Who are “We the undersigned”?

We recently featured the case of William Brockman, a German man appealing his murder conviction to Governor Bramlette (read the full transcription here). Our previous post pointed out the fascinating diversity of topical subjects CWG-K will bring to the attention of scholars — the immigrant experience, violence and public arms bearing, micro-economies of military posts, and the environmental and urban history of the Ohio River.

KYR-0001-004-0787But who signed the petition to pardon William Brockman? Why did they do so? What can we learn about a war-torn and refugee-swelled Ohio River city from analyzing the actors in William Brockman’s world?

Each of the document’s 65 glossary entries contains a list of associated documents (Read the full glossary here). In those 65 entries, this document makes 4,353 connections across the CWG-K corpus. Excluding the four best-connected entries (Thomas E. Bramlette, Louisville, Jefferson Circuit Court, and Tennessee), the remaining 61 entries yield 441 connections to a web of 248 unique documents spread across 25 unique collections in 3 separate archival repositories. The glossed people, places, and institutions in this document link to a median of 5 other records.

Though these appear to be no more than numbers on the page, this is the raw data of a complex series of geographic, economic, social, personal, and political networks that bound 1860s Kentuckians to one another, to the nation, to the war, and to the world. The patterns in these accession numbers suggest fascinating research questions which the user can further explore through documents themselves. What shared interest led twenty of the signers of this petition to appear in another document KYR-0001-004-0121? What political or personal factors inclined the individuals named in this document to appear more frequently in collections associated with Bramlette (145 documents) than Magoffin (50 documents)? What does the appearance of Zachariah Sherley and his business partner Richard Woolfolk in documents from all three repositories suggest about the breadth of their interaction with state institutions? Might this suggest ways in which their steamboat-supplying firm benefited from military mobilization?

The entries from this document also highlight what CWG-K can do with even the most fragmentary information. A man named Donheimer, for example, testified in the case related to Brockman’s petition, but we know nothing further of him—not even his given name. CWG-K will, nevertheless, create a glossary entry for him and include what information can be gleaned from the document. Even though what we know of Donheimer is limited now, the open-ended nature of a born-digital project allows CWG-K to expand the entry as new documents are identified and transcribed and as the CWG-K universe becomes populated with more interconnected historical actors. The point is not that we know very little about Donheimer now. Rather, it is that we may learn more about him in the future, and, even if not, scholars will use the networks of which he forms a part.

This document reveals how researchers will be able to visualize and study the interactions Kentuckians had with their neighbors, their governments, and their enemies, linking an untold number of individuals—enslaved and free, men and women, Union and Confederate—together in an interconnected web of relationships. CWG-K will be an unimaginably powerful tool for studying the whole of a society under the strains of civil war.

Patrick A. Lewis is Project Director of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.

KYR-0001-004-0787

Be sure to read the glossary for this document as well as Part One and Part Two of the analysis.

KYR-0001-004-0787-001

To His Excellency Thomas E. Bramlette

Your Petitioner William Brockman says that at the present term of the Jefferson Circuit Court he was tried on an Indictment for the murder of one Adolph Logel. found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to serve ten years in the penitentiary of this commonwealth. He did not deny on the trial and does not deny now that he struck Logel a blow which unfortunately proved fatal but he asserted then and still asserts that he struck said blow in self=defense and under circumstances that justified it He says that he lives in the suburbs of Louisville not far from the old Oakland Race Course at which point the general government Keeps stabled a large number of horses and mules &c the chief part of which have been worn out in the military service of the government, considerable numbers of these animals die daily and the persons having them in charge were in the habit of hauling them to a strip of woods near petitioner’s House and there leaving them to rot. Your Petitioner had obtained leave to take the skins off of these carcasses on the condition he would remove or burn sathe carcasses to avoid having a nusance to the detriment of the health of the neighborhood The deceased Logel without having obtained leave as petitioner did, to take the skins, was in the habit of taking the skins and leaving the carcasses on the ground neither removing or burning them This created a nusance for which petitioner was indicted and fined Petitioner apprised Logel of the facts and told him he must not skin any more of the animals without burning the or removing the carcasses but Logel insisted that he would skin them without removing the carcasses and continued and persisted in so doing. At the time the difficulty occurred Logel had just skinned ^one^ of said animals ^a cow^ when your petitioner approached him and requested him to remove the carcass Harsh language and a quarrel ensued, Logel had a Butcher Knife with which he had just skinned the animal, in one hand and a stick in the other Your petitioner had only a stick in hand but it was pretty heavy one. Logel struck your petitioner twice with the stick and cut him on the hand with the Knife before petitioner struck at all whereupon your petition struck Logel with the stick which was in your petitioner’s hand a blow which knocked him down and unfortunately proved fatal Your petitioner had no idea that the blow would prove fatal and had no intention of killing Logel and struck him only in self=defense. Your petitioner insisted that he did not have a fair trial in the circuit court and that the verdict was obtained only by a conspiricy on the part of somethe principal witnesses for the commonwealth He states that the prinicpal witness for the state Donheimer not only testified differently in very material points from what he did in the examining court butand far more unfavorably to the [unclear]accused than he there testified but also as is showen by the accompanying affidavits of John Shrader Augusta Shrader and Charles Samuel Baker, procurred the witness for the commonwealth Huber, by bribery, to swear falsely on the trial of the case in the circuit court and thereby to make statements corroberating his said Donheimers, false testimony, all of which your petitioner was not made aware until after said trial.

Joseph Clements one of the justices who composed the examining court testified ion the trial in the circuit court that the witness Donheimer stated in the examining court that the deceased had a stick with which he was punching accused at the time accused struck him, whereas Donheimer testified on the trial in the circuit court that accused approached and ordered Logel to put down the skin and thereupon without anything further struck deceased upon the back of the neck a blow which produced his death. The witness for the accused Frend also testified that Donheimer attempted to procure him by bribe to swear against accused and that said Donheimer had said in his, Frend’s hearing that he wanted to have accused hung or sent to the penitentiary, Cathrine Barbarer testified that Donheimer sayed he would have accused hung The witness Semms who with the witnesses Huber and Donheimer was the only witness for the commonwealth who pretended to have seen the difficulty contradicted Donheimer by stating that the accused and the deceased “quarrelled” and fussed and contended over the skins for some time, and although he Semms then testified that he did not see but heard only one blow struck and thereafter looked and saw deceased lying on the ground, he is there in contra^dicted^ by Mr L A Wood an atty at law who testified on the trial in the circuit court that he was present as a spectator at the examining trial and that Semms there stated that deceased had a knife in his hand with which he struck at accused and L. A. Wood further testified that accused in the examining trial had a cut on the back of his hand.

The court refused a continuance applied for by accused at this present term on the ground of the absence in Tennessee of accused’s principal witness whose name is Rudolph Chrisler and who is a soldier in the Federal army and was so at the time of the difficulty and by whom accused could have proved on the trial in the circuit court as he did prove by said witness in the examining court that he Rudolph Chrisler saw deceased strike at and strike accused with a stick before accused struck deceased and that deceased had a Knife in his hand during the difficulty with which he cut accused on the hand Your petitioner had a subpoena for this witness and it was returned by, the sheriff “not found” and petitioners counsel asked leave of the court to introduce evidence of what the witness Chrisler had testified in the examining court which the court refused to do Your petitioner says that if he could have obtained the testimony of Chrisler it would have fully corroborated, and supported the testimony of DeFlour in the trial in the circuit Court and established the innocence of the accused of the charge Your petitioner states that he has a large family depended on his exertions for support

KYR-0001-004-0787-007All of which your petitioner would respectfully submit and implore the exercise in his behalf of your Excellency’s clemency

[unclear] [unclear]
translation William Brockman

We the undersigned citizens of Louisville join in the prayer of the foregoing petition and aske that William Brockman be pardoned

Nat. Wolfe
R. H. Rousseau
I H Hornsby
Chas Kahnt
Dr. V. Donhoff
F. Bender
Byron Bacon
F Gorin
A M Gazlay,
Jack Fry
S. A. Atchison
Jeff. Brown.
W. W. Fry
James A. Beattie
Thos W. Gibson
W A Meriwether
Jno. Hanna

Jos. Clement
W. C. Wood
W. P. McDowell
Lewis N Dembitz
Martin Bijur
S. S. Bush
H. C. Shivell
L. A. Wood
Isaac P Miller
Franz, A, Kramur
E S Craig
W, B. Hoke
Sam B. Smith
C. Ormsby
R. J. Ormsby

Wm. F. Wood
Hamilton Pope
Alfred T. Pope.
M S Fields
James Harris
J. P. Gailbreath
John N. Mattingly
Jno. K. Miller
John G. Barbon

F G Dannecker
H. S. Burkhard
T. Jack Conn
R H Woolfolk
Z, M, Sherley
Thos. J. Griffiths

Jefferson Cir Ct
vs
Wm Brockman

This is a case which demands Executive clemency and a pardon is ordered

Tho E Bramlette
Govr
Apl 29th 1864

10 years
Manslaughter

William Brockman to Thomas E. Bramlette, n.d., Office of the Governor, Thomas E. Bramlette: Governor’s Official Correspondence File, Petitions for Pardons, Remissions, and Respites 1863-1867, Box 10, BR10-213 to BR10-213A, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort.

CWG-K’s “Best of” – 2015 Edition

2015 was an eventful year for the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition. Numerous fellows utilized the power of the ever-growing database (you can apply to be one here), we are steadily approaching the launch of an Early Access edition of 10,000 documents and transcriptions and a Beta prototype. Governor’s Day — an interactive open house introducing the project to other departments at the Kentucky Historical Society — was a major success.

To recap the year, we’ve organized a series of “Best of” lists that chronicle everything from our individual takes on the most powerful people of Civil War Kentucky to the most memorable deaths to time travel (more on this anon). We hope you’ll enjoy reading these lists these as much as we enjoyed creating them.

POWER RANKINGS: Based on their own criteria, each member of the CWG-K editorial staff was asked to rank a “Power 5” group of figures found in the database.

Tony

  1. George W. Johnston – Powerful Judge of the Louisville City Court, a Louisville/Jefferson County pardon application was never complete and rarely received a positive reply without his signature.
  2. John B. Huston – Besides competing for the worst handwriting award for Civil War Kentucky—stiff competition from James F. Robinson and James Guthrie—Huston was a power broker, attorney and state legislator from central Kentucky, whose endorsement of a pardon application carried a lot of weight with multiple Kentucky governors.
  3. John B. Temple – Attorney, banker, and president of the Kentucky Military Board—Temple exerted a lot of power in all Kentucky military matters. He and the Military Board of Kentucky were de facto Commander-in-chief of Kentucky, slowly whittling away Beriah Magoffin’s military authority with the aid of the Kentucky General Assembly.
  4. George W. Norton – President of the Southern Bank of Kentucky, he was a Magoffin ally, made sizable loans the Commonwealth of Kentucky to support Magoffin in his efforts to purchase arms early in the war. Other banks made similar investments, yet Norton appeared to have the ear of the governor.
  5. C. D. Pennebaker – Lawyer, politician, Colonel of the 27th Kentucky Infantry, and Kentucky Military Agent in Washington, DC. He served in the legislature, commanded troops in battle, and served in a civilian military post for Kentucky in DC. In addition to this he wrote the more thorough letters and reports. Kudos Mr. Pennebaker!

Matt

  1. W. T. Samuels – Not unlike Matt Damon’s character in The Good Shepherd, Samuels had the dirt on everyone following his stint as state auditory. Given his knowledge of everyone’s finances and his legal prowess, he was a potential kingmaker in the Blue Grass. (In other words, there’s a reason he’s one of the few through-and-through Unionists to remain powerful in state government post-1865.)
  2. D. W. Lindsay – He commanded a crew of paid guerrilla hunters under the heading of “secret police”; these men, like Edwin “Bad Ed’ Terrell, were paid to track down and kill Kentucky’s most notorious bushwhackers.
  3. Stephen Burbridge – Though he technically fell under the authority of Thomas Bramlette in Kentucky, Burbridge more or less did as he pleased, which included deeming other powerful Union officers (like Gen. John B. Huston) disloyal and having them arrested on behalf of President Lincoln.
  4. Thomas Bramlette – As governor he oversaw nearly all of the state’s wartime activities—and was still expected to keep civil government afloat.
  5. E. H. Taylor, Sr. – Taylor was a member of the influential Military Board (which oversaw military purchases for the state) at the same time he helped run one of the state’s major money-lenders. If you needed a loan—and Kentucky always needed a loan—this was the man to see.

Whitney

  1. Thomas Bramlette – He takes first place by virtue of holding the highest office for the longest amount of time, evidenced by almost 3,000 documents.
  2. John W. Finnell – As Adjutant General, principal military advisor to Gov. Bramlette while a war was raging, he was in a very influential role.
  3. Samuel Suddarth – Serving as Quarter Master General, Suddarth was tasked with keeping the troops supplied by managing the ordering & distributing of supplies essential to the war effort.
  4. James F. Robinson – Though he served as Governor for a short time, he was part of a compromise wherein the Confederate-leaning Magoffin agreed to step down and let Robinson, a moderate, take over. Interestingly, since he never resigned his Senate seat, he technically filled both rolls simultaneously.
  5. James Garrard – He served as State Treasurer throughout the war, and as Mayer Amschel Rothschild allegedly said, “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.”

Patrick

  1. James F. Robinson – Don’t let his one-year term as Governor fool you, Robinson played state politics as adeptly as Frank Underwood could have done. While we can’t know if he pushed anyone in front of a train, Robinson adeptly turned down the senate speakership before having a cabal of Lexington friends arrange Magoffin’s resignation and his convoluted ascension to the Executive Mansion. As George Washington showed, the best way to accrue power is to look like you don’t want it. More astonishingly, Robinson refused to vacate his senate seat, leaving him free to return to harassing the Lincoln administration via the Committee on Federal Relations after Bramlette took office.
  2. Hamilton Pope – Louisville politics ran through Hamilton Pope. An old-Whig and former Know-Nothing, Pope was undoubtedly part of the closed-door decision that cut Louisville German and Irish immigrants out of independent regiments and elevated his brother, Curran Pope, to a Colonelcy. In addition to being an invaluable petition signature for anyone hoping for a pardon out of the Jefferson Circuit Court, Pope also runs point on using city government and the police department to enforce (increasingly irrelevant) fugitive slave laws.
  3. Rufus K. Williams – A fiercely Unionist circuit judge from the overwhelmingly Confederate Jackson Purchase, Williams raised a military unit and used his recruits to broker a deal for himself. When the time came to muster his troops into federal service, Williams traded a permanent military commission for a seat on the Kentucky Court of Appeals (the forerunner of the state supreme court) vacated by rebel sympathizer Alvin Duvall—ditching a hostile local electorate for a secure post backed by the statewide Unionist majority.
  4. Madison C. Johnson – His brother, rebel governor George W. Johnson, gets all the headlines in the family, but Madison Johnson controlled most of the available credit in the Bluegrass via the Northern Bank of Kentucky in Lexington. Johnson arranged hundreds of thousands of dollars in military loans to the Commonwealth in 1861-62—and was never hesitant to hold up the next installment to ease along a friend’s military commission. His loans to the state, backed by eventual federal repayment, helped his bank weather the collapse of many borrowers’ fortunes after slavery ended in 1865.
  5. Sherley & Woolfolk – This Louisville corporate duo of Zachariah M. Sherley and Richard H. Woolfolk often appear together in documents. Their firm ran a number of steamboats along the Ohio River and operated an outfitting business that sold supplies to others. Consequently, whether the state needed to move a battalion from Maysville to Paducah or buy a few barrels of ships biscuit to feed a hungry regiment, Sherley & Woolfolk were ready and willing to profit. That they signed insider political petitions under their corporate name shows an awareness of the importance of their business to the management of the war and, perhaps, some intuition for hammering home a branding message.

MOST MEMORABLE NAMES: Our editors have compiled a list of the most memorable names encountered in the CWG-K database in 2015.

  • Greenberry Tingle
  • Swift Raper
  • Wam Timbar (involved in a hatchet-throwing case, if you can believe it)
  • Green Forrest
  • August Worms

MOST MEMORABLE DEMISE: If you’ve followed the CWG-K blog over the past few months, it’s readily apparent that the database has no paucity of unusual and/or gruesome deaths. Each editor has selected the most memorable demise.

Tony

  • Jane Doe Murder Victim – In October 1865, evidence was presented concerning the corpse of a woman, approximately twenty-five years old, found on the outskirts of Louisville. The following is a description of her condition: “Her wounds are as follows a cut over each Eye one on forehand Forehead one just in front of Right Ear. Several Bruises on inside of right thigh and a wound which looked as though the flesh was twisted out her intestines was puled from her body through the Fundament Showing an act of the moste Diabolical rufianian the intestines cut or pulled loose from her body. Her cloths were all torn off of her not a Partickel remaining on her except one garter. Her right arm had been amputated just below the shoulder. the Evidences was plain of a sever strugle with some one from all I can learn I think a Negro did it.”

Matt

  • Ewing Litterell – An uninvited Litterell drunkenly barged into the home of James Savage, proclaimed himself “a stud horse” and boasted that he’d had sexual relations with all of the women in the house (and that he would do it again whenever he pleased). Savage let a full load of buckshot — which he fired into Litterell’s chest — serve as a “no you won’t.”

Whitney

  • Philip Medard – In January 1864, Philip Medard of Jefferson County died of cold and starvation after his son, Jacob Medard, “did confine & Starve his said father in an out house & kitchen & did starve and freeze him the said Philip by refusing to provide meat & food & clothing for him, & by thus exposing him to the weather.” There are definitely more violent deaths in the CWG-K database, but to date, only one happened in the out house.

Patrick

  • Colonel Francis M. Alexander – In what seems to have been an un-diagnosed case of post-traumatic stress disorder, Alexander drew a pistol on and killed a good friend without any motive or memory of the incident. His pardon petition is a moving account of a man coming to grips with his actions and his state of mind. “The exciting circumstances of the rebellion and its fearful consequences…which in rapid and mournful succession swept over his native, and beloved State, have Come upon his anxious and troubled mind with such force, that many events have transpired in his history during the last four years of his country’s trial, which appear to him almost as a dream.”

MOST OUTRAGEOUS PARDON: A major component of the CWG-K archive is requests for executive clemency. Each member of the editorial staff was tasked with identifying the most memorable pardon of 2015.

Tony

  • Otha Reynolds – In May 1862, Peter Gastell jumped bail and caused his bondholder, Reynolds, to forfeit $1000 to the court. That is, until Reynolds petitioned Governor Thomas Bramlette for clemency. Bramlette gave no legal justification for issuing Reynolds a remission, but said this: “Being in a merciful mood Ordered that this forfeiture except costs & fees be remitted.”

Matt

  • Michael Foley – An Irish rail worker and former Union vet, Foley believed that Merritt and Vardiman Dicken were pro-Confederate guerrillas on the run. In reality, the Dicken brothers were themselves fleeing from an attack by pro-Confederate bushwhackers. Foley attempted to detain the brothers and killed Merritt in the process. Governor Thomas E. Bramlette granted Foley a full pardon on the logic that it was better to accidentally kill men who might not have been guerrillas than to let any potential guerrillas escape unharmed.

Whitney

  • Garrett Whitson – Supporters of Garrett Whitson successfully requested his pardon for murdering violent melon thief, John Spikard. In the petition, they do not claim his innocence, but rather report that Whitson was convicted on the flimsy evidence of two notorious prostitutes, relatives of the deceased. That, combined with his ill health and large family, was enough to procure his release.

Patrick

  • Lawrence County Lynch Mob – In KYR-0001-004-3193, the members of a lynch mob on the Kentucky-West Virginia border preemptively write to Governor Bramlette late in 1865 after they have caught and summarily executed members of a pro-Confederate guerrilla band which had murdered many men in their community. “In getting Rid of them People Did not think that the act was unlawful & might get those Engaged in it in Trouble They only felt that Each man woman and child in our Valley was safer than before.”

TIME TRAVEL MEETING: Finally, we’ve asked each editor to select one character from the CWG-K archive that they would most like to spend an hour with when the Flux Capacitor becomes a reality.

Tony

  • Richard Hawes – Mostly to ask, where were you? What did you do for three years after you were installed as Provisional Governor of Kentucky?

Matt

  • Joseph Swigert – In a word: bourbon. The Swigert family owned the Leestown Distillery (which would later become E. H. Taylor’s O. F. C. Plant, then the George T. Stagg Distillery, and today Buffalo Trace).

Whitney

  • Sarah Bingham – It’s safe to say that upon moving to Grant County in 1866, Ms. Bingham did not receive a warm welcome from the neighbors. The women of the area “were of the opinion that the morals of the neighborhood would not be improved by having in their midst a common prostitute.”  When her cabin burned down, nine local men indicted for arson. The petitioners claim these men were honorable, respectable citizens who would never commit such a common crime and accuse Sarah Bingham of burning her own house down with the intent to disgrace these men. Their petition was refused by Bramlette, who, like myself, must have realized there was more to this story.

Patrick

 

 

Civil War Governors at Keele

In a previous post, Patrick Lewis discussed the exciting opportunity to bring the work of CWG-K to the David Bruce Centre Colloquium held at Keele University in England. This video is the web version of his presentation. Watch it for a preview of the powerful social networks that CWG-K will be able to generate and analyze!

Pappy’s Pappy: Liquor, Law, and the Origins of a Legend in Civil War Era Kentucky

By Matthew C. Hulbert

On November 2, 1865, a petition arrived on the desk of Governor Thomas E. Bramlette. Two men from Wayne County, Granville Ingram and Levi Baker, each faced a $100 fine for “tipling.” (That is, for dealing in unlicensed liquor.) Relative to modern legal standards, it’s common to assume that alcohol restrictions were lax in the 1860s—if not altogether nonexistent. In fact, before proceeding with our story, it’s worth taking a moment to note that the production, sale, and consumption of distilled spirits in Kentucky were heavily regulated in the 1860s, almost as much as they are today. Even as the Civil War raged around them, scores of civilians found themselves in court for various liquor-related offenses: unlicensed distilling, unlicensed sale, selling in the wrong unit or quantity, selling liquor to minors, being drunk on duty, and a wide array of more violent, booze-fueled crimes ranging from arson and assault to homicide. (More on this in next week’s blogging.)

It would be easy, then—and admittedly more exciting—to imagine Ingram and Baker as something like the Popcorn Suttons of their day; small-time operators who defied the law to provide their customers with the oldest variety of old school Kentucky whiskey. In reality, though, they were legitimate salesmen; they had a pretty good excuse for their fines and, more important still, a very influential lawyer on their side.

As Bramlette scanned the petition, he would have immediately noticed that Ingram and Baker had “applied to and obtained from the Government of the United States a license in due form and paid the tax thereon.” Reading further, it would have become evident that the state’s own inability to function properly at war had contributed more to the conviction of Ingram and Baker than any true criminal mischievousness.

That they would also have obtained a license from the Trustees of Monticello and paid the tax thereon to the Corporation and to the state, but during the time they operated under the license from the general government, there were no trustees in Office, and Consequently they were unable to procure Corporation license. They state that they had no intention of violating any law or defrauding the state or Corporate authority, And moreover they carried on the business at the time of the invasion of this portion of the state by Rebels, and at the time law and Order was unknown in this section of the County.

In layman’s terms, Ingram and Baker had obtained the license required of them to sell whiskey by the federal government—but they also needed local and state licenses. (This likely means they were selling to the Union army; federal customers required federal licensing.) Owing to the aforementioned “invasion,” those local and state licenses were not readily available for purchase. As you can imagine, county clerks didn’t tend to hold fast and defend their posts when enemy forces, regular or guerrilla, arrived in town.

These things considered, Ingram and Baker implored Bramlette to “release them from the payment of that portion of the fines to which the State is entitled. In return, they even promised “not [to] annoy your Excellency with such importunities for the future.” Several citizens of Wayne County supported the petition, but none were more important than John Sallee Van Winkle, an attorney in Wayne County and the brother of Ephraim L. Van Winkle (then Kentucky’s secretary of state). Toward the end of the document, J. S. Van Winkle signed and insisted that “there can be no doubt but the remission asked is proper & should be granted.” Bramlette heeded his advice; the fines were remitted on November 13, 1865.

Ultimately, this case underscores how difficult it was for the state to maintain its civilian responsibilities during the war, but should also remind us that life didn’t simply pause on the homefront until the conflict concluded. The wheels of local and state government were expected to keep turning—which, as a result, should have allowed the whiskey to keep flowing. But the archive of The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition is overrun with tippling and bootlegging cases. The real interest in this story has to do with John Van Winkle and the role his family would play in the future of legal liquor ventures in the Bluegrass State.

40846871_125067809566In 1866, when E. L. Van Winkle passed away unexpectedly, John was tapped to finish his brother’s term as secretary of state. When the appointment ended, he returned to his law practice, and worked there until his own death in 1888. Given that he and his brother were such luminaries of the state’s legal community, it’s more than a little surprising that John’s son, Julian P. Van Winkle, didn’t follow in their footsteps and study the law. To this day, whether they know it or not, bourbon enthusiasts reap the rewards of his decision.

This is because J. P. Van Winkle is better-known as “Pappy”; he is the bespectacled, cigar-puffing old gentleman on the logos of Kentucky’s—and maybe even the world’s—most sought after bottles of bourbon. Today, there are three labels bearing the “Pappy” moniker: Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year, Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, and Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year. Generally impossible to find on store shelves, they’ve become the stuff of bourbon lotteries and an unprecedented heist in 2012 dubbed “Pappygate.”

Born in 1874 in Danville, Kentucky, Julian worked briefly as a store clerk before finding employ as a salesman at the wholesaling firm of W. L. Weller & Sons. (Yes—that W. L. Weller. He also shows up in the CWG-K archive, but that’s another story for another time.) Eventually Julian became a distiller himself and, after Prohibition, helped oversee operations at the famed Stitzel-Weller facility in Shively, on the outskirts of Louisville. A few years after his death in 1965, most of the S-W labels were sold, but Old Rip Van Winkle remained in the family and charge of the business has passed from generation to generation of Julian Van Winkle’s (Sr.) descendants.

pappy-van-winkle-23Now to argue that John Van Winkle’s defense of hardworking, but improperly licensed, whiskey peddlers inspired his son to become a bourbon icon would make for an incredible ending to our story. It would also be entirely apocryphal. Julian wasn’t born for a decade after the Ingram-Baker trial and odds are good that he never knew a thing about it. And even if he had, it wouldn’t have stood out. In those days, tippling cases in Kentucky truly were a dime a dozen.

But what he probably did know about, thanks to that wealth of tippling cases and his father’s legal work, was just how complicated and competitive the distilling industry could be, especially for someone just starting out in the business. So the truly remarkable point here isn’t that Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle eschewed a surefire (and no doubt lucrative) career in the family’s legal empire to make bourbon—it’s that in a family once known for powerful Civil War era litigators and secretaries of state, he transformed their empire into making bourbon.

Matthew C. Hulbert is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.


SOURCES: “G. C. Ingram and L. P. Baker to Thomas E. Bramlette,” 2 Nov 1865, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky; 1860 United States Federal Census; 1870 United States Federal Census; 1910 United States Federal Census; 1940 United States Federal Census.

The “Ladies of Frankfort” Assert Their Right to Petition

Image

By Tony Curtis

March is Women’s History Month and the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) theme for 2015 is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” An appropriately themed document recently appeared in the form of an undated Franklin County, Kentucky, petition signed by the “Ladies of Frankfort.” Continue reading