Anon. Church Elder- Distiller of Washington County Indiana.

I’ll be posting a few of these old newspaper clippings about Washington Counties distillers from time to time.  First up is this gem that talks of an elder church member who was also a distiller.  The newspaper being post temperance the tone is quite mocking and I doubt reflects an honest observation of the times he is writing of considering just how acceptable we know spirits to have been in the county up until about 1855.

The Salem Democrat

November 6, 1878

Salem Indiana

The actors who figure in this will be given assumed names and the precise locality omitted.  We do not wish to bring anyones name forward to occupy a prominent position by which their final sensibilities might be wounded.  It was not our desire to do so, we assure our readers that nothing can be farther from our intention.

Well about 1826-1827 in this county were sever distilleries, where pure corn whiskey, apple and peach brandies were made.  They were all sold cheap. In one part of the county was a deacon of a chuch who kept goods of different kinds for sale in his little store.  He also kept liquors.  Everybody then, who sold goods, kept liquors for sale, and nearly everybody drank.  If one neighbor dropped in to see another, the bottle was set out.  If the clergyman called upon his parishioner, the big bellied bottle was produced and all partook of the sparkling beverage.  House raisings, log rollings, shooting matches, militia musters and elections were all well attended by the products of the distillery.  It was fashionable then to drink as it is now for the young straddle-bug of a boy to wear long toed boots, or a frizzle headed girl to let a fellow take her by the arm in a promenade and hold her up lick a sick kitten leaning against a warm pile of bricks.  But times have changed for the better, as regards liquor, but the good Lord only knows when the present nonsense will cease and nuisance be abated.

At the time of which I write, John Doe, had a distillery and a horse power carding machine.  He was the deacon or elder of his church, and generally, a leader in religious exercises and meeting.  The gentile world reviled him and his liquor selling as being against their more sensibilities; but the Christian public generally sustained him in all.

Christians and world’s people did not scruple to take

“Their wool to his mill, And their grain to his still.”

And receive a stirrup a lom Tom O’Shanter for their custom.  One evening at a revival in the deacon’s neighborhood some young fellows, noted for their scoffing and skylarking proclivities, were observed very devotedly singing the tune, and at first supposed the words of the hymn just then given out by the good deacon.  The good deacon approached them from behind, fondly indulging the hope that the young men had received, not a railroad strike, but a stroke of conviction from the spirit of the meeting, and piously intending to say something to fasten the conviction still deeper in their hearts: when he was horrified as he got near enough to distinguish the words, at hearing them singing, instead of the hymn, the following stanzas to the tune of “Old Father Grimes,”  a favorite revival tune of that day.  It was as follows:

“A house, a still, a fulling mill

This elder owned alone,

He preached the gospel to their fill

And Said good seed was sown.


His son the master clothier was,

His daughter mistress too:

And Sam the black boy in the hall

Would oftimes bid adieu! (run away)


His daughter she would skim the milk,

And water it complete,

And the rye cakes they were made so thin

They scarce was fit to eat.


I mean to make my midriff know

That rye is good enough:

But when in the oven it doth grow

It makes most powerful stuff.”


We don’t know what became of these boys.

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