Elijah Roach Betterton returned from a Yankee prison camp to his home in Naruna, VA., in 1866, where he married, and operated a grist mill on Hat Creek. A portion of the corn the farmers brought in was retained as a fee for milling, and he converted this to whiskey using a small pot still. In a few years he was able to move to Chattanooga where he opened a bar and purchased whiskey from many small distillers in Tennessee, including Jack Daniel.
In 1880 he sold out, intending to "go respectable" in the wholesale drug business in Dallas. He entrusted $500,000 and the power to write checks to his bookkeeper who was to rent a warehouse and purchase inventory. The book-keeper acquired a building and some stock, but ran up bills and absconded to Mexico.
Betterton then moved back to Chattanooga and took a partner (J.O. Martin) to become E.R.Betterton & Co. In 1885 the built a wholesaler business at 100 W 7 th. In 1895 they established the White Oak Distillery near Valdeau and then another in 1899 on the south bank of the Tennessee River east of the present Market St. bridge. It closed in 1913 and Betterton went into the shoe business. His name continued to be used by a wholesaler in Rossville GA until 1917 (OASG).
They also had a branch in Cincinnati, OH.
"E R Betterton & J O Martin: E R Betterton & Co., Wholesale Liquor Dealers, Specialities Pennsylvania Rye and Kentucky Bourbons, Duffy's Pure Malt. Agents for the Celebrated Tannhaeuser Export Beer" (ad 1892). "Sole agents Cascade Whiskey" (ad, 1899, 1900), "Overholt's Old Pennsylvania Rye, Gibson's XXXX" (1900). "E.R. Betterton, President, J. O. Martin, Treas. & Gen Manager, C.W. Cox, Secretary. Est 1870, Incorporated 1905. (Display ad featuring the distillery and a bottle of White Oak, 1906, 1907, 1915) Elijah R Betterton, Jr (1915)
Business name timeline:
E R Betterton (1876-1882), E R Betterton & Co. (1883-1915)
141 Market (1876-1882), 517 Market (wholesale & retail: 1883-1908) & 812 Broad (wholesale: 1890-1891), 110-112 W 7 th (wholesale: 1892), 114-116 W 7 th (wholesale, also distillers in 1898: 1894-1899), 717 Market (wholesale, also distillers: 1900-1909), 532 Market (1911), 511 Market (1912-1915)
Business category timeline (abbreviations decoded below):
W, D (1898)
Years that company appeared in directories
Years directories were consulted
Chattanooga directory notes
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1876-1877, 1878-1879, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915
1871-1872, 1876-1877, 1878-1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915
V= Wine & Liquor (Wholesale), V-R = Wine & Liquor (Retail), W = Whiskey (Wholesale), L = Liquors (Wholesale) D = Distiller, DA = distiller's agent
1871: no addresses, 1883: all addresses have changed (incremented) suggesting street renumbering. 1909: Montgomery becomes Main. Note the directories are full of margin and display ads.
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