The “Boehm” family emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1752 to Berks County, Pennsylvania. Jacob L. Beam was the fifth of ten children and was born in 1760 in Pennsylvania. Nicholas Boehm, Jacob’s father changed their last name to Beam to fit in better in America. But Nic died an untimely death at the age of only twenty-nine. Widowed with many young children, Margaretha, Jacob’s mother moved to Frederick, Maryland in 1766 when he was only six.
They moved into a large plantation owned by Jacob’s uncle Jost Myers. It was there that the Beams learned how to be self-sufficient farmers, where they grew fruit tree, grapes, tobacco and grains. It was in Frederick, Maryland that Jacob Beam learned how to ferment grapes into wine, apples into hard cider and rye whiskey as a teenager.
In 1775 Daniel Boone and James Herrod cleared the Wilderness Road to Kentucky. The western migration quickened when General George Rogers Clark defeated the British in the Northwest Territory. In 1785 the Federal Government paid Jost Myers 800 acres in Kentucky for his service in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Two years before Jost Myers’ death, Jacob courted and married his wife Catherine “Mary” Eagle in 1785 and had ten children over the next 19 years including four boys and six girls. Jacob Beam laid claim to a parcel of that land in 1787 when his uncle died. In 1788, Jacob took his family through the Cumberland Gap on a long and arduous trip and settled in Nelson County, Kentucky.It took five years in a barely functioning legal system in the infant state of Kentucky to transfer all 800 acres into eight 100 acre tracts. These tracts were then given to relatives of Jost in 1792.
Back in 1785, a group of 50 Catholic families from Baltimore, Maryland led by Basil Hayden settled in Nelson County. The Beam’s became their neighbors and learned more about distilling whiskey. After 3 years of bumper crops of corn and other grain products Jacob began to distill his first whiskey in 1795. After the whiskey he produced became popular in his home county (Nelson) and another next door (Washington), he started buying the other seven 100 acre tracts of land from his relatives. By 1810 he owned all 800 acres and sent his first Barrel of whiskey to New Orleans. They liked it so much that they started ordering more whiskey on a monthly basis.
The three oldest of Jacob’s sons continued on in the Bourbon trade, Jacob Beam, Jr. (1787-1844), John Beam (1798-1834) and David Beam (1802-1854). But it was his son David Beam that helped him most in the whiskey business.
Banner photo from Pearlfisher