Monday, March 31, 2014
The Real Augustus Bulleit Revealed
"Hi," said the voice on the phone. "I am the great great grandson of Augustus Bulleit." No, it was not someone who promotes Bulleit whiskeys for Diageo. This descendant wanted to explain why no one can find a record of Augustus Bulleit in Louisville.
He wasn't in Louisville.
Except for a brief transition period after he arrived from France in 1836, Augustus never lived in Louisville. He never distilled there, nor ran a bar, nor did any of the other things Diageo claims about him. "My grandmother never said anything about a secret bourbon recipe," said the caller, laughing.
The caller's information is supported by sources readily found online, although the sources don't always agree. All seem to agree on the year Augustus was born, 1806, but not on the place. It's either Belgium, Alsace-Lorraine, or France. My caller says France and explains the confusion. Augustus married a Belgian girl. (More on her later.) Alsace-Lorraine may also be correct, since it was still controlled by France when Augustus lived there. My caller also mentioned an earlier spelling of the name, Boilliat.
Augustus made his way to America at age 25 or maybe 30. He stayed briefly in Louisville but soon moved west, across the Ohio River to Harrison County, Indiana, where he married and settled down. His bride, Mary Julia Dulieu, was from Lanesville and they settled on a farm on Buck Creek near Dogwood. (See, this is already better than the made-up stuff.) They were married on April 29, 1841. She was 21, he was 35. In that same year, he became a naturalized American citizen.
They had nine children.
Augustus and Mary Julia appear in census records for both 1850 and 1860. In 1850, his occupation is given as 'miller.' In 1860 it's 'farmer.'
That he was a miller makes it probable he was a distiller too, at least on a small scale. Millers were typically paid in grain. Whatever they were given to mill, they would keep 5 to 7 percent of it in payment. In a community where everyone grew grain, no one needed to buy it, so a miller would either raise livestock and use his grain as feed, or distill it into whiskey for sale. Whiskey was desirable because it didn't spoil and always sold.
From family lore, my caller said Augustus may have operated a tavern at one time and may also have been in the lumber business, but both of those enterprises failed.
Mary Julia Dulieu Bulleit is buried in the Catholic cemetery in New Middletown. No one knows where Augustus is buried or even when he died. In 1860, at the age of 54, he got on a flatboat with some goods he intended to sell in New Orleans and was never seen nor heard from again.
While we may never know exactly how or where Augustus Bulleit died, just as we may never know where Bulleit Bourbon is made, at least now we know who Augustus Bulleit really was.
On a Personal Note: Today is the last day of the month and I just want to thank Diageo for making March so much fun.