Thursday, August 5, 2004
Fate Leads E.C. Hazard’s Descendant on Detour to Avery Island
By ROGER M. GRACE
Tabasco Sauce is sold “in more than 110 countries around the world,” according to the website “tabasco.com,” maintained by the manufacturer of that zippy red stuff, the McIlhenny Company. The product is a staple in the U.S.
But if E.C. Hazard, owner of a national grocery distributing company, had not chosen to include that relatively obscure post-Civil War condiment from New Orleans in his line of products, Tabasco Sauce well might be extinct and unremembered.
It is, then, an intriguing occurrence that a lineal descendant of E.C. Hazard, oblivious to his ancestor’s link to Tabasco Sauce, recently found himself a visitor at a place not on his itinery: the Tabasco factory at Avery Island, La.
The descendant is Bob Dewey, a retired real estate agent, whom I introduced to you in last week’s installment. Dewey is a great grandson of the grocery wholesaler.
It was in January of 2002 that Dewey and his wife, Kim, were driving through Louisiana on their their way back from Texas to their home in Virginia. They had taken a side excursion. As Dewey recounted, in an e-mail:
“We spent the night in Lafayette, LA. While there, Kim saw a flyer about a park or somesuch near New Iberia dedicated to the Evangeline of Longfellow’s poem. As we were headed to New Orleans we got off the interstate and went instead by way of US 90, the Evangeline Trail. We stopped at the commemorative area and spent more time than we had intended visiting an old Creole house....
“As we returned to US 90 heading south, Kim spied a small sign pointing off the road to Avery Island. She had seen a story about Tabasco on PBS and we decided to take another quick detour as another sign had indicated something about old plantation homes down the road. We were running late but, we were there. Upon arrival at Avery Island, we paid the 25 cents to enter the island and went to the factory. It was Friday and it was closed. My keen eyed wife noticed that while the plant was closed, a tour was to start in a few minutes. So in we go.”
Dewey recalled that he noticed some old bottles that were similar to ones the Shrewsbury, New Jersey Historical Society had on display, bottles taken from the E.C. Hazard facility which had been located in that city. The company had moved there from New York several years before going bankrupt in 1902.
“We were running late and were about to leave when the guide told us that the eight minute movie was about to start. Well, OK, just eight minutes. It was not until the middle of the film when an old ledger showed upon the screen and the first entry was EC Hazard, NY that we knew of any relationship between my Great Grandfather Hazard and Tabasco.
“I thought that a copy of the ledger would be a neat thing for our grandchildren and sought out the tour guide who had gone to the gift shop. There the manager, not knowing the answer to our question regarding the ledger, called [curator/historian Shane K. Bernard]. We were immediately invited to the main offices to meet. After some exchange of pleasantries, within which I affirmed to him that I was indeed EC Hazard’s Great Grandson, he took us to see his collection of EC Hazard & Company promotional materials and correspondence. Boxes of it. I gathered that Hazard was their biggest distributor early on. Hazard covered the Northeast and London where I gather Tabasco bombed.”
“While we were there, the President of McIlhenny, I think the Grandson of the founder, called several times wanting to confirm who we were and why we were there.”
The president of the company is Paul McIlhenny, a grandson of founder Edmund McIlhenny.
As Bernard recalled it, “Mr. McIlhenny was under the impression that Bob Dewey was a member of the media who had dropped by the Island unannounced.”
The historian noted:
“I think Mr. McIlhenny called ‘several times’ because I wasn’t answering my phone; I was too intrigued speaking with the Deweys.”
“The fun to us about the adventure was that it almost did not happen....[W]ere it not for Evangeline, we would have continued on the interstate to New Orleans and never stopped at Avery Island.”
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company
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