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Moonshiners, revenue feud slowed down

POSTED: September 25, 2011 1:00 a.m.

 

While moonshining, making illegal whisky, is supposed to be just a memory, every now and then you read about a liquor still being discovered or seized or a couple of moonshiners being arrested. 

The moonshine trade might be near nothing nowadays, but there could be old-timers back in the hills who still make their own for their own consumption. You occasionally hear of somebody getting a Mason jar of peach brandy or some other home brew around Christmastime. That has to come from somebody’s still.

But bigtime bootlegging that used to flourish in hidden hollows of North Georgia and helped spawn stock car racing is no longer. Law enforcement officers now spend more time now chasing other tax evaders, mostly white collar, or destroying methamphetamine labs or marijuana plants.

In the early 20th century, before a constitutional amendment officially prohibited sale of any spirituous liquors, they thought bootlegging had declined dramatically. Carter Tate was U.S. attorney for the Northern District, which covered the mountains where moonshining had been prevalent. He reported “only” 434 cases involving illegal liquor for fiscal 1910-11, compared to 532 the previous year.

Revenue agents then, as in more modern times, did their best to run the moonshiners out of the woods. To some it became a game, though a most serious one because there were deaths among law enforcement officers as well as whisky makers and runners.

Back in 1886, a newspaper reported, “Moonshiners are not shooting revenue officers as rapidly as they were a few weeks ago.” In other words, incidents between revenuers, as they were called, and moonshiners had been so common that people could keep score.

One of the most infamous battles between officers and illegal liquor makers had come two years earlier in north Hall County. Revenue men shot two suspected moonshiners, though family members to this day call the raid an assassination.

The U.S. Postal Service is struggling to stay alive. Billions of dollars in the red, it has hinted it might have to close shop or at least close some post offices and eliminate jobs.

The U.S. Post Office, predecessor of the independent Postal Service, delivered 8 billion pieces of mail in 1910 and showed a profit of $62 million. Postal officials at the time wanted to lower the cost of a stamp from 2 cents to a penny.

The current Postal Service delivers about 177 billion pieces of mail annually, but wants to raise the price of stamps again from the current 44 cents and cut delivery to five days to eliminate its $8.5 billion deficit. Competition from electronic mail and private delivery services has cut into its revenue.

According to an 1898 Macon Telegraph, a postal station on the Southern Railroad known as Strickland between Flowery Branch and Gainesville, also known by railroad men as O’Dell’s, would be known as Oakwood as of Oct. 1, 1898. Local historians have said the name was suggested by some men sitting around O’Dell’s store watching a train loaded with oak wood. They must have figured “Oakwood” would be an appropriate name for the community that had just been put on the map with the arrival of the railroad.

When Murrayville High School opened for the fall term in 1911, an Athens newspaper said of it, “Probably no country school in the state has so commodious a dormitory so well equipped ... ”

The state school commissioner was on hand for opening day and addressed a crowd of students, teachers and parents in the auditorium. 

Principal E.J. Robeson had spent his summer vacation moving in equipment and furnishing the dormitory. The school had its own water and sewerage system, along with a vacuum vapor heating plant.

About 30 students would stay in the new dormitory at the boarding school.

That school burned in 1925, according to Murrayville historian Hayne Thomas. The remnants of the building that replaced it still stand in the North Hall community, but it has been used for a variety of purposes, mostly business, since it was consolidated with other county schools in that area.

Thomas said his first job at age 14 was in the most recent converted school building at Dahlonega Egg Co.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.

 



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