Monday, October 17, 2016

Robert Lancaster Estate: Intermission About Whiskey Making

I have been discussing in the last four blogs about the estate inventory of my 5 times Great-grandfather, Robert Lancaster, who died in 1840 in Shelby County, Kentucky.

When I discovered that he had two copper stills and seventy-two barrels of whiskey, I became very curious about whiskey-making. I began my research on the making of whiskey in the 19th century via the Internet. I learned some basics from the “Bourbon Whiskey” article on Wikipedia. But I wanted to learn more.

Two books that I received through inter-library loan were very helpful:
  • The Social History of Bourbon,  by Gerald Carson and published by The University Press of Kentucky in 1963, and
  • Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, an American Heritage by Michael R. Veach, and also published by The University Press of Kentucky in 2013.

Because these two books were published by an academic press, they were well documented.

I was never a drinker of hard spirits, so I didn’t know much about whiskey. Since reading that an ancestor made whiskey, I wanted to know more about it. Now after learning about how whiskey was made in his time period, particularly bourbon whiskey in Kentucky, I want to try some. I have tasted Scotch whiskey in Scotland. I found that to be very strong and I didn’t care for it. Perhaps I might like bourbon whiskey better.

What I Learned About Making Whiskey
This will be the story of small-time whiskey-making.  The type made by a farmer, not a distillery.

Whiskey was made from corn, rye, barley malt, yeast, and limestone water.  The farmer grew the corn and rye. He made the barley malt. The yeast was purchased. The limestone water came from nearby creek, stream, or spring. Gerald Carlson said in his book,
“Why limestone water? In distilling, water loaded with calcium, the kind that makes the bluegrass blue, the horses frisky, and perhaps its virtues may even be stretched to explain the beauty of Kentucky women—limestone water teams up perfectly with yeast.”[1]
What they had to purchase or make themselves was the still. The stills in this time period were made either of wood or copper. Since Robert Lancaster’s inventory said he had a copper still, I’ll describe what that might look like. Below you can see a drawing I made to simulate the still. 
Still, drawn by Lisa S. Gorrell (c) 2016

The copper still was shaped like a tea kettle with a rounded bottom and topped with a smaller dome. From this dome was a copper tube that fit into a second part called the condenser. Inside this condenser the copper tubing, called the worm, was shaped in a spiral. Cold water entered the condenser to cool down the vapor. The cooled down vapor was collected as distillate in a tub. The alcohol from this first distillation still have impurities and was cloudy. The distillate was run through the still a second time.

Sometimes the still was set up in pairs, so the first distillate can then go through the process without having to clean out the pot first. The mash residue in the pot is removed and cooled and used as feed for livestock. Since Robert had two stills, perhaps his setup was in this “double” fashion. He also had nearly 200 head of hogs, so the spent mash was likely fed to them.

Gerald Carson also described what a stillhouse might look like:
“The stillhouse was often no more than a low-roofed shack, with a mud floor and one face open to the weather. The location was usually in a hollow under a hill where clear, cold, limestone water flowed to the worm in a wooden trough...[It] might be located on a creek or branch. A flowing spring was even better because it was necessary to have the water as cold as possible to condense the steam. If the water was warmer than in the range of fifty-six to sixty degrees, the distiller had to suspend operations or move to another location.”[2]
The mash was made first by grinding the corn. They likely worked with a bushel at a time. A bushel of shelled corn weighed 56 pounds.[3] A helper, most likely one of Robert’s slaves, mashed the corn with water and a portion rye in large mash tubs. Some of the hot mash from a previous distillation was added to the mash to scald it, making it into a consistency of mush. Then it was let to cool overnight to “sour” it. To that mash, barley malt was stirred into it. This helped the grain turn into sugar. After more stirring, yeast was added, now creating carbon dioxide as the yeast eats the sugar. This liquid now stays in the fermenter tub for up to seventy-two hours. When the temperature was about 75 degrees (tested by the distiller’s hand), it was ready to distill. Today, distillers use thermometers and stills have gauges.

A day’s work might create ten gallons; a week’s worth two barrels. If Robert Lancaster had 72 barrels of whiskey, that equated into about 36 weeks of work if the barrels were of fresh whiskey, and of any that was aging. It would be impossible to determine if any were aging.

Aging was what made good Kentucky whiskey what is well-known today as bourbon. Kentucky whiskey is whiskey that is aged in newly charred barrels. Scotch whiskey casks are re-used and not charred. Canadian whiskey packages are charred but not new. The whiskey aged in charred barrels is what gives us bourbon. Gerald Carson described what happens in the barrels as it ages:
“When the temperature rises, the whiskey expands into the char. When it falls, the whiskey contracts. A ripening occurs. The liquid is gentled. An oily feeling and a strong ‘bead,’ visible around the edge of a glass, develop.”[4]
However, what Robert Lancaster made was just whiskey. There has not been found any reference to the name bourbon before 1855. He may not have even charred his barrels. We cannot tell from the inventory. But it is possible he know of the qualities charred barrels made for his whiskey. He may also have known that aging improved the whiskey.

[1] Gerald Carson, The Social History of Bourbon,  The University Press of Kentucky, 1963, p. 43.
[2] Gerald Carson, The Social History of Bourbon,  The University Press of Kentucky, 1963, p. 43.
[3] “Bushel,” : accessed 16 October 2016).
[4] Gerald Carson, The Social History of Bourbon,  The University Press of Kentucky, 1963, p. 41.

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Robert Lancaster Estate: A Very Large Inventory—Part IV: How About Some Whiskey?

Robert Lancaster of Shelby County, Kentucky, died in 1840, and his estate was probated by his youngest son, Josiah Lancaster, as administrator.[1] His estate was ordered to be inventoried and this is the fourth post about that inventory.

This being Kentucky, I should not be surprised to find whiskey making items in the inventory.
66 mash tubs, 2 copper stills &
                still house apparatus            80   00
45 acres of corn                                  300  00
40 bushels of wheat                             20   00
2 Bee stands                                        4    00
72 barrells of whiskey                        516   00
15 Gallons peach brandy                     15   00
1 lot of plank & gate staff (??)              2    00
3 barrells of Vinager                            20  00
So, Robert had two copper stills and still house apparatus. Many farmers in this time period and frontier location had stills. Producing whiskey from grain grown in their fields enabled the farmers to barter for the goods they couldn’t produce or make themselves.

I have no idea from the above description what the still looked like. Early stills were pot stills where the “copper tubing came off the head of the still that was coiled through a barrel of water to cool and condense the vapers coming off the still.”[2] There are many websites that show how to build a moonshine still and recipes for the moonshine. This one has a photo of an old still and a recipe to make the mash.

The mash is the grain meal and water that has been heated in the pot. This mash is left in the pot during the fermentation process. The grain could be corn, rye, or wheat. Robert could have used either corn or wheat to make his whiskey, as he had 40 bushels of wheat and 45 acres of corn growing at the time of the inventory. He also had 72 barrels of whiskey already made. These 72 barrels were worth $516.00 or about $7 per barrel.

After the alcohol was made, favoring was added to it to improve the taste: juniper oil to make gin, fruit to make cordials. They also could filter the alcohol through charcoal to help remove unpleasant tastes.[3]

When the estate items were sold, the still items were purchased by:
1 still & eap                         Meril Forbus                  10   68 ¾
1 still & apparatus            William Gathright            53   25
11 still tubs                          John Crawford               7     50
7 still tubs                            John L Jones                 3     50
10 still tubs                          James Neal                    5     00
12 still tubs                          Macajah Williams          6     00
13 still tubs                          C. White                          7     31 ¼
7 still tubs                            Wilson Maddox             3     50
7 still tubs                            James Calloway             2     18 ¾

The only familiar name on the above list is James Neal, a possible. Robert’s three eldest children married a Neal:
Ellis W. Lancaster married Elizabeth S Neel
John S. Lancaster married Mary “Polly” Neal
Lennis Sumaie Lancaster married Creath Neal

Elizabeth & Mary’s father was named James Neal. They also had a brother named James. Creath Neal’s father might be George Neal. There are many Neal families listed in census and tax records. Time is needed to analyze their relationships.

These are the purchasers of the crops and whiskey:
1 lot corn in field                                   Wm Chambers @ $8.06     308     29
1 WHEAT FAN                                        William Bohannen             6       87 ½
1 lot old wheat                                      Geo W Havener                       9       15
10 barrells whisky                                Jas Lawson                              135     16
6 barrells whisky                                   William C Bohannon            71       82 ½
10 barrells whisky                                Jas Sandusky                          117     04
10 barrells whisky                                L H Beauforde                       121     03 ½
10 barrells                                               W Allen                                  114     66
10 barrells whisky                                L H Beauford                          121     03 ½
10 barrells whisky more or less      W Coons for Barber                        118     22

The value of the whiskey at the time of the inventory was about $7 per barrel, but sold for more than $11 per barrel.

It is interesting that none of Robert’s sons nor his sons-in-law purchased the stills, tubs, crops, or whiskey. Either they already had their own stills or were not interested in making whiskey. Perhaps the whisky was more valuable as a cash commodity for the family and they just sold it for the cash.

I tried to find a photo or drawing of a mid-19th century still. There are many images of moonshine stills, some that are of an old style here.

[1] Shelby County, Kentucky, Probate, Bk 14, p. 63-68, 1840, Robert Lancaster, digital images, FamilySearch ( : 22 Sep 2016); citing FHL film 259254, item 3.
[2] Michael R. Veach, Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An America Heritage, (Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 2013), p. 4.
[3] ibid, p. 10. 

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Robert Lancaster Estate: A Very Large Inventory—Part III: Some of the Slaves

I am continuing the discussion about my 5th Great-grandfather, Robert Lancaster, of Shelby County, Kentucky and his estate. Previously I have discussed the bond and naming of Josiah Lancaster as administrator, about the farm animals and equipment, and about the household goods. Now my attention is on the twelve slaves that were listed.

In the inventory conducted for the estate of Robert Lancaster, these slaves were listed with their values:
The slaves listed in the Robert Lancaster estate inventory
1 negro man naimed Henry                         800     00
1 negro man naimed Edmund                    800     00
I negro man naimed Charles                       170     00
1 negro boy naimed Allen                            400     00
1 negro man naimed Samuel                         50    00
1 negro Boy named Jeremiah                     650     00
1 negro woman naimed Silvey &               900     00
                her 2 children Aaron & Moses
1 negro boy naimed George                       400     00
1 negro woman naimed Lucy                      200     00
1 negro woman naimed Susan                   700     00

The heirs of Robert Lancaster, Creath Neal (husband of Lewis Ann Lancaster), Ellis Lancaster, John S Lancaster, William Lancaster, and Josiah Lancaster, sold to Robert N. Myers, who married Elizabeth Lancaster, four Negroes.[1] These were:
“A negro man named Henry about 20 years old, A negro Woman named Silvey about twenty three years old & her two children Moses and Aaron about one year old.” They were sold for a “sum of sixteen hundred dollars.”
Robert Lancaster apparently did not have a will and the estate was probated by an administrator who was Robert’s youngest son, Josiah. Since there was no will, the estate needed to be inventoried and the assets were sold, in order for the proceeds of the estate be distributed to the heirs. The slaves were not sold at the estate sale, but rather through the deed process.

In the inventory, the slaves were valued at $1700 and sold to a member of the family for $1600.  In the 1840 tax list, Robert Lancaster’s twelve slaves were valued at $5000. Seven of the slaves were listed as over the age of 16.[2] These likely were the men, Henry, Edmund Charles, and Samuel, and the women, Silvey, Lucy, and Susan.

In the 1841 tax list, only one slave remained, a slave over the age of 16.[3]  No value was listed in 1841, but in 1842, the value was $50. From the inventory above, this slave could be Samuel.[4]

But what became of the other slaves? The only sale found in the deed records was the four slaves to Robert N. Myers. Perhaps the other slaves were sold informally to other Lancaster members. Only Josiah was still living in Shelby County. This will take some time to research to determine the status of the remaining slaves.

[1] Shelby Co, Kentucky, Deeds, Book H2, p. 11, Lancaster heirs to Robert N. Myers, 1840; FHL film 259241.
[2] Shelby County, Kentucky, Tax Record, 1840, p. 11, Robert Lancaster, FHL film 08229.
[3] Shelby County, Kentucky, Tax Record, 1841, p. 13, R. Lancaster Adm, FHL film 08229.
[4] Shelby County, Kentucky, Tax Record, 1841, p. 14, R. Lancaster Adm, FHL film 08229.

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family

Friday, October 7, 2016

Robert Lancaster Estate: A Very Large Inventory—Part II

Recap: Robert Lancaster was my fifth great-grandfather and he died shortly before 12 October 1840, when his youngest son, Josiah Lancaster, began the probate process in Shelby County, Kentucky. In the previous two posts, I wrote about the very large bond and the farming equipment in the inventory.

In the continuation on the inventory, there were a lot of household items, ranging from bedding to kitchen items.[1] Below is a listing of these items in the order listed. Notice the creative spelling on several of the items:
Some of the inventory of household goods

1 set of dining tables                             20 00
1 Beauro & dining table                        13 00
1 clock & case                                         8 00
5 Looking Glasses                                  7  00
1 Lot of cupboard or table furnature       40 00
2 Stand tables and 18 Common chairs    11 00
1 Demajon and three Jugs                        2 00
1 beauro                                                      5  00
1 bed bedsted & bed cloaths                     25 00
1 bed bedsted & bed cloaths                     20 00
1 bed bedsted & bed cloaths                     20 00
1 bed bedsted & bed cloaths                     28 00
1 small bed bedsted & bed cloaths            12 00
1  bed bedsted & bed cloaths                    34 00
2 beds  bed bedsted & bed cloaths            40 00
1 lot of bed clothing                                  40 00
1 lot of bags & partridge not                      8 00
1 bed bedstid & bed clothes                     35 00
1 lot of bed clothing                                  35 00
1 lot of cupboard ware                             24 00
1 floor carpet                                            12 00
1 bed bedstid & bed clothes                     35 00
1 beauro                                                    8 00
2 waters 2 candlesticks & 1 looking glass   2 75
1 desk & book case                                  8 00
1 cupboard                                             12 00
1 prose [?]                                               12 00
1 Beauro                                                  12 00
1 sugar chest                                            3 00
1 barrell of sugar                                     18 00
1 lot water & milk vessels                        8  50
1 lot pot metal tubs                                  8  00
2 Looms Stays harness                            5  00
7 spinning wheels                                     7 00
1 lot of sundry articles                              1 00
1 floor carpet                                             3 00
1 lot of sundry articles                              3 00
1 wheat fan                                                5 00
More of the inventory of household goods
 The total value of this list of the inventory was $587.25.

In summary, there were ten beds and bed clothes, four bureaus, four tables, two cupboards, two carpets, a desk and bookcase, six looking glass (mirrors), and a clock and case. There were also some cupboard ware, a sugar chest and a barrel of sugar, water and milk vessels, metal tubs, and seven spinning wheels.

Some interesting items are in this list. Having six mirrors and a clock and case shows that this family had some means. These were luxury items. With so many beds, I wonder how many rooms his house had. The inventory didn’t seem to be done by room but rather by type of item.

Robert Lancaster had six children with wife, Sarah Ellis, but these children were all grown and in their own households by his death. He had two children from his wife, Jane, and only one children, Eliza Jane Lancaster, had a guardian appointed for her.[2]

Next up will be the inventory of the slaves.

[1] Shelby County, Kentucky, Probate, Bk 14, p. 63-68, 1840, Robert Lancaster, digital images, FamilySearch ( : 22 Sep 2016); citing FHL film 259254, item 3.
[2] Shelby County, Kentucky, Order Book, 1839-1844, p. 52, 1840, Creath Neal, guardian, digital images, FamilySearch ( : 22 Sep 2016); citing FHL film 259265, item 3.

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Robert Lancaster Estate: A Very Large Inventory–Part I

This is a series of blog posts about my fifth great-grandfather, Robert Lancaster. In this previous post, I wrote about the bond of $20,000.

His youngest son, Josiah Lancaster was appointed administrator and ordered to conduct an inventory of the goods, chattels, and debts of Robert Lancaster.

From the Shelby County (Kentucky) Superior Court, October 1840 Term, James Neal, William A. Hamblin, and Arthur Chambers were ordered to  appraise the slaves if any and personal estate of Robert Lancaster, deceased, and then return an appraisement to the court.[1] They appeared in court and returned a “true and just inventory and appraisement of all the personal estate of Robert Lancaster” which was “produced to us by Josiah Lancaster his administrator.”

The appraisement went on for four pages and totaled $10,638.53 ¾. Some items were difficult to determine because of the “creative” spelling.  There were farming equipment, household items, furniture, food and drink stuff, farm livestock, notes owed to the estate, and the biggest ticket items were the ten slaves.

I’ll start with the livestock. He had 118 fat hogs appraised at $894, 75 stock hogs worth $150, 52 sheep at $64, 1 yoke of oxen at $35, 4 calves for $15, 21 head of cattle worth $285, and 11 horses worth $585, described as follows:

1 brown mare                        50 00
1 chestnut sorrel mare            40 00
1 Gray mare                          55 00
1 bay mare                            60 00
1 roan mare                           20 00
1 gray horse                        100 00
1 sorrel horse                        80 00
1 cream horse                       85 00
1 bay horse bald face             50 00
1 bay horse colt                    15 00
1 brown horse one eyes         30 00

Interesting that different horses have different values. It could be because of the kind of horse or because of their age. The total value of the horses were $605. The value of the horses on Robert's 1840 tax record was $500 for ten horses.[2] For the inventory, he has eleven horses, so perhaps he obtained the $100 gray horse between the tax listing and inventory.

There were also equipment such as a saddle and bridle worth $4, three side saddles and bridle worth $6, and a pair of saddle bags at $2.  But there was no mention of the carriage that was worth $300 on the 1840 tax list.

The farming equipment included a wagon, hind gear, spreaders, a barouge (??) & harness, jack screw, old gear, 14 plows and 2 large harrows, a lot of brick axes, hoes, scythes and cradles, a lot of tools, saw, angers, and drawing knife. This totaled $282.00. The item that looked like “barouge or baronge” is probably spelled really creatively but I cannot figure out what it is. That and the harness were worth $180 so it was something of value.

Next up will be the household goods.

[1] Shelby County, Kentucky, Probate, Bk 14, p. 63-68, 1840, Robert Lancaster, digital images, FamilySearch ( : 22 Sep 2016); citing FHL film 259254, item 3.
[2] Shelby County, Kentucky, Tax Record, 1840, p. 11, Robert Lancaster, FHL film 08229.

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Robert Lancaster Estate: Such a Large Bond!

Robert Lancaster died sometime before 12 October 1840 when Josiah Lancaster, John Lancaster, Creath Neel, Robert Myers, Wm Lancaster, & Wm Price were held to the Commonwealth of Kentucky for $20,000 of current money at the Shelby County Superior Court.[1] This very high bond amount signaled that the estate was considered valuable.

Josiah Lancaster, John Lancaster, and William Lancaster were Robert’s sons. Creath Neel and Robert Myers were Robert’s sons-in-law. But who was William Price? Perhaps he was a neighbor, someone outside of the family to be part of the surety for the bond. More research is needed to determine how William Price fits in.

Josiah Lancaster was appointed administrator. There was no will. Josiah was to make a “true inventory of the goods, chattels and credits of Robert Lancaster” and to ”make a just and true account of his actings and doings” to the court.

1840 Bond for Robert Lancaster's Estate

There was no mention of when Robert died on this document. It was a “fill in the blanks” form but did have actual signatures of each of the men.

The Signatures!
Robert Lancaster is my 5th great grandfather. His oldest son, Ellis W. Lancaster, was my 4th great grandfather and was already living in Lewis County, Missouri in 1840.

I plan to continue writing about the probate. Next up is the inventory of the estate.

[1] Shelby County, Kentucky, Administrator Bonds 1833-1851, p. 171, Robert Lancaster, deceased, digital image, FamilySearch ( : 22 Sep 2016); citing FHL film 259272, item 3, [image 504 of 728].

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Pansy Louise Lancaster and Lela Nell Johnston, c. 1935-36, correction

* This is a correction to the original post. The photo was misidentified. Corrections are in red below:

I have received digital copies of some photos from a cousin, Judy Magee, who is my first cousin, twice removed. Our common ancestor is Abner Ebenezer Loveless (1851-1929).[1] These photos are a part of her mother, Marvelle Dunn’s collection.

The best of the bunch was the photo of my grandmother, Pansy Louise (Lancaster) Johnston with her mother, Lela Ann (Loveless) Lancaster, daughter, Lela Nell Johnston.
Lela Ann Loveless Lancaster with daughter Pansy Louise, c. 1914/15
Lela Nell Johnston with mother, Pansy Louise (Lancaster) Johnston, c. 1935/36
From Marvelle Dunn Collection; used with permission
We have so few early photos in  our collection, so it was pretty exciting to receive this photo. I had never seen this photo, nor any photo of Pansy as a child and her mother as a young woman. Now I’m glad to share it with the rest of my family.

My sister saw this photo when I posted it on Facebook and said the clothing the woman was wearing couldn't have been in 1914/14. I showed the photo to some friends and they all agreed. Plus the clothing of the child didn't fit that time period either. This is a photo of my grandmother Pansy and my mother, Lela Nell. I see the resemblance of my mother and myself in the woman.

The back of the photo had read "Aunt Lela and Pansy" in one handwriting and color and in another hand and color "Daddy Sister." Someone must have misidentified the photo.

I was really disappointed it wasn't a photo of my great-grandmother and grandmother. I don't have any photos of my grandmother as a young child.

[1] Relationship was calculated using RootsMagic.
[2] Erath County, Texas Marriage Records, Book M, p. 278, Lancaster-Loveless; FHL Film #1428410.
[3] Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Birth Record of Pansy Louise Lancaster, vol. 14, p. 538; film 1428140.
[4] "WW I Draft Registration," database and images,  ( : accessed 28 Jul 2008), George Warren Lancaster.
[5] Erath Co Birth Records, Bk 4a 1917-1922, #548, RD Lancaster, 7/3/1920, Warren Lancaster, farmer & Lela Loveless, 24; FHL film 1428064.
[6] "Texas, Birth Certificates 1903-1932," digital images, ( : n.d.); citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Erath Co, No. 9758, Carl Lancaster, Jr.
[7] Texas, Erath, Texas Birth Certificates 1903-10 & 1926-29, (, birth certificate no. 31782 (1927), Elda Wayne Lancaster, accessed 26 Apr 2010.
[8] Find A Grave, database with images ( : ), Memorial# 17927060, Upper Greens Creek Cemetery, Erath Co, Texas, Carl Lancaster Jr.
[9] California Department of Health Services, Death Certificates, 001026075, Pansy Louise Johnston, Contra Costa Co, 2013.
[10] Texas Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate, digital image, FamilySearch (, #27274, Wichita Co, 1951, Lela Ann Lancaster; citing FHL film 2074696.
[11] Find A Grave, database with images ( : ), Memorial# 17927168, Upper Greens Creek Cemetery, Stephenville TX, Lela Ann Loveless Lancaster. Also photo of tombstone taken by Lisa S. Gorrell, 7 Oct 1995.

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family