With strong family ties to the area, our latest People of The Ville honoree gives us a look into the past of our great city. Bill Beam, Jr. and his family have a long residence in Louisville with family history dating back to 1798 when his fifth great-grandfather, Captain Peter Fontaine, whose property later became known as Fountain Ferry Park, arrived in Louisville. Bill also explained that this was not the earliest arrival to Kentucky and “many family members lived in Kentucky (primarily in Frankfort, Shelbyville and the Bardstown area) years before the state’s admission to the union in 1792”.
Bill attended Kentucky Country Day and graduated in 1976. He then went to Tulane University, where he graduated with a degree in political science. Bill knew his wife Monette for several years via mutual friends and when they encouraged him to make contact, he did. His first attempt to take her on a date was thwarted, but she accepted his second try and they will soon celebrate their 20th anniversary this New Year’s Eve. Monette is also from the area and works as a real estate agent. They are both avid Louisville Cardinal fans as well as fans of the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, and Tulane University Green Wave.
I asked Bill about some of his family tree and the response was typical of him in that it was modest yet thorough. The following is the set of questions and the answers that he gave:
The Plainview area is connected to your family. Can you share a little about this part of your family?
“In 1832 my fourth great-grandfather Jacob Garr settled in the Louisville area including having a large cabin on a large section in eastern Jefferson County. Garr is buried today in that area known as the Plainview subdivision (off Hurstbourne Blvd) which evolved into a dairy and American Saddlebred farm. My great grandfather (Robert C. Tway Sr) expanded the farm’s boundaries and developed those agricultural businesses while his wife (Estelle Bennett Tway) named the farm. Estelle noted the area was a “plain view”; thus the name “Plainview Farms” was created. My grandfather (William T. Tway, Sr.) sold the property to developers in the 1970s as family members did not care to live in the historic register home of R.C. Tway…thinking Plainview Farms was so far away from Louisville activities…oh my!…times have changed.”
Folks who know you are aware you have many notables in your family tree. Can you name some of your connections?
“You may regret asking that question, but I feel truly blessed to be a direct descendant to so many dignitaries who served as military figures, politicians, government officials, distillers, businessmen and real estate barons. I don’t mean to ignore some of my relatives, but to simplify matters I will list the most notable ones by generation:
Fifth great grandparent
Isaac Shelby: Kentucky’s first and fifth governor, Revolutionary War hero, namesake of Shelby County and Shelbyville
Thomas Todd: United States Supreme Court Justice (appointed by Thomas Jefferson as the first Supreme Court Justice west of the Appalachian Mountains), Chief Justice Kentucky Supreme Court
General Jonathan Clark: Revolutionary War hero, Oldest brother of Louisville Euro-founder George Rogers Clark and William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame
Fourth great grandparent
Colonel Charles S Todd, Sr.: U.S. diplomat, U.S. ambassador to Russia, first Kentucky Colonel, Kentucky’s 10th Secretary of State, Kentucky State Representative)
Jacob Beam: the original master distiller of Beam Whiskey (evolved into Jim Beam Bourbon)
Daniel P Weller: the original master distiller of Weller Whiskey (evolved into W. L. Weller Bourbon)
Jacob Garr: owned several large tracts of land in Jefferson County including what is today known as the Plainview area.
Captain Benjamin John Head: Revolutionary War figure, early ancestor of Middletown where his home housed a general store and law firm which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places
Third great grandparent
Nathaniel Wolfe: notable advocate for Kentucky’s neutrality in American Civil War, nationally renowned criminal defense attorney, namesake of Wolfe County, Kentucky, Kentucky State Representative and Senator
John Baylor Temple: Kentucky’s 6th State Auditor, President Kentucky Military Board during the American Civil War
Richard Alexander Robinson Sr: created the largest drug company in the south, organized several Louisville businesses, Director of Louisville Bridge Company (first bridge connecting Louisville to the north)
William H Veeneman, Sr.: Served 19 years Chair and 7 years as CEO of Churchill Downs Racetrack, racehorse owner, President of Frankfort Distillery (Four Roses), Chair Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust
Robert C Tway Sr: Owner of R.C. Coal Company, Kentucky Trailer, Plainview Farms Dairy, two-time World Champion Five-Gaited American Saddlebred “Plainview’s Julia”, built a majestic home listed on the Historic Registry.
Please note I love my parents and grandparents with their notable achievements, but I am sure boredom has already cemented in your brain going back seven generations.”
What do you like most about Louisville?
“Louisville is a first-class mid-size city. A few decades ago, I thought the city lacked investment and a sense of pride. Louisville has transformed from being more than just a “family” town as residents enjoy enormous venues (arts, sports, parks, restaurants, special events, urban bourbon trail, unique neighborhoods, universities, museums, concerts). Although Louisville experiences all four seasons; I just wish the cold periods of winter were eliminated from the equation.”
Tell us a little about your children.
“I am truly blessed to have both a son and a daughter which allows me to witness and process a vast array of experiences. Both children proudly followed me as graduates of KCD. My son is my namesake and is constantly reminded of how he looks and acts like me. He will survive. My daughter who profusely loves sports likes to quickly introduce herself as my second son. Both are building blocks to their careers and should shortly have paved very navigable roads to their personal and professional success.”
If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
“I wished I went to law school. I served as an adjudicative hearing officer at one time in my professional career, but a formal law degree would have probably brought some stimulating career experiences.”
Who was the most influential person in your life and why?
“Two men brought tremendous influence to my personal character, my grandfather William T. Tway Sr and former Kentucky Governor Paul E. Patton. My grandfather provided me with a male form of love, trust, and loyalty. Governor Patton displayed to me the value and significance of hard work and positioning that labor with an ability to fully complete a task.”
As you can tell from his answers, he is smart and witty and incredibly modest about himself. The truth be told, I’m sure his ancestors will be telling their children that they knew him. He and his wife Monette are valuable parts of our community. When asking Bill these questions, I knew he would answer them well and he did. I left one final question for the end when I simply asked for him to tell us something that we haven’t already covered that he would want to say; and he answered like this:
“I hope to always to live by the motto, ‘treat someone like you would want to be treated.’ If I forget to live by those words, kindly kick me in the shin and remind me. It is that important to me.”
I honestly don’t think any kicking will be necessary. Thank you, Bill, for being our next honoree for The People of The Ville!