Saturday, April 11, 2020

Frederick Kautz, Tobacco, and the 59th

Frederick Kautz (left) with his brother August (seated) and Phil Sheridan
Frederick Kautz was born in Baltimore, Maryland on November 6th, 1829.  He was the younger brother of August (brigadier general during the Civil War) and Albert Kautz (later a rear admiral).  A younger brother (George) served in the 39th Illinois while another younger brother (John) served in the 1st Kentucky and later the 82nd Ohio.  Frederick lived in Georgetown, Ohio from 1833 until 1844, when he moved with the family to Levanna, Brown County, on the Ohio River.  He would have been one of the younger children in the Dutch Hill School while one Hiram (Ulysses) Grant was a student.  

Kautz was fifteen years old when he moved to the Levanna farm.  He worked at planting grapes on the hillsides for the vineyard and Broadleaf tobacco on the bottom land.  Kautz took special interest in the tobacco and worked on the family farm until he was 21.  
In 1850, Frederick and his brother George joined in the California gold rush.  Kautz spent three years in California, eventually becoming the sutler for his brother August’s regiment at Fort Oxford, Oregon and Fort Steilacoom, Washington Territory.  

Kautz moved back to Brown County in 1859 and bought a 163 acre farm near Higginsport, Brown County.  He raised horses, corn, and wheat on his farm, but his cash crop was Broadleaf tobacco. 

In October 1862 he enlisted as captain of Company G, 59th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  He served three years and fought at Stones River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and throughout the Atlanta Campaign until discharged with the regiment in Nashville on November 1st, 1864.

White burley tobacco is the center point of the Brown County flag
Kautz returned to his Higginsport farm on a furlough some time in the spring of 1863.  During that time he found his farm manager pulling some strange lighter-colored tobacco plants out of the seed beds (a small highly fertile and protected plot where young tobacco plants grow until large enough to transplant into the field) and discarding them.  Kautz told him to save some of those lighter plants and see what they would become.  This was a wise decision because when the plants grew and the leaves were cured they produced a much lighter and milder smoking tobacco.  This new variety of tobacco became known as White Burley.  It won first prize at the 1867 St. Louis World’s Fair and sold for 75 cents per pound when Broadleaf tobacco sold for seven cents.  White Burley was the beginning of the development of the United States cigarette industry.  Frederick Kautz’s discovery of White Burley changed the agricultural landscape of Brown County and drove its economy until the late 1990s.  If one can tell the difference between cigar and cigarette smoke one can tell the difference between Broadleaf and White Burley tobacco.  It is a White Burley plant on the Brown County flag.

As an effective officer Captain Kautz rode at the head of his company during most of the major battles fought in Tennessee and Georgia.  Kautz died in 1909 in his beloved Brown County, Ohio.  He is buried at Pisgah Ridge Cemetery next to his wife, Lucinda.

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