InterOverholt Memorandum
Written by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, 12-26-2005

Best Wishes To All


Happy New Year 2006

My, How Time Flies!

Here we are at the end of another year's trek through linear time. Can you tell from that statement that I have lately been watching a whole lot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? Well, I have been, because a cable channel began broadcasting two episodes of Trek's Deep Space Nine and three episodes of Next Generation each weekday. This means Jim and I have been exposed to five hours of Star Trek just about every day, Monday through Friday, for the past several months. I used to listen to music during the day, giving my lungs and voice some exercise practicing my choral music, and then I would turn on the television when the evening news coverage began. It was a good system, and I got a lot of housework and computer work done. But things changed when Jim's full-time teaching job ended, to be replaced with a lot of short-term, part-time jobs. Now, he is home during the day more often than not, hogging the computer, "hunt 'n' peck" typing e-mail messages and creating grids of "french scenes" for whatever play he is directing at the moment.

Jim started leaving the TV on during the day, so he could watch Trek during lunch. It did not matter that over the years we had seen each episode literally dozens of times. Both of us love All-Things-Trek, and in these years of economic and emotional hardship, I believe we each found comfort in the familiarity of each character and every situation depicted. From the beginning of our relationship, when Star Trek: The Next Generation was brand new, Jim and I have been on common ground when viewing Trek episodes and Trek movies of one type or another. Whether it was Kirk and crew, Picard and crew, Sisco and crew, Janeway and crew, or the newest/oldest generation of Archer and crew, we have enjoyed each and every expression of the grand epoch. Matthew grew up hearing the language of Trek and watching us emulate the possibilities of this ever-expanding universe.

Why did Star Trek live on in our psyches when Star Wars faded away? I bet it was the human values postulated by Gene Roddenberry and the coterie of some of the best science fiction writers of his generation and the next. Their stories stressed the best humanity had to offer against a backdrop that constantly reminded us of the worst type of human behavior. From the beginning, questions were paramount, and amid the scramble to solve a mystery and save the day, the characters were allowed to doubt themselves, allowed to choose the positive or the negative road, allowed to accept or reject their responsibilities, allowed to grow in their understanding of themselves and their place in the greater scheme of things.

You may object, saying Star Wars had the same ideals woven into its storyline, but I would counter with one more assertion. I would remind you that the panaramic universe of Star Wars depended upon beings who could bend reality by wielding the Force, which may well be defined as an unknowing spiritual force generated by all living things. A "good guy" could bend reality for the benefit of others or bend it against others, depending upon the situation. The same could be said for a "bad guy." The greater concepts of "Right and Wrong" remained dependent upon a character's point of view. It was never perfectly clear that life under the aegis of the Imperial Senate was any less problematical than living under the control of the Emperor. All we knew for sure was the populations of the many worlds wanted their freedom, but that freedom was never thoroughly defined.

The Star Trek universe, however, in my estimation, has always been based upon hard science extrapolated further, whether the field of science was chemical or biological, astrological or sociological, archeological or anything and everything physical, mental, or spiritual. Ship and crew might always encounter something beyond "present" human understanding, but ultimately, when the credits rolled at the end of the each episode, we knew humanity was at its best when we lived for the future and believed in the intrinsic value of all living things. Add to that the Vulcan IDIC: "infinite diversity in infinite combination."

The writers of Star Trek began their stories with humanity and ended them in humility, emboldened by the possibilities of sentient beings (read human beings) overcoming every barrier, every temptation, every attempt to keep us in the dark and living in caves.

None of this has ever handicapped my faith in God, or reduced my devotion as a Christian. In fact, good science fiction (best found in books) and many popular renditions, like Star Trek (i.e., more palatable to the general public), have allowed me the pleasure of expanding my appreciation of the knowable universe, while working to expand my appreciation of a realm of the unknowable -- meaning all those intimations of human experience that are beyond the physical, beyond the three-dimensional, beyond that which can be observed, analyzed, tested and catagorized.

Looking back over my life, it is plain that I have always explored science and science fiction and religion side by side by side. And it is plain that each discipline centered me, allowed me to dream, and demanded that I live for the future.

I have a great deal to share in this InterOverholt Memorandum, and it has been difficult to write an opening that would set the stage. Beginning in this manner with Star Trek may help the following stories seem a little less unlikely.

Case in Point: Matthew's 10th Birthday - 12/21/1999
Science/Science Fiction/Religion (seen side by side by side)

Wood Ducks, Photos of Matthew, Crucifix, Pieta, Songbird, Wizard of Oz gift behind figurine of boy & girl on a swing, Owl, Doves, Angels

"God Loves You" Birthday Card, 2 Star Trek Magazines

Out of the Past

One version of an Old Farm label (courtesy John Lipman of
Registering a Trademark

Did you know that anyone can register a trademark? Just go to the web site of the United States Patent and Trademark Office ( ) and start reading the information. You do not even need to be an American citizen to register a trademark in this country, and they have made available a simple online "electronically-filed" application that makes the process next to painless. The painful part is paying the filing fee, which at $325 is a heafty price for me.

On May 1, 2005, I registered the trademark OLD FARM PENNSYLVANIA PURE RYE WHISKEY. I used a portion of our income tax refund to pay for it. Yeah, in my old age, I am going into the whiskey business.

An applicant has to have patience. The whole filing process takes up to six months, but on November 30, 2005, I received a phone call from the trademark attorney handling my case. He wanted to clarify that the weight of the trademark would be on the name OLD FARM, and not on the words "Pennsylvania Pure Rye Whiskey," saying anyone could come along and use these words legally. Then he e-mailed to me the notification from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which displayed the assigned the serial number 78620530. Hey! I had a serial number!

Next, I should receive a Notice of Publication stating the date of publication to the Official Gazette. Then after thirty days, if no one files an opposition, a Certificate of Registration will be issued. My application for this trademark is based upon the intention to actually use the mark in commerce, therefore, a Notice of Allowance for intent-to-use will be issued about twelve weeks after the date the mark is published. I will then have six months to (1) use the mark in commerce, or (2) request a six-month extention. The attorney said the extention period could total up to three years. Basically, I will have to get my label onto bottles/kegs/barrels of pure rye whiskey, and engage in commerce, before the trademark will be mine.

Getting a label onto bottles of rye whiskey should not be difficult, given the number of American distilleries currently making the product. Check the Internet for sites, and you will see what I mean. It appears that the nation's demand for rye whiskey is gradually increasing. I have been trying to guess which Kentucky distillery produces the rye whiskey for Old Overholt. What I need to do is negotiate with a company for some bottles to be given my label. I do not know how hard or easy this will be, nor do I have any idea how much it will cost.

The other avenue of exploration is to find somebody in Western Pennsylvania who is making whiskey in small batches, called artisan distilling. I would have to negotiate with that person to provide some rye whiskey to wear my label, which may not be so difficult in an age when a number of Pennsylvanians are exploring the possibilities of making their own products.

As the PA government is opening the commonwealth to gambling, it is plain we must have a ready supply of liquor, too. You can see my drift -- the two have always been related vices, gambling and liquor. However, the Governor and our legislative bodies appear to be saying "yes" to distillers with historic importance, but "no" to big, modern distilleries. They are saying "yes" to the tourist industry, but "no" to the liquor industry. This is both interesting and satisfying to me, on a number of intellectual and moral levels. Personally, I would get into the whiskey business to preserve the Overholt heritage and to generate funding for acquisition of property, renovation of buildings and reclamation of land, but I would not do it for mere profit.

Abraham Overholt's Distillery Building at West Overton
Photo by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, 4-14-00

Anyone who has visited West Overton, or has seen photographs, knows the words OLD FARM are painted across the front of the Abraham Overholt Distillery Building. I am curious to find out when that signage first appeared, since the USPTO records show it was the Broad Ford Overholt Distillery that applied for the trademark. It is obvious from the whiskey label (see above) that the Abraham Overholt Homestead House is the one depicted, but I wonder how that came about? Incidentally, the photo below shows a tree with the same shape as the one appearing on the Old Farm whiskey label (see above).

The "Historical House" at West Overton (circa 1941)
A Short History of Westmoreland County, The first County West of the Appalachians,
by C. M. Bomberger, 1941, Jeannette Publishing Co., Jeannette, PA;
Found at Historic Pittsburgh (http://digital

Background Story

Those of you who have read all previous InterOverholt memos may recall my "Proposal For a Future Project," which appeared in the one dated April 28, 2000. At that time, I was reporting on the 200th Anniversary Dinner held at West Overton to commemorate the arrival (in 1800) of Henry Oberholtzer and his extended family on their newly acquired land in Westmoreland County. I had gone to the dinner literally carrying a heavy burden on my shoulders (see above, the distillery building photo). Along with my always overloaded purse, my bags held my copy of the newest Sanger book (which was huge), and two copies of the entire proposal I had sent to Jim Beam Brands, owner of the trademark Old Overholt and distillers of the straight rye whiskey made somewhere in Kentucky. The 1999 proposal had been rejected by Jim Beam Brands, but I wanted to pitch it to the folks at West Overton.

Depiction of an Early American Still
Read John Lipman's article about the Heaven Hill Distillery Bourbon Heritage Visitor Center in Bardstown, Kentucky. See a larger version of this photo -- click on the logo button in the bottom left corner of the page.
What I wanted to do was build at West Overton a historically accurate log cabin distillery like the one a young Abraham Overholt built in 1810. I wanted the little distillery to actually make whiskey in a historically accurate manner, and I wanted to put the product into historically accurate jugs and kegs (only souvenir-sized) and sell them over the Internet and to visitors at West Overton. As an Overholt of direct descent from Abraham, I wanted to earn money to help renovate West Overton. My opinion then was that this was a project the Jim Beam folks could not object to and even financially support, because West Overton had a right to commemorate young Abraham's first efforts as a commercial whiskey-maker. This old-fashioned whiskey could be named whatever seemed appropriate, for the Old Overholt trademark belonged to another era, anyway.

I wanted to do what my great-great-great grandfather had done before me -- earn revenue from making whiskey and invest it in the welfare of West Overton and the Extended Overholt Family, giving special attention to the direct descendants of Abraham Overholt. Together, we would be the first Overholts to make whiskey at West Overton since Prohibition took effect.

That was my plan back in 1999. Since doing research on Heiner v. Mellon (see my newest Research Article), I would now revise the date backward and declare, "We would be the first Overholts to make whiskey at West Overton since whatever day it was that Henry Clay Frick took posession of the property," considering the fact that Frick pretty much gave away Abraham Overholt's whole legacy, depriving his heirs of their heritage in every way imaginable. And after discovering the monumental buildings of A. Overholt & Company still extant at Broad Ford, I would certainly include the welfare of that historic site in the mission statement.

On that evening of April 14, 2000, I never got a chance to talk to then-Director Rodney Sturtz, but during the course of the dinner, I discussed my ideas at length with the three other people at my table. Imagine my surprise when one of them turned out to be a member of the Board of Directors. Perhaps it was naive of me, but I expected him or someone else on the Board to call me or write to me about the ideas I had shared, but that never happened. Never. Time passed. I thought the Board member forgot all about me, but I never gave up on my idea of building a log cabin distillery and making whiskey at West Overton.

Fast forward to February 9 & 10, 2004, when I made first contact with the new Director of West Overton Museums, Grant Gerlich. On Monday evening , the 9th, I tracked down his Pittsburgh phone number and called to introduce myself. I called mainly to leave my name and number, and the URL of my GeoCities web site, expressing my hope that he would call me when his schedule permitted a long conversation. It was a short, friendly talk. Before noon the next day, Grant Gerlich phoned from West Overton, and then we did have a long conversation, during which I expressed my hopes for West Overton and shared a number of ideas and opinions I had developed over the years.

I urged him to get the local Mennonite community involved, because West Overton was as historically important to them, as to the Overholt descendants. It was my contention that the Mennonite expression of Christianity was at the heart of the Overholt enterprises at West Overton. The Mennonites supplied the heart, the center, the balance of the family in a community of faith. Without this expression of a faith community, the heart was missing from all the endeavors at West Overton, and therefore, continuously unsuccessful. I suggested strongly that if the Board wished West Overton to be successful, they needed to include the Mennonites and the Overholts.

At one point, I said the Overholts needed to make whiskey at West Overton again -- first with a log cabin distillery like the one Abraham Overholt built when he first started making whiskey. We could name the whiskey anything we wanted, except Old Overholt, since Jim Beam Brands still owned that label. Grant helpfully suggested using one of the old names. Also, I said I had heard about the existence of a "recipe" for making Overholt Whiskey, which was in the possession of an old retired gentleman living in Florida.

The conversation was not all one-sided. Grant shared some of his own hopes for the site, regarding historic restoration and renovation projects, most of which I thought were worthy of support. He gave me some insight into how he approached the interview process with the members of the Board, and how saw himself in his role as Director. He had been asked, "Who do you believe West Overton belongs to -- the director or the Board?" He said is answer had been, "It belongs to the people (in the community)." I thought it had been a good answer, which kindled a hope that he would be a friend to me and develop a sympathetic ear for my vision of a future West Overton.

Fast forward to May 17, 2004, when Susan Karas and I stopped at West Overton on our way to Broad Ford. That was the day I met Grant Gerlich in person. At one point during our friendly conversation about all the projects he wanted to see happen at West Overton, he pointed down the road beyond the Distillery toward the Overholt houses, saying he had chosen a spot where he wanted to build a log cabin distillery. Smiling, I said, "That was my idea!" But he was excited about his proposed plans, had more to say on the subject, and continued on with no acknowledgement that the idea had been mine. Since I was in a hurry to get to Broad Ford, I did not pursue it. However, it was curious to me that the Board of Directors had decided to activate the log cabin proposal, without bringing me in on the plan.

It appeared the folks at West Overton were planning to make Overholt whiskey without an Overholt!

Old Farm & Old Overholt

Zip ahead to the last week of April 2005, when we had about $100 left in our checking account and hoped to see our income tax refund deposited in the bank "any day now." It was the middle of the night, and I was Google searching for "images" of all things Overholt. I came upon a site that displayed whiskey trademarks ( ), and upon searching for Overholt whiskey labels, I found that Jim Beam still owned OLD OVERHOLT and the "image of A. Overholt, deceased," and the mark was still active.

However, the trademark OLD FARM was "dead" and no longer active.

I admit it. For about ten minutes, I wondered what I would do if I discovered that the folks at Jim Beam Brands had forgotten to renew their trademark rights to the name Old Overholt. The odds were against this senario, so then I wondered if Old Farm was really "dead," and what that might mean to me. How much would it cost to buy a trademark, anyway? There had to be a way to determine the facts and assess the possibilities.

Once again, the Internet solved the mystery. I found the web site for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and did a proper search of their archived data. Currently, Jim Beam Brands Co. holds the trademark rights to the label OLD OVERHOLT, the name A. Overholt & Company, and "a portrait of A. Overholt, now deceased." The Trademark Assignment Abstract of Title shows "Registrant" A. Overholt & Company (Filing Dt: 10/30/1929, Reg. Dt: 3/11/1930) has had three assignments, as follows.

(1) CHANGE OF NAME: "Assignor" National Distillers Products Corporation to "Assignee" National Distillers and Chemical Corporation (Exec Dt: 5/1/1957, Recorded: 5/23/1957);
(2) ASSIGNS THE ENTIRE INTEREST AND THE GOODWILL: "Assignor" National Distillers and Chemical Corporation, "Assignee" James B. Beam Distilling Co. (Exec Dt: 5/26/1987, Recorded: 6/15/1987);
(3) CHANGE OF NAME: "Assignor" James B. Beam Distilling Co., "Assignee" Jim Beam Brands Co. (Exec Dt: 5/16/1988, Recorded: 8/4/1988).

I have additional information about today's Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey. If you search the PA Liquor Control Board web site for Old Overholt, you will not find it anywhere. You will get the same zero result if you search the Jim Beam Brands web site. A representative of Fortune Brands Co. ( is who you have to contact to get specifics about Old Overholt. Jim Beam Brands still "produces" it somewhere in Kentucky, and it is still available in Pennsylvania, but fans often have to request it in a "special order" at their local state stores. Sometimes they have to purchase a whole case (12 liter bottles per case).

The story regarding the trademark image of Abraham Overholt was interesting. The first use/first use in commerce date was 18880801 (08/01/1888); filing date was 08/30/1929; the owner was A. Overholt & Company Corp., but the last listed owner is shown to be Jim Beam Brands Company Corp. The fourth (10-year) renewal date was 20000916 (09/16/2000); the trademark consists of "a portrait of A. Overholt, now deceased." Since there are six different design search codes, perhaps the design was changed six times. The live/dead indicator shows "live," and the assignment data shows "this registration has been renewed."

What about Old Farm? Yes, the trademark (words only) OLD FARM was no longer active. The mark was first used in commerce on 03/01/1906. The data shows a filing date of 10/30/1929; register date of 05/06/1930; registrant A. Overholt & Company. A change of name was recorded 05/23/1957; assignor National Distillers Products Corp.; assignee National Distillers & Chemical Corp. The current status shows "This registration was not renewed and is considered to be expired." The date of status was 11/03/1992, and it was not transformed into a national application. The file was destroyed on 05/30/1996. The prosecution history shows a second renewal on 05/06/1970; cancellation instituted No. 999999 on 12/29/1980; expired Section 9 on 11/03/1992.

Four Ages of Overholt Whiskey ~~
Photo by John Lipman
(The Lipmans gave to me the bottle on the far right.)
Going Into the Whiskey Business

I would defy any other red-blooded American with Overholt Whiskey (figuratively) coursing through his/her genealogical chart to walk away from this opportunity! I had to find a way to own that Old Farm trademark.

My chance came when our income tax refund showed up in our bank account, automatically deposited and just in time to pay the mortgage and all the other bills that had been placed on "hold." I believed we would have enough left over for me to utilize $325 to procure a better future for my immediate and extended family.

On Sunday evening, May 1, 2005, I reread all the material I had copied from the USPTO site. Then I logged onto the timed one-hour application form and applied for the trademark rights to OLD FARM PENNSYLVANIA PURE RYE WHISKEY, using the same words shown in the 1929 application. Early in the online process, the applicant has to create a signature, and one blank requires the signatory's "position." I typed in "Great-Great-Great Granddaughter of Abraham Overholt, Distiller." Well, it made sense to me.

For a couple weeks, I tried to get in touch with political officials on the local level, trying to get information about the prospects of a business start-up of a whiskey distillery, because as far as I could tell, Pennsylvania had no codes or guidelines regarding the distilling business. The only worthwhile response came because of a short e-mail I sent directly to the Governor's Office. My thanks to Faith S. Diehl, for sending me the letter, and thanks to Nancy Edmundson, who made sure I got it in an e-mail. I received the original (on Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board letterhead) a couple days later by regular mail. The bold font below is mine.

June 8, 2005

RE: Whiskey Distilling Business in Pennsylvania

Dear Ms. Overholt Critchfield:

This office is in receipt of your e-mail dated May 16, 2005 addressed to the Governor. The Governor’s office has asked the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (“Board”) to respond. In your e-mail, you ask what the Governor’s administration’s policy is regarding the whiskey distilling business. You further explain that you would like to acquire a small, abandoned distillery, renovate it as a historic site, and distill spirits for sale to the public.

Initially, please be advised that it is the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (“Bureau”), and not the Board, which enforces the liquor laws in Pennsylvania. This office is authorized to issue opinions to Board licensees that are binding on the Bureau. Since you are not a Board licensee, the following is offered for your guidance and information only.

On behalf of the Governor, the Board thanks you for your letter.

In response to your question, the Liquor Code section that applies to licenses issued is codified at section 505 and provides, in pertinent part:

Licenses Issued—Upon receipt of the application in the form herein provided and the proper fees, that Board may grant to such applicant a license to engage in, (a) the operation of a limited winery or a winery; or, (b) the manufacturing, producing, distilling, developing, or using in the process of manufacturing, denaturing, redistilling, recovering, rectifying, blending and reusing of alcohol and liquor; or, (c) the holding in bond of alcohol and liquor; or, (d) the holding in storage, as bailee-for-hire, of alcohol, liquor and malt or brewed beverages; or, (e) the transporting for hire of alcohol, liquor and malt or brewed beverages.

[47 P.S. 5-505].

A distillery license is required to produce distilled spirits in Pennsylvania. [47 P.S. 5-505].

On December 8, 2004, Governor Rendell signed House Bill 2105 into law. Now known as Act 239 of 2004, the law made changes to numerous sections of the Liquor Code. One such change applies to distilleries of historic interest. The Board is now permitted to issue a distillery of historic significance license to any distillery established prior to 1875. The holder of such a license may manufacture and sell liquor produced by it to the Board, licensees, and to the public. Production is limited to twenty-thousand (20,000) gallons or less per year. [47 P.S. 5-505.4; eff. 2-6-05].

Should you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact this office.

Very truly yours,


cc: Honorable Edward Rendell, Governor
Jonathan Newman, Chairman
Jerry W. Waters, Director, Bureau of Licensing

The "small abandoned distillery" I was thinking of acquiring was close to West Overton and had a lot of historical connections to the Overholt Family and Overholt Whiskey. And, no, Broad Ford was not the one on my mind (see article below). Beyond getting the Broad Ford Overholt Distillery placed on the 2004 Pennsylvania At Risk list of Most Endangered Historic Properties, no more progress had been made toward saving what was left of the buildings or the property.

What I want for the Broad Ford property is reclamation, renovation and designation as a state or national park. But none of this will even begin to happen until I can have a face-to-face meeting with the present owner, and can generate support for these activities, or influence the owner to sell the property to someone, or some foundation, willing to support these activities. I had been unable to have a promised meeting with Sullivan D'Amico before his death (in February 2005), or with his son since then. Considering that the D'Amicos are now busy reestablishing their business concerns at a new location, it appears the matter of the Broad Ford site will have to wait.

Taken from the article, Shop 'n Save Moving to Uniontown, by The Tribune-Review, June 8, 2005:

The soon-to-be vacant space at Laurel Mall, located along Route 119, will be filled by Pechin Shopping Village, which recently announced plans to relocate to the mall from its long-time home on a narrow country road in Dunbar, Fayette County. . . .

The move to a more prominent location marks a bold step for Pechin Shopping Village, which got its start 58 years ago. The supermarket has thrived by offering low prices through bulk and direct purchasing.

Donald D'Amico, president and CEO of Pechin, said he plans to turn the Shop 'n Save into Pechin's new supermarket by mid-July, a complex that will include a bank, delicatessen, and a bakery. He also wants to locate a restaurant there.

He also plans a sporting goods store, a variety store, beer distributor, a pet-supply store and others.

In a short telephone conversation in early May, Donald R. D'Amico told me he did not know what they are going to do with the Broad Ford property, or whether they will even keep it. With a major relocation and business expansion going on, it is easy to see they may not be setting up an appointment for me for a long time. The length of the delay worries me.

It was March 22, 2004, when Sully D'Amico bought the 7 acres of a "medium industrial park," sold to him in a "free & clear sale" for the price of $37,000. What might be the asking price today, should Pechin Leasing Inc. wish to divest themselves of this old property? I have no idea what the price would be. Would I like to own the Broad Ford property? Yes, definitely, and for many reasons! But that is not likely to happen without funding. If there was a foundation working with me on this project, the equation would be different. For one thing, a non-profit could apply for the kind of state funds available for buying at-risk historic sites.

Hold that thought! I will come back to it later on in this memo.

The American Whiskey Trail
is a cultural heritage and tourism initiative of the Distilled Spirits Council in Cooperation with Historic Mount Vernon.

The Story Continues on the American Whiskey Trail

Skip ahead to May 22, 2005, when the Tribune-Review published a feature story entitled, "On the Whiskey Trail," by Jerry Storey. (Yeah, the reporter's name is Storey.) One of the ladies in our church choir gave me the article from her own Sunday paper, and later, I found the article online, but minus several photos that appeared in the newspaper.

"On the Whiskey Trail"

The very first paragraph gave me pause. "Grant Gerlich, executive director at West Overton Museums, near Scottdale, would like to establish a small distillery at the site where Old Overholt whiskey had its beginning."

The story went on at great length to describe the seven historic sites on the new American Whiskey Trail, which is a project of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the national trade association "representing producers and marketers of America's favorite brands of distilled spirits." Judging from the material they are presenting online, this group is as serious about adults drinking responsibly as they are serious about the integrity of their products.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

The jewel in the American Whiskey Trail will be the reconstructed distillery of George Washington's Mount Vernon, and will represent the colonial era of whiskey-making. The Pennsylvania connection here is the renowned Whiskey Rebellion, represented by the Oliver Miller Homestead in Allegheny County's South Park (not far from where we live in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh.) You may wish to visit the web site and see all the locations featuring whiskey distilleries, rum distilleries, and historical sites on the Trail. West Overton is designated as one of the historic sites, although it does not currently have an example of a working distillery.

With this article's publication, it was plain to me that the log cabin distillery project would come to pass, sooner or later. Somebody would be funding it, maybe even the folks at Jim Beam Brands.

The Samuel Dillinger Distillery

The distillery I had in mind, when I wrote to Governor Rendell, was the old Samuel Dillinger Distillery in Ruff's Dale. For good reasons, I was worried that the folks at West Overton would not be inclined to include me in their log cabin distillery project, so I was thinking the Dillinger site might be the next best location. Of course, there is very little left, but the buildings are reportedly still solid.

An e-mail friend, Sam Komlenic, is an expert on the history of that site and knows the background story of Samuel Dillinger's rise to a world-class whiskey distiller (see the Lipmans' article on By checking out the genealogical connections, I turned up some startling facts that neither Sam nor the Lipmans knew about, thereby putting Dillinger Whiskey on the Overholt Whiskey map.

Early on, Dillinger made a living as a teamster, driving a Conestoga wagon back and forth over the Alleghenies, transporting goods (like Overholt Whiskey) between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. He learned about whiskey from the Overholts and Stauffers, and by taking a Loucks girl for his wife (her mother was an Overholt), he married into the Extended Overholt Family.

Overholt & Dillinger at West Overton
Photo by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, 6-18-05

Was Dillinger Whiskey another Overholt Whiskey?

Abraham Overholt's older sister, Anna Overholt, married Peter Loucks and had 9 children, including Sarah, who married Samuel Dillinger. Sarah and Samuel had 8 children, including a few sons who followed their father into the whiskey business. See the full story in my feature, The Overholt-Dillinger Connection.

Let me make this part short by reporting that Sam found out someone bought the property. It had, after all, been for sale for a long time. However, I still wanted to see the site, just in case the new owner might be persuaded to allow us to set up a small batch distillery and make some Overholt whiskey (for me) and Dillinger whiskey (for Sam, provided he bought the trademark rights to the name). I needed just enough to solidify my trademark rights. On July 4, my son Matthew was going to accompany me on a drive out to Ruff's Dale, where we would meet Sam and the property owner, and take our time recording history in pictures. However, barely ten minutes from the time we were to pile into the car, I checked my e-mail, and found Sam wrote to say the owner had been injured, so the trip was called off. The prospects of making the trip on some other day never materialized.

Besides, shortly thereafter, I was too ill to go on a long drive. The health complications I had been dealing with due to scleroderma got worse, so for the rest of the summer and into the fall, I was pretty much house-bound. As week after week went by, my original hope became my best hope again -- that West Overton would be the future site of Overholt Whiskey production. BUT would the members of the Board there work with me? As individuals or as a group, they had never communicated with me on any subject. The silence had been deafening!

Before going any further, I shall explain my reference to scleroderma.

Living With Scleroderma

In the fall of 1999, I was diagnosed as having CREST Syndrome. Now, why on earth would I develop an autoimmune illness? Maybe my immune system became compromised when I lived in North Africa? Maybe it could be traced to my three years in West Texas, when we lived downwind of the desert where the U.S. military tested all those atomic weapons? Maybe we lived too close to the UFO crash site of Rozwell, New Mexico. I have lived in many environments, and have had to adjust to many different climates and a wide assortment of flora and fauna. In good conscience, I cannot be surprised that my immune system became disfunctional somewhere along the long road of my passage through life. There were all those military issue shots we were given before we went overseas, and then after we came back. And what about that rusty nail in Tripoli, the tumbling tumbleweeds in Big Spring, the flying roaches in Biloxi, the living with pesticides in Tampa . . . ? Well, the list is endless.

I will not bore you with all the details, because they are too detailed to bother with in this memo. However, this is an illness that is still being explored by medical science. Back in 1999, it was suggested that CREST might be a precursor to scleroderma. Today, however, CREST Syndrome is defined as the limited form of scleroderma (aka, progressive systemic sclerosis). Even the term CREST (in which each letter stands for a different malady) is considered passe.

About five years ago, I believe my case moved from the limited form into the diffuse form. Since then, my entire digestive system periodically shuts down and will not jump-start, no matter how many remedies are used. This summer, I was in so much pain for such a long period of time, that I seriously thought I would die. After a month of serious strife, it took three months to mend, during which time I had too much time to ponder just how short a time a lifespan could be. It was a case of "The future is now!" and "Is that all there is?" Enough said on that subject.

Creating The Extended Overholt Family Foundation

For half a year, I have been collecting information that would help me establish a small family foundation.

It is my wish create a non-profit that will focus on the financial support and historic renovation of West Overton, the financial support and renovation of the Broad Ford Overholt Distillery, the ownership and renovation of the A. Overholt & Co. building at the Broad Ford site, the reclamation of the land and surrounding areas of both sites, and the promotion of Abraham Overholt, Overholt Whiskey and the Extended Overholt Family past, present and future.

As a writer engaged in publishing original works online, I have applied for the pro bono help of a local attorney through the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. When everything is worked out, I will publish a report. Once the foundation is established, I will invite all interested members of the Extended Overholt Family to join and/or donate time, money or professional services toward reaching a number of specific goals. As a non-profit organization, the foundation will be able to apply for other types of funding, the kind of funding that would support historic renovations, etc.

There is no telling how long it will take to accomplish this, but it is absolutely necessary, if I expect to get any real work done. It would be nice if the organization is legal by January 15, 2006, which is the anniversary of Abraham Overholt's death, 136 years ago. The next best date is April 19, 2006, which is the anniversary of Abraham's birth, 222 years ago. It would be nice to have a ceremony at West Overton to launch the foundation.

Properly funded, The Extended Overholt Family Foundation could change the course of history.

Grant Gerlich at the Abraham Overholt Homestead House
(See Grant? He is standing between the two big trees, dressed up for Founder's Day.)
Photo by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, 6-18-05

Conversation at West Overton

Three important things were accomplished this past summer, before I became really ill. With Matthew, I (1) visited West Overton on Founder's Day; (2) visited the Abraham Stauffer Homestead House and with the new owners; and (3) visited two of the four local cemeteries most important to my genealogy work -- the Mennonite Cemetery in Alverton and the Scottdale Cemetery. [Look for two new web pages soon.] We came upon the cemeteries because we were lost several times in our attempt (a) to get to West Overton, and (b) to get back to Pittsburgh. Matthew was reading the maps, but truth be told, between the confusion of Route 819 and 981, by the end of the day, anyone could end up on the Pennsylvania Turnpike going to Greensburg, right? Once we reached the toll booths on the outskirts of Greensburg (try saying that three times, fast!), I managed to get us turned around and headed back to Pittsburgh. But I really hated to be on all those speedy highways. I am a person who does not mind driving 25 miles an hour on country roads.

Let me refrain from further elaboration on #2 and #3 above, and stick with the visit to West Overton.

The trip occurred two days after my 56th birthday. It was around 2:00 p.m., when Matthew and I finally arrived at West Overton for the Founder's Day festivities. What we found was a quiet afternoon and no crowds of visitors! Oh, there were a few people wandering around the premises, visiting the Overholt Distillery Building and Abraham's Homestead House, and we could see Grant Gerlich dressed as "a gentleman of means," up near the house -- the host waiting to greet people. But the first order of business was to find the (one) public bathroom in the big barn. Three ladies (associated the the local Y) were in the big barn, sitting at a table set up to serve hot dogs cooked in sauerkraut. For a small cash donation, a visitor could get a hotdog in a bun (with or without the kraut) and a soft drink. Judging by the too few bills that were in the donation box, and the huge pot still holding a large amount of the offered food, very few people had come in that day for hot dogs.

I began a converstation with the ladies, and asked where were all the people? No one knew, and the event was supposed to end at 4:00 p.m. After a hot dog and a can of coke each, Matthew and I went to find Grant Gerlich, for there was a lot I wanted to talk about with him. While framing the photo seen above in the little window of my one-time-use Kodak camera, I was silently asking a question of myself and of corporate West Overton.

Would this white picket fence turn out to be a barrier I could not overcome?

I snapped the photo, went through the gate, walked right up to Grant, and smiling, told him he looked like he just got off a riverboat, had lost everything he owned, and was waiting around for the next "mark" to come by.

Well, he remembered me, so I introduced my son. "Where are all the visitors?" I asked. Ruefully, he shrugged, saying last year's event went very well, bringing in many visitors. There was a young man hovering nearby -- a college intern, who had just spent a week at West Overton learning about the trials and tribulations of running a small historic site. Throwing caution to the gentle breezes, I began to share what was on my mind. I talked about the Abraham Stauffer Homestead House that Matthew and I were going to see that same day. I brought up the fact that the Stauffers also made whiskey, that a man named Samuel Dillinger had learned a lot about the whiskey business from the Overholts and Stauffers, and had become an important whiskey distiller, himself.

Grant was surprised at my mention of Dillinger, because just a week before, someone had come by and given him a bottle of Dillinger Whiskey. He had not known of the connection to Overholt Whiskey, but now he did. I continued telling tales, sharing a bit about John Lipman's latest ruminations about why Overholt Whiskey was exceptional, touching on the possibility that European and Early American history had a lot more to do with its success than most people would surmise. I said it was a story that would probably be told in one of the Lipmans' future articles for

Spilling the Beans About the "Original Recipe"

Standing there on the grass, I began to "spill the beans" to Grant about "the recipe,"declaring there really was an "original recipe" for making Overholt Whiskey, that I knew who had it, and had even spoken on the phone to him at some length about two years previously. Evidentally, back when the Broad Ford Overholt Distillery was sold for the last time, a master distiller (upset about the impending forced-demise of the distillery and the end of a valued way of life) kept in his posession "the recipe" for making Overholt rye whiskey. This man gave it to his son, who kept it in the family.

I admitted it would be great if I could utilize that original recipe to make a "next generation" Overholt Whiskey, and that I was hoping to influence the members of this family to give me access to the formula.

Spilling the Beans About My Trademark Application

Standing there on the grass, in plain sight of the OLD FARM sign painted across Abraham's first big Distillery Building, I began to tell Grant about my application for the trademark rights to the name Old Farm Pennsylvania Pure Rye Whiskey. Making it as plain as possible, I told him I was looking forward to the log cabin distillery project getting under way at West Overton, for I wanted to be involved.

I shared my hope that the historic old Dillinger Distillery site in Ruff's Dale would be renovated and be included in the American Whiskey Trail. And if whiskey were to be made there again, even if in small batches, I would be able to utilize my trademark on whiskey made very close to West Overton. And if the Broad Ford Overholt Distillery site was to be renovated, there would be a triangle of local history regarding Pennsylvania rye whiskey.

I showed Grant the letter generated by my e-mail query to the Governor's Office, pointing out the relevance to the Dillinger site AND to West Overton (see letter above). I encouraged him to utilize any available funding regarding the renovation of historic distilleries.

A Rare Old Bottle of Dillinger Whiskey
Next to A Rare Old Overholt Whiskey
Photo by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, 6-18-05

Founder's Day 2005 at West Overton
Matthew, Grant Gerlich & Intern
Photo by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, 6-18-05

Karen at the Antique Pump
Photo Taken by Matthew Critchfield,
K. R. Overholt Critchfield 6-18-05

The sky was threatening rain, but my heart was happy. A great burden of amassed information had been spilled and my spirit was feeling light. I asked Matthew to take a picture of me at the old pump. It was a symbolic gesture. I wanted to express my willingness to work hard to make the future brighter -- to prime the pump with funds from a new foundation, to pump new life into West Overton and Broad Ford, to mind the pump to prevent wasted assets. My mind was spinning with pump references!

A Quick Tour of Abraham's House

Well, the last few workers and visitors were leaving, and the intern also had to leave. Founder's Day 2005 had ended. Grant invited Matthew and me for a quick tour of Abraham's House. The first thing I noticed was that Abraham's big portrait no longer hung at on the wall at the top of the first flight of stairs. We were allowed to explore the second floor of the house, which I have always wanted to do. At the top of the steps and to our left, we saw the (now) small room that had been used by a young Henry Clay Frick on occasion. I have to admit that when I stepped over the threshhold, I immediately "saw" in my mind's eye a skinny young boy, dressed mostly in black, but with a big white collar and white cuffs showing at his wrists. Grinning, he took a step back and flung wide his arms, as if welcoming me into his room. Then the image evaporated, having lasted a mere heartbeat from one moment to the next. In my heart, I believe that little boy loved being in that room.

The next room was being used as Grant's office, set up with a desk, computer, office machines, etc. It was here, said Grant, that an Overholt had hanged himself in the corner after a long period of depression. I acknowledged the corner with a deliberate and respectful nod.

And there was Abraham's portrait! I took a couple pictures of Matthew standing there next to it, and Grant snapped a couple with me standing with Matthew. In one corner, Grant had set up a few memorable items -- a poster of Rick Sebak's THINGS WE'VE MADE program, a couple important documents honoring West Overton, and two bottles of old rye whiskey -- the Dillinger and the Old Overholt (see above). Not long after that, Matthew and I drove off to visit with the new owners of the Abraham Stauffer Homestead House, but that story will have to wait for a while longer. When we got into the car, I was feeling good about this long conversation with Grant Gerlich. I hoped to hear from him or the members of the Board of Directors soon. But as the last week of December 2005 begins, I have yet to be approached -- by mail, e-mail or phone -- about any of the things I shared that day.

Mother & Son with Abraham's Portrait
Photo Taken by Grant Gerlich, K. R. Overholt Critchfield, 6-18-05

David C. Overholt & The National Trust for Historic Preservation

On May 5, 2005 (i.e., 5-5-05), I received an amazing e-mail from Dessalee, an Overholt living in Michigan. At work the evening before, with a few minutes of free time between appointments, she had Googled the words "Overholt Switzerland" and discovered my GeoCities web site. She printed out some pages, took them home, and presented them to her brother, a retired history teacher. The next day, the 5th of May, she wrote to me, saying "hello" and adding a quick family tree from Marcus Oberholtzer to Samuel Oberholtzer to Martin Overholt, etc. We were distant cousins from different branches of the Overholt Family Tree. Over the next few months, our e-mails to each other revealed not only shared interests, but also a number of similar life experiences.

In a note dated September 16, Dessalee mentioned she had an Overholt relative whose son worked in historic restoration, which of course immediately interested me. I was elated to learn that an Overholt was established in the field of historic restoration. After a great bit of sleuthing on her part, Dessalee found out how to write to him, and sent copies of my Internet work. Letting me know David Overholt worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, enabled me to do an Internet search and find their web site. I learned about the renovation projects he had worked on, the latest being the President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument in Washington, DC, serving as the Preservation Projects Director.

President Lincoln and Soldier's Home National Monument

By searching the publications of the National Trust, I found evidence they are aware of the plight of several abandoned once-great American distilleries (see URLs below). I found this heartening, as I was preparing to write to David. Then I sent the e-mail, and he wrote back to both of us, "I was fascinated by all of the material you sent. Thank you so much for bringing me up to speed on this historic site and the history it represents." He said he would lend a hand where he could in my efforts to preserve the distillery, and was interested in visiting Pennsylvania to tour the site and learning more about my branch of the Overholts. It was a very nice note.

I immediately sent an e-mail to Grant Gerlich, with a cc to David Overholt, introducing David to Grant, because I thought Grant would like to facillitate a future visit to West Overton Museums and, perhaps, to the Broad Ford Overholt Distillery. I asked Grant to please keep in touch, because I wanted to be a member of that tour, when it came about. I was eager to meet David, and looked forward to having a long talk about historic preservation. Then I composed another e-mail to David, thanking him for writing, and sharing a few ideas I had about creating a family foundation.

It appears the National Trust for Historic Preservation puts out a list every year devoted to their pick of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The deadline for nominations for the 2006 list is January 18, 2006. This is very interesting to me, and I will explore the possibilities. If you would like to check out the articles I mentioned, the URLs are below.

"Low Spirits in Kentucky"

"Distillery Crawl"

My Plan to Start a Small Family Foundation

It is my plan to form a small family foundation and generate funding for all the projects I wish to happen. I have almost reached the end of what I can do here at home, working on the computer. And as I have said before, my motto has had to be, "If it costs money, don't do it!" This is no way to change the course of history -- the way to begin the change, maybe, but to actually do the work, no. Every morning, I wake up saying to myself, "I have work to do!" When it comes to West Overton and Broad Ford, I cannot do this work alone. I need a foundation. We need a foundation. Other foundations have their own specific concerns, their own mission statements. The Extended Overholt Family Foundation -- if properly funded by donations and state and national programs -- could concentrate on its own goals, instead of knocking on other doors seeking consideration. Foundations are the way worthwhile things get done these days.

The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council has a program that endeavors to line up local artists with attorneys willing to offer pro bono services. On October 7, 2005, I submitted a Request for Legal Assistance, via e-mail. It was seven pages long and covered my background in the Arts (mainly as a writer), a description of the art I create (i.e., my web page articles featuring the history of the Extended Overholt Family as part of the history of Western Pennsylvania, and my play, A Tale of Stone Soup), a description of the nature of the problem or need (rising from my wish to engage in research that will require money, and the need to make and keep appointments for the purpose of generating interest and support for West Overton and Broad Ford), an exploration of whether I am financially eligible for pro bono assistance, and a resume of my educational background and work experience.

My application was accepted, and I am awaiting notification that an attorney will help me.

Hoping All Goes Well

Well, I cannot think of anything more to add to this memo, except that I hope all goes well in the coming year. I offer that prayer to my whole family, and my extended family. And I offer it further to include everybody on planet Earth. Let us end with another reference to Star Trek.

Live long and prosper!

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