Mason County Distillers

Taxation on whiskey was a controversial topic in early America, especially on the frontier, which, in the late 17th century, of course included Kentucky.  Look up “Whiskey Rebellion” on Google to read a lot more about it. The law taxing whiskey passed in 1791, and it was not until 1798 that one William Clarke, a federal attorney, began prosecuting those who hadn’t paid the tax.  The court docket gives us the names of lots of folks in the whiskey distilling business in those early days.  Keep in mind that Mason County is much larger during this time than it is now, due to the formation of additional counties.  For lots more on the subject see Willard Rouse Jillson’s Early Kentucky Distillers, 1783-1800, (1940) the source of this data.  The tax levied was seven cents a gallon.

Distiller County U.S. Debt Court Date
Meredith Helm Mason 37.49 June 20, 1795
Rudolf Black Mason 65.76 August 8, 1798
Adam Richie Mason 146.88 June 30, 1798
Solomon Collins Mason 122.32 June 26, 1798
Samuel Jackson Mason 122.32 June 26, 1798
Joseph Shaw Mason 73.92 June 26, 1798
James Sparks Mason 73.92 June 26, 1798
Peter Davis Mason 319.68 August 6, 1798
Thomas Slooe Mason 319.68 August 6, 1798
James Lownsdale Mason 61.50 December 11, 1797
John Mannen Mason 43.92 June 20, 1797
George Applegate Mason 59.94 July 1, 1797
Hezekiah Glasgow Mason 35.40 December 1, 1797
Joseph Caskey Mason 37.68 June 20, 1797

Jillson notes that the judge in the cases, Harry Innes, in the Old State House in Frankfort, displayed at least some sympathy to these “stout-hearted pioneers of western industry” who had “early conflicting views with the government as to tax collection,” [Jillson’s terms] and reduced most of the amounts by half, and gave the defendants time over which to pay the tax.