Whiskey still, North Asheville
The outlawed making of distilled spirits in the mountains has a long history, going back to the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, the Regulators in North Carolina, and the Scots. Economy was an issue. In 1850, Bruce Stewart relates in “Moonshiners and Prohibitionists,” a farmer could increase income 150% by turning corn into whiskey. During Prohibition, 1909 (in N.C.) to 1935, illegal whiskey-making became big business. In 1935, the largest-ever seizure of untaxed whiskey was made in Wilkes County, Joseph Dabney reported in his 1974 book, “Mountain Spirits.” After Prohibition, the pursuit of unlicensed, un-taxed distillers continued, creating the world of “Thunder Road.” With steamer-type stills, Alex Gabbard writes in “Return to Thunder Road,” “water was boiled and the steam piped into the bottom of the still containing the mash...carried alcohol vapors to the top of the cask, where the vapors were piped over to a condenser.” The bust pictured here occurred at 166 Chatham Rd., populated in the mid-fifties by car dealerships, rental units, widows, and people of modest wages. Lawrence Brown had been Buncombe sheriff, the Depression up through 1962; Harry P. Clay, the next eight years. This E.M. Ball photo is owned by the Ramsey Library’s Special Collections at UNC Asheville.