Hugh Wesley - An Entrepreneurial Spirit of Spirits

Hugh Wesley Sharp - The Namesake of Hugh Wesley's Gin

Hugh Wesley was born into the grain business. His father John Wesley had a major grain milling business in Northern Missouri. Hugh was quite the sporty dresser and as a teenager always wore a suit coat even if it was three times too big for him.

He feverishly courted his bride-to-be Elizabeth, and we have the old love letters to prove it. Even though Elizabeth was about as coy as one could get he managed to win her hand.

Elizabeth and Hugh's wedding pictures

Shortly after their marriage Elizabeth and Hugh packed up their Model “T” Ford and drove south looking for a place to start their own grain business. They would find a lawn to pitch their tent and spend a few days in each town assessing its business potential. They finally settled on a small town in Central Missouri that was the county seat and had a rail head.

Once Hugh got his equipment and started his milling business he immediately began to cut into old J.L. Hoops’ existing grain business. J.L. was a long time resident and certainly didn’t take kindly to Hugh’s competition.

One day a fellow named Jim Teeple pulled up to Hugh’s business with a wagon load of corn. Jim was known as the toughest and meanest fighter in the county. Hugh unloaded Jim’s corn and went to pay him. All of a sudden Jim started yelling that Hugh had cheated him while backing Hugh into the corner of a grain bin. Jim towered over Hugh and cocked his arm ready to hit Hugh. Then all of a sudden Jim turned and silently left. The next day Jim showed up with another wagon full of corn. He looked at Hugh and said that J.L. Hoops had hired him to beat Hugh up, but when he cornered Hugh he explained that Hugh looked so little and pitiful he just couldn’t hit him. Jim became a good friend and customer for the rest of his life.

Hugh and his dad John Wesley Sharp in his Crocker, Mo mill office.

Hugh in the basement of his mill.

Hugh was never one to stick with the status quo and he came up with an idea to get into the tobacco business. So he went up to the corner store and purchased every different brand of tobacco he could find. He wrote each company a letter asking to be a distributor of their products. Out of all the letters he only got one reply. It was from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The letter thanked Hugh for his interest but stated they had a distributor some 25 miles away from his location. But even though they did not need a distributor at this time they would forward his letter on the district sales representative.