The story below of the deadly stubbed toe is excerpted from my book “Hidden History of Tennessee.”
Jack Daniel is one of the most well-known names in the country. But not as many know Jasper Newton Daniel, which was Jack’s birth name. Jack was famous for the whiskey he created and, even today, Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of the distillery, is a popular tourist destination.
Jack died on October 10, 1911. He was born sometime around 1846, one of thirteen children of Calaway Daniel and Lucinda Cook Daniel. The records of his birth were destroyed in a courthouse fire.
Jack’s method of death would only add to the distiller’s legend. The oft-repeated story, which is told on distillery tours, states that Jack arrived at work early one morning and attempted to open his office safe. He had problems with the combination and could not manage to open it. In frustration, he kicked the solid, metal safe, breaking his toe.
An infection set in, causing gangrene. After several years, Jack succumbed to blood poisoning. The offending safe remains at the distillery and also is shown on tours. The running joke is that the moral of Jack’s story it “Never go to work early.” According to legend, his last words were “One last drink, please.”
This unusual death was portrayed on Spike TV’s show “1,000 Ways to Die.” Jack is buried in Lynchburg City Cemetery. Two chairs stand on either side of the headstone, reportedly so the many local women who mourned his passing would be comfortable.