published Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Whiskey label won’t note growth of town


by Andy Johns
  • photo
    The label on bottles of Jack Danie'ls whiskey tout the population of Lynchburg, Tenn., as 361. The new census shows tiny Moore County has over 6,000 residents. Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press

LYNCHBURG POPULATION *

1890 — 500

1900 — 417

1910 — 408

1920 — 365

1930 — 380

1940 — 390

1950 — 401

1960 — 396

1970 — 538

1980 —668

1990 — 4,721

2000 — 5,740

2010 — 6,362

* Figures for 1990, 2000, 2010 include consolidated Lynchburg-Moore County, Tenn.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

When it comes to numbers, it shouldn’t be any surprise that whiskey can make things a little fuzzy.

New census figures that came out last week say the population of the Lynchburg, Tenn., metropolitan area now stands more at more than 6,000 residents, but the whiskey maker that made the town famous plans to keep “Lynchburg (Pop. 361), Tenn.” on its famous black labels.

Officials with Jack Daniel’s Distillery say they don’t plan on changing the label because it’s in keeping with the brand’s image of being from a small town that has changed as little as the recipe for sour mash.

“It’s just part of our heritage and history,” said Steve May, director of the distillery’s Lynchburg Homeplace and local marketing. “We like to maintain our identity to a simpler time.”

May said he’s not sure exactly when the population numbers first appeared on the bottles, but he thinks the 361 comes from the 1980 census. He said a bottle collector at the distillery has a bottle from 1962 where the label reads “Pop. 402.” Bottles from the early 1980s use 361 as the population, and May said a visitor center worker has a Lynchburg sign that says “Population 361.”

According to the census bureau, Lynchburg’s population was 668 in 1980 and 538 in 1970. In the last 120 years, the closest census number to the 361 on the bottle was the 1920 census, which counted 365 residents.

“We know it’s probably 500, realistically, but it can’t be more than that,” May said.

Lynchburg and Moore County, one of the smallest counties in the state, consolidated their governments in the late 1980s. Officially the Lynchburg-Moore County population totaled 6,362 in the 2010 census, up 10.8 percent from 2000 and more than 34 percent from 1990.

Metro Mayor Sloan Stewart estimated that 500 or 600 people live within what locals would consider the city boundaries.

“We’re getting bigger, but it’s a small-town image,” he said of the number on the label. “That’s always been a trademark, and it probably always will be.”

Woodye Bedford, president of the Metropolitan Lynchburg Moore County Chamber of Commerce, said the population within the original area of the town might be close to the figures on the bottle.

“In reality I don’t think it would be much greater than the 361,” he said in a phone interview with cows mooing in the background.

Stewart attributed the area’s growth to retirees and urban dwellers.

“People are leaving the big cities and [they] come here,” he said.

Bedford said the growth is apparent from the people he talks to around the area.

“I get people who say they live over at [Tims Ford] Lake and, based on their accent and the way they talk, they didn’t start here,” he said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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