Moonshine in Ashe County 1930-1945 Since the first settlement of Ashe County by Europeans, the production of whiskey has existed. However, this whiskey production has not always been illegal. For decades, citizens of Ashe County were able to legally produce hundreds of gallons of homemade alcohol.
This was a common trait of western North Carolina counties. In 1840, for example, western North Carolina produced 31% of North Carolina’s total output of distilled liquor, even though the population of the region was only 14% of the state’s population. Of these 11 mountain counties, Ashe was one of the most prolific producers, and produced the fourth most alcohol of any county in the North Carolina mountains.
Of course, these census numbers reflect the total produced by legal distilleries. However, throughout this same period, illegal producers of ‘moonshine’ were also churning out thousands of gallons of untaxed whiskey. Illicit moonshine production has always been present in Ashe County, as this photo from the early 1900s suggests.
Trying to calculate the scope of the county’s moonshine ‘industry’ is difficult, as the nature of moonshine production is secretive. Although homemade liquor production has been legal at various times, the creation of untaxed liquor has almost always been against the law. However, given the modern interest in moonshine production, it is worth attempting to examine the scope and nature of illegal liquor production in Ashe County.
Most sources of information regarding moonshine are anecdotal: stories about wily moonshiners and hapless deputies are often told, retold, and sometimes invented, and cannot accurately be used to understand a broader picture of illegal liquor production.
However, it is possible to gain some insight through newspapers. Newspapers have always been drawn to stories about confiscated moonshine stills, and, in the case of Ashe County’s Skyland Post, frequently ran front page stories about illegal stills. By using the nature and frequency of these stories as a window into the otherwise hidden world of moonshine production, an interesting story of illegal liquor in Ashe County comes into focus.
Perhaps driven by the Great Depression, one period which seems to have been especially active for moonshiners were the years leading up to World War II. Between 1935 and 1938, for example, 21 stills were reported as destroyed by Sheriff’s deputies in Ashe County.
The locations of these stills demonstrate another interesting trend in Ashe County moonshining: the localization of production. Although the county is nearly 500 square miles, stills were not equally distributed. Areas around the major towns, as well as the northern and southern ends of the county seemed to have produced very little illegal liquor; by contrast, two areas in particular, Peak Creek and Pine Swamp, seem to have been the hotbeds of moonshine production during the depression.
This was probably due to the fact that the county actually had only a relatively few moonshiners, who tended to favor areas near their homes and who may have taught nearby friends and neighbors to also construct stills of their own. This can be inferred by the limited number of arrests associated with moonshine production.
For example, in the five years between 1936 and 1941, Lundy Darnell, who lived in the Peak Creek area, was arrested 4 times for violating the prohibition law. It is interesting to note how the public perception of moonshine has changed over the years. Today, moonshine is often viewed nostalgically, with moonshiners celebrated as curators of a lost art, using the resources available to make a semi-honest living.
However, newspaper accounts from the time demonstrate that moonshiners were viewed much more negatively. One account from a 1935 edition of the Skyland Post decries the ‘art’ of moonshining, saying “Look at what sort of stuff the younger set is turning out!,
.It’s described as a general mixture of water from the most convenient brook, sugar, molasses, just enough grain mash to assure fermentation, and whatever insects or mice chance to fall into the open vats.” Because liquor sale and possession were totally illegal in Ashe County during the years before World War II, all the sins of alcohol could be easily laid at the feet of moonshiners and newspapers and religious leaders were always quick to point out that drunken drivers, public nuisances and violent criminals were all being fueled by illegal moonshine.
The moonshiners themselves did little to burnish their image. They were known to sell jars of water to unsuspecting customers, assault officers, and drive recklessly. In May of 1938, moonshiners even purposely started a large forest fire in Pine Swamp to distract deputies closing in on a still site.
- Moonshiners, though romanticized today, were once considered to be reckless criminals This disdain for moonshining itself does not seem to have translated into a lack of interest on the part of the local consumer.
- In fact, moonshiners seemed to have based their production around the demands of the county’s consumers.
Twenty percent of all reported still captures occurred in the three weeks before Christmas, suggesting that moonshiners were largely responsible for local holiday spirits. One still, captured in Wagoner during June 1935, was believed to have been built solely to supply liquor to the large June meeting at Senter Primitive Baptist Church.
The newspaper account notes the result of the raid on the still, observing that “in spite of the large crowd at Senter, it was one of the quietest and best behaved that has been there in years.” Ashe County’s moonshine production seems to have reached a fever pitch in the early 1940s. In 1940, the Skyland Post reported the capture of 19 different stills in Ashe County.
In 1941, 14 were destroyed by Sheriff Len Miller and his deputies. However, as quickly as this spike in moonshine production appeared, it vanished. Between 1942 and 1947, only five stills were reported as captured. There are several possible explanations for this sudden disappearance of the moonshine industry in Ashe.
- One is that the few operators who were responsible for a disproportionately large amount of the production were arrested.
- Another possible reason for the disappearance of captured stills could be World War II.
- The shortages posed by the war made liquor making materials like sugar and copper difficult, if not impossible to obtain.
In fact, moonshining was quickly framed as an anti-American activity. An article from March of 1942 in the Skyland Post argued against the production of moonshine, noting that “the necessity of using ships for other cargoes than sugar should make it important to keep all sugar in legitimate channels.” The Ashe County Sheriff’s department contributed to this view of moonshining as something detracting from the war effort by donating all confiscated stills to scrap metal drives in an effort to reclaim the copper for the war effort.
Since World War II, moonshining in Ashe County has never fully disappeared, but it has gradually evolved from being market driven pursuit of a few criminal entrepreneurs to a romanticized outgrowth of folk culture. Seeing how Ashe County’s history of liquor production intersects with larger historical trends helps to unravel the reality of bootleg liquor from its sometimes misrepresented reality, hopefully providing a more sober view of local history.
: Moonshine in Ashe County 1930-1945
- 1 What did people use to make moonshine?
- 2 How is American moonshine made?
- 3 Can you make moonshine in NC?
- 4 Is it illegal to own a moonshine still in NC?
What is moonshine North Carolina?
Moonshine, or illegal whiskey production, has played an important role in the history and culture of North Carolina. North Carolina provided ample water resources as well as grain and a variety of products for the production of alcohol. That, along with a robust rail system, made NC a home for distilling.
- For many years, the production of moonshine was an important source of income for many rural communities, particularly during the time of Prohibition when the sale and consumption of alcohol were banned nationwide.
- The production of illegal whiskey was also connected to the rise of stock car racing, as many moonshiners would use their modified cars to outrun law enforcement on the back roads.
Moonshine production in North Carolina is also closely tied to the state’s historical and cultural identity. The term “moonshine” is said to have originated in the state, and the production of illegal whiskey has been a part of the state’s history for centuries.
- The tradition of moonshine production and bootlegging continues to be celebrated in North Carolina, with annual festivals and events that honor this aspect of the state’s heritage.
- Additionally, the industry has had an economic impact on North Carolina, as the production of legal moonshine and whiskey is now a thriving business in the state, with many distilleries producing high-quality spirits.
Moonshine is important in North Carolina due to its historical, cultural and economic significance, as it has been an integral part of the state’s history and identity for many years and continues to shape it today.
Where was moonshine made in the 1920s?
- Like many of the early commerce centers in Southwest Virginia, Boones Mill thrived on the railroad line that weaved through its mountain valley, and bootleggers and moonshiners utilized its logistical power to feed its burgeoning new boom business — moonshine.
- Dwarfing the output of other mountain towns involved in the illegal spirit trade — such as Wilkesboro, NC, and its own moonshine roots, which, like Boones Mill, gave birth to NASCAR — Boones Mill gained the moniker “Moonshine Capital of the World,” a brand that carries staying-power to the present day.
Boones Mill has always been a historical crossroads and place of cultural exchange. The town is located in a mountain pass now home to Highway 220. Some of Southwest VA’s earliest settlers were Scotch-Irish who came through Maggodee Gap along the Iroquois’ Warrior Path.
They brought distilling with them. During Prohibition, Boones Mill and the Bondurant Store was the choke point where local bootleggers transferred cargo to syndicates who distributed the product nationally. Today, Boones Mill has a population of 250 but a daily traffic count of28,000. Tourism and the export of local heritage products are vital to the town’s growth and development.
In the 20th century during Prohibition, local wits named the Boones Mill area as the “Moonshine Capital of the World,” as moonshine production and bootlegging drove the economy. Historians estimate that in the 1920s, 99 of every 100 Franklin County residents were in some way involved in the illegal liquor trade.
- The bootleggers became involved with gangsters from Chicago and other major cities, and some local law enforcement officials werepart of the criminal activities and killing of competitors.
- Between 1930 and 1935 local still operators and their business partners sold a volume of whiskey that would have generated $5.5million in excise taxes at the old 1920 tax rate.
A lengthy federal investigation resulted in indictments and trials for 34 suspects in 1935 for what was called the “Great Moonshine Conspiracy,” which attracted national attention. The writer Sherwood Anderson was among the many outsiders who came to cover the trial.
- At what was then the longest trial in state history,31 people were convicted, but their jail sentences were relatively light.
- This period has recently received new attention by writers.T.
- Eister Greer’s history The Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935 (2002) covered the trial and its background in the county.
The writer Matt Bondurant had ancestors in the area, whose exploits during this period inspired his historical novel, The Wettest County in the World (2008). The book was adapted as a film, Lawless, in 2012. Steeped in history and tradition and rooted in quality local craftsmanship, the brand for FCD is strong.
- As Boones Mill wakes up from its sleepy town moniker, it finds itself perfectly positioned in a customer-rich market location, torch-bearers of a brand that generations already hold dear.
- Just down the road, Martinsville hums as a hotbed for NASCAR, a sport birthed from the transport of illegal corn liquor, and which attracts a large fan base that cherishes the history from which it sprung.
But the real story is what’s happening here — in the cultural chokepoint of Franklin County: Boones Mill, Virginia.
What did people use to make moonshine?
What is Moonshine – Moonshine is a very high proof spirit made primarily from cereal grains such as corn, barley, and rye. It’s clear because it isn’t barrel aged. Often called, “white lightening,” moonshine is technically a white whiskey. Although the majority of the grain used to make moonshine is corn, it typically is made using malted barley and rye as well.
What did they use to make moonshine?
How is Moonshine Made? – The traditional ingredients for moonshine are corn and sugar, and during fermentation, the sugar produces ethanol, which makes hooch or moonshine. During distillation, alcohol separates from the mash. Unlike other liquors such as whiskey or bourbon, moonshine is unaged, which produces a distilled spirit with high alcohol content.
The stereotype of moonshiners centers around how “country folk” distill and transport their potables in jugs marked “XXX” during the night to avoid being detected. But having access to commercially produced all-copper moonshine stills on the internet has made moonshine distillation less risky in the modern era.
But for a great drink, here is the recipe:
How is American moonshine made?
Moonshine, also known as shine, white lightning, or hooch, is a high-proof distilled spirit that has been around for centuries. It is typically made in small batches in a homemade still, which contributes to its illicit reputation. While moonshine can be made from a variety of ingredients, it is most commonly produced from corn mash, The process of making moonshine involves fermenting a mixture of grains, sugar, and water, which is then distilled to increase the alcohol content,
Can you make moonshine in NC?
Is it legal to make moonshine in NC? – It is illegal to make “spirituous liquor” – which includes moonshine – without a permit from the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, according to state law, State law also prohibits people from possessing, transporting and selling “non-tax paid alcoholic beverages.” The state has an excise tax on alcoholic beverages that all “retail wholesalers or importers of wine or malt beverages” must pay to keep their permits, according to the N.C.
Department of Revenue. The excise tax on liquor is 30%. Individuals with permits can make, transport and sell moonshine within the state, per state law, Permit applicants must be at least 21 years old, with no alcohol-related misdemeanor convictions within the last two years and no felony convictions within the last three years, according to the N.C.
Is it illegal to own a moonshine still in NC?
1/1/2015 last updated
It is illegal to distill moonshine in North Carolina without a distilling permit, even for home consumption or personal use.27 CFR 1.21, But because this is a commercial license the state will expect that you will be making spirits commercially, and not for personal use.27 CFR 1.24,
- A distillation operation may not be located in a residence, a yard, a shed, or other enclosure connected with a residence.
- It is legal to own a still, and to use a still for non-ethanol production such as distilling water or making essential oils as long as ethanol is not a byproduct.
- North Carolina does allow residents to make their own wine and beer.18B-306.
Making wines and malt beverages for private use. An individual may make, possess, and transport native wines and malt beverages for his own use and for the use of his family and guests. Native wines shall be made principally from honey, grapes, or other fruit or grain grown in this State, or from wine kits containing honey, grapes, or other fruit or grain concentrates, and shall have only that alcoholic content produced by natural fermentation.
- Malt beverages may be made by use of malt beverage kits containing grain extracts or concentrates.
- Wine kits and malt beverage kits may be sold in this State.
- No ABC permit is required to make beverages pursuant to this section.
- Alcohol fuel license Distilleries for Fuel Alcohol.
- Form – Any person in possession of a Federal Operating Permit pursuant to Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 201.64 through 201.65 or Part 201.131 through 201.138 shall obtain a fuel alcohol permit before manufacturing any alcohol.
The permit shall entitle the permittee to perform only those acts allowed by the Federal Operating Permit, and all conditions of the Federal Operating Permit shall apply to the State permit. Authorization of distillery permit. Fee: $300.00 (18B-1105) Authorized Acts.
Manufacture, purchase, import, possess and transport ingredients and equipment used in the distillation of spirituous liquor; Sell, deliver and ship spirituous liquor in closed containers at wholesale to exporters and local boards within the State, and, subject to the laws of other jurisdictions, at wholesale or retail to private or public agencies or establishments of other states or nations; Transport into or out of the distillery the maximum amount of liquor allowed under federal law, if the transportation is related to the distilling process.
There are several licenses you need to request to legally manufacture spirits. Below are the federal licenses only. Additional state requirements will need to be followed as well. You must submit a request for a license to manufacture spirits: TTB 5110.41 Basic permit,
(a) Offenses. – It shall be unlawful for any person, except as authorized by this Chapter, to: (1) Sell or possess equipment or ingredients intended for use in the manufacture of any alcoholic beverage, except equipment and ingredients provided under a Brew on Premises permit or a Winemaking on Premises permit; or (2) Knowingly allow real or personal property owned or possessed by him to be used by another person for the manufacture of any alcoholic beverage, except pursuant to a Brew on Premises permit or a Winemaking on Premises permit. (b) Unlawful Manufacturing. – Except as provided in G.S.18B-306, it shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture any alcoholic beverage, except at an establishment with a Brew on Premises permit or a Winemaking on Premises permit, without first obtaining the applicable ABC permit and revenue licenses.
North Carolina does allow residents to make their own wine and beer.18B-306. Making wines and malt beverages for private use. An individual may make, possess, and transport native wines and malt beverages for his own use and for the use of his family and guests.
Native wines shall be made principally from honey, grapes, or other fruit or grain grown in this State, or from wine kits containing honey, grapes, or other fruit or grain concentrates, and shall have only that alcoholic content produced by natural fermentation. Malt beverages may be made by use of malt beverage kits containing grain extracts or concentrates.
Wine kits and malt beverage kits may be sold in this State. No ABC permit is required to make beverages pursuant to this section. Current federal laws allow citizens the right to own a still and operate it for non-alcohol production. This means legally you can:
What period in America is moonshine originally from?
history of moonshine In the South, tracking down and drinking moonshine is a rite of passage. Whether it’s the booze’s rebellious history or its dangerous reputation. Moonshine has cemented a place in the culture at large. Moonshine defines as “whiskey or other strong alcoholic drinks made and sold illegally.” With that definition, it may be confusing to walk into liquor stores and find booze labeled as moonshine.
Part of the problem lies in the lack of federal requirements for labeling something as moonshine. Unlike whiskey, which you must from grain, distilled and bottled at a certain alcohol content, and aged in oak, ‘shine has no equal. Like vodka, you can make it from anything fermentable: fruit, sugar, grain, or milk.
Like vodka, there’s no upper limit on its alcohol content. Unless you want to describe it as white whiskey on the label, you can make it any way you please. So, despite what you might have read in the OED, legally made hooch labeled “moonshine” is all over the place.
Despite its super Southern connotation, hooch isn’t only a Southern drink. The term moonshine has been around since the late 15th century. But, it was first used to refer to liquor in the 18th century in England. The American roots of the practice have their origins in frontier life in Pennsylvania. Also, other grain-producing states.
At the time, farms with grain mills would distill their excess product so that it wouldn’t spoil. Back then, whiskey was even used in some places as currency. history In 1791, the federal government imposed a tax on liquor made in the country, known as the “whiskey tax.” For the next three years, distillers held off the tax collectors by less-than-legal means.
- This brought a U.S.
- Marshal to Pennsylvania to collect the taxes owed.
- More than 500 men attacked the area’s tax inspector general’s home.
- Their commander was then killed, which inspired a protest of nearly6000 people.
- The tax repealed in 1801, and the events from the decade prior came to be the Whiskey Rebellion.
A lot of the lore and legend surrounding moonshine is true. Bad batches or certain production techniques (like distilling in car radiators) could result in liquor that could make you go blind—or worse. Some moonshiners claim that these stories were an effort to discredit their work.
Legal producers differ. Either way, the federal government commissioned Louis Armstrong to record radio ads about the dangers of drinking it. You should see all the Moonshine we have in our store, Don’t confuse moonshiners with bootleggers. Moonshiners make the liquor, while bootleggers smuggle it. The term bootlegger refers to the habit of hiding flasks in the boot tops around the 1880s.
But, with the introduction of cars, it came to mean anyone who smuggled booze. Mechanics found ways to soup up engines and modify cars to hide and transport as much moonshine as possible. In running from the law, these whiskey runners acquired some serious driving skills.
On their off days, they’d race against each other, a pastime that would eventually breed NASCAR. The two were so closely linked, in fact, that a moonshiner gave seed money for NASCAR to its founder Bill France. Another well-known link is Robert Glenn Johnson, better known as Junior Johnson. As the son of a notorious moonshiner, this former driver and NASCAR team owner recently partnered with a North Carolina-based distillery to produce “Midnight Moon.” Whether you call it “shine”, rotgut, white lightning, firewater, skull pop, mountain dew, or moonshine.
Its rebellious history and contentious present make it a helluva drink. If you want to learn more about the History of Moonshine, please follow Tennessee Shine. CO.