In the personal columns of the April 1905 issue of the Southern Carbonator and Bottler it is announced that Thomas P. Crow had purchased the Watauga Bottling Works and was preparing to operate it on an extensive scale. No mention is made of whom he purchased the obviously already established bottling company from. T. P. Crow's ownership of the company is confirmed in a book called The Bottler's Helper, published in 1907.(4) The plant was located in a building owned by the Watauga Flower Mills at 307 Sycamore Street (now North Sycamore Street) which also occupied the same plot of land on the Doe River Race.(4) The Doe River Race was a manmade waterway branching off of the Doe River which provided power to several of Elizabethton's early industries including the Tennessee Chair Company which was directly across Broad Street from the bottling plant's location. The building doesn't exist on the 1902 Sanborn maps, so the range for the company's inception would be the three year period between 1902 and 1905. So far a brand called Peach Mellow, produced by B. Blumenthal & Co. of New York, N. Y., is the only leader brand I know they bottled during this period.(4)

On the night of April 13, 1908 tragedy struck the young company when the building they had been occupying caught fire.(8) By the time the fire units arrived the fire in the plant was beyond control. They had to turn their attention to trying to stop the fire from spreading to the Watauga Flour Mills, and the nearby dwelling of D. E. Taylor, with both buildings coming through with no damage after much hard work.(5) The loss to the Watauga Bottling Works was nearly four thousand dollars comprised of two thousand cases of bottles, a large amount of stock, and the bottling machinery.(5) Thomas P. Crow did not have any insurance on his stock and equipment, and Watauga Flour Mills didn’t have insurance on the building itself.(5) In the May 1908 issue of the American Bottler there was a note stating that the company was in the market for new bottling machinery.(5) The thing is that the equipment that was purchased by Thomas P. Crow to reestablish the Watauga Bottling Works was in fact used to establish the Star Bottling Works in Johnson City, Tennessee which is already operating by July 1908. It is quite possible that there wasn’t a bottling company in Elizabethton for several years.

The Watauga Bottling Works was incorporated on July 29, 1911 with a capital of five thousand dollars.(1) Those listed in connection with this corporation were Nat T. Perry, Lon Hendrickson, C. H. Hunter, Roy A. Slagle, and C. R. Clark.(5) The company appears to have built their plant at 304 Elk Avenue where it intersects Pine Street. Pine Street had a railroad spur running up it to connect the Virginia & Southwestern Railroad to the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad. It was a perfect spot for a bottling company to ship sodas via rail as their products were distributed throughout North Carolina and East Tennessee.(7) On August 31, 1912 the company purchased an eight ton refrigeration unit which is most likely when they decided to start producing ice.

The company is listed in the 1923 and 1925 Beverage Blue Book, and it appears that they have become a franchise of brands produced by the Good Grape Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee which include Good Grape, and the Jumbo Brand Quality Sugar Beverages flavors.(2) In a 1928 ad for the company we find that Lon Hendrickson of Elizabethton, is President, Howard Wilson of Kingsport, TN, is Vice President, and finally Nat T. Perry is Secretary and Manager.(2) They are also distributing a non-alcoholic version of Budweiser, it is still prohibition after all, and Budweiser’s temperance drink called Bevo.(2) By 1929 the company has been sold to C. R. and William L. Crouch who keep the Seminole Flavors Company franchise for the area, move the operation to a building on State Line Road, and names the company the Seminole Bottling Company.(3)

The building that housed the second location of the Watauga Bottling Works is now the Picket Fence Antique shop.

Early Straight Side Watauga Bottling Works bottle

Watauga Bottling Works ad from 1922

From the collection of Frank Anderson, photo by Joseph Lee
7oz Aqua "straight side" WBW in slug plate soda water bottle

Good Grape bottle cap

6oz Good Grape bottle dated 1924

Watauga Bottling Works bottle opener

From the collection of Frank Anderson, photo by Joseph Lee
7 1/2 oz Jumbo Sugar Beverages bottle.

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(1) "Public acts of the state of Tennessee passed by the fifty eighth general assembly" 1913

(2) Miller's City Directory

(3) Elizabethton Star News

(4) The Bottler's helper: A Practical Encyclopedia for Bottlers 1907

(5) The American Bottler

(6) The National Provisioner

(7) Tennessee: the volunteer state, 1769-1923 By John Trotwood Moore, Austin Powers Foster, Clarke, S.J. 1923