroad. The firm of J. A. Lail & Company assumed the distribution for the Ashland Distillery.
Wm. Tarr & Company
In November 1871, William Tarr Wm. Tarr & Company:of Bourbon County and Thomas J. Megibben of Harrison County acquired the distillery and restarted whiskey production. Tarr was a prominent land speculator and Megibben was a successful dry goods merchant. Both were also distillers, entering the business before the Civil War. They continued to produce Ashland and introduced Wm. Tarr (later known as Old Tarr) whiskey. Both brands were distilled in a rye and bourbon versions.
William Tarr House
Willliam Tarr House today
Land Speculator and Distiller
William Tarr was born on June 22, 1825, in Paris, Kentucky. His first business venture was cultivation of a watermelon patch on the family farm. With these funds, he became a mule trader and farmer. Before the Civil War, he entered the distilling business and in 1871 established Wm. Tarr & Company – which acquired the Ashland Distillery in Lexington, Kentucky. He produced the Ashland and Wm. Tarr brands of whiskey. During his distilling career, he produced more than sixty thousand barrels of whiskey and paid over $3,000,000 in excise taxes to the Federal government.
In 1873, Tarr became one of the principals of Kentucky Union Railroad and related companies. He personally guaranteed the bonds in 1883 to start construction of the rail line. Financial problems forced him to sell the railroad in 1886 at a large loss. During the depression of the 1890s, he suffered financial reversals connected to the endorsements of notes for family and friends. In 1897, he was forced to assign the distillery and his assets over to receivers. This receivership lasted until 1911.
In 1898, he retired to his farm. His owned large tracts of farmland in Bourbon County, Kentucky, and in Eastern Kentucky. His farm was known as Park Place, five miles from Paris on the Maysville Pike. He maintained a large park for deer on this farm open to the public. The Kentucky Union Railroad built its right-of-way through his property in the mountains.
Tom Megibben Gravesite
Distiller and Turfman.
Thomas J. Megibben was born in Clermont County, Neville, Ohio, and at an early age relocated to Cynthiana, Harrison County, Kentucky. He was the largest landowner in the county, with twenty eight hundred acres of land. He built “Monticello,” a mansion overlooking the Licking River in Cynthiana, with three floors and twenty-seven rooms. He raised shorthorn cattle and thoroughbred horses on his farms. He horses competed twice in the Kentucky Derby (1882 with Newsbury and 1884 with Audrain – third place). Megibben founded the Latonia Race Track and Jockey Club and was president of the Shorthorn Cattle Breeders Association of Chicago. He was also the President of the Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders Association from 1873 to 1882.
Around 1850 he established the Megibben & Bramble Distillery on the Licking River at Lair, Harrison County, Kentucky and produced Excelsior. He sold the distillery in 1868 to his nephew. In 1857, he purchased the Edgewater Distillery, also near Lair, and established a large cattle farm. By 1882, he increased capacity to 50 barrels per day. Their brands were Edgewater Bourbon and Edgewater Rye.
In 1879, he became a partner in the Ashland Distillery, with William Tarr, in Lexington. In 1880, he also purchased the Van Hook Distillery in Harrison County and sold it in 1888 to one of his sons-in-law. In 1880, he became a millionaire overnight when excise taxes were raised and he had several warehouses full of whiskey on which a lower tax had already been paid. Megibben was elected the first President of the Kentucky Distillers Association, when it was organized in 1880 at Louisville, Kentucky He continued to be active in the organization until his death. In 1884, he assumed the operations of the Paris Distillery. After his death in 1890, he had interest in six distilleries.
In 1873, he became one of the principal partners in the Kentucky Union Railroad and related companies. He personally guaranteed the bonds in 1883 to start construction of the rail line. Financial problems forced him to sell the railroad in 1886 at a large loss.
Kentucky Distilleries and Warenhouse Company
On February 20, 1899, the distillery was auctioned at a Master Commissioner’s sale to Leonard G. Cox, of Graves, Cox & Co., for $60,001. He was bidding against G. G. White, distiller of Paris, Lewis LeBus, of Cincinnati, and Squire Bassett, of the Fayette National Bank of Lexington. These three were the larger creditors of the company. Cox turned out to be a straw bidder for Charles H. Stoll (which see) and the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company (the Whiskey Trust).
The Whiskey Trust
During the late 1880s, several attempts were made to “rationalize” the distilling industry by creating a trust or monopoly. In 1888, the Distillers’ and Cattle Feeders’ Trust was created in Peoria, Illinois, to consolidate the distilleries in the region. This attempt quickly failed due to the inability to control production of non-members. Around 1896 Julius Kessler organized the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company as a holding company for the Kentucky distilleries. In 1899, the Distilling Company of America consolidated the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company with the American Spirits Manufacturing Company and the Standard Distilling and Distributing Company. Across Kentucky, these firms controlled a number of subsidiary and affiliated distillers and whiskey brokers.
In January 1898, the Whiskey Trust invited the distillers in Lexington – Jas. E. Pepper & Company and Stoll, Vannatta & Company – to join the combined trust. These two companies controlled all the operating distilleries in Lexington at the time. This offer involved the trade of stock in the trust for the distiller. Charles H. Stoll, a Lexington attorney and member of the prominent distilling family, directed this campaign and was the prime mover in Kentucky for the trust. His brother, James S. Stoll, was an advisory director of the trust.
Eventually the Stolls operated in concert with the trust, but the Pepper distillery stayed independent. In 1908, the Stoll distilleries were finally consolidated with other trust distilleries located outside of Fayette County.
It was quoted that the “object of the pool is to take care of the whiskey that, either thorough failures or collateral, passed into the hands of banks. The banks have placed these small lots on the market at low prices. The pool intends to purchase these small lots to protect the market price.”[xii]
By the early 1900s, the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company controlled over ninety (90%) percent of the whiskey production in Kentucky, with the capacity of sixteen million barrels annually. The trust was capitalized at thirty two million dollars and had one million barrels in bonded storage. The trust shut down the smaller facilities and concentrated production at the larger, more efficient distilleries. The trust was never a monopoly, but by sheer size forced the outside whiskey houses to act in accord with its wishes.
Stoll & Company:
After the sale of the Stoll family’s Commonwealth Distillery (which see) in 1899, James S. Stoll operated his whiskey brokerage business as Stoll & Company (as successor to Stoll, Vannatta & Company). Old Elk was the company’s proprietary brand of whiskey. He also controlled the market in Old Tarr and Bond & Lillard whiskies, owning large numbers of warehouse receipts for these two brands. This whiskey was stored in the bonded warehouses at Ashland Distillery, owned by the Whiskey Trust.
In December 1902, Stoll & Company Inc. was incorporated, with capitalization of $600,000 in common stock. James S. Stoll was President; George J. Stoll III (his son) was Vice President and Samuel C. Stofer was Secretary/Treasurer. Stofer was the firm’s office manager. The same month, Stoll purchased both the Ashland Distillery and the Bond & Lillard Distillery from the Whiskey Trust. The company now controlled the Bond & Lillard, Old Tarr, Ashland and Old Elk brands.
In 1904, Stoll & Company’s Bond & Lillard won a gold medal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and World’s Fair in St. Louis.
In March 1905, the company purchased the Belle of Nelson and E. L. Miles & Co. Distilleries in Nelson County, Kentucky. The purchase price was $486,655.32 for both. They also obtained twenty five thousand barrels of bonded whiskey with the deal. With these two additional distilleries, Stoll & Company became the largest distilling concern in Kentucky – with four operating distilleries. They also picked up two additional brands – Belle of Nelson and E. L. Miles – for a total of six brands of whiskies.
On July 1, 1907, the Stoll family consolidated their wholesaling whiskey businesses – Stoll & Company and Stoll, Hamilton & Company (which see) into Stoll & Company Inc. James S. Stoll was President, John G. Stoll and George J. Stoll were Vice Presidents and Samuel C. Stofer was Secretary and Treasurer of the new concern. John G. Stoll was the son of Richard P. Stoll (who died in 1903).
The new firm distilled and marketed seven brands; which were Ashland, Old Tarr, Old Elk , Bond & Lillard, Belle of Nelson, E. L. Miles & Co. and New Hope. They engaged sales representatives to cover the entire United States. Their main office and warehouse were retained in Lexington, while the firm had six other warehouses around the state. They employed more than one hundred workers.
In 1908, after the death of James S. Stoll, the Stoll distilling interests were consolidated into the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company (the Whiskey Trust). The Ashland distillery plant was dismantled.
James S. Stoll
Distiller and Banker
James S. Stoll was born in Lexington in 1855, the third son of George J. Stoll, Sr. In 1881 he invested, along with his brother, in Stoll, Clay & Company. In 1891, Stoll and Sanford K. Vannatta established a partnership, known as Stoll, Vannatta & Company, to wholesale whiskey. At the time of his death in 1908, he was President of the Stoll & Company (distillers) and Vice President of Stoll, Hamilton & Company (whiskey brokers).
He was also a real estate investor. He was the owner of the “Meadows,” a two hundred seventy three acre farm on the Bryan Station Pike outside the city limits. Stoll was one of the largest stockholders in the Lexington City National Bank, serving as a director (from 1890s to 1908) and as President (1903 – 1908). He died in Lexington during 1908.
Former Warehouse (Manchester Music Hall)