Dr Pepper was first created in the 1880s by Charles Alderton of Waco, Texas. It was created at the Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store. Alderton was a young pharmacist who spent most of his time mixing up medicine for the people of Waco, but in his spare time he like to serve carbonated beverages. It was first served in 1885 and is the oldest of the major brands of soft drinks in America.
Coca-Cola history began in 1886 when the curiosity of an Atlanta pharmacist, Dr. John S. Pemberton, decided to create a medicine to help with headaches. The original ingredients were coca leaves and kola seeds. Wine was also added instead of sugar. It was deemed "excellent" by those who sampled it. Later the business was bought out by, Asa Griggs Candler, whose marketing tactics led Coke to its dominance of the world's soft drink market of the 20th century.
W.W. Wilson, first owner of Nashville's Coca-Cola Dr Pepper Bottling Company, created the Orchard brand in honor of the peach industry that once thrived in Nashville, Arkansas. During the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Orchard drinks were bottled. Some of the Orchard Beverage drinks included Orange, Peach, Grape, Strawberry, Black Cherry, Root Beer, Lemon Lime and Lemonade. In fact, the Wilson family owned its own peach orchard at one time.
The year of 1896 saw the birth of Nashville's third oldest industry, the Nashville Bottling Company. Started by J.H. Moore, the Nashville Bottling Company ownership later passed to Hill Brothers Wholesale Grocery. Hence Wilder, an employee, began bottling soda pop, deriving its name from the spring stopper bottle. When W.W. Wilson and his son Forrest bought the grocery store and bottling works on Main Street, Hence Wilder continued to bottle for them. On January 1, 1911, W.W. and Forrest Wilson obtained a contract to bottle Coca-Cola, a drink developed in 1886 by a pharmacist and wholesale-retail druggist in Atlanta, GA.
That same year Coca-Cola received a registered trademark. All machinery used in bottling was hand operated. Joe Wilson, son of W.W. Wilson, and Hence Wilder jointly achieved the first bottle of Coca-Cola produced in Nashville. The first accurate sales records show 315 cases sold in the peak month of August 1914. The first bottles were brown, but in 1915 a patent was secured for a green bottle that would be universally recognized. Except for hard times during World War I and the early Depression years, the company's progress was steadily upward. By 1938, the company had reached a gratifying high, bottling drinks such as Nu-Grape, Orange, Lemon Crush, Hence Wilder's own secret formula Hot-Shot, and of course Coca-Cola. Some interesting things had happened during those years. In 1920, it was ruled that "Coke" when used to apply to a beverage meant Coca-Cola and nothing else. In 1921, the company moved to its second home, a building on the present site of the Nu-Way Cleaners on Sypert Street.
In 1922 Fred Murphy became an employee, two years late, he became foreman, and operations were expanded to DeQueen, AR. In 1926, Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Company was rated the only perfect plant in the state. Grading was on quality of products, delivery equipment, and service. After the death of W.W. Wilson in 1932, the Wilson Corporation, composed of Forrest, Mrs. W.W. Wilson, Walker Wilson, and Joe Wilson took over ownership of operation.
In 1937, Bill Lay joined the company and became sales manager until his death in 1957. In 1943, Ramon Wilson acquired stock in the corporation and his full time employment began. In 1944, Ramon Wilson was inducted into the United States Marines where he participated in combat during Iwo Jima. That year Roger Amonette joins the company to manage the Wilson Farm and work at the plant. In 1946, Alger Harrison joined the company and was employed for more than 50 years as lead salesman and later as production manager. In 1948, a new bottling machine producing 63 bottles per minute was installed.
In 1953, the first price increase in Coca-Cola history occurred. Coke went from 5 cents to 6 cents a bottle. In that year, the Mena Coca-Cola Bottling Company was purchased, adding Polk, Scott, and Montgomery counties to Sevier, Hempstead, Pike, Howard, and Little River Counties and its exclusive Coca-Cola franchise territory. In 1955, Ramon Wilson became sales manager. In 1957, Herschell Vaughan was employed and would later be sales manager for 25 years. In 1958, the 10-ounce bottle with an applied white label was introduced on the contour bottle. This was the first time Coca-Cola had been sold in any package other than a six ounce bottle which later became a 6.5 ounce bottle. In 1965, Tom Sanford joined the company and later became sales manager until his death in 1996. Ronnie C. Howard joined the company in 1967 and served as office manager for 34 years and retired in 2001. Jacky Robinson was employed in July 1976 and succeeded Tom Sanford as sales manager. James Jamison joined the company in 1980 as quality control manager and in 1984 became production manager and today serves as operation manager.
By 1980, Nashville, Coca-Cola Bottling Company's per capita had reached 300 bottles a year in the 8 counties. In February of 1981, with the aid of Act 9 municipal bonds, Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling company moved into its new $2 million dollar production facility at its present location of 1301 South Fourth Street. By 1985, plant sales had reached an all time high of 650,000 cases.
On January 1, 1988, Kenneth R. Wilson was elected President and became the 4th generation to run the Wilson family owned business. On April 18, 1988, in Atlanta, Kenneth R. Wilson, with negotiator Marion Glover, signed a contract; acquiring the Dr Pepper franchise rights for most of its Coca-Cola territory. In 1999, Nashville Coca-Cola Bottling Company became the highest per capita bottler in the Dr Pepper system, having increased its volume 400 percent since purchasing the Dr Pepper brand 9 years earlier.
Officers and key employees on its 100th year of bottling and distributing Coca-Cola on January 1, 2011, were as follows; Ramon F. Wilson, Chairman; Kenneth R. Wilson, President; James Overton, Vice President; Elizabeth Overton, Secretary / Treasurer; Jacky Robinson, Sales Manager; James H. Jamison, Operation Manager; Cindy Riggs, Office Manager, and Thomas Chesshir, Service Manager; Tony Goodson, Account Executive, Nashville area; Gary Davis, Account Executive, Mena area. Our Chairman Ramon F. Wilson died August 28, 2012, having served the company for over 69 years. The company continues to be owned and operated by the Wilson family. Kenneth R. Wilson succeeded his father as Chairman upon his death.