Lawrenceburg: A Town Built on Bourbon

Cedar Brook Distillery after 1889Old Prentice Distillery in 1910.Untitled3Ballard's Drug Store in 1902.Untitled 66HIstoryUntitled 7S.B. Hawkins and Company dry goods store in early 1900's.Untitled 5Untitled 6Untitled 2

Although Lawrenceburg was built on bourbon, it started like any other small town in Kentucky. In 1870, the city of Lawrenceburg had only 393 residents and was very self-sufficient requiring most of its residents to produce the products they needed within the county lines.

At this time, many small factories were built that supplied the town with its day to day products including hats, wagons, plows, ropes and twine, candles, hoes and barrels and even shoes. One of Lawrenceburg’s largest industries at the time was bourbon, but it was only used for local consumption. Over fifty small distilleries were in Anderson County producing less than a barrel a day from each distillery, keeping the local people well supplied with their whiskey.

But by the end of the Civil War, things in Lawrenceburg changed. The federal government had placed a tax on the output of the distilleries, causing many of them to go out of business. Leaving a few behind, the remaining distilleries increased their production. Gradually over time, the Anderson County distilleries became known outside of the county and eventually across the United States and into many foreign countries.

As the distilleries increased production, most of Lawrenceburg’s residents benefited from their by products. Grain that was shipped in from the midwest for the production of the bourbon, soon became feed for thousands of hogs and cattle that were raised and then sold to people outside of the county. More railroads and bridges were built to bring in the grain as well as ship out the bourbon. Taxes on the bourbon also brought in over $50,000 a year, which was a huge amount of money at the time. This money was used to build streets, sidewalks and a lot of the town’s infrastructure.

Soon, more people moved into town and many large expensive homes were built along with many businesses in the downtown district. At one time, there were 3 hotels, 2 opera houses, butcher shops, dry goods stores, and 6 groceries stores including an A&P and the Kroger Grocery Company. There were also department stores, drug stores, hardware and lumber stores, along with many services like barber shops and beauty parlors. At the time, Lawrenceburg became one of the wealthiest communities in Kentucky all built on the production of bourbon.

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