The call of the horn and rumbling of steel echoes through Anderson County’s past. The railroad was the lifeblood of the county and one prominent businessman helped bring the tracks to the county. Follow us as we explore the life and history of another important figure of Anderson County: Judge William McBrayer.
William was born back in 1821, just a short distance from Lawrenceburg’s center. Of Scotch-Irish descent, his family dated back to the original settlers of the state.
By the time he was 22 years old, he took over the family dry goods business from his brothers. At the time, his store was one of just a few in the city.
As his wealth quickly grew, he decided to buy a piece of land in the eastern part of the county, right before reaching Tyrone. On the land, he built a small bourbon distillery and named it Cedar Brook after the small river running through the property that his wife named earlier.
This distillery would become one of the most famous pre-Prohibition distilleries in the country. The bourbon it produced won multiple awards and was even enjoyed by royalty in Europe.
His success helped William further develop Anderson County. Through his influence, he helped build the Presbyterian Church and became county judge executive in 1851. He also served in the state senate a few years later.
But his most lasting legacy was his work to bring the Louisville Southern Railroad to Anderson County. William served on the board of directors for the railroad and pushed hard for it to be built in town. He foresaw how the railroad would open Lawrenceburg to easy transportation of people and goods in and around the state.
He went all around the county, speaking at every district. He even donated land for the right of way and bought stock in the company to help boost investment.
When the railroad was finished, he and his family were the first ones to travel by train to Lawrenceburg on April 5th, 1888. Crowds of people from all surrounding counties made a trip to Lawrenceburg to celebrate the opening of the line.
Although he passed away just a few months afterwards from a stroke, William made a strong mark on the county as the railroad brought opportunities that quickly helped build the town and connect it with large cities like Louisville and Lexington.