Stoll, Clay & Company (1880-1885)
Commonwealth Distilling Company (1885-1899)
Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company (1899-1915)
In 1880, Stoll, Clay & Company converted the old cotton mill in Sandersville into a whiskey distillery. The plant was located three miles northwest of Lexington. The firm was composed of James S. Stoll, Richard P. Stoll and Henry C. Clay.
In 1881, Richard P. Stoll and Robert B. Hamilton (which see) established Stoll, Hamilton & Company to wholesale whiskey produced at the distillery. The distillery produced their proprietary brands Owl Club Whiskey and Elkhorn Whiskey as a “tenant leasee.” This firm also traded in bulk whiskies.
In August 1885, the relationship between the Stoll brothers and Clay deteriorated and the partnership was dissolved. At a public auction on August 11 the assets of the partnership were sold.
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.
Richard P. Stoll
1851 – 1903
Distiller and Attorney
Richard P. Stoll was born in Lexington on January 21, 1851, the second son of George J. Stoll, Sr. He attended Kentucky University, graduating in 1868. In 1875, Stoll was elected to the Kentucky Legislature (serving one term). In 1877, he became the Deputy Director of the Internal Revenue Bureau in Lexington and the next year Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Bureau for Kentucky. He oversaw the collection of the Federal excise taxes.
In 1881, he formed the Stoll, Clay & Company, that rebuilt the old cotton mill at Sandersville into a distillery. Also in 1881, Stoll and Robert B. Hamilton established a partnership to wholesale whiskey. This firms would later become Stoll & Company. This interest would later pass to his sons. The firm was disposed of by Prohibition.
In the 1890s, he was a director of the Kentucky Distillers Association. In 1883 Stoll became the President of the Lexington City National Bank, serving until his death in 1903. He was prominent in Republican politics, being nominated in 1900 for the U. S. Congress.
He died in March 1903. At the time of his death, he was President of the Lexington City National Bank, Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders Association (the Red Mile), Lexington Gas Company, Stoll, Hamilton & Company and Stoll & Company. He was the Treasurer of the Lexington Street Railway Company. He was also a director of the Security Trust Company, Eastern State Lunatic Asylum, Lexington & Eastern Railway, Belt Electric Line Company, Central Electric Company, Lexington Brick Company, Hercules Ice Company and the Passenger & Belt Railway Company. He was stated to be the wealthiest individual in Lexington at the time of his death.
Henry C. Clay
Henry C. Clay, known as H. C. Clay, was born in 1839, a nephew of the Henry Clay (Kentucky Senator and Statesman). He was also related the Grimes family of Grimes Mill (and later married one of the Grimes’ cousins). In 1880, he became one of the principals in the distilling partnership of Stoll, Clay & Company (that built the Commonwealth Distillery). During 1885, the partnership was dissolved because of his financial problems. He also secured a note to C. W. Foushee, whiskey broker, with the gristmill on Boone Creek, at Grimes Mill Road. The mill was later sold to cover the debt.[i] He continued in the distilling business owning the Grimes Distillery.
Commonwealth Distilling Company:
In January 1883, the Commonwealth Distillery Company was formed with Richard P. Stoll (President) and Isaac Strauss (Vice President). In addition, Charles H. Stoll, James S. Stoll, Solomon Pritz and Benjamin Pritz were also appointed directors. Richard P. Stoll was the primary stockholder. The firm was capitalized at $100,000.[v] In 1885, the firm assumed the operations of Stoll, Clay & Company. This firm produced Commonwealth hand made copper whiskey.
Charles H. Stoll
1858 – 1948
Charles H. Stoll was born in Lexington in 1858, the fourth son of George H. Stoll, Sr. He graduated from Transylvania College and in 1886 entered the practice of law. Stoll was one of the founders of the Electric Street Railway Company, George Stoll & Sons (with his father – traded in bonded whiskey). In 1886, he became associated with the Kentucky Union Railroad and negotiated its sale to the Carley interests. After the sale, he became its principal attorney and oversaw the extension into Eastern Kentucky. In 1888, he became one of the organizers of the Belt Line Companies, which organized the electric streetcar lines in Lexington. As their attorney, he was one of the “Generals” in the Railroad War with his former client, the Kentucky Union Railroad Company.
In 1880, Stoll was one of the organizers of the Kentucky Distillers Association in Louisville, Kentucky. In the late 1890s, he was a principal organizer of the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company (the Whiskey Trust). He continued as legal counsel for the Whiskey Trust until 1907.
Stoll developed the Hampton Court subdivision in Lexington. He served as a director of the Lexington City National Bank from the late 1880s until the late 1890s.
At the turn of the century, he relocated to New York City to represent the Whiskey Trust. He returned to Lexington in 1904 and became the President of the Lexington Hydraulic and Manufacturing Company (the forerunner of the Lexington Water Works). He was reelected to the board of the Lexington City National Bank. In 1907, he moved to Mississippi and later to Bristol, Tennessee, where he died in 1948.
In December 1899, the Commonwealth Distillery was deeded to the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company.[vi] Production was shifted to other plants of the Whiskey Trust and the distillery at Sandersville was demolished in 1905. The warehouses were used for storage until 1908 as the Lexington Public Warehouse (bonded storage). In 1915, Hillenmeyer & Sons purchased the property for a nursery. The Hillenmeyer’s farm was adjacent to the plant, and for years their cattle were fed the spent grains. The original brick warehouse remains today and is used for storage.
Warehouse at Hillenmeyer Nursery