Dr. John Stith Pemberton

Dr. John Stith Pemberton was born July 8, 1831 in Knoxville, Georgia and died August 16, 1888 in Atlanta, developed the original formula for Coca-Cola syrup. Dr. Pemberton was a druggist in Columbus, Georgia, married Miss Clifford Lewis in 1853, fought as a Captain under the leadership of General Joe Wheeler in the War Between the States, and later moved to Atlanta where he operated his pharmacy and chemical company. Around 1866 he concocted the Coca-Cola formula which is still kept secret. Due to failing health and financial circumstances, he sold his formula for $1,750 in 1887.

The inventor of Coca Cola made his mark in Columbus and Atlanta, but he started life in Knoxville.

He was the son of James Clifford Pemberton (b. 1803 NC) and Martha L. Worsham Gent (b. about 1791 VA). The Pembertons married July 20, 1828, in Crawford County, and John was born July 8, 1831. Martha was the daughter of Archer Worsham (b. VA) and Nancy Clark Smith, who lived in Baldwin Co. The Pemberton family moved to Rome, and John attended medical school in Macon, receiving his degree at the age of 19. Sometime later he received a graduate degree in pharmacy. He married Wesleyan student Ann Eliza Clifford Lewis and moved to Columbus in 1853. The couple had one son, Charles, born in 1854.

John was a druggist in Columbus and built a laboratory where he made and sold medicines, photographic chemicals, and cosmetic products including a popular perfume he called Sweet Southern Bouquet. He moved his family to Atlanta in 1870.

Pemberton served on the first pharmacy licensing board in the state, established a modern chemical laboratory that was the first state-run facility to test soil and crop chemicals, and was a trustee of Emory University School of Medicine. He fought for the Confederacy, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the 23rd Georgia Cavalry Battalion. Some sources say his severe wounds from the war led to morphine and cocaine addictions.

John began work on a coca and cola nut-based nerve tonic called Pembertonís French Wine Cola when he was a druggist and chemist in Columbus. In 1866 he was selling the product through Atlanta druggists when the city passed a prohibition law. So he adjusted the formula, renamed the product Coca-Cola (as suggested by partner Frank Robinson), and marketed it as both a "delicious, exhilarating, refreshing and invigorating" soda-fountain and a "temperance drink."

When the prohibition law was repealed after just one year, Pemberton returned to concentration on his medicinal coca and wine formula, leaving development of the new fountain drink to his son Charles. He died Aug. 16, 1888, only a few months after the Coca-Cola Co. was incorporated. He is buried in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus.

Johns mother Martha was the daughter of Archer Worsham (b. VA) and Nancy Clark Smith, who lived in Baldwin Co. her brother Archibald and her sister Virginia Ann were married to siblings of Crawford Countian Richard Waller Ellis, whose family also came from Baldwin. James was the son of John Pemberton and Rebecca Clifford. Their other children were Ann, Archy, Mary, and Martha.

Pemberton House & Apothecary Shop in Columbus, GA

Transcribed by Kim Gordon

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