Ahalt Whiskey Bottle
I’m back with another Vintage Monday, this time sharing my newly acquired Ahalt whiskey bottle. My maiden name is Ahalt, not so common in Virginia, but quite common in Maryland.
My paternal grandfather, Paul Edwin Ahalt, left the family farm in Middletown, MD, to attend Roanoke College and stayed in Virginia. My father, Paul Frederick Ahalt, was sent to the family farm for summer break when he was a young boy because my grandparents felt that he’d have less of a chance of contracting polio there than in Vinton, VA, where he was sure to spend the summer in close contact with other children. Little did they know that my dad would insist on spending every possible free moment in Maryland on the farm until after he was married and lived too far away to travel there on a whim. I grew up going to the farm several times a year and thought, and still do, that it was heaven on Earth.
I first remember hearing about Ahalt whiskey from my dad about 30 years ago. I thought it was fascinating that distant family made whiskey, especially since my grandfather never touched a drop of any liquor that I know about. When eBay came about, I started searching for an Ahalt whiskey bottle and only once came across one. The price of the bottle soon was out of my threshold of monetary pain and I had to stop bidding. Mr. SP and I have regretted that decision ever since and have never stopped looking for another bottle.
Ahalt whiskey was made in Burkittsville, MD, not far from the family farm in Middletown, Md. The map below makes the distance from Middletown to Burkittsville look far but it’s only about 6 miles (I think).
A few years ago, on eBay, I stumbled upon a March 20, 1897 check written to Jeanette H. Ahalt from John D. Ahalt and bid until it was mine. The side of the check says, “John D. Ahalt Distiller of Pure Mountain Spring Rye Whiskey.”
A reader saw the check on my blog post and asked me to contact her about an Ahalt whiskey bottle. She sent a photo of her bottle since I’d never seen one. I was delighted! Fast forward one year and the same reader contacted me asking me if I’d like to buy her bottle. I was so happy to finally get this bottle and wish that my dad were still around to see it.
I now have a Ahalt’s Pure Old Mountain Spring Maryland Rye whiskey bottle to display with the check.
These items are on display in our office but because the whiskey bottle was so hard to photograph, I had to give them an white background for pictures.
I haven’t had a lot of luck in finding information about John D. Ahalt Rye Whiskey. I found the information in the next two paragraphs in this article.
John D. Ahalt purchased a stone flour mill in 1879 in Burkittsville, MD, on the former Needwood Estate and transformed it into a distillery. If Burkittsville is ringing a bell in your head, it may be because the movie, “The Blair Witch Project”, was filmed there.
The distillery was named “Mountain Spring Distillery” and the whiskey was called, “The Antietam”. The business grew and in the 1890’s expanded to include a five story warehouse. The business was later sold, it’s name changed to “Pure Rye Distilling Company”, and eventually closed due to prohibition.
My friend and author of the history blog, Appetite4History, found most of the information below and shared it with me. If you need to do research of any kind, Suzanne is awesome at it!
On this snapshot of the 1880 census, John D. Ahalt is listed as a farmer. Note that Hughes Francis, listed as a boarder, is a distiller.
In the 1900 census, John D. Ahalt’s occupation is still listed as “farmer.”
In the 1910 census, John’s occupation is “farmer and distiller” and his son, John H. Ahalt, now 27 years old, has the occupation of “sells whiskey”. Note that Jeanette has died and John H. is now married with children.
By the 1920 census, John D. Ahalt had died. John H. Ahalt is not listed on this census but his wife, now 34, is listed as a widow and the head of the house. She takes in boarders as her occupation. John H. Ahalt is not actually dead in 1920, he is off fighting WWI. Perhaps she thought he was dead??
This is John H. Ahalt’s WWI registration card.
John H. Ahalt dies in 1955.
I also found mention of Ahalt Whiskey in this 1990 Maryland Historical Magazine.
The reader from whom I purchased the Ahalt bottle also included a Very Fine Old Horsey Rye Whiskey Bottle. This whiskey was produced in Burkittville from the 1840’s until 1919. (Learn more here and here.)
And finally, here the three items are together.
I was very curious to figure out if and/or how I am related to John D. Ahalt the whiskey maker. Thanks to Suzanne, who helped me with ancestry.com, I figured out the connection.
John D. Ahalt’s father was Samuel Ahalt (1806 – 1889).
Samuel Ahalt was brother to my great-great-great grandfather, Matthias Ahalt (1803 – 1881). I was in MD Friday for a funeral and found Matthias Ahalt’s grave.
His wife’s information is on the back side of the marker.
Samuel and Matthias had five siblings: Jacob, Catharine, Elizabeth, Eva, and Joshua. Their father was John Jacob Ahalt (1792 – 1846).
And if I ever go to Antiques Roadshow, you now know what I’ll take!
Other Vintage Monday posts:
Whoa!! What an incredible story and post. How amazing that a reader reached out to you about the bottle, and that you were able to find that check, too. Plus, you found SO much cool stuff about your ancestors online. Priceless!
Oh how neat!!! Things worked out so perfectly. 🙂 I just love history and loved this post.
How exciting! I need to do more family research. I know the basics, but that’s about it.
Wow!! Some great information. John H Ahalt was my great grand father and John Hillary Ahalt was my grand father. I am the Daugher of Jack P Ahalt and heard stories of the distellery. I to have searched for a bottle with no luck
Thank you so much for commenting, Crystal. I think I got extremely lucky when a reader saw my first post about Ahalt whiskey and then later offered to sell her bottle to me. I would love to see where the distillery once stood. A cousin in MD has a map that marks its spot (I think) and he believes the location is down a farm road near where an old school stands in Burkittsville. If I remember correctly, the school may be a Ruritan club now. If you have any clues as to its location, I’d love to hear about them. I don’t live in MD, but I’d make a field trip there in a heart beat to investigate.
Hi Paula my name is randy sowers and I own the properties where ahalt & horsey distillerys were located. The ahalts ruins are still there and I would love to have pictures of them
I’ve never seen pictures of the ruins and didn’t know that they were there. If I travel to MD, would you show them to me?
Yes I would be glad too .
Hi Paula my name is randy sowers and I own the properties where horsey & ahalt distillerys are located.
Thought you might be interested in the genealogy of Matthias Ahalt’s German Roots.
Thank you so much for sending this information to me!
My mother was an Ahalt. So I have many stories.
I live at Burkittsville on a dairy farm.
I know where the first generation American Ahalts are buried and the original Ahalt farm.
Our cousin Ginny has so much history on Ahalts.
My mother is 95 and remembers a lot of history. If u have questions I could relate them to her. She remembers that there were 30 plus farms owned by Ahalt on Middletown Valley.
I have an Ahalt bottle.
Some of my grandchildren are related to Ahalt by several ways.
Question — was your grandfather’s farm on Marker Road.
Hope u email back.
I am so happy to hear from you, Joann! I would absolutely love to hear some of your Ahalt stories and seeing where the original Ahalt farm was and also where the first generation Ahalts are buried would be a thrill for me.
I’ve been told that my cousin, Ginny Ellen, has done a lot of historical research on the Ahalts. I can’t remember her married name.
The farm where my grandfather grew ups is still a dairy farm and is being operated by Matt and Mark Ahalt. It’s called Richvale Farm and it is on Picnic Woods Road. I know from Middletown that you get on Marker Road and then turn on Picnic Woods Road to get there. I looked at your farm’s Facebook page and the two farms don’t look far apart at all.
I would love to hear back from you. My email is [email protected]
There is some information and pictures about the distillery at the Gathland State Park museum near Burkittsville, if you get up that way. Burkittsville also has a small museum in the back of one of the churches, although I don’t remember seeing anything about the distillery there. Both are open intermittently, so check before you go.
So happy to see your pictures (and a bit jealous that you found the bottle!) 🙂
I am also a distant descendant. If I remember right, John D. would be my great-great-uncle.
Thank you so much for this information. I know where Gathland State Park is and the next time that I am in Maryland, I will visit the museum there and also the one in Burkittsville.
I am very lucky to have an Ahalt whiskey bottle. It is an interesting conversation piece when guests see it.
Wow, you are so lucky to be finding out about your family history. Enjoyed your sharing very much. Will keep my eye out for an Ahalt bottle–doubt if many made it as far as Maine, though!