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From the desk of Alison Gibson, Director
We’ve been following the start-up and opening of the Northern Yankee Moonshine business here in Ripley (congratulations and good luck) and got us thinking…Moonshine back in the days of prohibition (1920-1933)—did Brown County have any issue? Well…yes there was, and who knows how many gallons didn’t get confiscated or discovered?
One of the more ingenious hidings of the stills was in Clermont County—an underground room 14-foot square with a crop of corn growing on the surface to disguise—alas, they were caught with a large quantity of mash and moonshine, fined and sent to jail.
In 1923, Ohio made the production of liquor even more ‘illegal’ with a mandatory jail time and $1,000 fee. (About $17,000.00 in today’s exchange)
In the Free Soil neighborhood, a farmer Albert Ellis’ kitchen was raided—had a 12-gallon copper still working, apparently an upgrade, as the old wash boiler type was found discarded.
A large crowd gathered around the courthouse in April of 1923 when a stills from R.E. Thompson’s farm and Albert Ellis’ home were ‘hacked and hewed” apart, along with gallons of liquor “spread and spewed on and poured in the gutters”
Mrs. May Adams was fined $150.00 for having a pint of moonshine in her possession—she lived in the Logan’s Gap area. If she couldn’t pay the fine, she would have to spend time in the Reformatory in Marysville.
Three gentlemen were holding a moonshine demonstration one evening-alas, the officers found the hidden 2-gallon jug that was the star of the show. All three were fined.
The showboat Cotton Blossom presented The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come: A Story of Moonshine Whiskey and the Kentucky Hills here in Ripley in 1927.
Of course, even after Prohibition was abandoned, making your own moonshine was illegal. In 1939 Frank Sutherland was arrested near Crosstown after a raid with the deputy sheriff and three state liquor agents found a 50 gallon capacity still hidden in the barn. Sutherland had only lived in the area for a few months, moving from Virginia. Even if you didn’t manufacture the ‘shine, you weren’t supposed to sell it either–in 1936, Raymond (Scooty) Fussnecker of Ripley was found guilty on a charge of selling moonshine liquor.
Lots of tidbits from surrounding counties of confiscation, running from the ‘law’ and production. Sadly, there were news articles on people dying from ingesting badly made moonshine, leaving children parentless.
So if you want some interesting reading longer than this column, we recommend you go to our newspaper archives and type in moonshine, or follow the many, many years of discussion on prohibition and the temperance movement.