As promised, I am going to make a more complete report about my trip to Nashville to look into Tennessee distilling history. First of all I want to thank Tom Kanon and Darla Brock for all of the help they gave me. This help put me ahead of the game and allowed me to spend more time researching and less time looking for collections to read. They are great people who are both professional and efficient as well as friendly and knowledgable.
As I said before, I did not find any history making revelations but did find many interesting bits and pieces. I started by looking at a ledger from a distillery in Smith County, Tennessee (owner's name not in the ledger but Darla is going to see if there is any name in the accession records for me). This ledger is from 1817-1821 and mostly covers sales to his neighbors with sales ranging from the pint to the barrel. The sale that caught my eye as the most interesting was the 26 Feb. 1818 sale to William Driver for 2 qts. of whiskey at 25 cents each and paid for with a hen turkey worth 50 cents. There were other barters such as a book titled "Life of Washington" worth $1.25 and several who paid for their whiskey with a day's labor. Cash was only used about 50% of the time.
I then looked through the account book of Kindred Pearson dated from 1811-1837. He was again selling whiskey and brandy to his neighbors in Bedford County (now Moore County), Tennessee. On the 5 Oct. 1815 he hired Aaron More who "began to stil for me at 12 dollars pr month". There was once again a lot of barter sales but not as much as in Smith County. I need to get a good map of Tennessee to check the geography of these places to see if that might effect the amount of cash available in each area.
In the Demoss Family Papers there was a wealth of information about their distillery and mill. Their mill ground grain and was also a saw mill. The papers date from 1806-1935 and they kept many ledgers of their sales. They also sold whiskey and brandy from the pint to the barrel. It also looks like they were using 32 gallon barrels and would take an old barrel in exchange for the barrel charge on their whiskey. Barrels cost 50 cents each.
The next collection was that of John Overton who was the tax collector in Tennessee in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His letter book of 1800-1804 is very interesting. He describes the difficulties of collecting the still tax. While I had no luck with the whiskey rebellion (Tennessee was not a state until it was over) you can see many of the same problems in Tennessee as there would have been in Kentucky. On 8 Jan 1802 John McAllister (Overton's boss in Washington) writes that he he has received a letter stating John Hammer has been distilling spirits and brandy for the last 3 years and should be paying his taxes. There is a form letter from Washington explaining to the tax collector the whiskey tax and how it should be enforced.
The whiskey rebellion records were not a complete bust in Tennessee because I did find a ledger in the Jacob McGavock Dickinson papers that list the legal distilleries in Tennessee from 1795-1801. They were all what we would call farmer distillers with one to three stills ranging in size from about 40 gallons to 160 gallons in capacity. This list the still size, location, owner, and tax paid.
The Daniel Montgomery Papers 1788-1964 also had a wealth of distilling information in the 1840's. Barrels had gone up to $1.00 each. but more importantly you start seeing request for aged whiskey. There are several request in these papers from a J. H. Franklin for whiskey "the older the better" for making tinctures and other medicines. There is also an 1846 letter explaining the "Tippling Law" regulating houses selling liquor.
I also did a little "fishing" while researching these collections checking into slave records to see if any of the slaves were involved in the distillery or as coopers. Unfortunately I did not find any such records this trip, but I will keep fishing. You know that on these big plantations that the slaves were involved so it would be nice to find out more about their role.