Thursday, August 21, 2014

Prohibition in Western Kentucky

The United States became a different place in January 1920 when the 18th Amendment went into effect.  No longer could people legally manufacture, transport or sell alcoholic beverages.  The Amendment wasn't passed suddenly.  The  country had been leaning more and more toward prohibition for many years. It seemed to be what folks wanted ... Well, some folks wanted it. Others didn't plan to give  up their alcohol and if it could not be bought, they would just make it themselves.

Shortly after the 18th Amendment was passed, articles about raids on hidden stills began to appear in the newspapers, including those in western Kentucky. In July 1920, Hopkinsville Constable Claxton and two other men "secured 46 gallons of moonshine liquor which was being transported in a high power automobile."[1] In a scene straight out of the movies, a getaway was made with one man balanced on the running board of the car with the back seat loaded high with kegs and glass jars of liquor.

Another raid was made by lawmen on the old Thomas O'Nan farm south of Corydon, Kentucky and captured a 30 gallon moonshine still with 3 1/2 barrels of corn mash and a gallon jar  half full of "white liquor." [2]  The "operators" were not captured, but the still was taken to the courthouse in Henderson to be viewed by anyone wanting to see an operating still.

Constable Bob Adamson  and Deputy Charlie Bob Sanders of the Bells Mines community of Crittenden County, Kentucky captured a large moonshine still along with two gallons of "white mule," which was delivered to county authorities in Marion. [3] Before daylight, the lawmen went to where they thought the still was being operated, but a sentinel on the opposite hill saw them and fired two shots. The constable and his deputy made a dash for the still and the operators ran off. Shots were fired, including one that passed through the Constable's hat, but the still operators got away. Their identities were unknown.  The lawmen found three gallons of moonshine and brought two gallons to town. The other gallon container was broken and the contents lost.   Hmmm.

The 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933, ending one of the more colorful eras of our country's history.

Published 21 August 2014, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

[1]  "Hold Up Truck Load of Booze," Evansville Courier, 2 July 1920, p. 19.
[2]  "Find Still But Not the Operators," Evansville Press, 28 September 1921, p. 2.
[3]  "Still Captured Near Bells Mines," Crittenden Press, 20 June 1924, unknown page.


K Stewart said...

My father (born 1917) lived through Prohibition and told me that his father began home brewing during that time. From what I've gathered, I think that was a fairly common occurrence during those days.

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

I imagine you are correct.