Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Richard Nicholas Wathen Medley

Male 1906 - 1980  (73 years)


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  • Name Richard Nicholas Wathen Medley 
    Born 10 Aug 1906  Owensboro, Daviess, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Died 6 Mar 1980  Owensboro, Daviess, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Siblings 4 siblings 
    Person ID I7640  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others
    Last Modified 23 Oct 2020 

    Father Thomas Aquinas Medley,   b. 27 Aug 1876, Springfield, Marion, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Aug 1940, Owensboro, Daviess, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 63 years) 
    Mother Florence Ellen Wathen,   b. 1 Apr 1881, Lebanon, Marion, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 Sep 1943, Owensboro, Daviess, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 62 years) 
    Married 26 Nov 1902  Lebanon, Marion, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Family ID F4367  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Edna "Nana" Watson,   b. 30 Dec 1911, Estill County, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 109 years) 
    Last Modified 23 Oct 2020 
    Family ID F4376  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • He was president of the Medley Distilling Company, and (as Wathen, the name by which he went) he is one of the five Medley brothers depicted on the Medley Brothers bourbon label.

      Account of the Medley Distilling Company, written 15 Jun 1974 by Richard Nicholas Wathen Medley:

      THE DAVIESS COUNTY DISTILLING CO. from 1874 to 1940, MEDLEY DISTILLING COMPANY from 1940 to 1974

      In 1873 the Daviess County Distilling Co. was organized; it began its operation in the Spring of 1874. The brand name was Kentucky Club and was used continuously until 1928. In that year the Daviess County Distilling Co. plant, brand names, good will, and inventory were sold. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution had prohibitated the distillers from replenishing their inventories, and they could no longer afford to operate their bottling house on the small number of barrels left.

      The land along with the distillery and all other buildings was sold to the Field Packing Co. The brand names and inventories were sold to the Wathen brothers, who with the coming of prohibition had organized the American Medicinal Spirits Co. This company was organized to operate a bottling plant from the old R.E. Wathen Co. plant in Louisville. The Wathen brothers also formed a concentration house, as the Federal Government had made it mandatory to move inventories to these central concentration warehouses, after the inventories over the state began to get small. These concentration houses were also allowed to distill whiskey under permits to maintain the medicinal whiskey bottling at a certain level.

      During all the prohibition period from the Spring of 1917 to the end of the prohibition period in 1933, the Daviess County Distilling Co. kept its corporate name alive. It was not sold with the other Daviess County Distilling Co. assets.

      In the course of time from 1873 the Daviess County Distilling Co. became largely owned by R. Monarch. He along with his brothers had before the turn of the century become the largest and possibly the most famous bourbon distillers in Kentucky. Just before 1900 they controlled most of the distilling in Daviess County.

      Late in the 1890s hard times began to befall numerous distillers in Kentucky; in 1897 R. Monarch, possibly the largest of all, was forced to make an assignment.

      In 1901, when the Daviess County Distilling Co. affairs were ironed out, a group of Jefferson and Nelson County distillers -- Graeman McGowen of the Greenbrier Distilling Co., Nelson County; M.A. Wathen of the R.E. Wathen and Co., Louisville (Old Granddad); R.H. Edelen of Mattingly and Moore, Nelson County; George G. Brown of Brown-Foreman, Louisville; and D. Meschendorf of the Old Kentucky Distillery, Louisville (Early Times Distillery is now located on this property) -- reincorporated the Daviess County Distilling Co. with the same plant, brands, good will, etc. The above group ran in the Fall of 1901, and then in the spring of 1902, 1903, and 1904. This group also leased the distillery for some small runs to be made for R. Monarch.

      In the reorganizing of the company, there were 1000 shares at $100 per share, with all shares fully paid. R.H. Edelen was the largest stockholder. GEORGE E. MEDLEY held one half of the stock of R.H. Edelen. This arrangement was understood by the other shareholders. Also, D. Meschendorf and GEORGE E. MEDLEY held an option giving them the right to purchase all the shares by a certain date. Messrs. Meschendorf and MEDLEY exercised this option in August of 1904. At the same time they acquired the whiskey made from 1901 to 1904 by the Daviess County Distilling Co.

      The new owners of the Daviess County Distilling Co. made their first run in November of 1904. The distillery ran every year until forced to close in May of 1917 because of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

      THOMAS A. MEDLEY (the eldest son of GEORGE E. MEDLEY and Anna Isabella Simms MEDLEY) upon graduation from Notre Dame University in 1900 with a Bachelor Degree and a Law Degree Magna Cum Laude entered the practice of Law in Springfield, Kentucky. He was also appointed master commissioner of Washington County.

      GEORGE E. MEDLEY (1850-1910) started his career as a school teacher. From teaching he went into the General Store owned by Bob Simms, whose brother Captain Patrick Simms enlisted in the Confederate Army at Bowling Green on October 6, 1861 in Company "A" of the 6th Kentucky Calvary. Patrick Simms was captured and spent the last two years of the war at Fort Delaware, Maryland. At the end of the war he was returned to Springfield and resumed his practice of law until his death in 1902. Patrick Simms' grandfather James Luckett Simms and Anna Isabella Simms Medley's father Thomas W. Simms were first cousins. In 1910 Thomas W. Simms had married his second wife, May Lee Simms, the daughter of Patrick Simms and Nannie Craycroft. Thomas W. Simms' first wife, Margaret Ellen Montgomery, the mother of his children, had died in 1908.

      It was while working in the Bob Simms' Store that GEORGE E. MEDLEY first met Anna Isabella Simms. She became a very frequent customer to the Store and it is said almost always for items they never seemed to have. On November 9, 1875 GEORGE E. MEDLEY and Isabella Simms were married. By this time he was trying to make a success of a mercantile concern called MEDLEY, Cunningham, and Duncan. This venture was not a success, so GEORGE E. MEDLEY finally got into the business of his paternal grandparents, as well as of his maternal grandparents (Edelen). His Uncle John Simms by marriage and his brother-in-law John Simms were with Mattingly and Moore Distillery.

      His first venture in the whiskey business was with F.G. Walker Distillery, whose brands were "F.G. Walker" and "Queen of Nelson." His success here led to his position with Mattingly and Moore of Nelson County.

      Mattingly and Moore was owned by John Simms and R.H. Edelen. R.H. Edelen was the largest stockholder in the reorganization of The Daviess County Distilling Co. in Owensboro in 1901.

      R.H. Edelen's grandfather Robert was a brother of Alice Edelen who married THOMAS MEDLEY (1785-1855) the grandfather of GEORGE E. MEDLEY. THOMAS MEDLEY'S father JOHN MEDLEY (1765-1814) was a distiller, as can be shown by his inventory made in Washington County in 1814. Also, John's wife Elizabeth Nottingham Medley, in her will of 1834, mentions the "carrying on" of this distillery by her son. JOHN MEDLEY had two stills as did most commercial distillers of that period. One of these, the smaller one, is on display at MEDLEY Distilling Company and is owned by JOHN ABELL MEDLEY of 320 Maple Avenue in Owensboro. He is a son of THOMAS A. and Florence Ellen Wathen MEDLEY and is a sixth generation direct descendant from JOHN MEDLEY (1765-1814) who came to Kentucky in 1800.

      In 1904, when GEORGE E. MEDLEY and D. Meschendorf became the owners of The Daviess County Distilling Co., Mr. Meschendorf became President, GEORGE E. MEDLEY became Vice-president and General Manager, and THOMAS A. MEDLEY was made Secretary and Treasurer.

      THOMAS A. MEDLEY had, on November 26, 1902, married Florence Ellen Wathen, the daughter of R.N. Wathen of Lebanon, Kentucky, a distiller and son of one of the oldest (1788) and best known distilling families in Kentucky and the nation.

      As Secretary and Treasurer of The Daviess County Distilling Co., THOMAS A. MEDLEY arrived in Owensboro (his first time) at midnight on September 12, 1904. His letters and bills show that he lived at the Rudd Hotel (torn down in 1974) until a letter of October 8, 1904 written to his father stated: Nell (his wife) is here. Our furniture has just been put into the house. We will sleep there tonight for the first time. Nell was sick on the train coming down and Mr. and Mrs. McCulloch were on the train and did all in their power to help her. She is all right now. Baby is fat and doing well. There is no other news except that Aquilla Blandford is very sick and is running a high fever. We are all well and send love.

      (The baby referred to is now MRS. WILLIAM M. O'BRYAN of 1124 Griffith Avenue in Owensboro. The house mentioned is still standing on the south-east corner of Third and Orchard, just opposite Goose Egg Park. One of the younger Monarchs lived in the other brick house.)

      The Mr. McCulloch mentioned was the owner of the Green River Distilling Co. which was made famous by Mr. McCulloch's advertising "Green River -- The Whiskey without a Headache" and his old picture of an old colored man and a broken down horse with a jug of Green River hanging from the saddle. The caption under the picture said "She was bred in Old Kentucky." This distillery burned down in 1918 and the property is now occupied by the Medley Distilling Company. The Daviess County distilling Co. (1873-1928) joined the Green River Property along the Old River Road. This is now part of Field Packing Company.

      The Daviess County Distilling Co. in 1933 (1933-1940) acquired the Rock Springs Distilling Co. site which was sometimes known as Hill and Hill Distillery. It was owned and operated by Silas Rosenfield prior to the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment.

      GEORGE E. MEDLEY never moved to Owensboro until 1909. He did not get to live long in the home he purchased here at 1220 Frederica Street as he died in this home on December 24, 1910. He had operated the Distillery by training his sons and by almost daily letters to his oldest son THOMAS A. MEDLEY. When BEN F. MEDLEY, the second son, became a distiller he had been trained at the Old Kentucky Distillery in Louisville. When GEORGE E. MEDLEY was in Kentucky, he wrote from the Old Kentucky Distillery office where he had access to stenographers. When at home in Springfield, which was not often, his letters were sometimes typed by the oldest daughter MARGARET MEDLEY (1878-1966) who never married.

      On July 4, 1905 THOMAS A. MEDLEY wrote to Mr. D. Meschendorf that he was celebrating the 4th with the arrival of a ten pound baby girl. This was ISABELLE MEDLEY, who married William Jagoe on February 21, 1946. She died without issue on February 15, 1967. THOMAS A. MEDLEY, in writing to a schoolfriend in 1907 who had written to Springfield in search of him, wrote that he was secretary and treasurer of The Daviess County Distilling Co. and that his brothers next in age (BEN and WILLIAM) were with him. He stated that it was a fine large distillery and that they were making a success of it. He told about his marriage on November 26,1902 and that they had two girls and two boys and "I do not believe you will find healthier children or finer looking children anywhere." (These children were MRS. WILLIAM M. O'BRYAN - HELEN; MRS. WILLIAM JAGOE - ISABELLE; R. WATHEN MEDLEY who married Nana Watson from Richmond, Kentucky on April 21,1934 and who lives at the old homeplace; and GEORGE EDWARD MEDLEY III who died unmarried in 1935.)

      GEORGE E. MEDLEY was President of The Daviess County Distilling Co. at the time of his death December 24, 1910, as Mr. Meschendorf had resigned because of ill health. Immediately after the death of GEORGE E. MEDLEY, his son THOMAS A. MEDLEY was made President and Chairman.

      Upon the death of GEORGE E. MEDLEY, his widow became the largest stockholder in The Daviess County Distilling Co. and his sons acquired the Meschendorf interest. Mrs. George E. Medley lived at 1220 Frederica Street and kept her family together until her death July 30, 1938. After this date her maiden daughter MARGARET and her bachelor sons GEORGE E. MEDLEY, JR. continued to live where they had lived so long. GEORGE E. MEDLEY, JR. died suddenly June 11, 1942, after which time the writer and his family have continued to live at 1220 Frederica Street.

      Mr. Meschendorf did not last long after the death of his long time friend and partner GEORGE E. MEDLEY. Mr. Meschendorf died in San Antonio, Texas on November 11, 1911 where he had gone for his health.

      THOMAS A. MEDLEY remained President and Chairman of The Daviess County Distilling Co. until his retirement in 1938, after which BEN F. MEDLEY was made President.

      From a very small beginning in 1873, The Daviess County Distilling Co. had, by the time it closed in May 1917, produced in excess of 100,000 barrels. Most of this production came from 1906 to the enforced closing in 1917.

      After the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933, The Daviess County Distilling Co. was able to start producing bourbon in the reconstructed plant (old Rock Spring Distillery) by October of 1934. The mashing capacity was worked up as warehouses could be built to 3,500 bushels of grain per day, making about 350 barrels per day. By October 2, 1937 the distillery had made 200,000 barrels of bourbon.

      While the sons of GEORGE E. MEDLEY were negotiating with The Reishmann Distilling Co. for the sale of The Daviess County Distilling Co., another group of MEDLEYS, a generation younger, was negotiating to acquire the defunct Kentucky Sour Mash Distilling Co. property. The Sour Mash plant was new, having been completed in 1937. It was small, but was well engineered and was built to be expanded and was also on an old proven site. This was the old Green River property lying between The old Daviess County Distilling Co. and The new Daviess County Distilling Co. (old Rock Spring). All these locations were old distillery sites, and now in using the term old, it means the names of distilleries that existed on them before World War I.

      The MEDLEY brothers (sons of THOMAS A. MEDLEY) were able to acquire the Kentucky Sour Mash property late in 1939, and were able to get it into production as the MEDLEY Distilling Co. in July of 1940.

      Reishmann was able to consumate its purchase of The Daviess County Distilling Co. in May of 1940 with no production time lost. GEORGE E. MEDLEY, JR. was made Manager, which position he held until his death. THOMAS A. MEDLEY, JR. left Reishmann to be Distiller for the Old Colonel Distillery at Midway, Kentucky.

      After World War II, the MEDLEY Distilling Company's production was pushed as fast as possible. By 1950 it was able to mash over 1,600 bushels of grain per day.

      The MEDLEY Distilling Company had been incorporated on February 20, 1939 with R. WATHEN MEDLEY as President and Chairman, GEORGE E. MEDLEY III as Vice-President, JOHN A. MEDLEY as Secretary, and BEN F. MEDLEY II as Treasurer.

      THOMAS A. MEDLEY, SR. was not physically able to take an active part in the new MEDLEY Distilling Company. Also, he had agreed to stay out of the distilling field for five years when he and his brothers sold to Reishmann. He was always anxious to help with his advise and he was never too sick to want to know what the "boys did today." MEDLEY Distilling Company's first production in July 1940 was taken to Louisville and shown to him. He seemed proud to know that his sons had started but he never got to visit the MEDLEY Distilling Company as he died August 20, 1940 at St. Joseph Infirmary in Louisville.

      In 1958 MEDLEY Distilling Company began negotiations with Renfield Importers Ltd. of New York. Renfield Importers Ltd. brought in many high class imports, but wanted to get into the domestic distilling field.

      THOMAS A. MEDLEY, SR. had known Joe Renfield for some time. Renfield was a purchaser of bourbon from The Daviess County Distilling Co. for blending and bottling in the East.

      Upon the sale of The Daviess County Distilling Co. the MEDLEY Distilling Company management was able to carry on this good will which resulted in Renfield Importers Ltd. purchasing all the stock of MEDLEY on January 31, 1959. After this sale MEDLEY operated as an independent company, just as they had in the past, with the same officers and directors. Mr. Morris Holtz of Renfield was made a Vice-President and Director of MEDLEY, too.

      At the time of the sale of MEDLEY to Benfield, all the MEDLEY stock was owned by R. WATHEN MEDLEY, JOHN ABELL MEDLEY, and BEN F. MEDLEY. Later, BEN left MEDLEY Distilling Co. to build the Old Stanley Distilling Co. at Stanley, Kentucky.

      The two older MEDLEYS (WATHEN and JOHN) have retired since 1971, but the MEDLEY Distilling Company still has MEDLEYS in key positions. There are sons of WATHEN and EDWIN there to carry on the seventh generation of direct distilling descendants from JOHN MEDLEY (1767-1814), who was born in St. Mary's County, Maryland and who came to Kentucky with his wife and seven children in the Spring of 1800 and who had two more children - ELIZABETH and JOHN PHILLIP - in Kentucky. CHARLES W. MEDLEY now serves as the master distiller and Director of Production. BRYON EDWIN MEDLEY is also there.

      Of the four different distillery locations owned by the MEDLEYS in Kentucky, all were in Daviess County except one. All three of these Daviess County distilleries were located in the same bend of the Ohio River adjacent to each other.

      GEORGE E. MEDLEY'S experience in the bourbon whiskey field was a wide and varied one before he ever became interested in Daviess County.

      THOMAS A. MEDLEY spent a great deal of time telling of why his father wanted to get to Owensboro to make bourbon. His first reason was the thousands of acres of river bottom corn land; the second was the unlimited underground water supply that never changed winter or summer or flood or drought; the third was the immediate availability of cheap coal; and the fourth was the river and rail transportation, especially to the West and South where the best bourbon markets existed; and finally there existed in Owensboro and Daviess County a wealth of experienced distilling labor with "know how."

  • Sources 
    1. [S312] John Medley (1615-1660), St. Mary's County Maryland, His Descendants, by Mary Louise Donnelly. Ennis, Texas: Mary Louise Donnelly, 1995.