W. J. Graham & Co. / The Graham Ice Manufacturing Company 1890-1892

William Jefferson "Willie" Graham arrived in Johnson City from Bakersville, North Carolina on Tuesday September 10, 1889 with the purpose of operating the W. J. Graham & Co. which he was going to establish in the building of the former Johnson City Wholesale Grocery Company that he had recently purchased.(1) On May 8, 1890 an announcement was made in The Comet that a thirty ton ice factory was to be built in the town at once.(1)

W. J. Graham had purchased the machinery in Asheville and was going to locate the new factory in the Proctor Land Company's addition.(1) It appears that the factory was built near where the railroad crosses Sinking Creek; actually that was exactly where the spring they used was located.(1) This is near where route 321 crosses under the railroad trestle of the same railroad. The area is behind the King Springs Baptist Church on Miami Drive.

The Comet claimed that the ice company was also named W. J. Graham & Co, and included not only an ice factory, but a bottling works as well.(1) In reality the company was incorporated as the Graham Ice Manufacturing Company on August 13, 1890 with W. J. Graham, A. B. Bowman, P. H. Abernathy, Will Harr, and C. P. Cass signing.(2) No mention of bottling was made in the charter; however, a bottling works was attributed to the company by the newspaper. I have yet to see a bottle for this company, but am sure it would be a Hutchinson stopper bottle.

They seemed to be doing well throughout the rest of 1890 with 1891 starting out well; however, on July 22, 1891 the entire ice factory was reduced to ashes.(2) While the ice making equipment, engine, storage rooms, and even two hundred kegs of beer belonging to the Knoxville Brewing Company were destroyed there was no mention of the bottling equipment or bottles.(1) W. J. Graham's bottling works was listed in The Comet's list of operating businesses until February 1892.(2) After this the newspaper seems to have dropped the list. The ice factory is obviously rebuilt as by November 28, 1895 it is listed as up for sale to repay back taxes.(1)

The Comet announces in April 21, 1898 that the stock holders of the Graham Ice Manufacturing Company were making efforts to restart the plant, and went on to mention that the plant had to close several years prior due to lack of patronization by the populace who were buying their ice from Knoxville concerns. I'm not sure if they did get it started again; however, on October 5, 1899 the Comet announced that the ice company had sold its plant to foreign capitalists. These new investors were able to get the factory operational again; however, ended up selling it again in August 1900. William J. Graham moved to Greenville South Carolina where he was involved in several other businesses until succumbing to pneumonia on February 18, 1905.

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(1) The Comet newspaper Johnson City, Tennessee

(2) Washington County Tennessee Court Records