Lost Hoosier Distillers: Solomon and Howard Scott Paoli Indiana

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The Bowen House, formerly the Scott family home.  Just outside of Paoli Indiana.  Somewhere between the barn and the house was a small building used as a makeshift distillery.

Edit: as of 12/7/17 blog has been updated with new pictures and information from Monica Andry and Brenda Condra Cornwell

Solomon and Howard Scott – Distillers/Bootleggers/Moonshiners in Orange County Indiana.

I spend a lot of time chasing down leads on the making of spirits historically in Southern Indiana.  Sometimes they lead somewhere and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes it’s kind of a gray area in between the two, such is the case in this story.

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Photo of unknown family next to Scott home.  Possibly Solomon and wife and children.

 

I first came to recognize the name Solomon Scott when I was contacted by Monica Andry via Facebook after I inquired if any locals had any history or information on the old George B. McCoy steam distillery in Stampers Creek township.  As it turns out Monica’s mother knew the Scott’s and the Scotts had a familial connection to both the McCoy’s and the Wolfes as Solomon’s wife was one of Shelby Wolfe’s (son of Henry Wolfe Sr.) daughters (Adeline) and one of Solomon and Adeline’s daughters later married a McCoy.

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The family plot in Paoli. Solomon and wife as well as son Howard and daughter are buried here.

Now, the McCoy story pretty well ends there as far as research goes as I’ve still not found anyone who can further inform me of that old whiskey distillery, however Monica also mentioned that Solomon Scott was a well known bootlegger himself living just outside of Paoli Indiana in a large house now known as the Bowen house. The name Solomon seemed familiar to me from my historical research so I did a little bit of digging and found that I had in fact written of him in a passing sentence or two regarding his entering a business relationship with Johnathan Turley at what is now Spring Mill and was then known as Daisy Spring Distillery in 1879.  I immediately went to work digging up anything I could find regarding that relationship and how long Scott was in business with Turley as well as whether he was ever a distiller, unfortunately I came up short on those accounts and have yet to see his name associated with that distillery again in my research, however, the well beloved “History of Lawrence, Orange, and Washington Counties” did turn up an interesting biography:

SOLOMON SCOTT was born in Lincoln County Ky May 1 1831 His grandfather Thomas Scott was a native of the Old Dominion and a soldier in the Revolution and about 1789 moved to Lincoln County Ky He was twice married and the father of twenty one children Elijah Scott his son was a native of Lincoln County Ky and married Miss Elizabeth Duddevar also a native of that county Elijah Scott followed farming and distilling and to him and wife were born five children Solomon Mary F Margaret Josephine and Melinda The parents always resided in Kentucky Mrs Scott died February 12 185 1 and her husband November 9 1871 Solomon Scott was reared and educated in his native county where he remained until 1860 when he came to this county and for three years found employment with his uncle Charles Scott upon a farm He then purchased a portion of the farm he now resides upon and has since added to it until he now owns 287 acres which is as well stocked and as nicely improved as any farm in Paoli Township He married Adaline C daughter of Shelby and Susannah Throop Wolf March 14 1861 and to this union have been born the following children Elizabeth Jefferson T Elijah S Hester B Howard Cora A and Maude B Mrs Scott was born in Orange County December 15 1840 Mr Scott is a Democrat a member of the Masonic order and possesses social qualities of a high order

So, as you can see, distilling certainly ran in his family as his father owned and ran a Farm Distillery in Kentucky and it is most likely that Solomon himself had turned a hand or two at the trade by the time he was a grown man willing to venture out on his own.  At the time Solomon would have been helping his father Elijah with his distilling enterprise there would have been no excise tax on whiskey as it was ended in 1817 (as it was used to pay for the War of 1812) and wouldn’t be re-implemented until 1862 (as a way to pay for the Civil War).  The excise fact is interesting because as I continued to dig and continued to find nothing of Solomon Scott’s legal distilling faire in Hoosier History short of the Turley connection I continued to hear from locals that Solomon Scott was a well known bootlegger.  Solomon died in 1909, a bit before national prohibition, however this doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved in the illegal and untaxed trade in alcohol.  Just as today moonshiners exist alongside legal distillers so to did they at that time and sometimes in great profusion as many distillers who were “born into” the trade saw the distilling business as their God given right and refused to pay taxes regardless of the threat of Uncle Sam.

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Now, what of Solomon’s legal work is there to know?  The only other mention in the history book is that he was involved in the Pharmaceutical trade with his brother in law Jefferson T. Wolfe, a business which was conveniently started in 1878.  Could Solomon’s buy in to the Daisy Spring distillery have been related to the medicinal qualities often touted of well made Hoosier Apple Brandy?  I only speculate here, but certainly Mr. Scott must have done well for himself considering alone the amount of land he personally owned and the beautiful and large white pillared house he owned which stands to this day a testament to a distiller we don’t know enough about.

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Solomon Scott home prior to renovations.  Man in front is possibly Solomon or Howard Scott.

Monica Andry knew of just a couple of stories.  One regarding Adeline sitting on the porch with her cane and acting as a lookout, if anyone would approach the house she would tap her cane on the porch in order to warn the others in the family who were carrying out the illicit task and who would then exit via a secret cellar door and the other regarding Howard Scott (Solomon’s son) having served time for shooting, or at the very least, shooting at and excise agent.  Monica was kind enough as well to put me in contact with the Great Granddaughter of Solomon Scott, Rosalee Trimble, who had heard rumors through her family via her mother for years of her grandparents (Howard in particular) past in the moonshining trade but whom didn’t know many details herself, what she did know is that the Scott family had the distillery in their side yard, in a small little building between the house and barn.  Rosalee is looking for some family pictures to share with us as well.

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Around the same time I began researching the Scott family I was also put in contact with Mr. Phillip Easterday who I will also write of shortly.  Mr. Easterday is 98 years old and living on the county line between Washington and Orange county and was an absolute pleasure to speak with, fortunately he knew just a tiny bit about Howard Scott and his moonshining enterprises as he informed me:

“Oh yeah, you mean Howard Scott, yeah, he was into that before I was even born.  He got arrested for it one time.  I remember my parents talking about when the Flu came through back in 1917, they were in bad shape and somebody sent for Howard to get some of his whiskey and I reckon that’s how they got through it.”

For now this is all the detail I have found regarding this family of lost Hoosier distillers, I would love to have more to share with others in the future if anyone out there sees this and can contribute, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail at bishopshomegrown@gmail.com

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Monica Andry Says: This is the initial ring that belonged to Hester “Belle” Scott, daughter of Solomon Scott. Belle gave this ring to her longtime friend and neighbor, Bertha Lewis Haworth. Bertha Haworth’s daughter, Helen Haworth Morgan, said the the Scott home was like a country store where they would walk to and get candy. In 1938, Bertha Haworth’s father, Fred Lewis, shot himself. Helen and her sister, Elizabeth, ran to the Scott home to use the phone to call the doctor. Fred and his son-in-law would help the Scott’s hide the mash in a sinkhole northeast of the present day Methodist Church. About 1980, Clifford Lewis found a left behind mashjar that was partially buried in the sinkhole.

Another interesting piece of information came to light Regarding Solomon’s daughter Belle via: Brenda Condra Cornwell: I remember John Riley reminiscing one day at the newspaper office. His story was that Belle was called before the judge for selling alcohol from her home. The judge ask her if the charge was true. She said you know that’s true. I sold you some liquor last week. John was fairly sure the judge dismissed Belle’s charges. Ruby Copeland mentioned not long ago that she remembered the Scotts who lived in the Bowen house. FYI, the Bowen’s allowed SHOC to have a professor from Hanover scientifically date their barn. It was built around 1848-49.

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