Headley & Peck (1872 – 1894)

The Woodland Distillery was built in 1872 by the partnership of Headley & Peck.  The partnership consisted of John A. Headley and Charles Y. Peck (his brother-in-law).[i]  Headley had previously been associated with the Henry Clay Distillery.  The distillery was located on Harrodsburg Pike, at the first tollgate, about one mile south of Lexington.  The plant was on the one hundred-acre farm owned by Robert L. Crigler[1] of Covington, Kentucky.  The partnership had invested capital of $30,000.

The distillery was built of brick, with the capacity of three hundred bushels or thirty barrels per day.  The grain bill was seventy-five (75%) percent corn and twenty-five (25%) percent rye and barley.  The firm had twenty-five workers, paid $1.75 per day.  The annual capacity was four thousand barrels, with a ten-month production schedule.[ii]

The distillery had nine thousand square feet of space.  It employed twelve fermentation tubs of six thousand gallons and three hundred mash tubs of eighty gallons.  The doubler’s capacity was one thousand gallons.

The company had four bonded warehouses with the storage capacity of fourteen thousand, seven hundred barrels.  Three of these warehouses were frame and iron-clad construction (Warehouses A, C, and D had capacity of four thousand, four thousand and thirty-five hundred barrels, respectively).  Warehouse B was of brick construction, with the capacity of thirty two hundred barrels on two floors.  In 1882, the company had six thousand five hundred barrels in bond.

The plant was supplied water from a cave spring on site.  The cave was rumored to be the site of an old Indian campground.  Two hundred fifty thousand gallons of water were drawn daily.  The plant had a fifty horsepower steam engine.

Postcard, circa 1888

The company produced the Woodland brand of bourbon in barrels only.  The broker firm of Crigler & Crigler of Covington bottled and handled the distribution of the distillery’s products.  In 1888, the firm advertised Lexington Copper Whiskey for $1.45 per proof gallon.  They also distilled John Robb Whiskey.

Envelope, circa 1880s

After the death of Headley in late 1880, his son, William “Will” H. Headley, assumed his position.

Crigler & Crigler Embossed Bottle, circa 1890s

Headley & Peck Distilling Company:

In 1891, the Headley & Peck Distilling Company was incorporated and assumed the operations of the old partnership.  This was done because of Peck’s poor health (he died later that year).[iii]  T. Logan Hocker was appointed President, Garland R. Bullock[2] appointed Secretary and Will H. Headley appointed Treasurer.  Hocker was the son of James M. Hocker, a banking partner of John A. Headley.  In addition, William Webber was the distiller, Charles Bates the yeastman and Armstead Mitchell the engineer.  The company last distilled during the 1892 season.

On January 1, 1894, Hocker resigned as President, since the company was unable to pay his salary.  Major Bullock replaced him as President.  This was following the Panic of 1893.  At the time, the company had stored in its warehouses five thousand three hundred and nineteen barrels of whiskey.  Another nineteen hundred and eight barrels remained from the partnership.  Warehouse receipts had been issued on all of these barrels.

Roughly half of these receipts had been issued to Crigler & Crigler, with others issued to L. Welschoff & Company, Henry W. Smith & Company and Joseph Silverman.  These three were whiskey brokers from Cincinnati.  In addition, a number of receipts were issued locally to saloon and bar owners.

Corkscrew, circa 1900

On February 14, 1894, a storm with high winds took the roofs off of the company’s bonded warehouses.[iv]  The next week, Will Headley left town, with his three-year-old daughter, for a business trip.  He left behind his four other children, ranging in age from fourteen months to eighteen years.  Before leaving, he had gone to D. A. Sayre & Company, a private bank, and withdrawn $900 in company funds.

Several days later, his eldest daughter received a letter from him indicating that he had fled to Mexico and admitted to issuing fraudulent warehouse receipts for $50,000 over the previous few years.

The distillery had been in financial difficulties for several years due to the depression in the whiskey market.  He was not known to be a gambler or heavy drinker.  However, Headley had lost his wife the prior year.  His admission shocked most of the people who knew him.  Ephraim D. Sayre, his banker, indicated that he had “done business with Will Headley for twenty-five years and that he was always straight in his dealings.”

Major Bullock, the President of the company, immediately summoned Robert L. Crigler, owner of the property and large holder of warehouse receipts, to Lexington.

Crigler assumed control and ordered that no whiskey be removed from the warehouses until an inventory was taken and more information was discovered.  A locksmith had to drill the lock to open the safe and gain access to the company records.  The Warehouse Receipt Book, with the stubs indicating whom the receipts were issued to, was located inside.

 The inventory of the warehouses showed seven thousand seventy- nine barrels (five thousand two hundred sixty-five belonging to the company and eighteen hundred fourteen belonging to the partnership).  There appeared to be no missing barrels of bonded whiskey.  Had there been missing barrels, the Internal Revenue Bureau would have demanded payment for the excise taxes due on the missing barrels.  Crigler had signed the bond for the distillery for the excise taxes.

Headley was the only officer to issue warehouse receipts.  Major Bullock was completely cleared and remained to manage the company’s affairs.  Fred Peck, son of Charles Peck, was also left in charge of the distillery’s office.[v]

Price List, circa 1909

Headley was discovered to have issued receipts for a total of eighteen hundred barrels of bourbon, allegedly produced in 1892 and stored in the bonded warehouses.  However, the company had only produced six hundred barrels during 1892.  The losses to these fraudulent receipts totaled over $30,000.  The firm of Crigler & Crigler accounted for half of the loss.[vi]

In March 1899, the distillery (and surrounding one hundred acres) was sold at public auction for $31,000 to Major Bullock, bidding for Crigler.  This auction cleared the $17,000 mortgage of the Savings Loan & Building Associations of Louisville.  Bullock was bidding against John T. Shelby, bidder for the Whiskey Trust.[vii]  The Woodland brand was included in the sale.

In 1899 Woodland Whiskey became the official whiskey of U. S. Government Hospitals, which managed the veteran homes for Civil War solders.  The brand also became the whiskey of the Wabash Railroad and the Pennsylvania State Insane Asylum.

In dry areas, Woodland was distributed by drummers (sales representatives) door to door – who took orders for the whiskey, which was then shipped from the distillery to the customers.  Since the deliveries were COD, no laws were violated.  These sales representatives made a commission of $.50 cents per case.

The distillery also supplied these sales representatives with “Agents Complete Outfits” – which consisted of corkscrews, jigger glasses, order forms, flyers, sample miniatures and a free quart.  The distillery also provided incentives ranging from revolvers and derby hats to gramophones and wool suits.[viii]

Shot Glass, circa 1905

In 1901, the closed distillery (and adjoining one hundred acres) was sold again at public auction for $21,900 to the Security Trust & Safety Vault Company (bidding for Mrs. J.  Will Sayre).[ix]  Mrs. Sayre converted the property into a farm, demolished the distillery and used the brick warehouse as a tobacco barn.  In 1928, the farm was converted into the Picadome Golf Course.  Some of the bricks from the bonded warehouses were salvaged to build the Picadome Golf Course Clubhouse.

Tip Tray, circa 1900

The Woodland brand was retained by the Criglers and the remaining inventory was bottled in Covington until the 1910s.


Serving Tray, circa 1900s


[1] Robert L. Crigler (1834 – 19__), a prominent wholesale whiskey dealer and rectifier of Covington, Kentucky.  Crigler was reared in Boone County, where he remained until sixteen years of age, and then moved to Cincinnati (where he clerked in a dry goods store until he was twenty-one).  He then formed a partnership with his brother and operated dry goods businesses in Paris and Lexington.  His firm, Crigler & Crigler, extended into whiskey and traded extensively with the western frontier after the Civil War.  In 1868, they purchased the Buffalo Springs Distillery, Stamping Ground, Kentucky.  They distilled Buffalo Springs sour mash and Old Stamping Ground rye whiskey.  In 1880, Crigler entered the wholesale whiskey business in Cincinnati.  In 1885, the company acquired the New England Distilling Company, Covington, Kentucky (where they relocated their offices).

[2] Garland R. Bullock was a Major in the Union Army during the Civil War.  In the late 1890s, Major Bullock became the Commissioner for the Internal Revenue Bureau for Eastern Kentucky.



[i] Deed Book 51, page 116 and 231 and Deed Book 78, page 14, Fayette County Clerk Office.

[ii] Perrin, page 211 – 12 & Cecil, page 69.

[iii] Lexington Leader, May 24, 1891, page 2, column 4.

[iv] Lexington Transcript, February 14, 1894, page 5, column 3.

[v] Lexington Leader, February 27, 1894, page 1, column 4 –5, February 28, 1894, page 1, column 1-3 and March 13, 1894, page 1, column 6; Lexington Morning Transcript, March 18, 1894, page 1, column 5 and March 21, 1894, page 1, column 5 and the Lexington Herald, September 25, 1900, page 1, column 3.

[vi] Lexington Morning Transcript, March 24, 1894.

[vii] Lexington Leader, March 13, 1899, page 1, column 6.

[viii] Carson, page 160.

[ix] Lexington Leader, September 10, 1901, page 8, column 6.

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