Lovely City

Lovely City

This is another of a series of historical articles on Anderson County and her people.

Clinton Courier News
April 14, 1977

County Historian

Lovely City was county’s smallest incorporated town
At site of U. S. distillery

It’s a lovely place — this spot in Anderosn County that became the smallest incorporated town in the county (some say in Tennessee). It is located on the south bank of Coal Creek, near the former site of a water mill and at the foot of a picturesque bluff where clear, cold springs of water flow out of almost solid rock.

But the fact that it is a beautiful place is not the reason it was called Lovely City. It was because George W. Lovely owned the land and the mill. He, with his neighbors, applied for and received from State of Tennessee a charter of incorporation for a town to be named Lovely City. And in that town United States Registered Distillery No. 200—Second District, Tennessee, was in operation. It was requisite that a government distillery be located in an incorporated municipality.

Of course there is no town or mill to be seen now, but a little town was there at the turn of the century. If things had not happened as they did, a thriving town might be there today, still bearing the name Lovely City. Who knows?

The story is intriguing, as pieced together from so many sources. Legal issues were involved, and subsequent litigation covers several pages of offical court records.

The description of the toen boundary is of historic interest. It mentions running on one side wtih the Henderson and Co. line a distance of 125 poles. The Henderson and Co. big Survey is one of the important historcial and geographical descriptions connected with Anderson County. Also Lovely’s Mill, included within the town boundary, was one of the old water mills in the county. The Island Ford road which touched the Lovely City boundary at one point is one of the oldest roads through Anderson County.

The petition for a town charter was filed in Chancery Court held in Anderson County June 8, 1897 by the following citizens and freeholders: G.W. Lovely, David Lovely, J.A. Cornwell, Cornelius Hatmaker, W.H. Hatmaker, J.A. Maples, T.J. Morgan, M.B. Hogan, J.R. Webb, Rich Green, Bud McGhee, William Greer, sr., T.W. Green and C.M. Leinart. Previous notice had been given by publication in the Clinton Gazette and by posting printed notices at three places within the proposed boundary.

A referendum was held. The 17 qualified voters cast their vote unanimously for corportation. The charter was signed by the Tennessee Secretary of State June 21, 1897.

George W. Lovely was elected mayor of the town. There was only one ward, with two aldermen — W.H. Whitaker and M.B. Hogan. Mark Herrell was constable, and J.A. Cornwell was recorder.

George Lovely emigrated to Tennessee from Pennsylvania where he was in the tannery business. It was not known exactly when or why he began running the distillery, which is believed to be the only government distillery ever operated in Anderson County. At the time he decided to incorporate, top production of the distillery was about 33 gallons a day. Each bushel of corn produced three gallons of whisky.

Lovely ground the corn at his mill but said “custom grinding always came first.” He and a couple of helpers ran the still. His son John helped out some until he decided to join the army and stayed to make it his career. Wood was hauled by oxen to keep the still going.

A federal inspector and gauger was at the still when it was in operation. He collected the tax and labeled the wooden barrels for shipping.

Each full container shipped from Lovely City eas labeled “Registered Distillery No, 200 — 2nd District, Tennessee.” It was hauled by wagon to the L & N depot in Coal Creek (now Lake City) and shipped by train to Louisville where it was aged, bottled and labeled. Some was old under the name Log Cabin. Whisky stilled at Lovely City was said to have come out 110 to 115 proof, having to be cut to 100 at a Louisville or Cincinnati rectifying house.

Pure limestone water was considered best for the purpose of this was abundant in the narrow valley of the giant bluffs on the Lovely farm which became the town. The still was place near a stream and waterfall in this hollow, and water was piped from the spring to the still. The stillhouse, which contained an office and storage ran a few yards away, and Lovely resident not far distant.

The town was once described as having six dwelling houses, a schoolhouse, a post office, a distillery, a saloon and a calaboose, inside the corporate limits. Other houses and buildings were nearby.

Some of Lovely’s relatives remember that the wholesale price of the whisky was around $1.40 to $1.50 per gallon. Most of it was shipped at the wholesale price to Louisville or Cincinnati. Some was retailed at Cornwell & Furr’s barroom there in the town, at 10 cents a drink. Those were the pre-prohibition days.

Prohibition, plus a legislative act which provided that a town must have a population of 1,000 before it could be incorporated, changed the picture for Lovely City. But since the Lovely City charter was granted before the act was passed, some say it is still an incorporated town.

[Submitted by Brenda Foster]

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