Family Stories

Hiram Berry Biography

from Franklin County, Kentucky – Biographies

Hiram Berry was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, January 16, 1821.  His father, Joseph Berry, removed from Chester County, Pennsylvania, to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, about the year 1800, where he pursued the occupation of a farmer.  His wife was Catherine Robison, who bore him a family of ten children, of whom eight lived to years of maturity.  Hiram Berry enjoyed the benefits of an ordinary common school education only, and at an early age learned the trade of a carpenter, an occupation which he engaged in for twenty-three years.  In 1844 he left Pennsylvania and located in Cincinnati for a short time.  From there he went to New Orleans by boat, and, returning, located in 1845 at Madison, Indiana.  On May 14, 1846, he married Eleanor S. Humes, of Madison, who was born in Fayette County, Kentucky, and in 1848 removed to Frankfort, Kentucky, where he has ever since resided.  During the war he engaged in the business of supplying the Federal Government with stock and in trading on his own account.  After the war he embarked in the cotton business, in which he remained until 1866.  He then engaged in the wholesale liquor and distilling business with the late W. A. Gaines and E. H. Taylor, Jr., under the firm name of Gaines, Berry & Co., and did an extensive business for several years.  The said firm originated the now famous brand of whiskey, known as the “Old Crow”.  The firm of Gaines, Berry & Co. was succeeded by the firm of W. A. Gaines & Co., which firm was composed of W. A. Gaines, Hiram Berry and E. H. Taylor, Jr., of Kentucky, and Sherman Paris, Marshall J. Allen and Frank S. Stevens, of New York.  They erected the Hermitage distillery in 1868, and enjoyed a large trade for their fine brands of whiskeys in all sections of the United States.  By careful and judicious business management they have become the largest producers of fine “sour mash” whiskeys in the world.  The firm of W. A. Gaines & Co., as first constituted, has continued, with slight modifications, up to the present time.  In 1870 E. H. Taylor, Jr., withdrew from the firm, and, in 1872, W. A. Gaines died; Sherman Paris withdrew from the firm in 1882, George H. Allen, of New York, being admitted into the firm at Mr. Taylor’s retirement, and Edson Bradley, Jr., of New York, when Mr. Paris retired.  In February, 1887, the firm of W. A. Gaines & Co. was made into a joint stock company, under the same name and style, with a paid up capital of $600,000, and composed of the following officers:  Marshall J. Allen, president; Hiram Berry, vice-president; Edson Bradley, Jr., second vice-president; George F. Berry, secretary; William E. Bradley, treasurer.  Besides being largely interested in the distilling business, Mr. Berry has other interest in this as well as other states, owning considerable real estate in and near Frankfort, Kentucky, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Abilene, Texas, and being a large stockholder in the St. Helen’s Land, Coal & Iron Company of Frankfort, Kentucky, which company has large tracts of valuable timber and mineral lands in Lee County, Kentucky.  The capital stock of the company is $1,000,000, and he is also largely interested in the National Bank of Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri.  In all his business relations Mr. Berry has always manifested the strictest integrity, and he is recognized as one of the old representative citizens of Frankfort.  He has always been a liberal contributor to religious and other worthy objects, and in kindness to the poor and deeds of charity and generosity is not exceeded by any of his neighbors.  He is a Republican in national politics, but otherwise an independent, and casts his vote in local matters as he thinks will be the best for the community and state.  His first wife died October 7, 1879.  Of the nine children born to the marriage, Alice became the wife of J. T. Orbison, of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Helen died in infancy; Emma married Thomas Rodman, Jr.; James W. is a druggist at Chattanooga, Tennessee, George F. is a secretary of W. A. Gaines & Co.; Edward R. died July 20, 1882, aged twenty-three years; Florence is the wife of Captain William L. Cannon, of New Orleans; and Annie and Charles Taylor Berry died young.  Mr. Berry was united with his present wife, November 15, 1881.  She was Miss Clarinda J. Cunningham, a native of Bourbon County, Kentucky, and daughter of Arthur B. and Elizabeth Cunningham, formerly of Baltimore, Maryland.

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