T. W. Samuels
Jesse James surrendered to him
Taylor William Samuels was the most prominent family member in the early years of the clan’s distilling business. Although ole T. W. was actually in the third generation of the family that distilled whiskey, the recent family of Maker’s Mark fame thought that he was the first. In 1844 T. W. turned his father's little farm distillery in Deatsville, Kentucky into a large commercial operation. It was called the T. W. Samuels & Son Distillery. His son's name was W. I. Samuels and he helped his father in most facets of the business.
In addition to distilling, Samuels was also the Nelson County Kentucky High Sheriff. In the waning years of the U. S. Civil War, T. W. convinced many confederate soldiers including Jessie and Frank James to surrender their weapons and give themselves up during a shooting spree that they were on. It didn't hurt that he was their step-cousin and they already had known each other as teens when T. W.'s uncle Dr. Reuben Samuels married the James boys’ mother Zarelda. Years later the James Gang went on to become some of the most notorious outlaws in U. S. history by robbing banks, stagecoaches and railroads.
According to records the first commercial distillery on the family’s farm at Samuel's Depot, Kentucky just a short distance from where the Jim Beam Distillery sits today. Sometime in the early 1880's T. W.'s son William L. Samuels took over the family business. Distillery records show that in 1892 that the distillery was of frame construction with a slate roof. The property included two bonded warehouses, both iron-clad with metal roofs including Warehouse B which was 200 feet north of the still building. Warehouse D was located some 220 feet northwest of the still building and 46 feet west of Warehouse B. The warehouses were known for it’s unique stair step designed rack houses, it had greater chimney effect forcing more heat to the top floors. There was a detached railroad depot and an old free warehouse, of frame construction for holding supplies and to ready things for shipping. W. I. Samuels and his father T. W. both died in the same year in 1898.
Upon the death of W. I. Samuels the distillery passed to his son Leslie B. Samuels who ran the distillery. The distillery and six warehouses were destroyed by fire in 1909 with a loss of $120,000, including 9,000 barrels of whiskey. Their brands at the time were "T. W. Samuels" and "Old Deatsville". In 1913 The Star Distilling Company out of Cincinnati, Ohio purchased a majority control of the company, buying out most of the other Samuels' family interests. Leslie retained his 30% share of the company and remained as manager until the plant closed in 1920 because of Prohibition.
In 1933 when prohibition finally came to an end T. William (Bill) Samuels, Sr. actually viewed the 170 year-old family recipe as sub-par and tried several times as a young adult to convince his father Leslie to change it. They did not and went back to business as usual, producing their family's legacy bourbon and ole T. W.’s recipe.