The Betterton Bitters brands – Knoxville, Tennessee


The Betterton Bitters brands

Knoxville, Tennessee


View of Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee, 1871 – drawn & published by A. Ruger.

10 October 2013 (R•110513) (R•032818)

Apple-Touch-IconAWhile 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)


Possible label only Eureka Bitters – McCLUNG & BETTERTON’S / KNOXVILLE, TENN. – Shultis Collection


EUREKA BITTERS ! advertisement, McClung & Betterton’s – 18 December 1870. Note Pepper Bros note on bottom.

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, TennesseeRosenheim’s BittersPlantation 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.

The new listing for the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2:

Newspaper Advertisement
P 43.1 PEPPER’S CELEBRATED APERIENT AND TONIC BITTERS, Pepper Bros. (ref. Dr. Pepper), Druggists and Apothecaries
Bristol News (Bristol, Tennessee), December 2, 1870

Pepper’s Celebrated & Aperient Tonic Bitters advertisement, Pepper Bros., Druggists and Apothecaries – Bristol News (Bristol, Tennessee), December 2, 1870

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.

The new listing for the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2:

Newspaper Advertisements
E 54.7 EUREKA BITTERS, McClung & Betterton, Sole Proprietor, Gay St., Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville Daily Chronicle, December 15, 1870, 1871

M’Clung & Bettertons advertisement noting Celebrated Evening Star Bitters and Eureka BittersKnoxville (Tennessee) Daily Chronicle1871

Searching further online we can establish the following information related to the Betterton name in this region:


Betterton (John N. Betterton) & Company listing – Norwood’s Knoxville Directory1884

John Nathan Betterton

1843J. N. Betterton born August 22, 1843 in Campbell County, Bedford, Virginia, Knox County Genealogy & History
1850J. N. Betterton, residence Campbell, Virginia, Federal Census
1855C. (Charles) M. McClung born May 12, 1855 in St. Louis, Missouri, Knox County Genealogy & History
1870John N. Betterton married Zephana Whitlow
1871M’Clung (also McClung) & Bettertons advertisement noting Celebrated Evening Star Bitters and Eureka Bitters – Knoxville (Tennessee) Daily Chronicle
1873J. W. Betterton & Bro, Wholesale Liquors, Tennessee State Directory
1876Betterton & Rollings (John N. Betterton and George W. Rollings) wholesale liquors, 207 Gay, Knoxville City Directory
1884John 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)

Grape Bitters

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

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and has a BFA in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. Ferdinand is the founding Principal of FMG Design, a nationally recognized design consultation firm. Ferdinand is a passionate collector of American historical glass specializing in bitters bottles, color runs and related classic figural bottles. He is married to Elizabeth Jane Meyer and lives in Houston, Texas with their daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. The Meyers are also very involved in Quarter Horses, antiques and early United States postage stamps. Ferdinand is the past 6-year President of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is one of the founding members of the FOHBC Virtual Museum.
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