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Series I. Abraham Overholt & Company, 1881-1888

Historical Background

In 1800, Henry Overholt (1739-1813), grandfather of Henry Clay Frick, and his family migrated west from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to the southwestern edge of the state, settling in Westmoreland County. The Overholt homestead is located in West Overton near present day Scottdale, Pennsylvania. When Henry Overholt settled here, he built his farm eventually adding a gristmill and small distillery, both for the processing and sale of rye grain cultivated on his land. In 1810, Henry’s son Abraham persuaded his father to begin to produce rye whiskey commercially at the Overholt distillery. Henry agreed and the Overholts’ became the first to produce rye whiskey in Pennsylvania for commercial consumption instead of medicinal purposes. Although the Overholts’ were Mennonite and the church disapproved of the production or sale of whiskey, Abraham continued to market his rye whiskey as “Old Farm Whiskey.” One of Abraham’s sons built a second distillery at nearby Broad Ford, Pa., where he produced “Old Overholt” or “Monongahela Rye" whiskey. The production and sale of the rye whiskey allowed the family estate to grow and expand over 260 acres. This expansion enabled the family to distill between six and eight gallons or four times more rye whiskey per day then when they began.

At Henry's death, his sons Abraham and Christian inherited the farm and distillery business. As their business grew, several buildings were erected to address the rising demand of whiskey by the public. Together Abraham and Christian built up and enlarged the distillery which now had the production capacity of almost 200 gallons of rye whiskey per day. Soon after, Abraham bought out Christian’s shares of the company and in the mid-1800s went into business with his two sons, Jacob and Henry. At this time, Abraham renamed the business, Abraham Overholt & Company.

The Overholt entrepreneurial legacy would continue through the lineage which eventually produced in Abraham Overholt’s grandson, Henry Clay Frick, a valuable lesson in business. The Abraham Overholt & Company thrived for several generations until the company was forced to close in 1919 due to Prohibition. Later, Helen Clay Frick, daughter of Henry Clay Frick, used the distillery buildings for museum purposes as part of the historic West Overton Village.

Scope and Content Notes:

The materials in this series contains the financial records of Abraham Overholt & Company, including sales and cash journals for the period of 1881 to 1888. The ledger is a financial account including an alphabetical index of individuals, bills paid and received, stock accounts, and transactions with local businesses and companies, such as Broad Ford Distillery, H.C. Frick, and Andrew Mellon. There is also a small amount of ephemeral materials, including pamphlets, post cards, and checks from the Overholt Distillery. These contain a brief history of the business; however no dates are noted on the ephemeral material.

Box 1
Folder 1 Distillery postcards
Folder 2 Distillery 100th anniversary pamphlets
Folder 3 Distillery mailing pamphlets
Folder 4 Distillery checks
Folder 5 Obituary of Abraham Overholt
Folder 6 View of property of A.S.R. Overholt & Company, West Overton, Pa. WCCC., undated ((16" x 20"))
Box 2 Journal, April 11, 1881-November 18, 1888
Box 3 Journal, Sales, April 13, 1881-June 11, 1888
Box 4 Journal, April 30, 1881-November 20, 1888
Box 5 Ledger, April 1881-June 1888