by Erin Doane
InternationalWhisk(e)y Day is coming up on March 27 and World Whisky Day is on May 16 (it takes place on the third Saturday of May each year). This is a great time to learn about whiskey in Chemung County. We have three local whiskey bottles here in the museum’s collection – Land Lord Whiskey, Old Lowman Whiskey, and Macmore Whiskey.
Old Lowman Whiskey
In 1792, Jacob Lowman set up a distillery on a parcel of land on the Chemung River in what is now Lowman. It was the first commercial distillery in the county, producing whiskey from mixed mash of rye and corn. Some years later, George Lowman operated a distillery on Baldwin Creek producing Old Lowman Whiskey using the same recipe Jacob used. The distillery operated until the Civil War when high taxes forced the business to close.
In 1902, Edward Lowman, Fred Ferris, Fred L. Thomas, and Nathan Blostein incorporated the Old Lowman Distilling Company to manufacture, supply, and deal in whiskey and other alcoholic liquors. The company’s headquarters were in Elmira, and the distillery was in a converted creamery in Lowman near the Delaware and Lackawanna Railroad tracks. Jacob Lowman’s original recipe was used to make the whiskey.
Old Lowman Distillery and Warehouse. Image from “Hardwood Bark,” the magazine of Cotton-Hanlon and Ireland Mill, May-June 1973
I read somewhere that Klapproth’s Saloon in Elmira was said to have exclusive sale of Old Lowman Whiskey, but it was also available from Fred Ferris’s store at 201 Railroad Avenue in Elmira. Ferris was a partner in the distilling company, and he was also a wholesale dealer in wines, liquors, tobacco, and cigars. He had started his business in 1897. Additionally, he sold the “finest food for medicinal purposes,” and ran a saloon.
Ferris’s store with Fred himself standing at the corner, early 1900s
On October 1, 1918, the city of Elmira officially went “dry,” making the sale of alcoholic beverages illegal. This effectively killed the Old Lowman Distilling Company’s business, and the distillery closed for good.
In 1907, after 18 years working for J.J. O’Connor wholesale liquor, Michael E. McElligott opened his own wholesale liquor business at 111 Railroad Avenue in Elmira. One of his products was Macmore Whiskey.
In 1911, there were two versions of the whiskey available: Macmore Blend and Macmore Bottled in Bond. I don’t know precisely the difference between the two, but the blend bottle was labeled with McElligott’s name while the other had R.W. Wathen & Company of Kentucky as the distiller.
By early 1918, talk of local prohibition was in the air, and it seemed to be a perfect time for McElligott to diversify his business. He purchased what was known at the Richardson building at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Market Street. He set up his shop on the first floor, and rented out the upper floor.
Land Lord Whiskey
Around 1914, James G. McLaughlin and John R. Flynn opened their wholesale liquor business at the corner of Fox and Carroll Streets in Elmira. There they sold Land Lord Whiskey, among other things.
When the city went dry, McLaughlin & Flynn Co. suffered. In October 1920, the company sold off 1,000 empty barrels that were “first class for cider or grape juice.” Less than three years later, the company officially dissolved. McLaughlin went on to run the Carey Medicine Company, and Flynn worked in real estate.
Whiskey and Churches??
Finally, in my research, I found two interesting connections between these liquor companies and local churches that I just had to share. First connection: After the Old Lowman Distilling Company closed in 1918, Edward Lowman had the warehouse torn down. He then donated the lumber to the Lowman M.E. Church, and it was used to build a community hall. And the second connection: When renovations were being done on the Park Church in 1958, a bottle of Macmore Whiskey was found inside one of the walls there.
Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. To see more of their blog, click here.