Sunday, May 11, 2014

Is This Church the Birthplace of Bourbon?

They may not have been Kentucky's earliest distillers but the English Catholics who migrated to the American Holy Lands beginning in 1785 played a disproportionate role in establishing the bourbon industry there. Many of the names of those First Families are familiar to bourbon fans today.

Holy Cross parish, in Marion County, is known as the birthplace of Catholicism in Kentucky. It was established in 1785 when “a league” of sixty Catholic families was formed in Maryland. Each pledged to migrate to Kentucky and agreed to settle in the same area for mutual support, to increase their chances of getting a priest, and to establish a church.

Until 1787, Mass was held in private homes. Under Father William DeRohan, the first chapel was built at Holy Cross. A grotto today marks where this structure, the first west of the Alleghenies for Catholic worship, was built. The present brick church was built in 1823.

The whiskey families associated with the Maryland migration include the Beams, Boones, Cecils, Dants, Haydens, Mattinglys, Medleys, Pottingers, Wathens, Wheatleys, and Willetts. They mostly settled in Nelson, Marion, and Washington County.

(Holy Cross history is courtesy of the Archdiocese of Louisville.)


boone said...

Well Chuck, I will give this one my shot and bein's that I like to be a smart ass at times I will create my "history" at will. Gezzzzzz :)

This picture does not reflect the full flavor of what that little church represents. If ya back up a bit the entire yard is a gravesite. On each side leading up to the front door marks the graves of our bourbon ancestors who passed before us. Basil Hayden ... he was Catholic and helped lead the group to Nelson County...under the guidance of Daniel Boone (there's some of the create your history stuff) that may or may not have happened lol...There is a "Kentucky Historical Marker in front of the church. It tells the tale about Basil Hayden. Mr. Hayden was a Distiller. His grandson opened a distillery and named one of his labels "Old Grand Dad"...Daniel Boone's grandchildren were happy with his choice but saddned he didn't name one after him lol...

Lovin' and livin' the bourbon life in Kentucky!

Bettye Jo Boone
7th Generation Jacob Beam
Great granddaughter of Joseph L. Beam first Master Distiller of Heaven Hill aka Old Heaven Hill Springs

Oscar said...

Those names read like a short list of a who's who of the bourbon world.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, thank you for posting this article. I am a direct descendant of Basil Hayden. I own a great book on the family history and have learned so much about the Haydens. Here is quick family line:
Basil Hayden sr.
Basil Hayden jr.
William Basil Hayden
Leo Hayden
Mary Clemence Hayden (Goellner)
Clarence Goeller
Mary C. Goellner (Meier)
Joe Meier (me)
I have some great stories.

Sam Komlenic said...

Poured myself a Mother's Day Old Grand-Dad Bonded and club soda, then sat down to cruise the blogs.

Once I hit this post, my choice seemed quite prescient. Great story, and cool to hear from the descendants of those great families.

mbroo5880i said...

The history of bourbon makes it all the more enjoyable

Gary Gillman said...

That's very interesting Chuck, one of the things that struck me when I first visited the area (circa-2002) was the omnipresent Catholic presence.

Are there early centers of bourbon-making in Kentucky that go against the grain so to speak and are associated with one or more Protestant denominations? E.g., the ministers who may have had a connection to early bourbon development such as Elijah Craig, were some of these Protestants?


Chuck Cowdery said...

Elijah Craig was a Baptist.

Temperance wasn't much of an issue until later, after the Civil War. That's when the role of Catholics and Jews became more significant, as Protestants abandoned the business under pressure from their religious community. Catholic and Jewish distillery owners never felt that pressure from within their own faith community.

Chuck Cowdery said...

The Craig comparison is apt because he came with a group of followers who intended, as the Maryland Catholics did, to establish a kind of colony. The difference is that the Maryland Catholics did it on a much grander scale and remained a cohesive group, arguably right up to the present.

Gary Gillman said...

Very interesting, thanks, it looks like the Catholic and Jewish roles were of a supplementary and reinforcing nature rather than primary - not to diminish their importance, of course.


Chuck Cowdery said...

Read this before you decide.