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Posted 08/06/2023 in Historical

Jack Daniel's Distillery Historical Details

Jack Daniel's Distillery Historical Details

Jack Daniel's Distillery Historical Details

We all know that Jack Daniels Distillery is the largest distillery in the world.  

But looking at the history of the Jack Daniels Distillery through the lends of news articles gives an interesting view.

Jack Daniel's Distillery the 1800's

Jasper "Jack" Newtown Daniel was born in the late 1840's though likely 1846 to Callaway and Lucinda Daniel in Lynchburg TN.  Unfortunately Elizabeth passed shortly after Jack was born in January 1847.  There are many people who say that Jack Daniel was born in 1850 though this could not be true since his mother died in 1847.  

The Grave of Jack Daniel's Mother Lucinda in Lynchburg TNThe Grave of Jack Daniel's Mother Lucinda in Lynchburg TN

Jack Daniel's early years censusJack Daniel's early years -- 1850 census

Callaway remarried in 1851 to Matilda who Jack really didn't get along with.  He ended up moving in with Reverend Dan Call years later.

Jack Daniel's Distillery early years - 1860 censusJack Daniel's early years - 1860 census

Jack Daniel ended up moving in with Reverend Dan Call in the mid 1850's since he did not get along with Matilda, his step mother.  Interestingly that the 1870 Census has Jack living with his Uncle and Nephew (Lem Motlow)

Jack Daniel's DIstillery -- 1870 Census showing living with Lem MotlowJack Daniel's Distillery -- 1870 Census showing Jack living with Lem Motlow

Dan Call's slave Nearest Green helped teach Jack how to make whiskey at a young age.  Dan's religion was somewhat against making Whiskey and preaching so he sold the still to Jack around the late 1870's.  

In 1866 Jack Daniel's Distillery Was Born?

Well Maybe .... in 1866, Jack Daniel's Distillery was born -- it became the first registered distillery in the United States according to the Jack Daniels Website.  Though see the next section the 1870s -- it is more likely that the distillery was created / developed as Daniel and Call Distillery in 1875.  

Jack Daniel's Distillery Website showing the establishment of the distillery in 1866Jack Daniel's Distillery Website showing the establishment of the distillery in 1866
photo: from jackdaniels.com/en-us/our-story

Undated postcard from Jack Daniel's Distillery also showing 1866Undated postcard from Jack Daniel's Distillery also showing 1866

Though there are others who say that the Jack Daniels distillery was not registered until 1875.  This would make Jack around 29 at the time (assuming he was born in 1846 which was the year before his mother died in 1847).    

Having an older more experienced distillery could have helped sell the product, so its possible Jack said he'd been in business since 1866 even though he didn't start until 1875.

The Tennessee State Library archives writes this which is focusing more on the 1875 date:

Many believe that Jack started his own whiskey business at the age of 16.  This belief earned him the moniker, “the boy distiller.”  This may be where the 1850 birth date would fit in as the labels on Jack Daniel’s Whiskey bottles proclaim that Jack Daniel’s was “Est. & Reg. in 1866.”  There is some documentation to support the fact that Jack Daniel did not register his business with the government until 1875.  If this is correct and you believe the 1846 birth date that would have made Jack 29 when he started.  
Reference:  https://sharetngov.tnsosfiles.com/tsla/exhibits/myth/mythcellaneous.htm

The local newspaper in the Lynchburg area at the time was the Fayetteville Observer -- since Lynchburg was then part of Lincoln County.  Fayetteville is just a town over from Lynchburg.  A newspaper article in May of 1866 said that the largest distillery on the continent was opened in Louisville Kentucky.  There is no mention of the Jack Daniels distillery during the 1860's or 1870's.

Jack Daniel's Distillery - Kentucky Bourbon CompanyJack Daniel's Distillery - Kentucky Bourbon Company

New laws were being made by the federal government to control the manufacture of distilled spirits -- specifically they wanted to tax this new income opportunity.

Lynchburg Distilleries closing - Fayetteville Observer April 1867Fayetteville Observer April 1867

By 1867 also, the newspaper mentioned there is not one distillery still open in the Lincoln county -- this would also rebut the thought that Jack Daniel's Distillery was opened in 1866.

Jack Daniel's Distillery not open in 1867 -- Jack Daniel's Distillery not open in 1867 -- 
Fayetteville Observer May 1867

1872 rolls around and the IRS is still shutting down distilleries.

Jack Daniel's Distillery history - Lincoln County shutting down distilleriesJack Daniel's Distillery history - Lincoln County shutting down distilleries
Fayetteville Observer June 1872

The below spring is on Dan Call's property where Dan and Jack made Whiskey.

Spring on Dan Call's property where Jack Daniel made whiskey - the precursor to the jack daniel's distillerySpring on Dan Call's property where Jack Daniel made whiskey

1870's Jack Daniel's Distillery Was Born ?

There's less debate that either Jack Daniel's Distillery was either operating by or around 1875.  Though most likely based on the below document, on Nov 27,1875 as Daniel and Call Distillery No 7, District #4.    The below lease says that the distillery even as of 1877 was still called "Daniel & Call Distillery".  

In 1877 Dan Call leased Jack Daniel's his distilling equipment for two years.   

Dan Call leases his equipment to the Jack Daniel's DistilleryDan Call leases his equipment to the new Jack Daniel's Distillery in 1877


Any distillery operating in Tennessee was required to be registered and a Treasury employee was appointed to monitor daily production, e.g. assistant deputy tax collector J W Bryant supervised Lynchburg’s half dozen distilleries in 1877.

At some point after 1877, Dan Call sold his portion of the distillery to Jack Daniel. 

1880's Jack Daniel's Distillery Moves to Cave Spring Hollow

In 1881 Jack Daniel was caught carrying a pistol, breaking a law.  This document shows how the State of Tennessee lost the case.  Jack was found not guilty

Jack Daniel's lawsuit from the state of TennesseeJack Daniel's lawsuit from the state of Tennessee

On December 4, 1883, a fire destroyed much of the downtown Lynchburg TN square including the courthouse.  Thus the records held by the courthouse are gone -- including birth records. This is the main reason there is confusion over Jack Daniel's birth date.

On June 14, 1884, Jack Daniel purchased 142 acres of property from Joseph Hiles and William Berry (Hiles and Berry Distillery) who were running a still on the current location of Jack Daniel's Distillery, by Cave Spring.  It is unclear if they were operating the still up through 1884, though in 1877 their still was producing 110 gallons a day by 1877 which is just a few more gallons than Daniel's Distillery.  To note that there's a conflict in historical writing where another document says that Jack Daniel established his Distillery at Cave Spring in 1876.

Regardless, we know he either moved his distillery from the Dan Call Farm some time between 1876 and 1884.

See the Lynchburg TN Map that includes both a current map and 1880's map.

1900's and Onwards at the Jack Daniel's Distillery

As Jack was getting older, he eventually gave Lem Motlow his nephew the Jack Daniel's distillery.   New laws were beginning to be put in place as a precursor to Prohibition.

Fast Forward to the 2000's and Jack Daniel's Distillery is a major destination for visitors.

Jack Daniel's Distillery Visitor's Center in Lynchburg TNJack Daniel's Distillery Visitor's Center in Lynchburg TN

Have questions about Jack Daniels?  Check out Questions Answered for Jack Daniels Distillery  

Like Distilleries?  Check out the Tims Ford Lake Distillery Tour

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