History

Bringing Distilling Back to Geneva

James Clayton Herrington, credited with founding Geneva, opened a General Store where he sold food and supplies to local customers and travelers passing through town. Herrington, himself a skilled distiller of whiskey had a lucrative business in Mercer, Pennsylvania before heading west towards Geneva. The ledger from his general store in Mercer is dotted throughout the pages with the word “Whisky”, sold by the gallon or fractions thereof. When he opened his general store in Geneva it is assumed that he would have sold similar products. Whiskey would have been much more profitable than selling cloth and soap and with an abundance of local grains would have been easy to produce with minimal equipment.

While James Clayton Herrington was first, his was certainly not the only distillery in Geneva’s history. In 1842 Hendrick Miller purchased just over twenty-seven acres of land on the east side of the Fox River. He and Wm. A. Miller entered into an agreement to conduct a distilling business together. A distillery, as well as a malt house was built on the property and they operated it for several years. The last record of this was a real estate transaction in 1862 that referenced the “old malt house”. Malted barley is of course a component in all good whiskey.

The original FOX RIVER DISTILLING CO. operated multiple distilleries in Chicago and the suburbs, and on January 20th, 1915 the corrupt and greedy President of the company found himself on a train. Having just confessed to forging warehouse receipts for $250,000 and cheating Chicago banks he handed the porter a telegram instructing an undertaker to meet the train when it pulled into the station and then he killed himself. The company went into receivership and continued to operate but in 1918 when prohibition seemed inevitable the then owners of the company shut the business down and reluctantly sold the stills to an unnamed buyer.

In the early days of American history, and before modern transportation systems were created, people bought all of their goods and services locally. Before prohibition there were thousands of small distilleries across America that provided Whiskey, Gin, and other spirits like Brandy to local patrons eager for their product.

After prohibition ended on December 5th, 1933 there were only six operating distilleries left in America. New government regulations had all but shut down local distilling for good. In recent years though, the government has relaxed certain regulations and permitted local craft distilleries again.

This is the way you should be buying your distilled spirits, from someone you know rather than the mass produced from a foreign land. Want to see and hear more? Then come for a visit, learn about what we do, and how we do it, then taste for yourself how a craft distilled local product is better. When should we expect you?

– Cheers