Friday, September 17, 2021

A Tale of Two Jacobs

 

The furnace at Bourbon Iron Works, established by Jacob Myers in 1791 in Bath County. It was the first iron mill in Kentucky. 

Jacob Boehm was born in 1760 in Pennsylvania. You may know him better by the Americanized version of his name, Jacob Beam, ancestor of all the whiskey-making Beams. 

Jacob Myers was born in Maryland, reportedly in 1738 or 39. His birthdate is not well documented and, based on other life events, was likely a few years later. You probably don’t know him at all, but he was Jacob Beam’s uncle and the person who taught Jacob, and through him all Beams to come, how to make whiskey.

Skills such as whiskey-making typically passed from father to son, but not in Jacob Beam's case. His father died suddenly when Jacob was six. His mother, Margaretha, with five young children and no way to support them in Pennsylvania, returned to her family’s home and farm in Maryland. She was Jacob Myers' sister. Perhaps she named her son Jacob after her brother.

Since the Myers observed the rule of primogeniture, Margaretha and Jacob Myers' oldest brother, Jost, owned the homestead. Fatherless and landless, both Jacobs knew from an early age they would have to make their own way in the world.

The Myers farm was remote and relatively self-sufficient. It included livestock and crops, cereals as well as fruit and tobacco. Most of the farm’s income came from the sale of intoxicants, tobacco as well as beverage alcohol, fermented and distilled. Both Jacobs took a particular interest in the farm’s beverage alcohol enterprise. Jacob Beam, very much the junior partner, learned all he could from his Uncle Jacob.

It is a remarkable fact of American colonial history that after nearly 200 years of settlement, most colonists still lived very close to the Atlantic coast. That began to change in the last quarter of the 18th century. The first European settlement in Kentucky, at Harrodsburg, was established in 1774. Jacob Myers decided to seek his fortune there too.

As more and more settlers came through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and Tennessee, their land claims had to be professionally surveyed and registered. Since surveyors typically were paid by retaining a percentage of the land they mapped, many got rich. 

Soon after he arrived in Kentucky, Jacob went to work as a chain carrier on a surveying crew, a low-level position. One day he asked the head of the crew, a man named Fox, to survey some land for him. When Fox refused, Myers announced he would deprive the crew of all the land they had surveyed that day; he would jump their claim. They laughed because they knew he was illiterate and couldn’t transcribe the complicated measurements they had taken, which he would need to establish the claim. 

Myers immediately set off on foot for the land grant office in Harrodsburg. The others slept, starting the same trip on horseback the next morning. Myers beat them by about 90 minutes and was able to register the claim in his own name. How? He may have been illiterate, but he had a very good memory.

Thereafter, Myers mapped and filed land grant claims for more than 145 tracts, encompassing some 30,000 acres, and launched many other enterprises. One of the first was a grist mill and distillery on the Hanging Fork of the Dix River, near modern Danville. Although we don’t know exactly when he started to distill, we know it was before 1781 because in that year he ran for political office and campaigned by giving out free whiskey, a common practice at the time. He still lost, to an “old Indian fighter” named Benjamin Logan. The Myers Mill is mentioned in official documents from 1783 and shows up on a map in 1784. 

By the mid-1780s, settlers were pouring through the Cumberland Gap on foot and floating into Kentucky via the Ohio River. Among them were more members of the Myers and Beam families, including Jacob Beam. Jost Myers had died and the Maryland farm was just about played out. By this time, Jacob Beam was married to one of his Myers cousins, Ann Marie.

The move to Kentucky was facilitated by two family members who were already there, Jacob Myers and an older brother of Jacob Beam, Conrad. Although the Beams were not initially Catholics they migrated with and settled among the Maryland Catholics who populated what are today’s Nelson, Marion, and Washington Counties in Kentucky. Jacob Beam converted. 

In 1791, Jacob Myers started the first iron works in Kentucky, near Owingsville in Bath County. It made everything from farm and household implements to military ordnance. Cannon balls from this foundry (what remains of it is pictured above) were used by the U.S. Navy at the Battle of New Orleans, but Jacob was long out of it by then. Shortly after he started the business, he realized he didn’t have enough capital to run it properly, so he sold it. The Bourbon Iron Works, as it was called, continued in operation until 1838.

Considering his many other enterprises, it is not surprising that Jacob Myers was involved in shipping. In 1793 he began regular service from Pittsburgh to Limestone (today's Maysville), Kentucky’s first official Ohio River port. Myers’ boats hauled passengers as well as freight. The service, strictly one-way in those days before steam power, was later extended to Cincinnati and Louisville.

At Louisville, the Ohio is blocked by a series of cascades, known as the Falls of the Ohio. Trips typically either ended there or resumed on the other side in a different boat. Today Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville became important because anyone who wanted to continue south on the river had to stop at Louisville and travel overland to Portland, on the other side of the Falls. Although foolhardy captains occasionally tried to shoot the rapids, they rarely succeeded, and generally everything had to be unloaded and transported overland. 

That became a business in its own right. It was thirsty work, a fact exploited by early distillers like Evan Williams. Other local distillers pursued that business too but Williams had the inside track. Louisville was Kentucky's second official port and Williams was its first wharf master. 

As a land speculator, miller, distiller, shipper and iron maker, Jacob Myers was like another better-known early Kentucky entrepreneur, Elijah Craig, who did many of the same things in Scott County. Like Myers when he jumped claim on his surveying crew, frontier entrepreneurs took their opportunities where they found them. They weren’t trying to establish historic “firsts,” they were just trying to make a living for themselves and their families. It took equal parts daring, effort and luck, but many, like Jacob Myers, succeeded spectacularly.

His Beam relations didn’t do too badly either.


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Every Label Tells a Story, Don't It?

 

Front label

This pint bottle, probably from 1937, has me hooked. It raises so many wonderful questions. Such as: how can a blend of straight whiskies contain whiskey that is just eight months old? Clearly this product was made when fully aged whiskey was in short supply. Back then, the definition of straight whiskey was vague. Today, straight whiskey has to be at least two years old.

Even so, Mr. Dant wants you to know that although some of it is very young, this is all aged whiskey. It is not a little bit of aged whiskey blended with neutral spirit, like most of what was sold in those days. This is something different. Because it also has a nice, rich hue, they note that it contains no "artificial coloring." 

This feels like someone trying to get an innovative product to market, one that makes the most of what little aged stock is available through careful, even 'scientific,' blending (whatever that means). Making young whiskey taste good was a challenge for producers in the years immediately following 1933, just as it was a decade ago in the early days of craft distilling. 

Back label (partial)
The extra, overlaid back label suggests they met some regulatory obstacles.

They tell us all the whiskeys were made it Kentucky, but where? Members of the Dant family were involved with several post-Repeal distilleries. Members of the extended family had connections to even more. It is clear this was a sourced product, maybe from within the family, maybe not. 

Now to the other major question, which Dant is this? There never was a W. W. Dant Distillery in Louisville or anywhere else. Obviously, this is either W. W. Dant himself or a member of his family using the Dant name and reputation to convey expertise. "3rd Generation of Distilling Experience," it says on the label. It's also clear they are carefully avoiding any trademark conflicts with the owners of the then very well-established and popular J. W. Dant brand of bourbon. 

The 'grandfather' is presumably J. W. Dant, but he is not named.

J. W. Dant bourbon is still sold today. It is made by Heaven Hill. Back then it was made by Uncle George.

Hang tag
I don't recall ever seeing a W. W. Dant product before. This was never a big brand. It probably was a one-shot for one reason or another. Yet the tax stamp shows it made it at least as far as Wisconsin, so that's something. 

There were and are a lot of Dants in Kentucky. Mike Veach has a good overview of the family's role in Kentucky's whiskey history here. I tell it from a slightly different direction here.

The family patriarch was Joseph Washington Dant (1820-1902), best known as J. W. Dant. Some Dant family trees show a "Wallace W. Dant" as one of J. W. Dant's seven distiller sons, but that's a mistake. His name was William Wallace Dant. He was known as Wallace, which probably explains the mistake.

In the picture on the label, the grandfather is J. W. Dant, the father is Wallace Dant, though neither is named. Presumably, the son in the picture is the W. W. Dant in question.  

Recently, two groups of Dant descendants have gotten back into the whiskey business. Steve and Paul Beam are Dants on their mother's side. Their Limestone Branch Distillery is in Lebanon, in Marion County. Wally Dant and some other family members have opened Log Still Distillery near New Haven in Nelson County.

The hang tag above is included mostly for amusement. While they seem scrupulous in describing the product, they play fast and loose with the story. The idea that "Grandfather's Distillery in Marion County" was some kind of 'cross-roads' connecting Louisville, Frankfort and Lexington is easily debunked by glancing at a map. More realistically it was on the 'cross-roads' leading to Bardstown, Elizabethtown and Lebanon. But "gentlemen" in "colorful coaches drawn by thorough-breds"? Please!

So who is this W. W. Dant? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. J. W. Dant, the 'grandfather' in this exercise, had seven sons and many grandsons, several of whose initials were "W. W."

This guy is William Washington Dant, known as Will, a son of Wallace Dant. Will Dant is Wally Dant's great-grandfather. Will Dant's sister, Mary Kathleen, is grandmother to the Limestone Branch Beams, so Wallace Dant is their great-grandfather and Wally Dant's great-great-grandfather.  

Although Wally Dant is descended from J. W. Dant, like all of the Dants, his Log Still Distillery is not on the site of J.W. Dant's Distillery, the place described in the hang tag as "Grandfather's Distillery in Marion County." Log Still is on the site of a much more important Dant family distillery, established by J. W. Dant's eldest son, Joseph Bernard (J. B.), to make Yellowstone bourbon. The J. W. Dant Distillery was nearby, just a few miles east, about one mile inside Marion County, where Dant Station Road intersects with KY-52 today. No trace of that distillery remains. 

J. W. Dant retired in 1891, at age 71, and his son Wallace (Will's dad) took over. Wallace died in 1910 and control passed to George, the youngest brother. Then Prohibition shut them all down.

After Prohibition, J. B. Dant and his sons sold their Nelson County distillery and took the Yellowstone name up to Louisville (suburban Shively, actually), where they built a huge, new distillery that was later sold to Glenmore. Will Dant and a partner bought and restarted the Nelson County place, while uncle George reopened the family's original Marion County distillery. Will wanted to call his place W. W. Dant but uncle George sued him, saying that was too close to J. W. Dant, which George controlled, so they compromised on Dant & Head, Joe Head being the other principal.

In keeping with family tradition, Will Dant and his wife, Martha Jane Ferriell, had a whole bunch of kids. Their eldest was John Wallace Dant, known as Wally. Log Still's Wally Dant is his grandson and namesake, John Wallace Dant III. 

The 'Wally' in between those two, John Wallace Dant Jr., is an interesting story unrelated to the whiskey business except it reminds us how Catholic that area is. Wally Dant Jr. grew up in Louisville, graduated from St. Xavier High School, then Notre Dame, and worked for UPS in Louisville for 33 years, retiring as VP of Air Operations. He had several children, the eldest of whom is Log Still's Wally. After he retired he became very active in his parish church in Louisville, becoming a deacon. After the death of Barbara, his wife, he entered the seminary, became a priest, and served in several different parishes in Marion and Nelson Counties. He died in 2010, age 70.

I grew up Catholic in northern Ohio. Mom was from Cleveland, dad was from St. Louis. From my family history and from American history, I always associated Catholics with urban immigrant communities; Germans in mom's case, but also Irish, Italians, and Poles. Only after I became interested in bourbon history did I learn about the English Catholics from whom I also am descended, who were so instrumental in starting the Kentucky bourbon industry, who brought their Catholic faith and English heritage to the mostly-rural Kentucky Holy Lands a century before the better known Catholic migrations to the big cities of the Northeast and Midwest. Among them were John Baptist Dant, J. W. Dant's father, and my ancestor, Joseph 'Short' Tucker.

This is a long post but I am still nowhere near finished with this label. There is also the box it came in! This is not my bottle. I thank the owner who took these pictures and gave me permission to share them.

One remaining mystery is why, if Will Dant co-owned Dant & Head, isn't this a Dant & Head release? Why did Will Dant do it as a side hustle?

And does anybody know what "Ma Ri Me Scientifically Blended" means? The reference to 'License No. 1' leads me to suspect this was another Will Dant enterprise.


Sunday, September 5, 2021

The U.S. Craft Distilling Movement and How It Got That Way, Pt. 2, Is Now Available

 

Mural on a warehouse at Green River Distilling Company in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Green River Distilling Company is in Owensboro, Kentucky. Although it is on the site of several historic distilleries and bears the name of one of them, Green River is essentially a new plant that just started to distill in 2016. Its 54-inch column still gives it the ability to make at least 5-million proof gallons per year. Green River is a big distillery. It has more production capacity than Diageo’s Cascade Hollow/George Dickel. It may not make that much yet, but it is only a matter of time. 

Yet we talk about Green River and other new, equally large distilleries, such as Bardstown Bourbon Company, in the context of 'craft distilling.' Maybe we shouldn't, but what should we call them?

Of the approximately 2,500 beverage alcohol distilleries of all kinds in the United States today, 2,400 of them didn't exist 20 years ago. In that short time, the business of producing and selling distilled spirits in the United States has changed dramatically. Yet the handful of companies with the most market share 20 years ago still have the most, so what's going on?

We have been trying to make sense of it all in the last two issues of The Bourbon Country Reader. Part 2 will go into the mail in the next few days. Click here to subscribe via PayPal (PayPal account or any major credit card, U.S. address only). Click here for other options (including for a non-U.S. address).

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The Bourbon Country Reader is the oldest publication devoted entirely to American whiskey. It is a charming mix of news, history, analysis, and product reviews. Do you worry that advertising spending influences coverage in other publications? No chance of that here since The Bourbon Country Reader is 100 percent reader-supported. It accepts no advertising.

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Thursday, September 2, 2021

Bid Now on an Exclusive Blanton's Barrel Pick Experience, for a Worthy Cause

 


(NOTE: I usually don't promote this sort of thing, but it's a cool opportunity and the money goes to a worthy cause. It's personal because the daughter of a friend of mine has this condition. Click here to jump straight to the auction.)

This auction is being conducted by Unicorn Auctions in Chicago. It benefits The MOG Project, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization devoted to advocating for those all over the world who are diagnosed with the rare neuroimmune condition, Myelin Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein Antibody Disease (MOGAD).

MOGAD causes inflammation primarily in the optic nerve but can also affect the spinal cord and brain. MOG is a protein located on the surface of myelin sheaths in the central nervous system. Because of the rare nature of the disorder, it is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. It affects people of all ages but is especially found in young children.

The MOG Project is devoted to raising awareness, educating doctors, patients and caregivers, advancing research through expert collaboration and fundraising, and providing support and advocacy for our community in hopes of finding a cure.

As the highest bidder, you will start with a visit to Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. Upon your arrival, you’ll be taken on an extensive, behind-the-scenes tour where you will learn about the rich history of distilling.

Following your personal tour, you will sample directly from several barrels of Blanton’s chosen especially for you by industry experts and learn firsthand about the inimitable magic that happens in Kentucky warehouses.

You’ll taste straight from the barrel, cut down to bottling proof, while the natural aromas and distinct flavors shine through. After you find the barrel that best reflects your discerning taste you’ll be able to mark that exact barrel as your very own and send it on its way to bottle and personalize.

Selecting your very own barrel of Blanton’s is an experience of a lifetime. With demand for one of the distillery’s most popular brands outpacing supply, owning an entire barrel is a rarity for even the biggest of bourbon fans.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

The World that Made Me

 

Isaly's was a chain of dairies and stores that began in Mansfield, Ohio, my hometown.

For a simple advertising sign, the image above packs a ton of information. It tickles my memory. 

It is easy to date because coonskin caps such as the one worn by the little boy only became popular after the 1954 premier of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, a Walt Disney-produced TV show. The headdress worn by the little girl is a reference to the character of Tiger Lily from the Broadway musical adaptation of "Peter Pan," which premiered in 1954 and became a sensation on television when it was first broadcast in 1955. 

I was an ardent fan of both franchises. (I turned 4 in 1955.) I had a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. So did my three brothers. I also knew every song from "Peter Pan." Mom had the album, which in those days consisted of several 78 rpm disks, one song per side. One song in particular, "I Won't Grow Up," spoke to me.

And I was a fan of Isaly's, a dairy and shop that started in Mansfield and in its heyday had locations throughout the Midwest. I was not necessarily a fan of the skyscraper cone depicted here. I was more likely to choose their more famous frozen confection, the Klondike Bar. Ohio was a big dairy producer in those days. The Klondike bar was created in Mansfield, the Good Humor Bar was created in Youngstown, and Big Moo (Borden's) was in Columbus. 

Isaly's also was famous for a non-dairy product, its chipped ham. Ohio produced a lot of pork. Bob Evans Farms was and still is an Ohio company.

In my childhood, on any given day I might have had for lunch a sandwich of Isaly's chipped ham, on Nickel's bread, with a side of Jones Potato Chips, a Stewart's Root Beer to drink and a Klondike Bar for dessert. Every one of those products was made right there in Mansfield.

Mansfield may have been unusual in launching two enduring national brands, but locally-made products such as bread, beer, soft drinks, lunch meat, milk, and ice cream were still the norm back then. 

Stewart's and Isaly's are good examples of this phenomenon. Both started in Mansfield in the 1920s and by the 60s each had become a large, regional operation. Obviously, in each new market they entered they competed against a local incumbent. The most successful of these large, regional companies became national and competed everywhere. Stewart's and Isaly's never became truly national but were absorbed into companies that did.

When I started to work in advertising, local companies were being forced to become more sophisticated about their marketing to compete with encroaching regional and national brands. Even a city as small as Mansfield had advertising professionals able to give them a hand.

I dabbled in advertising in high school and even took a class in it at St. Pete's. My advertising career began in earnest after college in Dayton, Ohio, in 1974, where I made radio and television commercials for a local department store chain, Elder-Beerman. Department store ads dominated newspapers in those days and the stores had huge in-house departments that employed dozens of designers and copywriters. They were just beginning to use radio and television advertising. Elder-Beerman had an in-house agency for that too. There were four of us.   

An uncle worked for an ad agency in Columbus, my next stop. In a city like Dayton or Columbus back then, a typical advertising agency would have as its main clients a bank, a dairy, a meat packer, a bakery, a car dealer, and maybe a retailer or two. My Columbus employer had two divisions. One had that typical portfolio. My uncle worked on the bank account. Our meat packer client was Bob Evans Farms, when it was still run by Bob and his brother.  

Because of my experience in Dayton, I was hired by the other division which specialized in major market department store chains. My big client was Lazarus, a name anyone from Central Ohio will recognize. Lazarus was owned by Federated, a national company that also owned Rikes in Dayton and Shillito's in Cincinnati, but each store was still locally managed and branded.  

Department stores were dying even then. According to some store executives I spoke with, they had been dying since the end of WWII. They were losing share to specialty chains like The Limited (another Columbus operation), and discounters such as Target, K-Mart, Venture, and Wal-Mart, while also competing against established national chains like Sears, Montgomery-Ward and J. C. Penny.

Because none of our department store clients competed directly against each other, we syndicated many of our advertising campaigns by using the same creative for multiple stores.

It was that very particular expertise that took me to Louisville, to an ad agency that had built its business by selling syndicated advertising campaigns to similar local companies that were trying to compete with the national and regional brands then penetrating their markets. It had syndicated campaigns for dairies and bakeries in the past but by the time I got there (1978) that business had pretty much dried up. The national/regional brands had won those categories. Some locals continued as brand names, but they were no longer local companies.

My Louisville employer was at the tail end of its syndicated work for meat packers and had one final hit with a campaign for savings and loan associations. That led to me writing for George Burns, including a four-line song. It was a thrill to work with Burns and his manager, Irving Fein.

That was pretty much the end of the line for local companies in many businesses. Everything now is national or international. Am I pining for 'the good old days'? Not at all, just reflecting on how no matter what you do, whether or not you know it at the time, you are participating in and engaging with something bigger, maybe epochal even. There is always a big picture and you are part of it, we all are.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Hard Pants and Rabbit Holes

 

Alice gets it.

As a writer I have two audiences, you and me. It’s kismet when they align. When I started this blog in 2005, I intended it as a platform for whatever I felt like writing. In those early days I wrote about American whiskey but also politics, culture, and everyday life. When I moved the show over to Blogger (i.e., Google) in 2007, and made the masthead I still use, I intended to focus more on American whiskey but still would write about 'other stuff' from time to time. I have, but the ‘other stuff’ has been infrequent. 

Around that same time, 2005-2007, I joined Facebook. A lot of my ‘other stuff’ writing moved over there. But although Facebook allows longish posts, I try not to get too wordy. Longer stuff goes over here.

But back to that tension between the two audiences, you and me. It’s there. Because of my long experience in and around the booze business, especially the American whiskey part of it, I feel I have something to offer, something of value and I feel some obligation to share it. Duty but also opportunity. I’m sensitive to the need to tend my brand. Most people who read me are interested primarily in the whiskey stuff. Whiskey writing has never dominated my income stream but it has played an important role in it since about that same period, early this century. I appreciate the patronage and hesitate to stray too far from that audience’s comfort zone as I perceive it. This blog has been an important link in that chain.

I came up in marketing. Positioning is second nature to me. But another, older part of me, the born iconoclast, always tries to sabotage my best efforts to stay on message. I’m here to announce I’m more and more inclined to let the iconoclast win.

I’ve thought about creating another space for my non-bourbon thoughts but I’m lazy and that seems like too much work. One thing I believe about web sites in general is that they’re useless if they’re not active. If you have a web site that hasn’t been updated since 2013, you might be better off with no web presence at all. This site is underperforming as it is. I can’t support another one.

But things change. I’m mostly retired now. What ‘mostly’ means is I’m still working; I’m just not hustling for it. I was a freelance writer for 35 years. Other gig workers understand. Being retired means getting up every day and doing whatever I want, no deadlines, no meetings, no obligations, no hard pants. 

Since July 21, a good part of every day has been spent exploring a family history rabbit hole that became the nine-part series just concluded. The first installment explains the rabbit hole I went down to get there. I love rabbit holes, always have. Google is rabbit hole heaven.

But Google can’t do it all. Many friends helped me put together the pieces of the Tucker story. I won’t name them to protect their privacy, but they know who they are, and I am grateful to them. 

I’ve always been interested in history. My focus is beginnings. How did this or that come to be. That quest is all about rabbit holes because the beginning of everything was the beginning. Of everything. There was only one beginning. Any other beginning is arbitrary. I have trouble picking one starting point and following it through to a conclusion. But I digress.

Constantly.

So I don’t know if I want to make a prediction, but I feel like there will be more personal stuff here in the future. I may even stop warning readers when there is no bourbon content in a post. You probably can figure that out for yourself.

There is an expression among writers called “writing for the drawer.” Before writing became my profession it was the way I processed my thoughts, experiences, problems, passions, memories, everything. If I had something on my mind, something I needed to work out, I picked up a pen and pad and wrote it down. That’s how I became a writer or discovered I was one. Milton White, one of my professors at Miami University, gave me the only advice a writer needs: “writers write.”

These days, as I lurch into my eighth decade, I’m all about learning and as I learn I process what I learn by writing about it. A lot of that always has been ‘for the drawer’ and always will be. I envision the blog as somewhere between the drawer and publication. The Bourbon Country Reader, my American whiskey newsletter, is on that same continuum but nearer to my books and magazine pieces. The blog is closer to the drawer and may move even closer to the drawer than it has been in the sense of becoming even more personal and idiosyncratic. I don’t know. I just know how I feel today, after concluding that nine-part series. 

I get a buzz from writing. Not all the time and not always the same, but the buzz is the gold. I don’t always know where the gold is. No, that’s wrong. I never know where the gold is. I just know it’s down those rabbit holes.


Friday, August 13, 2021

Beams in My Home Town and Other Personal Stuff (Part 9)

 

American Vincentians established St. Mary's of the Barrens in Perryville, Missouri, in 1818. It has served as an educational institution, a Vincentian house of formation, and a Vincentian community residence. 

For the story of Mansfield and Beam's Mill, you have to go back to Part 1. We have moved on to Kentucky and my many-times-great-great-grandfather, Joseph 'Short' Tucker.

Short did well during his years in Bardstown, Kentucky. A 1793 tax roll for Nelson County shows him owning 15 head of cattle, five horses, and about 250 acres of land.

But he was restless. 

At that time, the land on both sides of the Mississippi River bordering what is now Missouri and Illinois was under French and Spanish colonial administration. Looking to expand the population, Spain invited American Catholics to settle there. One of the Maryland Catholics in Kentucky, 20-year-old Isidore Moore, was chosen to scout the possibilities. He looked at land on both sides of the river in 1792, again in 1797, and for a third time in 1800. There in the grasslands south of Ste. Genevieve he found something he liked. The area became known as 'the barrens' because it had so few trees.

Soon Short and some neighbors were on their way to western Illinois, where they lived briefly before crossing the river into what is now Missouri. The site for the settlement, what is now Perryville, was selected by Short Tucker and two other men. The names of Perryville and Perry County were chosen much later to honor O. H. Perry, the 1812 naval hero we talked about in Part 6. In those early days it was simply called 'the barrens settlement.'

The first rough cabins were built and occupied by 1803. In that same year, the community formally became part of the United States due to the Louisiana Purchase. Missouri became the 24th state in 1821.

As had been the case when they arrived in Kentucky, one of the group's top priorities was to attract a priest so they could properly practice their Catholic faith. 

In those days, clerics of all stripes often made harrowing journeys to tend their far flung frontier flocks. One such circuit preacher was Father Marie Joseph Dunand, a Trappist priest fleeing the French Revolution. He first visited the Barrens settlement in 1809, stayed at Short Tucker's home, and said mass there for the community. Father Dunand promised that if the settlers built a church he would visit them more often. In two months the church was ready and Short traveled to St. Louis to remind the priest of his promise. Dunand knew the 100-mile journey was difficult but since Short was about 70 at the time and Dunand was 30 years younger, he felt he couldn't very well refuse.  

Joseph 'Short' Tucker was active in the church community until his death in 1816. 

As the Barren's community grew, it renewed ties with the priests of the Vincentian Order who had built the group's first church and school in Kentucky. Father Charles de la Croix, a skilled architect, designed a new church and school for Missouri modeled on the recently completed Seminary of St. Thomas in Bardstown. They named it St. Mary's of the Barrens. The Vincentians were soon joined by Sisters of Loretto, also from Kentucky, who ran the school.

Short Tucker had been joined on his westward trek by several of his sons, one of whom was named Thomas. His son, William, had a son named Narious (maybe spelled Nereus), who was the father of Joseph Kendrick Tucker, the carpenter who died shortly before my father was born and after whom my father was named. 

According to the U. S. census, Joe and Nancy were still farming in Ste. Genevieve County's Saline Township in 1900. We don't know exactly when or why this Joseph Tucker left the Barrens community to become a carpenter in St. Louis, but that was the beginning of the 20th century, when people everywhere were leaving farms for cities. My grandparents met in St. Louis and were married there in 1916.

The 1900 census also shows that Nancy, my great-grandmother, was born in Kentucky, as were both of her parents. It is another Kentucky connection I didn't know I had. How she wound up in Missouri is another story yet to be discovered.

Myrtle Gertrude Tucker Cowdery Mansfield,
1948 (photo by her son, Tom Cowdery)

Joe and Nancy had four children; my grandmother, another girl named Genevieve (like the county), and two boys. According to dad, all three of them were con artists. Genevieve, he said, was quite good at it. When grandma died one of his Tucker uncles stole a bottle of Four Roses from her house that was rightfully dad's. 

Great-Grandma Tucker (Nancy) remarried and became Mrs. Felix Demonget. He ran the buffing and polishing department of the Hess & Culbertson Jewelry Co. in St. Louis. I met her once, in St. Louis, when I was very young and she was very old. 

Grandma and Grandpa divorced and both remarried. Grandma married Manny Mansfield and they lived in Sausalito, California for many years. Dad visited them there during the war, on his way back to the Pacific. She returned to St. Louis after Manny died and ran a small boarding house. Grandpa's second wife I knew as Grandma Helen. As they all lived in St. Louis and we lived in Ohio I didn't know any of them very well. 

So this may be a good place to end this saga. Thanks for reading.