The Betterton Bitters brands
10 October 2013 (R•110513) (R•032818)
While looking through the 1881 Internal Revenue Record and Customs Journal, I came across three unlisted bitters from Knoxville, Tennessee with the name Betterton attached. To this bitters collector, the excitement must compare to finding a new specials of fauna, bird, animal or bug deep in the Amazon jungle or an unlisted dinosaur to the archaeologist or a new planet to the astronomer. These bitters were listed in the IRS document as:
Betterton’s Evening Star Bitters (Knoxville, Tennessee)
Betterton’s Celebrated Corn Bitters (Knoxville, Tennessee)
Betterton’s Celebrated Apple Brandy Bitters (Knoxville, Tennessee)
My first stop in researching this brand led me to very informative web site Bristol, Tennessee – Virginia Collectible Bottles & History. Specifically, I found the following information about the Pepper family of Dr. Pepper fame.
PEPPER BROTHERS – Around 1858, a large family of Peppers relocated to Bristol (Tennessee) from Mt. Airy ( Rural Retreat), Virginia. This included James R. Pepper, William H. Pepper, Charles T. Pepper, Jessee H. Pepper, and John Givens Pepper. Charles and John Pepper purchased the business of Thomas & Campbell and operated as the Pepper Brothers Drug Store, located “at the sign of the Red Mortar“. The Pepper Brothers first advertising appears in October of 1866 and continued well into 1872.
In 1873, John Givens Pepper was located on Main Street and advertised as a “sole proprietor.” In 1873, Charles T. Pepper and William H. Pepper entered into a partnership with Dr. Jere Bunting. In 1875, John Pepper was having a new home constructed and while inspecting the second floor, fell and was fatally injured. In 1879, the Pepper & Bunting partnership was dissolved.
Charles T. Pepper was born in 1830. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1855. In November 1865, he became a member of the Bristol Masonic Fraternity. From 1870 to 1876, Pepper was a Bristol-Goodson City Councilman. In 1875, he is on the Board of the Bristol Academy of Medicine and is the Deacon of Central Presbyterian Church. In 1879, he is the Treasurer of the Bristol Academy of Medicine.
A May 1879 advertisement notes that Dr. Charles T. Pepper and Mrs. Pepper will erect another brick store. However, something occurred to change this plan, for in August of 1879, Charles and his family move back to Rural Retreat. There he opens a pharmacy soda fountain business (It is from here that the “legend” about the Dr. Pepper soft drink begins).
An 1892 advertisement notes Drs. Rhea & Pepper, Dentists.
In 1870, Pepper Brothers prepared and sold “Pepper’s Celebrated & Aperient Tonic Bitters.” They also sold McClung & Betterton’s Eureka Bitters, manufactured in Knoxville, Tennessee, Rosenheim’s Bitters, Plantation Bitters, and Stoughton’s Bitters.
An April 1871 advertisement for Pepper’s Aperient & Tonic Bitters, claimed it was for dyspepsia, diseases of the liver, stomach, headache, constipational, and all diseases arising from a torpid condition of the digestive organs.
This information above confirmed and gave me the name of McClung and Betterton. A search online reveals the following advertisement for M’Clung & Betterton noting the Celebrated Evening Star Bitters and Eureka Bitters.
Searching further online we can establish the following information related to the Betterton name in this region:
John Nathan Betterton
1843 – J. N. Betterton born August 22, 1843 in Campbell County, Bedford, Virginia, Knox County Genealogy & History
1850 – J. N. Betterton, residence Campbell, Virginia, Federal Census
1855 – C. (Charles) M. McClung born May 12, 1855 in St. Louis, Missouri, Knox County Genealogy & History
1870 – John N. Betterton married Zephana Whitlow
1871 – M’Clung (also McClung) & Bettertons advertisement noting Celebrated Evening Star Bitters and Eureka Bitters – Knoxville (Tennessee) Daily Chronicle
1873 – J. W. Betterton & Bro, Wholesale Liquors, Tennessee State Directory
1876 – Betterton & Rollings (John N. Betterton and George W. Rollings) wholesale liquors, 207 Gay, Knoxville City Directory
1884 – John N. Betterton (Betterton & Co) Norwood’s Knoxville Directory
1884 – Betterton & Co (J N Betterton and Joseph H Whitlow) wholesale liquor dealers 220 Gay – Norwood’s Knoxville Directory (thru 1895 or so) (1895 located 214-216 Lucky)
1890 – T. F. Betterton, Annex Saloon, Cumberland St. (Bristol, Tennessee)
PRG: Online question I found – There was a T. F. Betterton in Bristol as a saloonist and an E. R Betterton in Chattanooga (see above flask picture) as a distiller. Which one was the Knoxville Betterton? Neither, It is John N. Betterton from Knoxville.
While researching this article, the following bitters have either been mentioned above or crossed my plate:
Apple Brandy Bitters (A 79.7) L … Pure Apple Brandy Bitters, Sanford, Chamberlane & Albers, Goodson, Virginia
Betterton’s Evening Star Bitters (Unlisted)
Betterton’s Celebrated Corn Bitters (Unlisted)
Betterton’s Celebrated Apple Brandy Bitters (Unlisted)
Home Bitters (New find)
McClung & Betterton’s Eureka Bitters (Unlisted)
Pepper Brothers (or Pepper’s) Celebrated Aperient & Tonic Bitters
Thomas & Campbell’s Stoughton Bitters
Geo. R. Anderson’s Scrofula Bitters
Bunting’s Tonic & Alterative Bitters or Bunting’s Tonic Bitters
Home Bitters – Betterton Bros. – Kingston, Tenn.
28 March 2018
Example of a Betterton Brothers Home Bitters from Kingston, Tennessee. “Came out of a basement here in Roanoke. Guy had know idea where he got it.” – Travis Layman