Fawn Weaver of Uncle Nearest

In just four years, Fawn Weaver has gone from New York Times Best Selling Author and Entrepreneur to starting the Nearest Green Foundation and a whiskey brand Uncle Nearest - and all because of a trip to Singapore. Hear her incredible story.

Listen to the Episode

Show Notes

I mean it when I say, I think she should be up for Time's "Person of the Year." Fawn Weaver has done more than just build a whiskey brand - she is going beyond talking about finding solutions and is actually doing something to make the world a better place.

And it isn't about putting a whiskey in your hand. Although that has its place. She found her mission in the story and friendship of Jack and Nearest and as an author of books on love, she brings that focus, not only to the whiskey that she's bringing us, but also to the industry and the world.

I hope you enjoy this last interview of the year. And know there is a whole lot more to come in 2021. Have a safe, festive, and happy new year! Cheers and slainte mhath. Drew

This episode includes:

  • The moment Fawn found the Nearest Green story
  • Who was this guy Jack Daniel?
  • Click bate and soundbites vs the subtle nuances of history
  • What inspired this trip to Lynchburg?
  • The statement made by the black man in the photo
  • The culture at Jack Daniel Distillery at the turn of the 20th Century
  • The families Fawn interviewed
  • Mrs. Ellen' revelation about the photo
  • The small town culture of Lynchburg
  • Sensing unease 
  • Finding a hidden gem on the market: The Dan Call farm
  • D.H. Call Sour Mash Corn Whisky to Daniel and Call Distillery to Jack Daniel Distillery
  • Old No. 7 and figuring out dates
  • Dan Call's legacy and a rented Nearest
  • The best whisky maker I know of
  • Aunt and Uncle
  • Jack as a boy and meeting Nearest
  • The story that tells of Lynchburg's race relations
  • Tennessee Whiskey's origin
  • Feeling like a member of family
  • Paying on tenure
  • One of the wealthiest men in the area
  • Misunderstood history
  • Getting back with the New York Times
  • Grabbing the tax records for distilleries
  • Nearest Green Foundation and Legacy Scholarship Fund
  • Going at a massive pace
  • Learning a whole new industry as an entrepreneur
  • The real estate broker with a whiskey history
  • How did the story of Nearest disappear?
  • Challenging history but remaining positive
  • Honoring Nearest with a bottle or a distillery
  • The real voice of Jack Daniel
  • Sourcing whiskey
  • The real challenge for a master blender
  • The current status of the distillery
  • The CEO giving the tour
  • The Motown influence on Uncle Nearest, Inc.
  • The lens of grace
  • Understanding the difference between an organization and a concept
  • The art of empathy and expanding your circle of influences
  • The three branches of the Jack and Nearest Advancement Initiative
  • Nearest Green School of Distilling: Creating a pipeline for diversity
  • Business Incubation Program: The gift in the challenge
  • Leadership Acceleration Program: Tracie Franklin
  • The Uncle Nearest brand story


Welcome to Whiskey Lore I'm Drew Hannush so we're closing out the 12 days of Whiskey Lore and we're also closing out 2020 so for the very first time I'm gonna release the entire conversation that I had with bond weaver who is the CEO and co-founder of Uncle Nearest Incorporated closing out this season with this interview is no accident if I were Time Magazine and I were choosing the person of the year I would probably put Fawn Weaver's name out there for the honor she's not only inspirational but she also has a voice that's very impactful and in this current climate where there's a lot of racial strife and there's a lot of anger it's great that we have somebody who is looking at this from another angle an angle of healing and it all starts with the relationship and friendship of Nathan Greene and Jack Daniel and the scary part about all of this is that if it hadn't been for our last second decision to head to Singapore none of this story the whiskey the initiatives none of that stuff would probably be taking place right now and that's why I think her story is so important and why I wanted to finish off this year of Whiskey Lore with the story of Uncle Nearest and Fawn Weaver but before we jump into this conversation of whiskey history joy and friendship I want to thank you for your friendship this year doing an independent podcast is a lot of work but knowing that you guys are enjoying the stories that I'm gathering and hearing your feedback and seeing your financial support through Patreon man it makes it all feel like effort that has been well spent I want to thank you for a great 2020 and I want you to know this is just the beginning now on with our last interview of the year enjoy my conversation with Fawn Weaver of Uncle Nearest so you are like me it sounds like from from what I've heard in your interviews and from reading about you that once you get curious about something you're not gonna let it go you gotta you gotta figure out what the truth is behind this is did you just jump right on the web and try to maybe start investigating this right away or did you it was this kind of in the back of your mind for a a little while and then you said oh wait you know I really do want to learn more about that well the irony is is I think the only reason that what I am doing I'm even doing is because I was in Singapore so it was a last minute decision for me to hop on a plane and to head out I had been invested in or behind a couple of founders that were having a really really really hard time getting along with staff and it was I am a team first person I am a people purse first so it just was absolutely driving me insane and I needed to just get away and to clear my head if I hadn't been on that trip in Singapore there's absolutely no way that this story would have captivated my interest in in this manner meaning that I would have dove and continued so on my husband and I observed the sabbath every every weekend and so 24 hours we do absolutely nothing so one of the things that I do is I do go down rabbit holes this is absolutely true and so at some point on on the Sabbath I will end up literally getting online and just looking up something random and for two hours just out of nowhere finding all of the facts that are related to whatever it is that I was interested in and the reason why I do that I think and the reason I've done it for years is one I love history I love to research but also I love what I do I always have and so it's hard for me to turn work off in order to not do work for 24 hours that doesn't come natural to me so this is sort of my transition every weekend these rabbit holes but I come out of the rabbit holes every you know I may go into for an hour for two hours but I do in fact come out of the rabbit hole and just enjoy the rest of the day well on this trip I was there with nothing to do for I want to say it was like two or three days in a row that never happens and my husband was in meetings all day so it wasn't a vacation he was there as a part of one of his boards that he sits on so for eight nine hours a day he's in all these board meetings I'm just in the room googling

so three straight days of just googling and the interesting thing is is when I first went back to the room so I had read it we were in the club lounge I go back to the room he goes off to his meetings and I just I google near screen at the time of course they had it spelled in correctly any a ris but I look at it and there's almost nothing there except for the article from the New York Times the Clay Risen piece and then you had a whole bunch of journalists that basically republished not journalists but a bunch of online papers that just picked up the story changed the title and then republished it but that was it and I was blown away that there could be a story this important and no one had written about it online before I just that just to me was baffling then about maybe a few hours later I came back to it and I started trying to search in any like in different ways and then the Wikipedia page had popped up so at some point from the time I started to the time I went back that afternoon someone had started a Wikipedia page oh wow it didn't have a whole lot but what it did have it really didn't have anything other than what was in the New York Times right right but what it did have is it had a reference at the bottom that someone had added to Jack Daniels legacy so I went on to amazon I realized I could order it I ordered it and my thought process when I ordered the book is you're talking about a book that's written in 1967 height of the civil rights era about a enslaved man I didn't expect them to name him my thought was someone is putting the two and two together like maybe the book mentioned that it was a an enslaved man or may have mentioned him as a negro or may have mentioned him as any anything but I didn't expect him to be named and then when I got the book and began reading it I was floored by two things the first was how many times how early Nearest is introduced into the story how often he has spoken about in the story and how much he and his boys were made a part of the story they're not on the peripheral they are literally in the story and so that that was the first thing that I found captivating the second thing is is I wasn't a Jack Daniel drinker I didn't know very much about it and so I'd see the pictures I'd see the ads but outside of that I just didn't know very much and I remember starting to read the book and probably being about I don't know maybe 40 pages or so into the book and my husband walks into the room and I said hey I really like this guy and he said who and I said Jack Daniel and I mean that those were the two things that really caught my attention that how integrated Nearest and his his family were in the story but also how much I found myself really liking Jack as a human being because I only knew him up until that point as a brand and I'm trying to think if I go back did I even really truly know him as a human being versus a brand so if you take for instance George Dickel that you know how they have that photo when you go over to the distillery and you've got the photo you know he was a human being right but when people talk about the brand it they don't really talk about the man does that make sense it's it's it's more of a it's more of a brand like he could have existed or didn't exist and I don't think that it matters to people yeah with Jack I felt the same way I he could have existed he didn't have to exist he could have been a composite of a number of people there was just I don't know that I'd ever put that much thought into it because I didn't have a connection to the brand and when I began reading it and not only discovering that he was a human being but that he was a a good hearted human being so what's fascinating about your story to me is that this is the thing I bump into all the time we get fed these little sound bites you read these headlines and if you walk away with just a headline on something that's so much more deep and complex than that it's almost impossible wouldn't you say for somebody to be able to come away with that with a real true sense of who Jack Daniel was and what this the story was yeah our history in general I mean around the world but especially in America is so nuanced and we want things to fit in a very black and white type of manner and that doesn't exist all of us there there is this nuance to our history for everyone who's here in this country and I think that we like to create these click bait type of headlines that really fit things in perfectly into one box or another and quite frankly there are certain stories that it's like a freaking spider where they've got legs in like eight boxes you know what I mean right exactly it just doesn't neatly fit into one thing or another and that is just I mean if you if you think about this story after that original headline came out that original story came out then they began creating these click bait types of titles and then folks stop reading and it was really it just became about the title so then all of a sudden Jack is a slave owner Nearest is is a person who was hidden his recipe was stolen he was never given credit all the rest of these things and that's what was going on online when I got the book and so the juxtaposition of these two things were extraordinary to me because you have this book that makes it very clear that somebody wanted to make sure that Nearest his relationship to the family him teaching Jack him being a mentor not just in in whiskey but even in music I think even that piece of the story I thought was fascinating and so when you're reading this it just did not mesh with what people were saying online still now I'm constantly being tagged well not constantly not as much anymore but in the beginning I would be tagged constantly from people who did not understand the story and thinking that they were saying something that I would want which is you know going back to these earlier negative stories and they'd be saying it in a way of trying to bolster the Uncle Nearest brand and I'd literally have to go on and respond and go yeah no Jack wasn't that guy and no this isn't this isn't this isn't payback right exactly right that's not that and but understanding that people are responding to click bait titles and that becomes a social media thing and then they just kind of go from there so that's what was going on at the time that I read the book and I think it happens now where if we would actually take the time to dig into what really was I think that for a lot of the stuff even right now where there's so much going on in our country in regard to race relations and I actually think if people would take the time and not read the click bait not read the articles that are absolutely one side or skewing one way but if if we actually took the time to really dig in we will find that a lot of these things are really nuanced that we're trying to fit perfectly into it's this or it's that and really truly it's a little bit of this and a little bit of that right right so so you're a lover of history and you've probably through reading about history there's a lot of discoveries I'm sure you came across where you said wow that wasn't exactly how I envisioned that story going or that's not really what I was was taught when I was growing up that sort of thing so was this a a culmination of all of those things kind of building up in you over time now you see this this figure Jack Daniels who's being misrepresented is that was that is that what drove you to get on a plane and fly down to Tennessee I don't know if it's the fact that he was being misrepresented I wasn't really paying attention to that stuff I saw it but once I read the book I had come to my own conclusions so I didn't really care what people were saying online but one of the things that I had concluded in reading if you when you get the book and and you read it you'll find that the tone and how Uncle Nearest is referred to is that the level of respect that the author speaks of Uncle Nearest is the same level of respect that he gives to uncle Jack the story is about uncle Jack right right and and when he speaks about both of them he's doing so with the same level of respect and in some parts in the earlier parts of the book I would venture to say a greater level of respect for Uncle Nearest because Jack was a young boy and so knowing that this is a white reporter from Tuscaloosa Alabama doesn't have a dog in this fight coming up to Lynchburg Tennessee to tell the authoritative biography of the most famous American whiskey maker of all time he could have just left the story out and not only did he not leave the story out but he mentions Nearest and his boys 50 times wow in Jack's biography and it's not that large of a biography by the way yeah yeah I was going to say he was he was around during the most important years of Jack Daniel's life right and and so what I what I took from that because it wasn't Jack who was being interviewed it was all those who knew Jack so it was his descendant who took over the distillery and then it was his his descendants descendants that then were running the distillery at the time Lem Motlow’s four boys and then you had the people who if if they worked for Jack touch Jack we're friends with Jack if they because Jack Jack died young right and so you had people that were able to know him those are the people who were interviewed and for them to spend that much time on someone who was not the focus of the biography what that said to me is they knew that Jack would have wanted his name written in a way that no one would ever be able to erase him that's what it said to me do you sort of sense that that's also the positioning in the picture is is kind of here's to the world my statement that you know this this black man deserves this position in this photograph 100 because that's not where African Americans were positioned at that time there is another African-American in that same photo but you can barely even see him I actually it wasn't until I saw a an original of the photo or at least a a really good duplicate of the original that I even saw that the person in the back left was that that was a person I actually thought it was just kind of it's just the way that it's shaded I had no idea that there was a person up there that is where blacks would have usually been in those kind of photos in the back and off to the sides and so that means that the photographer had to position everybody around George Green which is Nearest his son that's the black man that's in the photo had to to position everyone around George and Jack wow and so there is actually another group photo but I think this is during the Lem Motlow years it is well I know which group photo you're talking about and I actually think it is at the same time most people misidentify Lem Motlow in that second photo they think that he's the older man because the older man actually looks like Lem did in his older age but it's not it is actually Lem younger and so if you look at that photo with Jack you have Jack that's a little off-center and then if you look to his right meaning you know to to his right hand then you have George Green that's right there and if you look right behind George Green is Jack's nephew Lem Motlow okay and most people don't identify him because that's a young Lem so they don't realize that that's him but that's that is who is in the center of the photo is essentially George Green and then his own nephew who would then take over the distillery so the thing that strikes me about that picture is also the comfort with ever with which everybody is in that photo it is such a natural group photo that it to me it speaks of a culture and that's kind of what I want to talk to you about when we start getting into the life of Nearest Green is this this idea of how this culture may have developed over time with you I mean because you've interviewed what the Green family and the Motlow family and the Daniel family is that correct okay there's not really many Daniel family members left at least not in this area it's mostly Motlow family members that are around also Waggoners so when when Jack was born he was the tenth child his mother contracted typhus fever when he was four months and she died in seven days from the time she contracted it so you have this this boy who's then wet nurse by the next door neighbor so it was Felix Waggoner's wife ended up wet nursing Jack so you see Felix talked about a lot in the book as well so that I would say the people who are spoken about the most are the Greens and the Waggoners and so you do still have a lot of Waggoners that are here and so that's who I that's who I spoke with the most were the Waggoners the Motlows and then obviously the Greens so one of the questions I had was about I mentioned that sometimes marketing departments have a hard time telling a story and so Jack Daniels have been getting all of this bad press maybe not you know intense but there that there was that and then you show up in town and you're wanting to do some research were they like open arms yeah come on in you know we'll get give you access to whatever you want or was it kind of like we're a little nervous about that's a touchy subject right now don't know we want to talk about it well I think first first of all it wasn't like a little thing it was a big thing it was everywhere Jack's name was being drugged through the mud everywhere and it wasn't just Jack it then became the Motlows and and all the rest of that so no it was a definitely a big story in terms of when I showed up one of the very first people who I met when I was in the library doing research was the who is now the eldest descendant of Jack Daniel at that time she was the second eldest because her mother Mary Avon was still alive and then Mary Evan passed away at the age of at the ripe age of 105 about a year and a half ago right around the time that Nearest his granddaughter Miss Nelly Mae died at the ripe age of 108. so holy cow you know you may want to come down to Lynchburg

if you have a desire to live a while it that one of the beautiful things in researching this story is there were so many elders still alive and most of those sadly have passed away over the last three years and I'm so grateful that they were still here to be able to fill in these pieces because quite frankly if they weren't we'd be in trouble miss miss Helen one of Nearest's descendants she's the one who identified the African-American in the photo next to Jack and she was able to identify him because he raised her until she was 11 years old so those are the kind of and she looks we're all you know trying to figure out who's this African-American the word out there was it was either Nearest or it was you know someone a descendant of nears but no one actually knew and she walks right up to the photo in Jack's office at Jack Daniel distillery and the tour guide is taking her around on a private tour as well as some other African-American elders of Lynchburg and she walks right up to the photo and she said yep that's daddy George and she passed away I want to say maybe a year after that holy cow and and so there we were able to piece a good amount of this stuff together because the elders of both families were still here and but at that time I came down I'm in the library the second eldest descendant of Jack is called to the library which understandably so put yourself in their position and and this kind of goes back to me saying that it's usually not this or that it's a little bit of this and a little bit of that and so you could look at it and think oh well because there were these black people in town that were doing research on this story then this woman got called to come shut it down well if you think about it everything online was dragging her family through the mud and you have not just a black person who shows up but a black New York Times best-selling author USA Today best-selling author which I later found out they all knew because the person whose home I rented you know how you do the VRBO and they have to approve you to be able to stay at the house right well that person had done the googling and then shared with everybody that there was a Sony movie exec which is my husband and a New York Times bestselling author coming to town so you have this black couple that comes to Lynchburg everybody knew who

are you from a small town do you know this culture no I'm from Los Angeles so so here here kind of goes back to my my point of if if you think about it if it's your family and right it's being like drug through the mud specifically over a racial issue there is no way in the world you would think that a black New York Times best-selling author in her movie executive husband was coming down here to give you a fair shake right yeah that's true and so she walks through the doors I look in her eyes she introduces herself immediately as Lem Motlow's granddaughter and I look into her eyes and I could see I don't know that it I could say it was fear but definitely major unease and I understood it immediately one of the gifts I think that we could all benefit from at the current moment is having an ability to put ourselves in other people's shoes and at that moment my first thought wasn't how dare you come down here and try to stop this my first thought was put myself in her shoes and how would what would I think I was doing there right and so putting myself in her shoes I immediately looked into her eyes and and I said listen I am not here to harm your family's legacy I believe that social media has the story wrong I believe that the press has a story wrong not Clay Risen's original piece but the stuff that got picked up after that where people started making stuff up right right I said I believe that they have it wrong and I shared with her things that I had read in the book and why I believed that they had that story wrong I said listen if if if Jack was trying to steal a recipe and hide an enslaved man all they'd have to do is leave him out of the book right absolutely not like it was required to give credit to a black man at any point during when it actually happened the story of Jack and Nearest nor when the book was being written in 1967. you didn't have to give credit in either time yeah and so understanding that I said I believe this to be a story of love honor and respect that is what I am here to prove I said if I begin doing the research and I discover that Jack is not who I believe he to be if I discover that this is not a positive story that some of the stuff that is out there online is true someone will come down here and they will do the research nothing that happens in the dark stays in the dark it always comes to light right someone will come down here and do that research and they will get the exact same information I will see but you have my word it will not be me I write books on love I share stories on love that is what I am here for and she what she has told her cousin and other people around Lynchburg is she looked into my eyes and she knew that I was I was telling the truth she knew I was not there to harm her family and so she pulls out her cell phone and she said then I want to help you and she begins giving me the names and numbers of Nearest Green's descendants information I did not have by the way oh man connections very very important it's really good to know people who know people and again this now here's the advantage of being in a community where word gets around really quickly is that your access actually probably was a lot quicker to be able to to get to people because of the connections well because of the connection and it wasn't just that connection she also one of the things she said before she left is she said you know in the book that you read where Jack grew up where the distillery was where Nearest Green was the distiller you realize that farm is for sale

the farm had been on the market for 15 months there is absolutely no way number one she could have known that I was a real estate investor and there's no way that I could have known that the farm in the book would still be there and the house intact absolutely no way second I was gonna say you you would think that being that tied to the history of Jack Daniels that that they would have invested in that property you'll have to ask nelson about that I still I still don't understand what happened there what I do know is it was on the market for 15 months and it wasn't a quiet listing I mean there's literally a for sale sign out front everybody knew that Dan Call farm what it was this is what I think though is that they from from from my conversations with them and and please confirm this with nelson from my conversations with them they understood that this is where Jack grew up and they understood that the distillery where Dan Calls whiskey was made and where Nearest Green made Dan Calls whiskey and taught Jack that is what was there they did not know until my research until I brought them three different documents that were signed by Jack and Dan Call that made very clear that Daniel and call was the distillery that came after d h call sour dh call sour mash corn whiskey no e is the was the official name when it went from that that distillery became Daniel and Call and these three documents then showed that it went from Daniel and Call to Jack Daniel distillery at the request of Jack and so he leased the two acres around the distillery and the water source the spring and he renewed the lease every 18 months and so it's basically over and over again he's doing it well in the in the paperwork it refers to distillery number 16 and district number five so that really would not have any significance to them it had no significance to me either until I was going through a bunch of old newspaper clippings and there was a newspaper clipping from I want to say it was I can get it for you exactly but I want to say it was

1878 maybe and in the newspaper clipping you had all of the distillers in the area that were complaining because they had been given a new district number a new revenuer came through there redrew the lines there were too many distilleries and so they went from being in district number four to being in district number five but it makes clear in it and it lists all of the distillers that were impacted by this and it lists their distillery numbers and it lists exactly how much they were making I mean that's invaluable information for us to have as we're do as we were doing this research but if you continue reading in the article it says that all of the distillery numbers remain the same from district number four to district number five except distillery number 16. that was changed from distillery number seven so there's absolutely no way they knew that distillery number seven sat on that property otherwise they would have bought it so and the years are kind of confusing for me and I don't know if anybody's nailed these down yet or not because of course my name is bennett I ain't in it I will say that the documents I have don't necessarily line up with a lot that I have seen out there in terms of dates and so I never get into the date conversations this is what I will say is that the leases that I have that take the distillery from being Call Daniel and call to Jack Daniel distillery they the last one that I have expires in 81. okay Jack's current distillery location he bought in June of 85. okay what I do not know is where he was in those four years in between yeah takes time to move well but that particular property actually was a foreclosure so Jack bought it at auction okay and the and the distillery had been inoperable for quite some time because the reason why it was even available at auction is because the IRS essentially shut it down there's a whole big old backstory behind that but the bottom line is it wasn't operating which means that either there's another lease that I just wasn't able to find between 81 and 84 at the current location or that means that he moved somewhere else and I just haven't I haven't found that yet okay so the the main reason and this is what I've learned I had a history professor who always said dates don't matter and I and I sort of agree with that where I come in with the dates is really trying to piece together when it was that it was Dan Calls business and then it was Dan Call and Jack Daniel came in and then where Jack kind of just to kind of figure out where where the other players all kind of worked in because I know there's a whole and and nelson and I talked about this about that year 1866 and trying to pin that down and and he said you know if if evidence comes up then we'll change but at this point there was no firm evidence so you know I get how sensitive dates are but trying to figure out for instance you know when Nearest Green got to the distillery was it just staying call there at the po at that point and then Jack Daniel came in as a young boy did he come in at the same time as Nearest Green did or was Nearest already pretty much kind of establishing himself there before young Jack came along so this is this is what we do know based on Jack's biography based on Dan Calls family so Dan also very lucky he's got some pretty elder descendants that are still alive and one of them has adopted me as her as one of her grandbabies nice and she she is absolutely just a beautiful human being and one of the things in in our conversation she and I have spent a lot of time together and one of the things that was really important to their family is that I did the research to show that Dan Call did not own any slaves and I in fact did and that was accurate there his uncle who had the same name Daniel Houston Call he did in fact own slaves but this Dan Call did not and so the only thing that we can really surmise is that Nearest was being rented and a lot of times really skilled enslaved people would be rented because they were far too costly to purchase if you had a skill like distilling and if you look in Jack Daniel's biography Dan Call introduces a young Jack Daniel to near screen by saying this is Uncle Nearest he's the best whiskey maker I know of well that's an important statement because there were 16 other distilleries in a four mile radius and all of these distillers were a part of the Masons together and you know I'm not supposed to have a mason book but that's supposed to be at the grand lodge but two of the Mason books during that period of time in 67 1867 and 1868 those books whoever was whoever had them passed away and it never made it to the lodge so those books sit at the archives in Lynchburg the Moore County archives I know can you imagine two Mason books and so you could see every person who came in every person who was a part of the Masons every person who they black ball that's where the term comes from is the black ball term and and you could see who they black bald nature did not get in every single distiller in that area with the exception of Jack Daniel was a part of the masons and I've you know got my own theories as to what happened there but nonetheless they all knew each other really well they would have known each other's distillers really well they bought product from each other so they knew who had the best product so for him to introduce him that way yeah it really said what he was doing was not only special but it was established well again we we talk about this comfort level you know in the photograph and and I almost want to suggest that maybe it traces all the way back to Dan Call and the whole concept that here's a guy who's calling I mean uncle is kind of a term of endearment for somebody that isn't really a relative and so well well let me let me clarify that point because in this instance it was but here in the south in general uncle and aunt weren't terms of endearment to people of color meaning that was a way of signifying you were a good negro okay and so that is that's how they got the term so when you look at Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima and that's actually perpetuating a mammy type of person right and it it is so uncle and aunt generally speaking in that period of time was not a positive term of endearment this is what I find another thing I find interesting about this story is in Lynchburg both whites and blacks went by uncle and aunt if they were well respected and so people if you look in Jack Daniel's legacy when he gets older how they refer to him as a person of respect is Uncle Jack okay and so one of my favorite labels that they have and I tried to get them to put it back out let's see if they ever will but they're they're when Jack was alive there wasn't uncle Jack label that's what he was called that's how people knew him in Lynchburg so that term in reference to Nearest Green was in fact yes a a positive term of endearment absolutely and I do think that just in the conversations the familiarity but there is this really beautiful photo of one of Nearest descendants and one of Jack's descendants that nelson can get to you or if you remind me I can get it to you as well and it's one of my favorite photos because these two women were such great friends to the very end and there are these photos that capture the two of them and capture their friendship so well and so this was a generational relationship between these families and on Dan Calls farm generally speaking you would have blacks and whites would be buried in separate cemeteries even if they're on the same property you would separate them in the south that is just what was it is very very rare to see blacks and whites buried next to one another in the south I've actually only come across it one time and it is on the property of Dan Call wow he was also a preacher and his church was on his property so I mean it's the most fascinating thing you have 338 acres it's now 313 because of easements and all that but you have 338 acres and if you can look at it as a triangle on one end of the triangle at one tip is his home on one tip is the distillery and on one tip is his church so he was keeping his three worlds separate because he married a teetotaler and he had a distillery and then you had the tempest movement it was a problem yes business but but according to Dan Calls family when when Jack grew up in what has always been passed down from the eldest descendants is he came over when he was somewhere between six and eight years old six and seven years old okay and I know that seems really odd now because we really coddle children but at that time I mean the moment you could pick up fire logs or go take a pail out to go get water from the well the moment you were able to be a an able body you had to because the land was so so vast at that time and so the kids were working very early on and so Dan Calls family believes and this is is also what is in Jack Daniel's Legacy that he arrived at the farm somewhere around six most likely seven years old and he arrived there to be a chore boy that meant he was doing those chores that I just mentioned going out and and getting water from the well and because we own the property it's been nice to be able to walk those footsteps to know how far it was to the wells and how far it was to the barns and how far it was and so it's we've been able to really not only piece the story together but really to bring it to life because the property is still there and it's in excellent condition and so when you look at what Jack was doing he wasn't there as a privileged kid he was there to work yeah but you also had him working for the family near the house and it would have been about a 25 minute walk to the distillery on the same property okay so he would not have been able to just randomly disappear for an hour and pop over to the distillery to sneak around he would have had to have been taken over there and Dan Call would have had to have taken him to introduce him and according to his according to his biography and this is the story of the Dan Call family continues to believe is that it it took about a year before Dan Call finally took Jack over to the distillery and introduced them if that is the case that introduction would have happened when Jack was eight years old and we now know because of of my research and being able to definitively prove that his mother died on January 27 1849 which means she could not have been dead when he was born right that's important birth year in 1848 so that means that he at the time of that introduction it would have been 1856. Nearest Green would have already been well established as the best whiskey maker in the area before he was introduced to a young Jack Daniel and so if he was being rented which seems really weird to say but if he was being rented was his family around because I've heard stories that maybe Jack was around Eli and George and maybe that's where those bonds because they were around the same age really started to happen well I think that you have the I think you have the bonds that began that actually preceded the Dan Call farm proceeded Nearest and Jack I actually think and talking to some of the wagoners the elder wagoners I actually still have on my phone I've got to transfer it but I have a an interview that I did that lasted about two hours with Richard Waggoner and he's now passed on he passed on a couple of years ago and I was able to give the recording to his family recently which was really cool but he shared a story that predated all of them in terms of what he believed was the catalyst for blacks and whites beginning to look at each other as as if not equal most certainly as respectable of one another and it's it's when a a black enslaved man here saved a a white man that was here and that that was really what turned how people were viewing that and so his view and you know of course every family believes it was their family that right that was the reason but if that is the case and I have heard a lot of people tell this story and the significance of this other story then it did predate this but it still is something that carried through and I don't find it that odd that Nearest and Jack and and Jack and Nearest his boys that they would have had a familial type of relationship I don't find it odd because they were all workers Jack was not a the kid that was able to tell them what to do he was in a similar position I mean granted he was being paid and he was living in the main house although if you if you look at his book there was a lot of days he decided to stay in the barn instead and when you go and you're there you understand why because Mary Jane had 18 children and 11 of them lived seven of them died and on our property you have the tombstones of the ones who died at six months or the one who died a year the one who died at birth and you do have all those baby tombstones but 11 of them survived and the house was not that large right and not definitely not for 11 kids plus Jack plus Dan and Mary Jane that's a lot of people in that house and so I am am not surprised at all that the story is that that Jack spent more time in the barn to get away from all those crying babies I was surprised that that that Dan and his wife weren't hanging out in the barn instead listen oh my gosh there was literally nothing else for them to do so they just kept having babies man so so talk a little bit about do we know anything about Nearest Green's life before he came there about his where he learned his skills and of course he's credited with the the Lincoln County process and by some people and others say well this was being done all around the area he just he was in a place of significance to to have an effect on its you know replication in the future so let me let me let me clarify that point because that I can tell you with 100 certainty because we've got all the documentation to back it up Nearest Green 100 did not invent the Lincoln County process okay we see that process being utilized in Kentucky in the 18th century before it ever came to Tennessee the difference is is in Kentucky where you first see it it's still using charcoal for this filtration process but it's literally in only a few inches versus it comes to Tennessee it becomes a bigger part of it where people are putting it in more of you know buckets or or barrels or whatever you want to call it but the reason why people credit Nearest at least the reason why I credit Nearest is not for the invention of it it is because Tennessee whiskey as we know it today would not exist if it were not for Jack Daniel becoming so famous and that brand being being known around the world we would simply have bourbon if you travel outside of the us you know that Tennessee whiskey doesn't really exist outside of the u.s on every menu it is read as bourbon once you leave our soil people look at it as bourbon it's all the same well the only reason why it is different here is because Jack and his family fought for there to be a distinguishment to their product they are the ones who put all the money behind actually making Tennessee whiskey its own category so Tennessee whiskey does not exist without Jack and his family period that's indisputable it does not exist and because Nearest Green is the one who taught Jack Daniel that is why I say that the only difference between Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey is what near screen taught nice but he most certainly did not invent it okay yeah there's there's the story that it potentially actually what has been brought over as a from Africa as a as something that they would do to filter out water rather than doing it for whiskey purposes this is true but it would not have been Nearest you've got to remember if you're talking about Nearest being born in 1820 this preceded this would have come over with the enslaved people who would have been probably three generations before him right so it coming in through the slaves and it coming in with Nearest or two different things

it came in with the enslaved people but it did and the reason again that we even know that is because Jack's descendants went on record in saying it it's literally in the press they did so that's the reason why we know how the Lincoln County process came into Tennessee that it was with the enslaved people and it's the enslaved people that taught everybody else here how to do it we know that because of Lem Motlow and Gregor and Connor and all those other the the four short shirt sleeve brothers as they would call them yeah so when Nearest was then hired by Jack to work as his master stiller as they called it back then were George and Eli also already working for the the business at that time or or do we know anything about how they became connected to the distillery we don't so what we know is that Nearest was the head stiller and what we also know is that George and Eli they that whole family would have lived on the property Nearest had 11 children and his wife Harriet they would have all lived on the property we know where they lived because there's still a lot of original stone from original fireplaces from the original distillery from the original gristmill those stones that's the beautiful thing about the south nobody gets rid of anything so they're all on the property they're just repurposed and so it's it's been it's been easy to track that area and and essentially his commute to work was like a three-minute walk from his from where he was to the distillery but him as head stiller and where when Eli and George got involved I have no idea and a part of that is we don't really see them as a part of the distillery at the Dan Call farm we don't see them as a part of the distillery operating until Jack moves to the new location and Eli George and Lewis go with him George Lewis was Nearest his eldest son so there's a Lewis and there's a Edie I think edd there is Edie but Edie didn't Edie didn't actually work for the distillery he worked for the Edie worked for if I'm not mistaken I'd have to go back and look on the family tree because I did the family tree but I do not remember everybody's occupation on it and but I believe if I remember correctly that Edie actually worked for Miss Mary Bobos that she that he worked for the actual hotel that was no no I have to go back I don't remem I don't remember how he's connected who he worked for but he did not work at the distillery I can tell you that okay so I worked out a genealogy for a story I was following because I just finally there were so many names coming at me I was like I have got to put this into a tree or I am not going to be able to relate and say whose grandfather great grandfather all that sort of stuff but what's funny is when I started building out the tree I started feeling like I was part of the family and then I'm going to talk to all of these people and and I'm talking to family members and I'm hearing their history and did you get to a point with this where you're like man I feel like I'm just an honorary Green here oh well it's not a I it's not it's not that I had to feel that way they will tell you that and if you like I have them all on on text message obviously we all text a lot and on social media a lot and whenever they address me on social media it's always as cousin it's very rare or if they if they say something you know fawn whatever it's our cousin Fawn and so there there's a running joke that I am agreeing and I just don't know it yet and I'm going to uncover it and I tell them I promise you I did the family tree it is complete at this point it took me years to complete your family tree it's done I am absolutely not on it the thing that's really interesting is there was another Green family here and because we pay for all of Nearest descendants to go to college what ended up happening is there was another Green family here who actually thought they were from Nearest side of the family because their family referred to Nearest as Uncle Nearest and so in their family people would always talk about Uncle Nearest and that was one of the hard things is that I would get these messages about the scholarship program and I'd say who is your who's your parent who your parents who are their parents and do you know you know their parents and very easily because I know the tree frontwards and backwards at least who's on it I would know immediately that they weren't on the tree and I had to be the one to break the news to them that they were from another family William Green's family and there was no relation whatsoever except one of Nearest's grandchildren married one of Williams grandchildren but outside of that there was no relationship between the two families but even that family was under the impression and it wasn't until I shared with them that they weren't that they began pulling out their own family trees and realizing that they weren't able to connect them to man yeah that's tough well and I'm sure that like for instance when I was researching the Dan family in Kentucky there there are tons and tons and tons of dance all over the place so it's really hard to work that out and I you know I see Greens throughout this entire story in fact the guy who wrote the legacy book I think his last name that's a Ben last name is Green relation his last name is his last name is Green yeah yeah yeah go figure so some somehow that all that all works out but so apparently and this is something I always heard about Lem Motlow didn't always hear about but recently heard about was that Lem Motlow had a philosophy that it was about your tenure and that's where your pay came from and from what I understand Nearest when he left Jack's employee was in pretty good standing him himself was is that true well there's a couple of things that wasn't a Lem thing that was a Jack thing that was passed on to limb so Jack paid people based on tenure and that continued on so there's a few things that continued on under Lem and then continued on on under Lem's children one of which was people bank being paid on tenure another was giving five pound boxes of chocolate every Christmas I still don't understand that one and then the other was giving a hundred dollars in silver dollars in a velvet bag every holiday to every member of the team even after dollar bills were available Jack just had this thing with silver dollars and so every year everybody knew for the holidays they were going to get this bag of this velvet bag of silver dollars and a five pound box of chocolate and so those are the three things that continued on from Jack to Lem and then to Lem for boys but yes it is absolutely the case and what we do know is immediately following the civil war in 1870 is the first time that you see African Americans on the census as people not property and when you begin looking at the wealth of those that are on those censuses then Nearest Green is yes the wealthiest African-American in the area and he's wealthier than many of his white neighbors which I still find incredibly interesting to say say the least and then his children if you come into Lynchburg I could point out to you so many parcels of land that were theirs as a matter of fact Eli and well Eli actually lived with but Ott and Jesse Nearest his two grandsons they lived across from each other they each had one house on a full block there was nothing else on the block on either side of the street except Jesse's house was in the middle of the block on one side and ox house was in the middle of the block on the other side and you're talking about downtown this is downtown Lynchburg this isn't like this is in the heart of Lynchburg and I could literally even go around the square and the land where daddy George where miss Helen's grandfather George Green the land that is at the top of Jack Daniel distillery now where all those warehouses are at the top that was George's land it's George's kids who decided to sell it back to the the Motlow fair or sell it to the Motlow family and I remember miss Helen was not very happy about it because apparently her mother didn't like the price that the others you know siblings had agreed to but and thought that they would they should hold out for more but the other siblings decided to do it but the bottom line is is all that land that was up there at the top of Tanyard Hill that is now the distillery that was owned by George Greene and then right next to all that land that was George Green was it belonged to Tommy Green and right across the street from that that whole area was and so you have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of acres all around this area that were owned by black people wow wow that's not common yeah you know I was surprised that when I grew up in Asheville North Carolina and in Asheville when my dad was doing research on Buncombe County he found that it was a pro-Union area and it was you know I grew up around people there you'd see Confederate flags and whatever around but if you asked any of them hey did you know that this area was actually a Union area and that parts of Tennessee were that way too Tennessee was the last state to join the Confederacy so there was some where our Nearest Green distillery is in Shelbyville that was Union and there's actually in our square there is a placard that shares the whole story of the union soldiers that were there that were leading so it is it is it is interesting because you did have in Lynchburg ironically you had a Confederate stronghold in the heels around Lynchburg not in the heart of it but in the hills around Lynchburg and then in Shelbyville which is right next door that was mostly Union very interesting yeah Tennessee has a fascinating hit Kentucky does too because it had to really straddle the line there too between north and south so again it gets back to this thing of history is complicated we can't always just slap a label on it and it's it's gonna be 100 true so you know it's it's it's fun that you've you've dug in to all of this story did you ever get back with the New York Times writer and say hey look what I found with oh my god yeah he did he did a piece the next year sharing so yeah no I got on a plane headed out to New York and we did he did a he did a full story that updated it because in the original piece near spelled incorrectly so one of the things that happened in the the new piece was Nearest is the correct spelling so that was updated and I brought with him some of the things that I had found up until that point so one of the reasons that we even began wondering if Jack Daniel distillery began on the Dan Call farm versus where it is right now is because one of Jack's descendants came well came to the farm and he said this belongs here and it was a metal bottle jug stencil it's the only one I've ever seen to this day it's a metal bottle jug stencil that it says Jack Daniel no apostrophe no s and he said it that he found it while doing the metal detecting about nine inches below ground where the original distillery sat wow and so the question became why was there a bottle jug stencil for Jack Daniel next to that distillery if it wasn't Jack Daniel distillery so that was actually the first thing that tipped us off was one of Jack's descendants who brought that over wow I've seen that too actually I saw a picture of that and didn't know what it was about so that's that's fun to hear the backstory of yeah that one's in that one's in my safe

along with some other some other things but it was it was actually his it was actually him that brought over that I took that out to New York I also took with me to New York something that Nelson Eddy gave to me which was and I hadn't had it he assumed that I had but I hadn't had it until he gave it to me and it was a 26 page magazine from Tennessee Quarterly Historical Quarterly you know how you'll get a newspaper and inside they'll have their own magazine right that they'll do every quarter or something so that's essentially what this was for one of the local papers well the story was all on Lynchburg and Jack Daniel distillery and in that in that article that was from 18 I'm not looking at it right now I want to say it was oh dawg on it I don't know it's those years go back and this wasn't 1972 was it because I thought I saw a link to article from 72. okay yeah yeah yes yes so that thank you that I haven't looked at that in so long it's been sitting in my safe and so Nelson brought that over and in there they clearly identify their their head stillers their master distillers in order and it very clearly says near screen was the first wow and so that was those two pieces were were two of the the artifacts that I took with me to clay in New York about a year after the original story was well no about about six months after the original story was written that's what I had been able to uncover up until that point and also every single textbook a part of being able to piece this story together and figure out what distillers were doing what when what year and all the rest of that is that although the courthouse burned down twice I believe and all of these other things burned what never burned somehow miraculously are the IRS records I was able to uncover the IRS records for every single distillery in the area beginning in 1867 and going all the way through the time period that I was looking not one book was missing now I had to go to four different archives yeah yeah to find it some some of the books were in the archives in Atlanta some were in dc some were in Maryland and then some were here in Tennessee but all of the IRS books I was able to get full copies of and that took forever but it but it allowed me to see who was making what amounts what taxes were being paid what they had and these are not things that are scanned and you can find electronically when I went to the archives in Atlanta for instance the books had been shrink wrapped at some point because the you know the irs books back in the day were huge it's not like some cute little thing you could walk around it I mean it's you know like a two-person thing and those books had been shrink-wrapped isn't the right term but you know what I'm talking about when they go to protect those books and it they had never been broken no one had ever pulled those irs documents before I had and so were you by the time you're taking this plane flight up there to see him did you already have the seeds of the foundation or the distillery in your mind at that time by that point we had let's see when I went to go see him it would have been February or March of 2017 yeah not of the distillery but definitely of the brand okay okay and so you started the foundation first is that correct oh yeah the foundation was started first we began the Nearest Green Legacy Scholarship fund before we ever had the Uncle Nearest brand and most of the things that happened first were foundation related and then the brand came out in July of 2017 and and really the only reason I remember Brown-Forman's former CBO who's just he's a good friend of mine now but and he's retired last year but I remember him the first time he saw what we were doing because of course I shared it with them before it went out to the world the last thing I was going to do is allow them to be blindsided so they were the only people that knew it was coming beforehand they had seen everything and I remember him seeing it all and saying Harvard is one day going to do a master class on this because of how quickly we pulled it all together but the reality is is the reason why we pulled it all together is we weren't sure how they were going to respond right so we're going a million miles a minute just in case they decided to point all their missiles at us

nice and the irony is is that as much as as we we talk about the growth of the brand and the brand is doing extraordinarily well it we're still going at this massive pace we began with because we started that out of I don't want to call it fear but out of wanting to prepare for the worst right and we just have never stopped moving at that pace so a part of how well we've done as a brand is we've been moving at that feverish pace from day one I mean at some point I imagine we'll have to like slow it down but as long as I'm not tired and my team's not tired we're just keep going at the same pace why not I mean at this point we've been doing it for you know three and a half four years so keep that train moving it's hard to stop a train so yeah absolutely so you now are running the fastest growing independent whiskey brand in America and this is we're saying this in 2020 you were on that trip in 2016. so so we're talking four years for this turnaround and and how does somebody go from doing research because I'm I'm thinking of myself I'm thinking here I am doing all this research and I'm writing all these podcasts and and then all of a sudden what if you know a year from now I was owning a whiskey brand you know where would I even start to do something like that how did you get moving in this direction yeah so well well I had help so this is helpful so there's there's a couple of things number one I've been an entrepreneur my whole life and and I've and I've been successful in a number of different industries so it's not odd for me to go into another industry and to learn it and to do my best to to to perform at a level of excellence in an industry I'd never been in so that that's not abnormal my husband actually used to tease me and he'd say that I was the only person he'd ever met that would go into an industry perfect it and then move into another industry he's like most people just stay in that industry and just enjoy the ride but nope not you and but the the key to all of that is is is remember the first interaction in the library where Jack's descendant shared with me that the farm was for sale well just a couple of hours later I get a call on my cell phone and it's her cousin and again Lem Motlow's family and it's it's her cousin and she says hey my cousin told me you met her in the the library that you want to go to the Dan Call farm I'm a realtor I can take you and so she offers to take us the next day not thinking that not knowing number one that we're real estate investors and why would we not buy a piece of American history that's just nuts right but also in addition to that that she didn't think that we had any desire to buy it she just thought that she was going to be taking us and she was excited to have a reason to go walk around and see the property herself and so we went the next day and we put in an offer immediately so then she truly was our realtor and did the transaction and and all the rest of that and as we as she began to get to know us and this was you know a little little ways after that but after she she got to know us and really got to know our heart and what we set out to do she says you know if you ever decide to honor Nearest with a bottle I will come out of retirement to make sure you get it right in a small town everybody knows what everybody does we knew her as a realtor we did not know we knew her as a Realtor we knew she was Jack Daniels family we didn't know anything beyond that and unless you're in us from a small town you don't take the time to dig to fight people are that are living that's just not what you do yeah and so we did not know her background and so when she said it the first time it was just kind of like ha ha you know whatever and would did not really really think too much of it number one we didn't know her background but also I mean anyway and so we didn't we didn't give any weight to it at all and then she brought it up again for the life of me I don't remember how much how long after the first time but she brought it up again and this time she said you don't know this but whiskey is in my blood it's all I've ever known is the family business and that's when we learned that for 31 years she had been at Jack Daniel distillery and when she left she was the head of whiskey operations and she was offering to come out of retirement to be the head of whiskey operations for Nearest Green Distillery that's why we were able to do what we have done is because she was able to utilize her 31 years of experience there is no one and I don't believe you will find anyone to dispute this point there is no one in the Tennessee whiskey business with more experience than Sherry Moore no one if you talk to Jeff Arnett she hired him if you if Jimmy Bedford was still alive he would tell you she trained him the current vice president over at Jack Daniel distillery she hired and trained him I mean this is a woman who spent 31 years learning every aspect of Jack Daniel distillery well I was going to say she apparently really was connected into the Uncle Nearest story then if she's she's retired from from business and she's like nope this is a reason I want to this is worthwhile for me to come out and and be a part of well her families grew up together they ate around the same dinner table they were friends they played together so she knew the story that the stories that were out there in the press about her family and Nearest family weren't true and she grew up knowing exactly who Nearest Green was the thing that we have to remember and I think a lot of people miss is the story of Nearest Green it's not that it was not told previously when Jack was alive everybody knew who Nearest Green was and what his significance was to Jack when Jack's ascendant Lem Motlow took over everybody knew who Nearest was and who Nearest his boys were and their significance to their business when Lem's boys took over the same thing continued it wasn't until the eldest of limbs limbs boys died in in 1978 so that's regular Motlow he had they had long sold the distillery but they had continued running it and Regger was the last president and then he went on to the board so they were still always very much involved at with the operations of it and with the leadership of it in Lynchburg Gregor died in 78 and the story of Nearest Green appears to have died with them because by 79 when one of Nearest descendants took friends to the distillery as she always did because she liked to let she'd like to let them hear the stories about her her ancestor nears Green because it was a part of their tour and it was a part of that whole experience and when she went in 1979 her daughter recalls very vividly her calling her and saying they've whitewashed the story my my grandfather's my my grandfather's no longer in it wow huh yeah I mean that's it's interesting because there there had to be a point where the story just sort of of slid away and I'm I'm thinking the Greens have actually there are descendants of his that are still working for the distillery and have worked continuously through so there was always a heartbeat of Nearest around but but to have this story have the impact that it had when it first came out in 2016 it had to have disappeared to be such a mystery to people well absolutely because the descendants that have been th

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