Milton H. Rush was the person who introduced Coca-Cola to Bristol when he negotiated with a "Knoxville concern to ship bottled Coca-Cola to Bristol, which he distributed in the territory on a small scale."(3), this Knoxville concern was Roddy Manufacturing of Knoxville, TN. Pat Roddy Jr. implies that they were shipping Coca-Cola by the Southern Railway lines to Bristol, VA as early as 1902, and reveals that they were "…shipping Coca-Cola to Bristol through 1904 and into 1905, but since we did not or could not put a bottling plant in Bristol, the territory was taken over by Carl Jones who built the Bristol Plant."(10) Actually it wasn't until 1907 that half of the existing Coca-Cola bottling company was bought by Carl A. Jones, and the rest was purchased eighteen months later.(3)

Milton H. Rush shows up in the city directory as a Yard Master for the railroad in 1896.(1) Rush was about to begin the erection of a cold storage plant in Bristol according to the September 28, 1904 issue of The Butcher's Advocate.(9) The October 1904 issue of The Packages magazine states that Milton H. Rush "may build a bottling works".(8) The city directory lists Rush as an agent for the Chattanooga Brewing Company and the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company in 1905.(1) It appears that he did decide to build that bottling works, because by 1907 the first advertising for Rush Bottling Works appears in the Bristol Herald Courier.(4)

Rush is still distributing beer; however, by 1907 he has switched to Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and it is from an ad for this beer that we get a clue as to the location of his bottling works which of course is claimed to be on Washington Street.(4) I’m not exactly sure where on Washington he was located; however, in the 1923 Bristol City directory there is a Warehouse listed under the name Rush Bottling Works at 33 Washington Ave.(1) This building is vacant according to the Dec. 1907 Sanborn map so the mystery continues.

According to the ads for Rush Bottling Works they were bottling Ginger Ale, Lemon Soda, and Sarsaparilla along with "all kinds of soft drinks."(4) Of course these ads feature a cola claiming in ads published in the Bristol Harold Courier that "Our Cola is the same as any other".(4) This was during the 1907 "Kola War" skirmish between Rush Bottling Works, Holston Bottling Company, and Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Works which is evidenced by a barrage of advertising in the Bristol Harold Courier. It appears that Rush Bottling Works is no longer bottling by the end of 1907, but he is still distributing Pabst Blue Ribbon.(4)

Aside from being a successful businessman, Milton H. Rush was also a very prominent Republican in local politics. He was appointed Deputy Revenue Collector for Washington, Smyth, Russell, and Tazewell Counties in September 1899 (6), but resigned in November of the same year.(7) He served as a delegate representing Bristol in the Republican State Convention which was held in Roanoke, VA in August of 1901.(5) By 1904 he was named Chairman of the Republicans of Bristol, VA on May 26, 1904 (5), and was still holding an important position in the party by 1907.(5)

So why is it that a successful businessman, and prominent political personage, would end up disappearing under mysterious circumstances around 1910? That was the fate of Milton H. Rush, who disappeared leaving a considerable balance in a local bank which was discovered many years later by his widow.(2) Did it have anything to do with an altercation with a local policeman named Lewis, who Rush knocked down after Lewis insulted him, at the local train depot?(2) Lewis' response was to draw his gun firing a shot at Rush which ultimately missed him.(2) We may never be sure what became of Rush, but maybe someday this nearly forgotten local mystery will be solved.

From the collection of Tommy Fouch, photo by Joseph Lee
Amber bottle from Rush Bottling Works of Bristol, VA

Rush Bottling Works advertising from 1907's cola war

Clear bottle from Rush Bottling Works of Bristol, VA

More Rush Bottling Works advertising from 1907's cola war

Spout from a Rush Bottling Works seltzer bottle.

This page is only part of a much larger site. To see the rest then just click TAZEWELL-ORANGE.COM and the contents on this site are copyrighted by Joseph T. Lee III except where otherwise noted see Terms of Use.


(1) Hill's Bristol VA-Tenn City Directory


(3) "Double Destiny" By Robert S. Loving 1955

(4) Bristol Herald Courier

(5) The Times Dispatch Richmond, VA

(6) Clinch Valley News

(7) Tazewell Republican

(8) The Packages

(9) The Butcher's Advocate

(10) "75 years of Refreshment" By Pat Roddy, Jr. Copyright 1983