Over the years I have led several tours of Cave Hill Cemetery, discussing the famous people of the spirits industry buried there, as a fundraiser for this historic cemetery. Cave hill is always worth a visit as it is an old cemetery designed by Benjamin Grove back in the 1840s. It was designed to not only be a place for the final resting place of family members, but also a place of nature with many trees planted there to enhance the beauty of the site. It is a fascinating tour and can be done by anyone with the Cave Hill app on their smart phone. The homepage of the link has a place for “tours” and “Bourbon Distillers Tour” is one of the options. The tour has the location of many of the distillers plotted with GPS and you can find the graves easily by using your phone. It also has some written material about each of the people to aid your understanding of their life. Some people have more information than others but it is still a very nice feature. Of course the best tour is one with a guide such as myself who can help explain the role each of these people played in Bourbon Heritage.
There is a lot of interconnection between these people. A good example of this is the Brown family with George Garvin Brown and his children being part of the tour, but also his older Brother J.T.S. Brown, Jr. and his cousins James and Frank Thompson. Of course J.T.S. Brown had a large whiskey firm of his own which was actually large than the one owned by George Garvin Brown before prohibition. James Thompson was George Garvin Brown’s cousin and partner in the 1880s, who went on to found James Thompson and bro. with his brother frank. During prohibition this firm changed its name to Glenmore Distilleries. George Garvin Brown’s last partner, George Forman is also buried in Cave Hill.
Another group of people with ties includes W.L. Weller and his sons John, William, Jr. and George. Then there is Frederick and A. Ph. Stitzel who would eventually form Stitzel-Weller under Alex T. Farnsley and Julian P. Van Winkle, all buried in Cave Hill. Paul Jones, the founder of Four Roses, is buried in a large mausoleum in Cave Hill. He died in Atlanta and rested in that city for two years while his mausoleum was prepared and his body was then moved to Cave Hill. John Atherton, who founded Athertonville Distillery and town, is buried in Cave Hill. His life ended in the city where he was a leader in promoting education not only in Louisville but all through Kentucky. T. Jeremiah Beam is buried just a few feet away from Colonel Harlan Sanders. Philip Hollenbach, who purchased the Stitzel Bro. Distillery in the 1880s, is buried not far from Frederick Stitzel. There many other members of distilling families buried at Cave Hill. Just driving through the place you can see grave markers with names like Wathen, Stoll and Taylor all through the place. Some of these are bound to be tied to the distilling industry as well. A little more research is called for to enhance this tour.
The Cave hill Cemetery tour of Distillery greats can be done easily by car. It would be possible to walk the tour as well but it would be a walk of several miles and many hills. I would not recommend this to those who have trouble walking long distances or limited amount of time. Even by car you will often have to get out and walk a bit to find the actual gravesite.
A trip to cave Hill is a great way to spend the day. Visiting the grave sites of the distillers will help you understand that these really were real people who made Bourbon as we know it today.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl