Rattling Old Bones Vol. 1: A couple of interesting Washington County Indiana Distilling Asides; A Macabre link and a Civil Engineer and Distiller.


I wish I had better quality photos of these two mills.   Both were associated with distilleries once upon a time.  Of course the Delaney Creek area was full of distilleries as was the neighboring Walnut Ridge neighborhood.  Old Twin Creek Mill was in Rush Creek Valley and was also known as McNeely Mill and was run in conjunction with a distillery as well.  The Rush Creek area is tied into the Karst system of Henderson Valley and Cave River Valley and many distilleries put this limestone water to good use.

From time to time I will probably do a little “catch all” blog similar to this one to house interesting historic Southern Hoosier distilling asides that I come across that I otherwise don’t have enough information or research to commit to a proper blog, partially in hopes that I won’t forget these stories for use as part of Hells Half Acre Hellbilly Burlesque show and my book and partially for the hope that some reader out there will know more of the story than I do and will help fill in the gaps.  These stories will be titled: Rattling Old Bones.

When the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.


The first short newspaper clipping today comes courtesy of Jeremy Elliot and Kathy Wade of the Stevens Museum in Salem Indiana who pointed it out to me.  It details a distiller in Brown Township of Washington County Indiana who I had never previously heard of by the name of Hiram Wilcox who also ran a tavern or “Inn” on his property.  Though the evidence at hand is speculative at best I think the case for potential foul play during the operation of Wilcox’s distillery and tavern is pretty evident by this news paper clipping:



In nearby Madison Township we have A Mr. Alexander Ralston who lived in our county but just a short time having already made a name for himself in our nations capitol and who would go on to add to his legacy in our state capital.  The Centennial History only records these asides of him:

Alexander Ralston an Irishman and a storekeeper settled on the Gen James A Cravens farm

Near Hardin’s farm Alexander Ralston built a horse mill and distillery about I8I8 He also kept a store


However his biography has this to say:

Alexander Ralston

Architect, Civil Engineer. He is remembered as a co-architect for the US Capital in Washington DC and the design for the city of Indianapolis, Indiana. He started his career working for the Baron of Roslin in Scotland prior to immigrating to the US after the American Revolutionary War. In 1791 he assisted French architect Pierre L’Enfant in laying out the city plan for Washington DC. Prior to 1815 he relocated to southern Indiana and settled on a homestead, leaving the east coast partly because of his involvement with former US Vice President Aaron Burr and the Burr conspiracy to create an independent nation in North America. In 1820 he was hired by Christopher Harrison, the state commissioner overseeing the survey of Indianapolis, and charged with helping to survey the city. With co-surveyor Elias Pym Fordham, he was later commissioned by the Indiana General Assembly to develop a city plan for the new state capital of Indianapolis, which was accomplished in 1821. His original plan called for a city of only 1-square-mile, with a Governor’s Circle, a large circular commons, and the original site of the Governor’s mansion (built in 1827), at the very center of the city. His design borrowed heavily from the city plan of Washington DC. Construction on Indianapolis soon began, with most of his plan being implemented by 1850. Although the city has subsequently expanded far beyond his original conception, the downtown area remains virtually unaltered from his original plan. He died at the age of 55 or 56 and was originally interred at Greenlawn Cemetery (now defunct) in Indianapolis but in 1874 his remains were moved and reinterred in the city’s Crown Hill Cemetery.


A mill similar to that which Ralston would have operated.  Many small distilleries ran off of these contraptions.

The mill which

And what would a historic post to the Alchemist Cabinet be without a mention of our favorite Miller-Distiller Thomas Green:

Thomas Green


We also have a tidbit about Jebidiah Carter (although spelled differently on his gravestone), an ancestor of the Souder family who is mentioned in the history books as living on section 19 of Polk Township Washington County Indiana and running a still house there.  This would have put him firmly within the town limits of the current town of Pekin.   Not much is known of his operation and nothing is left but the stone that marks his mortal remains at Mount Washington Cemetery.


And lastly a throwback to Old Clifty (Cave River Valley) to the location of the old Brewer Distillery that had previously belonged to the Wesner’s who had married into the Hammersley’s.  The distillery was located at a cave further down the valley known as Moscow cave:

From the Centennial History of Washington County Indiana:

William Wesner was the son of Jacob Wesner and wife the former of whom was born in Germany and came to America at an early date located in the Twin Creek hills of Washington county Indiana where operated a still house Jacob Wesner was one of the most extensive distillers of the territory and worked at this together with general agricultural pursuits which he followed on his farm in Brown township Wlliam Wesner.



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