Published on October 6, 2023.
Not all he seems to be…
Inside the office of Mr. Jack Daniel, hangs a picture taken around 1900. It is of the man himself with the rest of his distillery crew. It is an interesting photograph, steeped in history. What makes the portrait so intriguing is the gentleman sitting immediately to Jack’s right, an African-American worker. Given the time period when this photograph was taken and the racial divide that permeated the American South, it’s intriguing to see an African-American man seated beside the proprietor of a business. But their proximity to one another in this photo underscores the remarkable relationship that is at the heart of how Jack came to make whiskey.
The man in the photograph below is George Green. Along with being Jack’s friend, George was also the son of Nathan “Nearest” Green. the man who taught Jack Daniel about making whiskey at a still owned by Lutheran minister, Reverend Dan Call
Leaving home at an early age, Jack eventually came to live and work on the Reverend Call’s farm by the late 1850s, before Jack had reached his teenage years. It is said Jack had a difficult relationship with his stepmother and that’s why he left home. The Call farm was located about five miles from Lynchburg, near Lois, Tennessee. The farm had a still which Jack quickly took an interest in. It was the time prior to the Civil War and Emancipation and the Call still was under the watch and care of an enslaved man named Nathan “Nearest” Green. The Reverend Call and his distiller, Nearest, taught Jack how to make whiskey. Most of that mentoring, however, fell to Nearest who worked side by side with Jack and taught the young distiller what would become his life’s passion.
After the Civil War, Reverend Call’s congregation and wife gave the preacher an ultimatum: walk away from making whiskey or walk away from his work as a minister. Call made the decision to sell his business to Jack, who hired Nearest, a now a free man, to be the very first head distiller of the Jack Daniel Distillery. While slave labor was a part of life in the South prior to the Civil War’s close, Jack Daniel not only never owned slaves but he worked side-by-side with them as a hired hand to Dan Call. When it came time after the war to establish his own distillery, Jack’s crew were all hired men.
Nearest would work with Jack as his first master distiller until Jack moved his operation to the Cave Spring Hollow sometime after 1881. Nearest’s sons George and Eli and his grandsons Ott, Jesse and Charlie continued the Green family tradition, working at Jack’s distillery in the Cave Spring Hollow. More than 150 years have passed since Nearest and Jack first began making whiskey together, and, to this day, there has always been a member of the Green family working at the Jack Daniel Distillery. The photograph still hangs in Lynchburg in Jack’s old office as a reminder of where it all started.
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About the author
Chloe looks after all copywriting and proof-reading for Drink Warehouse UK, working with the Marketing team to deliver educational content to all our customers. She has spent many years in the hospitality sector, moving from behind the bar to now helping venues to stock their own. You can find more from Chloe about beer, cider, spirits, wine, non-alcoholic, soft drinks and RTDs all over our blogs, website, social media and Set The Bar magazine.