Tarr, William

1825 – 1911

Land Speculator and Distiller

William Tarr was born on June 22, 1825, in Paris, Kentucky.  His first business venture was cultivation of a watermelon patch on the family farm.  With these funds, he became a mule trader and farmer.  Before the Civil War, he entered the distilling business and in 1871 established Wm. Tarr & Company – which acquired the Ashland Distillery in Lexington, Kentucky.  He produced the Ashland and Wm. Tarr brands of whiskey.  During his distilling career, he produced more than sixty thousand barrels of whiskey and paid over $3,000,000 in excise taxes to the Federal government.

In 1873, Tarr became one of the principals of 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.  During the depression of the 1890s, he suffered financial reversals connected to the endorsements of notes for family and friends.  In 1897, he was forced to assign the distillery and his assets over to receivers.  This receivership lasted until 1911.

In 1898, he retired to his farm.  His owned large tracts of farmland in Bourbon County, Kentucky, and in Eastern Kentucky.  His farm was known as Park Place, five miles from Paris on the Maysville Pike.  He maintained a large park for deer on this farm open to the public.  The Kentucky Union Railroad built its right-of-way through his property in the mountains. [i]


[i] Lexington Herald, January 20, page 2, column 3; Lexington Leader, January 19, 1911, page 8, column 3 and The Bourbon News, December 20, 1911, page 1, column 4.

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