The St. Charles Whiskey Bottles

A fitting topic for New Year’s Eve, I suppose. When I bought the old St. Charles Hotel building in downtown Pocahontas earlier this year, the previous owner took me to a place near the back of the building where she lifted some floor boards and showed me hundreds of half-pint whiskey bottles that had been thrown into the crawl space under the building some time in the past. Like a sand pile, the bottles made a broad-based pyramid shape, broader at the ground and coming to a point right under the hole in the floor boards (see second photo below).

I pulled several bottles out, cleaned them up, and researched them on the Internet. I found that they’re all from the 1920’s and ’30’s, the period of time when my grandfather Blankenship was editor and publisher of the Pocahontas Star Herald, the county’s only newspaper, which was then housed in the St. Charles. My grandfather, an alcoholic, died of cirrhosis of the liver a few years before I was born and my mother says she never saw him without a half pint whiskey bottle in his pocket.

There’s no doubt in my mind that these old bottles were carefully, lovingly, placed under the floor, one-by-one as they were emptied, by my grandfather during the “roaring twenties” and the Great Depression. I say “lovingly placed” because if he had just tossed them onto the pile, they would have broken. My mother says he probably placed them gently under the floor so his sister, who also worked at the paper, wouldn’t hear it. I wonder what else we may find under this 150+ year old building!

Most of the bottles still have their labels on them. Some used corks instead of screw-on lids (see second from the left below…click image to enlarge). The estimated value I found on the Internet is $20 to $40 per bottle. Last week I paid a man to spend a whole day removing the bottles and boxing them up. There are over 1000 of them! I would never sell them though. Too much family history there. I plan to clean them up and create some sort of historic display of them in the St. Charles. Below are a few representative samples:

A sampling of the St. Charles Whiskey Bottles. I have 1000 more like these!


This photo shows the last "few" bottles we pulled out of the St. Charles crawlspace (through the trap door on the right). We already have ten times this many boxed up, to be cleaned and eventually displayed.

3 Replies to “The St. Charles Whiskey Bottles”

  1. Patrick

    Yes, the photos display just fine. Really good idea, putting photos in them. That would be a great use for the ones that have lost their labels. And I can put a brief history of the bottles on the back. It’s an interesting story. Any of them would be cool as a vase. Thanks!

  2. Joyce McFall Castleberry

    You KNOW he thought someday someone will find these bottles–so MANY bottles. And you did! I would probably display some, sell some—It’s a odd heritage, but heritage all the same.

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