Monday, June 17, 2019

The first brick house west of the Alleghenies was built in 1788 near New Haven, Kentucky



The first brick house west of the Alleghenies was built in 1788 near New Haven, Kentucky.

Last Friday, J. W. ‘Wally’ Dant announced that his Log Still Distilling LLC has acquired the site of the Gethsemane Distillery, between New Haven and New Hope, where his family made whiskey in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He intends to build a new distillery there.

It’s a story that starts with that first brick house, built in part with money earned from the sale of frontier whiskey.

The house was built by Captain Samuel Pottinger Sr., who established the first outpost in that part of southern Nelson County in the spring of 1781. It was a small fort called Pottinger’s Station. For his military service to the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the Revolution and other campaigns, Captain Sam received a grant of 12,100 acres from Governor Patrick Henry. (Kentucky was part of Virginia until 1792.) Before the brick house there was a log cabin, a grist mill, and a distillery.

When Captain Sam learned that a group of Marylanders, mostly Catholics, were looking for a place in Kentucky where they could settle close together, so they could attract a priest and start a parish, he went and got them. They included Basil Hayden and Wally Dant’s ancestor, John Baptiste Dant.

Several generations of Pottingers lived in that brick house. In about 1872, Captain Sam’s grandson, Jeff Pottinger, moved the family distillery a few miles away, onto land adjacent to the new railroad tracks, at a place the railroad called Gethsemane Station. It was named for the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani.

Jeff Pottinger operated the distillery at Gethsemane as T. J. Pottinger and Company until 1888, when he sold it to Francis Head and Minor Case (M. C.) Beam. They renamed it Beam & Head.

Their next door neighbor at Gethsemane was a distillery built by Joseph Bernard Dant, grandson of John Baptiste. That distillery came to be known as Taylor and Williams, a Louisville rectifier who owned the popular Yellowstone bourbon brand. In 1910, Dant bought Beam out and the whole plant became Yellowstone until Prohibition.

After Prohibition, some of the Dants moved Yellowstone to a new distillery in Louisville. Will Dant, with Joe Head, restarted the old Gethsemane Station place as Dant & Head. They didn’t own it for long. Ultimately, it was bought by Armand Hammer, who also bought the Dant family’s original distillery, at Dant Station, along with the J. W. Dant trademark, which he built into a very successful brand. He sold both distilleries and the brand to Schenley in 1953. (Heaven Hill owns the brand today.)

Soon the Dant Station distillery was closed and abandoned, and the Gethsemane place was improved. It operated until about 1961. After that, whiskey was no longer made there but the site continued to be used, as a lumber yard and eventually by a manufacturer of wooden roof trusses. If the new distillery opens in 2021 as planned, it will mark the end of a 60-year distilling hiatus there.

The first brick house west of the Alleghenies was last occupied by Vienna Maria Pottinger, the youngest daughter of Jeff Pottinger. She never married and lived there alone until she was committed to the state mental hospital in about 1920. It stood empty for years, then was used as a storage shed. It was demolished in 1940.

9 comments:

Richard Turner said...

Thanx for these nuggets of very interesting historical reference points around that 'first brick house', Chuck! I just love reading this kind of thing, with all the intersecting Bourbon "lineages". Please, keep giving us all this wonderful stuff, my friend.

JenS said...

The William Whitley house in Lincoln county was the first brick home in Kentucky

Chuck Cowdery said...

Apparently, there are several claimants for this honor.

JenS said...

The William Whitley House was built in 1782

Bill Reynolds said...

Captian Samuel Pottenger owned the earliest distillery in the Nelson County area. It was located across from the spring at "Walnut Hill". Around Civil War days the TJ Pottenger & Company Distillery was east of the L&N Depot at Gethsemane, Nelson County, Kentucky. (Information in a 1869 letter from Butler Remey Pottinger to TJ Pottenger and owned by LB Pottinger, January, 1983).
When "Walnut Hill" was built and for many years thereafter, a stockade for protection against Indians was around it. "Walnut Hill" was about 1/2 mile from the first fort (Pottenger's Fort) built by Capt Samuel Pottenger on Pottenger Creek, Nelson County, Kentucky in the spring of 1781. (Information from Samuel Forrest Pottinger). Captain Samuel Pottenger was my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather. My Mother, Ruby Pottinger (Reynolds) was the last Pottinger child born in "Walnut Hill" in 1919 (Bill Reynolds)

Unknown said...

Bill Reynolds we are related. Captain Pottinger was my 4th great grandfather.

Anonymous said...

The KY Dept. of Parks website for the William Whitley Historical Site says the Whitley house was built in 1794. Wikipedia says it was built between 1787 and 1794, so apparently there is more than a bit of wiggle room on claiming first brick house honors.

Anonymous said...

As a bourbon enthusiast, information like this makes my heart glow. But as a database developer... trying to keep track of all the lineages, marriages and brand ownership makes my head hurt! :) I love learning this stuff but it's just impossible to wrap my head around it. Worse than the Bourbons of Europe ;)

Thank you!

mozilla said...

Thanks as always Chuck.
I particularly appreciate hearing about the Dant family and their labels. Can't wait for the Dant family to start distilling again.
Keep the stories coming!!