THE WALDSCHMIDT, KUGLER, AND CINCINNATI DISTILLING STORY. HOW DOES IT ALL CONNECT?
In 1794, Christian Waldschmidt, a veteran of the American Revolution and businessman, crossed the Allegheny Mountains and traveled down the Ohio River on a flat boat. After a few days journey they reached the mouth of the Little Miami River. Waldschmidt knew his war time buddy, Kasper Schutz, had a tavern in the area so he and his companions decided to stay and explore the area.
Waldschmidt was impressed with the region for the trails that they believed could become main roadways as well as the ease of transporting goods along the Ohio River. He was so impressed that he traveled down the river to Cincinnati and purchased 1140 acres of land from John Cleves Symmes. This land is located in present day Camp Dennison.
Waldschmidt and his fellow travelers got to work quickly clearing trees, building houses and fortifying their defenses against Native Americans.
Within two years of breaking ground 20 families joined the Waldschmidt settlement which he named New Germany. They built a church, a general store, grist mill, saw mill, woolen mill, a blacksmith, a distillery and the very first paper mill in Ohio.
One year later in 1797 Mathias Kugler's family moved to New Germany and Mathias ended up working for Christian Waldschmidt for $8 a month when he was 17. A romance quickly developed between Mathias and Christian's daughter Catherine Elizabeth and they married in 1798.
Christian Waldschmidt's business empire started to take shape very quickly in the Miami Valley. He was unique in his approach to his paper mill business in that he employed mostly women and bought ads in Cincinnati to encourage people to send him linen as well as produce it for his mill. In-turn he ended up sparking a textile revolution in Cincinnati. The mill proved very lucrative and helped fuel Cincinnati to become the #4 publishing business in America.
In addition to employing women in his mills Christian also started the first night school in Ohio for his workers to learn how to read and write.
Christian Waldschmidt and his son passed away in 1814 from the flu. At the time of his death he was considered one of the most wealthy people in the entire state of Ohio. He had no will so his son in law Mathias Kugler and his wife (Christian's daughter) Catherine became the owners and managers of Christian's businesses as well as New Germany as a whole.
Fire destroyed most of the mills and the distillery in New Germany in 1828, but the paper mill was spared. Shortly after the fire Mathias's son John Kugler became a full partner in the family business "Kugler and Son." They still had enough capital after the fire to purchase the bankrupt Pearson and Pierson Mill and lot #1 in Milford, Ohio for $12,000. Lot #1 is the site of the Millcroft.
Mathias and Catherine remained at the Waldschmidt homestead at Camp Dennison while John and his wife Matilda moved to Milford. This allowed both families to manage the huge paper enterprise that they had created.
After John and Matilda moved to Milford the family bought another distillery built by Daniel McCleland at the North West corner of Water and Elm streets. They also purchased McCleland's tannery and shoe shop.
The Kugler family was also heavily involved in the meat packing industry as Cincinnati became known as "Porkopolis." Mathias owned the packing business while John raised pigs on his farms outside of Milford. County farmers would sell the Kuglers logs, hogs, corn, rye, wheat and hemp. The Kugler's mills and distilleries would then turn the raw materials into products and send them to Cincinnati to sell.
John Kugler took pride in his fast horses that he would take down to Cincinnati almost daily to check on his shops downtown. He kept these prized horses in the stable which now houses our modern day tasting and taproom.
In the late 1830's Mathias became a major shareholder in the Little Miami Railroad. In 1842 he became the director. John, at this time served as Milford's second Postmaster and as a trustee after Milford was incorporated. At this point there was not a single industry in Cincinnati that the Kugler's did not have their hands in.
John Kugler built a distillery at 220 Mill Street in 1843. It consumed so much grain that he built a corn warehouse at 224 Mill Street. Sadly in 1848 the distillery burned down. In a newspaper article from that time they suspected it to be arson. Kugler rebuilt the distillery later that year.
At its height the distillery produced 3814 barrels of whiskey a year. Because of the demand John built the stone building at 246 Mill Street. The bottom floor served as a rickhouse and the top floor served as a cooperage. Both the distillery and this building were essentially across the street from his home which currently houses our distilling operation.
During the Civil war John let Ohio troops use the New Germany settlement as a training ground and camp. That is when the name was changed to Camp Dennison named after William Dennison, Ohio's governor at the start of the war.
At the time of his death John Kugler owned multiple mills, distilleries, 16 lots of land, and 1500 acres of farmland. All of present south Milford at one point was Kugler farmland. All operations but the mill stopped after his death. Many people lost their jobs and Milford struggled to recover.
Up until 1939 The Millcroft had always been a private residence. The house was opened up as a tea room called the "Gilcroft." From that point forward The Millcroft has changed hands and mostly spent its life as various restaurants and stores through the years.
A local developer bought The Millcroft and planned to demolish the entire property to build six townhomes and six flats. The people of Milford banded together to prevent this developer from demolishing the historic buildings on the property. Later in 2018 Cincinnati Distilling purchased the property with the pledge of preserving the historical house and stable while building a distillery, a museum, an event space, and a rooftop bar.
Currently, construction is underway and we are excited to share our progress on our blog with you!