Megibben, Thomas Jefferson

1831 - 1890

Distiller and Turfman.

Thomas J. Megibben was born in Clermont County, Neville, Ohio, and at an early age relocated to Cynthiana, Harrison County, Kentucky.  He was the largest landowner in the county, with twenty eight hundred acres of land.  He built “Monticello,” a mansion overlooking the Licking River in Cynthiana, with three floors and twenty-seven rooms.  He raised shorthorn cattle and thoroughbred horses on his farms.  He horses competed twice in the Kentucky Derby (1882 with Newsbury and 1884 with Audrain – third place).  Megibben founded the Latonia Race Track and Jockey Club and was president of the Shorthorn Cattle Breeders Association of Chicago.  He was also the President of the Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders Association from 1873 to 1882.

Around 1850 he established the Megibben & Bramble Distillery on the Licking River at Lair, Harrison County, Kentucky and produced Excelsior.  He sold the distillery in 1868 to his nephew.  In 1857, he purchased the Edgewater Distillery, also near Lair, and established a large cattle farm.  By 1882, he increased capacity to 50 barrels per day.  Their brands were Edgewater Bourbon and Edgewater Rye.



In 1879, he became a partner in the Ashland Distillery, with William Tarr, in Lexington.  In 1880, he also purchased the Van Hook Distillery in Harrison County and sold it in 1888 to one of his sons-in-law.  In 1880, he became a millionaire overnight when excise taxes were raised and he had several warehouses full of whiskey on which a lower tax had already been paid.  Megibben was elected the first President of the Kentucky Distillers Association, when it was organized in 1880 at Louisville, Kentucky  He continued to be active in the organization until his death.  In 1884, he assumed the operations of the Paris Distillery.  After his death in 1890, he had interest in six distilleries.

In 1873, he became one of the principal partners in the Kentucky Union Railroad and related companies.  He personally guaranteed the bonds in 1883 to start construction of the rail line.  Financial problems forced him to sell the railroad in 1886 at a large loss.

William M. Ambrose, Bottled In Bond under U. S. Government Supervision, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2008.