New Masthead ver 3

Changing Exhibits

fishing reels

Frankfort has a very unique place in history as being the town where the bait casting fishing reel was perfected and first produced. Every place has its historic event or figure, but only we have this distinction. It was a Frankfort industry for over 100 years. Local craftsmen handmade these gems to fish the renowned streams of central Kentucky. Their reputation for quality and beauty was recognized around the world.

The Capital City Museum is opening an exhibition of a selection of these jewels from a variety of local makers, both from private collections and our own.



  • 1808      Jonathan Fleming Meek is born in Albemarle County,
                 Virginia to Silvanus and Martha Meek. In 1812, the Meek
                 family move to Danville, KY.
  • 1816,     September 15    Benjamin F. Meek is born in Danville, KY.
  • 1821,     July 1    Benjamin Cave Milam is born to John and Lucy
                Bradley Milam.
  • 1822     James L. Sage is born in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • 1830     Jonathan F. Meek moves to Frankfort, KY and establishes a
                jewelry store on Main Street.
  • 1830/31 Benjamin Meek becomes apprenticed to Thomas Robinson
                Jamison Ayres, a silversmith in Danville.
  • 1834,    June 3    Clockmaker George William Gayle is born in King
                & Queen County, Virginia. He would later serve as an
                apprentice in the J. F. and B. F. Meek shop for a brief period.
  • 1834/1835    Benjamin Meek moves to Frankfort to work with his
                brother Jonathan. Newspaper ads say “reels since 1834”.
  • 1835     Benjamin Cave Milam, age 14, serves as an apprentice in
                Beverley Noel’s jewelry shop at Frankfort. Coincidentally,
                Noel’s brother, Theodore, was also a reel maker. 
  • 1835/36 The Meek brothers manufacture their first reel at the request
                of Liberty Hall’s Mason Brown. Brown probably had a Snyder
  • 1836    B. C. Milam visits Paris, KY and experiences George Snyder’s
  • 1837    When Beverley Noel quits the reel business, B. C. Milam, age
               16, joins Jonathan and Benjamin Meek.
  • 1842    Dr. James Henshall writes that James L. Sage was in Frankfort
               and repairing reels. Henshall (1836 -1925), author of “Book
               of the Black Bass,” and one of the Frankfort reel’s first
               historians, was an accomplished angler, sailor, hunter, and
               woodsman. He settled in Cynthiana, KY in the 1870s, later
               moving to Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • 1846/1847  B. C. Milam is a Captain in the 10th Cavalry during the
               Mexican War
  • 1849    B. C. Milam becomes a partner with the Meek brothers under
               the name J. F. Meek & Company         
  • 1850    James L. Sage is listed in the Franklin County Census -28
               years old, as a gunsmith. In that same census, listed with
               B. F. Meek, is Sage’s family, B. C. Milam and wife, and the
               apprentice George W. Gayle.
  • 1852    The J. F. Meek Company fails and the partnership dissolution
               occurs in December. B. C. Milam carried on the reel-making
               until the company was dissolved.
  • 1853    The Meek-Milam Fishing Reel Shop opens with Benjamin Meek
               assuming the jewelry responsibility and B. C. Milam, the reel
               making. They operated out of the same 222 West Main Street
               shop. The partnership lasts until 1859 at which time Meek
               sells his interest in the building to Dr. Samuel Ayres, the
               brother of the Danville mentor, Thomas R. J. Ayres.
  • 1853    Jonathan Meek moves to Louisville and is employed by
               jeweler and silversmith William Kendrick. In 1873 he would
               return to reel making at Louisville.
  • 1854,   May 1 A fire at the Meek-Milam shop results in a move to
               Lewis Street for a short time until they can return to the 222
               W. Main street shop.
  • 1855    George W. Gayle begins managing the Worham P. Loomis
               jewelry business near Main and Ann Street. Gayle and his
               colleagues run the shop until Loomis dies in 1870.
  • 1859,   July 12  John W. Milam, son of B. C. Milam, is born
  • 1860    KY Governor Beriah Magoffin hires Benjamin Meek to strike
               gold medals for presentation to the surviving KY Volunteers
               who  participated in the Battle of Lake Erie (Put-In Bay) on
               September 10, 1813.
  • 1865     James L. Sage is listed as the Superintendent of the
               Frankfort Gas Works in federal tax documents.     

Visit the Capital City Museum for a close up look at the Reels.




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