A couple of weeks ago I made a trip to North Georgia to visit the Foxfire Museum. Normally we think of a museum as being a large building, with artifacts from a particular period of time. But this museum, sits on the side of a mountain, and is comprised of many buildings. Each old building houses a particular artifact from past periods, going back to the seventeen hundreds. I wrote about my trip in a previous article, but had more to write about it, and it follows.


One young local man was boiling peanuts in a large iron pot. If you have never eaten boiled peanuts, they are quite tasty, boiled in the hull in salt water. I stopped and chatted with him, and he told me a story about making corn liquor, known as White Lightening, while stirring his peanuts boiling in the big iron pot.


According to him, this happened just a couple of years ago, and happened in the county where he lived. A modern day moonshiner built a liquor still about 400 yards off a main highway. Normally, years ago moonshiners built their Stills way back in the mountains, trying to hide from the, “Feds” who were government agents who prowled the region trying to catch the moonshiners.


But this particular entrepreneur built his still near a main highway. He then took PVC pipe and ran it to the main highway. A large truck which looked like an ordinary milk truck, would park along the roadside near the end of the PVC pipe and hook up to it and fill the truck with corn liquor, being made about 400 yards away. Once the truck was filled, the driver took the truck to another location where the glass jars were filled with the moonshine.


The operation was camouflaged by having several workers driving trucks, parking around the liquor truck while it was being filled, pretending to do road work around the truck, according to the story teller. It was apparently quite profitable, bringing in thousands of dollars a week.


I thought this was such a clever idea. The pipe was concealed with dirt and growth over it, only the very end was visible. The truck filling with the liquor looked like a milk truck and the operation was disguised by having men and vehicles around the main truck while it was being filled, busy as though they were workman near the highway. But eventually the operation was discovered and was put out of business.


Apparently as long as operating a liquor still is financially rewarding, making mountain moonshine will never die.


I grew up in the depression years of the thirties, and corn whiskey was like a staple in every home. It was used as a medicine when we were sick. A couple of tablespoons in a glass of water with a little sugar in it, was a tonic for many ails.


Plus the fact, I had a couple of uncles, who got drunk every Saturday night from drinking the corn whiskey. As a kid growing up they were entertainment to be around. They would dance, laugh, and tell tall tales, and would drink the whiskey straight from the bottle calling it, “jump-steady.”


Just a few weeks ago I read an article about a famous moonshiner, named “Popcorn Sutton,” who killed himself. He was once featured in a History Channel documentary, and wrote a book titled, “Me and My Likker.” Plus, he recorded videos on how to make the moonshine whiskey.


According to the news article, Sutton had just received a notice to report to a medium Security federal Prison in South Georgia, for illegally producing distilled spirits and possessing a gun as a felon.


According to reports he committed suicide from carbon monoxide poisoning, sitting in his old Ford vehicle. He had been arrested many times,


The last time he was arrested, 1,700 gallons of moonshine was found in a storage unit in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.


Many stories, articles, books and movies have been made about the Mountain Moonshine business. It was in its hey-day during the thirties and forties. To a large extent put out of business by Government, but apparently still a few who still make it. For many it was a way to make a living and survive during the Depression years.


Building a liquor still is a bit complex, however only takes three ingredients to make liquor, i.e. Sugar, yeast and a carbohydrate. Something like wheat, corn, or rice. Knowing how to build a still and how to make the liquor takes a certain skill to accomplish.



For me it was an interesting story to listen too during my trip to Foxfire. It was particularly fascinating to me because of the ingenuity of the operation and secondly because it happened quite recently.


Here is a quote from Italian Dictator, Benito Mussolini: ” The Corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation.  In view of the fact that private organization of production is a function of national concern, the organizer of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.”  This is from the Doctrine of Fascism.







The Freedom Lady


EMAIL: annecleveland@bellsouth.net





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0 Responses to White Lightning, Appalachian Mountain, & Moonshine Liquor Stills (Issue 205)

  1. I often wonder whether “meth” would be such a problem had the feds just left the moonshiners alone (not to mention marijuana growers). If you criminalize one thing, enterpreneurial folks will find something else. If you criminalize everything, folks will go for the thing that produces the most profit for the amount of time and effort.

  2. Hi Kent,
    Those mountain folks have such a wonderful entreprenurial spirit of survival. And those Ihave known in my life-time who drink the corn liquor, sell it, haul it and make it feel, political government has no Rights to the monoply they claim and exercise over it.
    Anne Cleveland
    Chief Editor