The moonshine business took a big hit when Prohibition officers raided two of the biggest stills ever seen in Newton County.
The Harrison Daily Times on March 24, 1928, reported that law enforcement officials confiscated two 100-gallon capacity copper stills, as well as 120 gallons of whiskey and 2,200 gallons of mash.
The first still was located about five miles east of Lurton on Richland Creek in a big canyon. It was there that Ed Bare and Esther Shelton were arrested, and 1,200 gallons of mash and 65 gallons of whiskey were confiscated.
The two men were taken to Jasper and placed in jail until authorities could bring them to Harrison.
According to the Daily Times, the second raid was at a still located about four miles east of Moore in the head of a big canyon in the Ozark National Forest. The report went on to say that a hewed log house had been built and was concealed under a big bluff. The still was in full operation when the Prohibition officers approached. Arrested were W.R. Dickey, W.T. Blackwell, Ben Gregory and E.L. Duncan.
In addition to the 100-gallon copper still, authorities confiscated 1,000 gallons of mash and 55 gallons of whiskey.
Prohibition agent W.F. Ellis stated that the still had been in operation for two to five years. He further stated that the whiskey in both stills was pure corn.
“And good clear whiskey,” Ellis added.
A clear stream of water and a spring was located near each still.
Those arrested in both raids were brought to Harrison and placed in jail. Blackwell, Dickey, Duncan and Gregory were bailed before Commissioner Isaac Stapleton, with bond fixed at $500 each. They were to appear in Federal Court in April.
Bare and Shelton were given a hearing before Stapleton on March 26, 1928.
In the 1920s, Prohibition caused a sudden growth in the backwoods industry of moonshining. A man could take some basic items, such as corn, sugar and yeast, and turn them into corn whiskey that would sell for 20 to 50 times the original cost of the ingredients. A pint of good whiskey could sell for $1.50 a pint. Corn grew well in the Ozarks, and the same limestone rich water that was so valued by Kentucky bourbon makers flowed through the Ozarks hills as well.
Arkansas bakeries would often provide sugar and yeast, free of charge, in exchange for some of the moonshine.
According to one source, moonshine was so popular in the Ozarks during Prohibition that, at one point, a local man offered $10 to anyone who could pick a house between Eureka Springs and Gateway where it wasn’t for sale.
The nature of the business forced moonshiners to operate deep in the woods, caves and springs of the Ozarks. As a rule, moonshiners were on friendly terms with the local sheriff. Even if they were caught, there were never any grudges held. It was just part of the game.
The Federal agents, though, were different. To the feds, or “revenooers,” moonshine was no game. To moonshiners, the local sheriff was seen as a neighbor, but the federal agents were seen as outsiders. In the 1920s and 1930s, almost 200 federal agents were killed in the line of duty. In 1932, over 23,000 still seizures took place.
This is article is part of a series about Boone County history and provided by the Boone County Heritage Museum. The museum is located at 124 South Cherry in Harrison. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Closed on Sunday and Wednesday. For more information on the museum, call 741-3312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.