Broad Ford's Overholt Distillery
Written & Compiled by K. R. Overholt Critchfield 8-4-2012
The Karen's Branches Version 11-13-2012

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Abraham Overholt - Henry Stauffer Overholt - Jacob Stauffer Overholt, composite by K. R. Overholt Critchfield 2005
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[Karen's Note: The two articles on this page appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of the Connellsville Crossroads magazine, along with Broad Ford: Where It All Began, by Cassandra Vivian, that gives data regarding the coal and coke industry at Broad Ford. For your own copy of the magazine, mail $10.00 (no tax) to the Fayette County Cultural Trust, 502 S. Pittsburgh Street, Connellsville, PA 15425; or just visit ArtWorks Connellsville, 139 West Crawford Avenue, Connellsville, PA 15425.]



On Thursday, November 24, 1905, the reporters and staff of The Weekly Courier could step back and breathe a sigh of relief. The big story was in, and would live forever in the pages of their newspaper. BIG FIRE AT THE OVERHOLT DISTILLERY was the top headline, with the subhead, Immense Storage Ware House Was Totally Destroyed by Flames at Broad Ford on Sunday. A kicker at the top of the story gave the summary:  LOSS WILL EXCEED $800,000. Origin of the Fire Unknown - The Entire Plant and Town of Broad Ford Were Threatened by the Flames for Many Hours.

The full story came to the editor's desk in bits and pieces all week, but facts and figures, first-person accounts, and tales of bravery were woven together to thoroughly inform the citizens of Connellsville.  Many citizens, and folks from neighboring towns, had witnessed the event themselves, from shortly after the blaze began on Sunday afternoon, November 19, and had remained as events unfolded late into the night.  In fact, many citizens and local officials of every stripe gave their assistance to fight the fire, and heroic deeds were done by all.

In 1905, the A. Overholt and Company distillery at Broad Ford was an impressive operation.  The "distillery proper" included the grain elevator and granary, warehouses A, B, C, D, and a large bottling house.  Everything had been built or rebuilt to modern specifications and was thoroughly insured.  The capacity of the warehouses allowed for 88,000 barrels of whiskey to be stored at the plant, and then as now, active railroad tracks were in close proximity -- perhaps too close.  The best guess as to the cause of the fire was speculation that a passing train had launched a spark that got into Warehouse D.

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A. Overholt and Co., Sanborn-Perris Map Co., Ltd, New York, 1894
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The Library of Congress has a web site that allows searching historic American newspapers (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/), where at least 20 individual articles about the 1905 fire can be found, along with several Pennsylvania state records.  Also found were three items about the 1884 fire at Broad Ford that destroyed the main building, three bonded warehouses and 7,000 barrels of whiskey in three hours.  Back then, the buildings were wood frame, not brick or stone, so once ignited at 11 p.m., July 23, 1884, nothing could stop a conflagration.  Afterwards, the cause of the fire could not be determined, but the guesses ranged from "spontaneous combustion of mill dust," to "a cigar left by a workman."

The gross value of the 1884 fire was reported to be $550,000, and the loss in buildings and machinery, $115,000.  One warehouse with 600 barrels of whiskey was saved.  The Somerset Herald wrote in their story of July 30, "The heat of the fire was intense, and the flames lit up the country for miles.  Burning whisky flowed down the river.  Twenty-five barrels were rolled away and the whisky dipped up by a mob.  There were hundreds of drunken men."  The detail about hundreds of drunken men may have been the reason why, in 1905, Fire Marshall W. H. Marietta "issued orders that no liquor be given the firemen, saying that it was impossible to drink whiskey and fight fire at the same time."  It was an order that prompted some of the firemen to strike, "but they were not from Connellsville."

The 1905 articles showed Broad Ford often misspelled as Bradford, perhaps due to phonetics, or because there is an actual town of Bradford in McKean County.  In other reports, Broad Ford was spelled as one word, Broadford -- a mistake that continues to this day in a failure to differentiate the accepted name of the road, Broadford Road, from the name of the geographical location.  By rights, Broadford Road should be Broad Ford Road, since the road goes to Broad Ford.  The earliest maps of the region use two words, Broad Ford.

Most of the 1905 newspapers published straight news stories of one inch to a few short paragraphs, but a few devoted several inches of newsprint.  Treatments included headlines like Kentucky's The Paducah Sun story, FOUR MILLION IN BOOZE. Big Fire at Pennsylvania Distillery and Bonded Warehouse, or Washington state's The Wenatchee Daily World story, 810,000 Gallons of Firewater Burn.  An article in Minnesota's The Bemidji Daily Pioneer put out a single paragraph, but stressed the federal government's loss with the headline, GOVERNMENT LOSES TAX. Distillery Fire Costs Uncle Sam $891,000 in Revenue.  Missouri's Scott County Kicker made up for their minimal coverage with a whimsical approach:  WILL MAKE OLD TOPERS SIGH. Four Million Dollars' Worth of Overholt Whisky Fed a Fire at Broadford, Pa.

Some newspapers printed larger stories, like Ohio's The News-Herald.  At the top of page two, a banner headline announced, A DISTILLERY FIRE, with a large subhead, Over 800,000 Gallons of Whisky, Together With the Overholt Warehouse, Destroyed, and included two more subheads of The Blaze Was Spectacular, the Blue Flames Shooting Over 100 Feet Into the Air, and Two Men Were Overcome By Smoke and Dropped Unconscious on the Fire Escape, But Were Rescued By Workmen.  The story clarified an event detail that was glossed over in the mammoth article published in Connellsville.

"Joseph McDonald and George Patskin, employees of the company, climbed up the fire escape and opened one of the small iron doors.  They were caught in a cloud of smoke which suffocated them and they dropped unconscious on the fire escape.  They were rescued by other workmen and a general alarm was sounded."

In contrast, the Connellsville version read, "In investigating the fire, both Patskin and Joseph McDonald were overcome with smoke, but were not seriously hurt, recovering in a few minutes."  The more dramatic version was picked up by news editors across the nation, although the surname Patskin often showed up spelled Patekin or Patckin.  A Google search for each form, showed only Patskin registering any hits, and may be the proper spelling.

Almost every article kept the line, "The plant is practically owned by H. C. Frick and the Mellons of Pittsburgh."  It was an interesting choice of words, considering court records of Frick v. United Firemen's Insurance Company (actually 23 different companies, foreign and domestic) identify Henry C. Frick, Andrew W. Mellon and Richard B. Mellon as "copartners trading as A. Overholt & Company."  No other owner is mentioned, not even in the records of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of the owners' estimation of the "cash value at the time of the loss."  Twice over, the court system agreed with Frick's esoteric argument about how the losses of buildings, equipment, and superior Overholt aged rye whiskey should be added up.  Clearly, the judges of both courts appreciated the product.

The Overholt Distillery at Broad Ford suffered another big blow two months after the big fire.  On January 29, 1906, an article from Washington, D.C.'s The Washington Times reported, TRAIN RUINS FORTUNE IN REVENUE STAMPS, with the subhead, Mail Pouch Containing Ten Thousand Dollars' Worth Drawn Under Wheels and Ground to Pieces.  "The stamps were strewn all along the tracks between Connellsville and Broad Ford.  Some were found this morning 100 yards distant from the Baltimore and Ohio depot.  The face value of the stamps was about $10,000."  No wonder the owners were liberal in their estimation of the loss.

Every news story about the 1905 fire that included the line, "The plant was established by A. Overholt in 1810," got it wrong.  Sharing a bit of Overholt history will put everything into proper perspective.

Let us note that the exceptional pure rye whiskey of Abraham Overholt (1784-1870) was established as a commercial product at West Overton in 1810, when he was 26 years old and awaiting the birth of his first child with new wife Maria Stauffer (1791-1874).  As a weaver since his teens, he helped to establish and maintain the family's most successful business enterprise to date, the manufacture of woven coverlets, using weaving methods and designs handed down from the roots of the family tree, in Oberholz, Switzerland.  As a commercial product, the "coverlids," as they were called, were valued by settlers heading west.  Wagon trains stopped at West Overton, where they could buy cured meats, dry goods and equipment at the Overholt general store, along with handy coverlets, and some farm-made whiskey, when available.

At 26, Abraham was determined to create a new future for himself and his growing family.  With brother Christian Overholt (1786-1868), he purchased a "special interest" in their father's farm, and he had finally gotten permission from the elders to stake out a plot of land big enough to house a new log cabin distillery.  From then on, distilling would be a commercial enterprise at West Overton.  By the time Henry Stauffer Overholt (1810-1870), came into the world on August 10, Abraham would have constructed his new distillery, and with the autumn harvest, he would produce his first barrels of rye whiskey for sale.

[Karen's Note:  The span of time Abraham was involved with commercial distilling matches the lifespan of his son, Henry -- both beginning in 1810 and ending when they passed away in 1870, five months apart.]

 
We know the distilling business grew quickly, because two years later, about the time daughter Anna Stauffer Overholt (1812-1866) was born, Abraham bought out brother Christian's share of the farm, paying an exceptional price of $50 per acre.  At some point, Christian purchased a forest of white oak trees near Smithton, and thereafter supplied the lumber needs of the family.  By the time Jacob Stauffer Overholt (1814-1859) was born, Abraham's distilling business would have been progressing nicely.

Abraham and Maria brought eight children into the world -- six sons and two daughters -- and between raising a family, running a farm, planting and harvesting crops, and distilling for a growing market, this was a very busy family.  Along with farming chores, "the Overholt boys," especially Henry and Jacob, were brought into the distilling business while still young.  Stories would be told about many years of bad roads and broken wagon wheels, when the Overholt boys literally took the reins in the task of hauling grain to and from flouring mills in nearby towns.  In 1834, Abraham built his own flouring mill at West Overton, which ended hauling grain elsewhere to be milled.  By the autumn of 1834, when the new mill was working in earnest, son Henry, 24 years old, purchased a half-interest in the business, thereafter known as A. & H.S. Overholt CompanyJacob was 20 years old, Abraham 17, Martin 12, Christian 10, and John, eight.

Regarding Abraham's daughters, in the autumn of 1834, Anna had already celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary with husband John Tinstman (1807-1877), and was about to bring her third child into the world.  That child was Abraham Overholt Tinstman (1834-1915), born on September 13, and he would become one of the most famous grandsons of Abraham Overholt.  Younger daughter Elizabeth Stauffer Overholt (1819-1905) was only 15 years old, but given another 13 years, she would marry John William Frick (1822-1889), and two years after that, she would give birth to Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), who would become Abraham's other famous grandson.  In years to come, everybody at West Overton would know how young Clay was given "a foot up" in the business world by Grandpap Abraham and Cousin A. O. Tinstman, two men who more than any others enabled Frick to become a powerful force in the region and a formidable industrial giant, long before Andrew Carnegie entered the picture.

It must be said that the farmers, bankers, businessmen and entrepreneurs in the Overholt family were not known for the kind of ruthlessness exhibited by H. C. Frick.  Ultimately, his was a personality honed in the atmosphere of major industrial monopolies, where serious individuals happily manipulated international economic stratagems.  For Frick, the Overholt Distillery at Broad Ford was the centerpiece, focal point, and fulcrum of everything he would ever consider to be successful.

On April 19, 1850, Henry Clay Frick was four months old, being cradled in his mother's arms or being passed around to the aunts, uncles and cousins assembled to celebrate Abraham Overholt's 66th birthday.   During the course of that year, Abraham would bring son Jacob into his business as a full partner with himself and Henry, although the brothers had been in charge for ten years.  The whole Overholt enterprise was 40 years old, a lot more complicated, and owing its continued success as much to the business skills of Henry and Jacob as to the endurance of old Abraham.  In truth, the whole family had been involved with everything from the start, and while West Overton thrived, the Overholts made sure the surrounding community thrived, as well.  The pioneering sons, daughters and grandchildren of patriarch and founder Henrich Oberholtzer (1739-1813) had invested in the welfare of the region, making sure free public schooling was established for the children, laying down roads, building schools and houses of worship, and raising money for numerous civic projects in and around West Overton.

Distilling had birthed several other local industries that supported and were in turn supported by distilling, generating wages that brought stability to many families.  Warehouses had been built to age the whiskey, and whole systems of supply and distribution had been developed, helping Overholt whiskey to become a valued product clear across the nation.  There had never been a lack of good customers.  The demand for Overholt whiskey had always outstripped the supply, and the same could be said for the next five years.

We do not know how long the Overholt men mulled over the question of building a larger distillery complex, but the family appeared to measure their business expansions with "gradual speed and safe progress."  By 1855, Overholt whiskey had become so popular and widespread that further expansion was no longer questioned -- it was necessary.  Broad Ford was situated on the Youghiogheny River, so a distillery there would benefit from a good water supply, plus river traffic.  Flatboats could bring in shipments of grain, then load up with shipments of barrel whiskey, and then meet up with steamboats on the Monongahela River heading south or north to the docks in "Pittsburg."

Jacob Overholt put so much effort into the new project that splitting his time between West Overton and Broad Ford became a burden, so in 1855, he "amicably dissolved business with his brother and removed to Broad Ford" to give it his full attention.  The first thing he did there was establish "a saw-mill, mainly for supplying the firm with materials with which to build up a then prospective village and a distillery, which in time became the most famous of the Overholt distilleries . . . Under the immediate oversight of Jacob Overholt, the locality of Broad Ford, containing three dwellings when he first went there, shortly grew into a busy village."

In 1856, Jacob took a partner into the enterprise -- cousin Henry O. Overholt (1813-1880), who was a year and three months younger than Jacob.  Beyond farming, Henry O. was a famous weaver of Overholt coverlets.  This Henry was the second son of Abraham's older brother Martin Overholt (1772-1835) and Catherine Overholt (1781-1866), hence the distinctive middle initial.

[Karen's Note:  Catherine Overholt was a distant cousin from Bucks County, daughter of Mennonite Preacher Abraham Oberholtzer (c 1747-1824).  Some people confuse the master distiller Abraham with the Rev. Abraham.]

The Broad Ford distillery project, which is in Fayette County, does not appear to have been part of Abraham's business concerns in Westmoreland County.  One source states the Broad Ford distillery "was erected and put into operation by Abraham Overholt in the year 1853," however, the clarifying point may be the fact that following Jacob's death, Abraham purchased Jacob's two-thirds share of the Broad Ford distilling company, and then continued to operate it with Henry O. Overholt as the one-third share partner.  Henry Stauffer Overholt was still a full partner in his father's West Overton distillery business.

It was reported that Jacob "paid strict personal attention to his large business until his last illness.  He was a man of great energy and business activity and integrity, and in the expressive language of one who knew him well, 'he was everybody's friend.'  He was noted for his charity, never allowing the needy to go unserved by his door."  Jacob's "last illness" took his life on April 20, 1859, one day after father Abraham's 75th birthday.  He left behind a stellar career as a master distiller, businessman and entrepreneur.  In terms of loss to the family, he was the husband of Mary Fox (1816-1895), and the father of nine children.

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Abraham Overholt Tinstman,
engraved by Samuel Sartain
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The partnership between Abraham and nephew Henry O. Overholt brought the Broad Ford distillery complex into A. Overholt and Company, creating an enterprise "with a daily capacity of 200 bushels of grain and 860 gallons of whiskey."  Stepping into Jacob's shadow at Broad Ford was Abraham's 25-year-old grandson, Abraham Overholt Tinstman (1834-1915), hired away from working his father's farm.  A. O. Tinstman may have begun in the shadow of his Uncle Jacob, but his abilities as a manager soon became apparent in his daily supervision of the manufacture of "the celebrated Overholt whisky," the steam-driven sawmill cutting timber into lumber, and the farming being done on the Broad Ford property.

The Civil War years (1861-1865) seriously impacted the families of West Overton and Broad Ford -- many of their young men became soldiers.  Abraham Overholt supported Abraham Lincoln, and despite his advanced years, "visited the seat of war twice in his anxiety over the state of the country and to encourage soldiers in the field with whom he was personally acquainted."  Specifically, he visited members of the Overholt family in uniform, some of whom died during the conflict.

In 1864, Henry O. Overholt reached his 51st birthday and sold out his one-third partnership in the Broad Ford distillery.  The retirement allowed 30-year-old A. O. Tinstman to move up from being the manager, to being a partner with Abraham Overholt in A. Overholt and Company.

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See more about A. O. Tinstman in
Sons & Grandsons of Westmoreland County.


For your own copy of the Fall 2012 issue of the Connellsville Crossroads magazine, just mail
$10.00 (no tax) to the Fayette County Cultural Trust, 502 S. Pittsburgh Street, Connellsville, PA 15425;
or visit ArtWorks Connellsville,139 West Crawford Avenue, Connellsville, PA 15425.



Big Fire at Overholt Distillery ... by The Weekly Courier, Nov. 24, 1905
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A. Overholt and Company Distillery Complex at Broad Ford, PA (date unknown), showing Warehouse D and Frick's company store.


[Karen's Note: The following article is also found on page one of my series, Sons & Grandsons of Westmoreland County, published on Karen's Branches back in 2005. The images used below are my additions to this article, which contained no photographs in its original form.]



.THE WEEKLY COURIER, CONNELLSVILLE, PA. - - - Thursday, November 24, 1905


BIG FIRE AT THE OVERHOLT DISTILLERY.
Immense Storage Ware House Was Totally Destroyed by Flames at Broad Ford on Sunday.

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LOSS WILL EXCEED $800,000.
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Origin of the Fire Unknown -- The Entire Plant and Town of Broad Ford Were Threatened by the Flames for Many Hours.

One of the most spectacular fires witnessed in Fayette county during recent years occurred at Broad Ford on Sunday, when Ware House 'D' of the A. Overholt & Company distillery burned to the ground. For hours, the entire plant of the company and the town of Broad Ford were threatened with destruction, but the unceasing efforts of the Overholt force of employes [sic], and firemen from Connellsville and New Haven, prevented the flames from spreading beyond the building in which they started.

The fact that the wind, while slight, was blowing toward the river probably accounts for the flames not eating up more property. They were headed toward the brick and sheet-iron company buildings, while had the wind been blowing from the river, the store of the Union Supply Company and the Baltimore & Ohio depot would have been consumed, and possibly all the houses in Broad Ford. As long as the fire blazed in the warehouse, streams of water were played on the store and the depot, but in spite of this precaution, all the paint was blistered and several windows were cracked from the heat.

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Union Supply Company Store, Broad Ford, PA; circa 1895;
courtesy of The Old Miner, R. A. Washlaski, editor
(http://patheoldminer. rootsweb.ancestry.com/)
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Some of the goods were moved from the store early in the afternoon by Store Manager Christopher Keck and his assistants, for at that time, the outcome of the fire was in doubt. Some express and freight matter were also moved from the B. & O. station to a place of safety.

Shortly after three o'clock Sunday afternoon, Frank McDonald, a boy employed in the bottling department of the distillery, noticed flames issuing from an upper door. He notified his brother, Joseph McDonald, employed in the warehouse, and Ware House Foreman George Patskin. In investigating the fire, both Patskin and Joseph McDonald were overcome with smoke, but were not seriously hurt, recovering in a few minutes. Almost at the same time McDonald discovered the fire, it was seen by the whole population of Broad Ford.

H. L. Krepps, superintendent of the plant, was not at Broad Ford when the fire started, and could not be located in Connellsville. He got a message at Jacobs Creek shortly after five o'clock, and hastened to the scene of the fire. J. P. Trader, superintendent of the bottling department, was the next man in charge of the plant, and he took active charge of the fighters. He was located in Connellsville directly after the fire started, and at once had an alarm of fire sounded.

The local fire department was prompt in turning out, and in a few minutes had their equipment at the Baltimore & Ohio railroad tracks. The members of the New Haven fire department were also on hand, but did not bring any of their equipment along. Shortly after four o'clock, [train] Engine No. 580, in [the] charge of Engineer Bert Miller and Fireman James Artis, drew up with two flat cars. The equipment was hastily loaded, ladders and two hose carts, and with the cars crowded with fire fighters, the train was rushed to Broad Ford. Train master J. J. Driscoll and Master Mechanic P. J. Harrigan were in charge of the train.

When the Connellsville contingent arrived, the flames had just begun to burst from the upper center doors of Ware House 'D.' A few streams of water were then being played on the fire. An immense crowd had already gathered. It was then feared by many that an explosion would result. About 10 minutes after the Connellsville boys arrived, the Adelaide fire department dashed on the scene. This consisted of a two horse farm wagon with about 100 feet of hose.

It was soon seen that the flames in the ware house were beyond control, and all efforts were directed towards saving the surrounding property. John Volmsky, William Dill, Wm. Keller and Reinold Winterhalter carried a hose to the top of the grain elevator and played a stream on the roof all evening.

William Stillwagon and several others got on the roof of a shed which projected from the elevator, and played another stream against the sides of that building. This action was not taken a minute too soon, for the heat had already caused the building to smoulder in one or two places. These men maintained their places for hours, in the face of a burning heat. They were kept drenched in water to prevent their clothing from catching on fire. Keller, who was fartherest [sic] toward the fire, had his face and arms terribly blistered.

The walls of the burning ware house commenced falling after most of the interior had been consumed, and it was feared that this would cause adjoining buildings to ignite. Shortly after five o'clock, a few bricks from the top of the ware house fell out on the siding running past the building, and an hour afterward, part of the wall near the west end fell out.  A portion of the west end fell with a crash, and for a time it was feared that some of the spectators were caught. No one was hurt.

The rear walls fell inward, while the front walls dropped over on the Baltimore & Ohio tracks. The east bound track was blocked for a short time with brick, but was soon cleared. The walls fell with crashes that could be heard all over the place, and each fall brought new apprehensions for the safety of adjoining property.

The Uniontown Fire Department, with their steamer, reached the scene shortly before 10 o'clock. They were sent for, because it was feared that when the west wall fell, the adjoining ware house, of much larger capacity than the one burned, would catch fire. Men and boys formed bucket brigades and worked from the top of this building to keep its walls flooded with water.

As soon as it was seen that the flames in the burning ware house were beyond control, the engineer of the plant went into all the other ware houses and smashed the steam pipes. He then turned on a full pressure of steam, which dampened the whole interior of the buildings. When this steam was first seen escaping through the doors of the buildings, the crowd thought that they, too, had caught fire, but these fears were soon dispelled.

Too much credit cannot be bestowed on the fire fighters. Those from Connellsville especially did themselves proud, and many deeds of gallantry were performed. Councilman William McCormick was on hand and it was greatly due to his good generalship that the flames were confined to the building in which they started. He was all over the grounds, and his voice could be heard giving ringing commands to the fire fighters.

Fire Marshall W. H. Marietta was also on the grounds and did efficient work in directing his men. He issued orders that no liquor be given the firemen, saying that it was impossible to drink whiskey and fight fire at the same time. Some of the firemen struck when this order was given, but they were not from Connellsville.

Early in the evening, Wall McCormick and Felix McArdle, both of the Connellsville [fire] department, were knocked off one of the high ladders by a sudden burst of flame, which blew through a door near where the men were working with a hose. They were not hurt, but they narrowly escaped being seriously burned. Both fell a distance of about 15 feet.

Seven lines of three inch hose were kept playing on the flames, besides several smaller lines from other plugs. The big hoses were attached to fire plugs around the grounds and the store, which are supplied with water by the Youghiogheny Water Company.

This water is carried to the plugs in six inch pipes. As soon as it was learned that the fire was a serious one, the water which supplies theDavidson works from the Trotter Water Company was turned off and all pressure was turned onto the line at Broad Ford.

 
The immense pumps were kept forcing the water direct on the plugs at a pressure of 150 pounds, and a man was kept at the gauge, constantly regulating the pressure. The supply of water was more than sufficient, and this was a great factor in controlling the flames. The fire engine from Uniontown was not needed, for the pressure was as great as any fire engine could have given.

All freight trains on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad were stopped by the fire, but No. 5, the New York and Chicago express, got through without mishap. A freight was then run past, and No. 44 and three sections of No. 12 were run past on the west bound track. Every train going east carried hundreds of people to Connellsville.

The crowd that attended the fire was immense. Thousands of people were there from Connellsville, Uniontown, Dawson, Scottdale and surrounding towns. As soon as the fire whistle blew in Connellsville, many people started to walk to Broad Ford, and this stream of pedestrians kept up until after nine o'clock. Every freight train out of Connellsville carried a full quota of spectators. Many from Scottdale rode as far as the Old Meadow mill and walked the three miles to Broad Ford.

Automobiles, carriages, buggies, wagons, and horses brought men, women and children to the scene. Some of them rode Shank's mare, but all got there. Trains over the P & LE brought up a number from Dawson and Dickerson Run, Broad Ford, and all the hills surrounding were dotted with sightseers. Those from Connellsville who did not go to the scene of the fire witnessed the spectacular sight from hills and house tops. From a distance, it appeared that the whole distillery was enveloped in a mass of flame.

A large quantity of crackers was served out to the hungry firemen. It was a late hour when the Connellsville department returned, thoroughly tired out by the hard work that they did. It can be said that their efforts did much to quell the flames, and keep them under control. A government storekeeper at the Overholt distillery swore in a number of deputies to keep the crowd back of the fire lines, and these men performed efficient service.

The loss sustained by the Overholt will reach nearly $1,000,000. John H. White stated this morning that this whiskey and buildings alone will total over $800,000.

There were 16,000 barrels of whiskey in the ware house and all of this went up in smoke or soaked in the ground as the big building gradually crumbled beneath the fierce flames. The whiskey was worth on an average of $50 a barrel. There was some very old stock in the ware house and some other that was not so old, all of it, however, giving the average price stated above.

Over 10,000 bushels of rye are a total loss. The damage to the grain was done by water, and there is nothing for the management of the distillery to do, but throw it into the river.

The cost of the whiskey as vouched for by the distillery is without the government tax. The government does not sustain any loss by the burning of the building. This warehouse stood the company almost $75,000.

The distillery proper is not damaged in the slightest. It was in operation, and Manager White stated this morning would be running in two weeks. That much time will be needed to get matters straightened out again about the big plant. The plant, aside from the distillery proper, consists of ware houses A, B, C, and D, and a large bottling house. These ware houses had a capacity of 88,000 barrels of whiskey in storage at the plant.

The origin of the fire is unknown. Some persons thought it must have started with a bad electric wire. This could not have been possible, since the dynamo was not running on Sunday, and there was no electric current on the wire in Ware House 'D' at any time on Sunday. Besides, there are no electric wires on the third floor of the ware house where the fire started. The distillery officials are firmly of the opinion that a spark from a passing Baltimore & Ohio train in some manner found its way into the interior of the building and started a blaze from which the fire rapidly spread. No. 46 had passed Broad Ford a short time before the first blaze was discovered.

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Detail: A. Overholt and Co., Sanborn-Perris Map Co., Ltd,
New York, 1894; Scene of Fire: Distillery Building, Warehouse D
and H. C. Frick's Union Supply Company Store
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The amount of insurance carried in detail could not be learned this morning. Manager White said the policies were in the Pittsburg [sic] office and he, himself, did not know what amounts were carried in the different companies, until the matter was looked up. He said, however, that the loss is pretty well covered by insurance.

It is just 21 years since the Overholt distillery at Broad Ford was destroyed by fire. the buildings at that time were frame and the whole plant was destroyed. It was then greatly enlarged and the capacity increased. Since then, the plant has been added to from time to time, until it is now one of the largest distilleries in the United States, and in fact, the world. The A. Overholt Company is owned by H. C. Frick, and R. B. Mellon of Pittsburg [sic]. It was established [in West Overton] by A. Overholt in 1810.

"If the whiskey burned on Sunday afternoon in Ware House D of the A. Overholt & Company distillery at Broad Ford was lost through no negligence on the part of the officials or employees, then the internal revenue tax of $1.10 a gallon will not have to be paid by the firm," said Commissioner of Internal Revenue John W. Yerkes of Washington. Of course, it is too early yet for the Overholt firm to have filed a claim asking for an abatement of the tax on the destroyed whiskey. The law protects it in this regard. I have received no statement from the officials of the firm, either concerning the amount of whiskey lost or asking for an abatement of the tax."

The shareholders of the A. Overholt Distilling Company, whose Broad Ford plant was damaged by fire on Sunday, estimated their loss including the loss of business, at $800,000, just as The Courier stated Monday. That does not include the payment of the tax on the whiskey. This estimate was made by General Manager White yesterday. R. B. Mellon announced that it would be rebuilt at once.

The Union Insurance Company officials of Pittsburg [sic], who had charge of the placing of the insurance on the plant are still at sea as to the total amount of the insurance loss. It is estimated it will reach about $200,000, placed with companies in almost every part of the United States.

The total insurance on the whiskey in Ware House D, which was owned by the company, is $167, 500. The insurance on the building is $22,700. In addition to this, the grain elevator adjoining the distillery, which contained 10,000 bushels of rye worth $7,500, was soaked with water and it is expected the grain will be a total loss.

Besides the whiskey in the ware house, which was owned by the company, there was a great deal of liquor which had been sold to dealers, and for which certificates have been issued. This was insured to a great extent by the owners, but just whom they are or where they reside, it will take a complete inspection of the company's books to decide. This insurance is placed in almost every part of the country.

The ruins today have been entirely cooled off.

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-- Submitted by K. R. Overholt Critchfield


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