• 81°

All hail North Carolina’s fine ‘shine

Moonshine names

“Moonshine became more common around the 1890s and has since that time been the most common term. Of course, white lightning and mountain dew were also commonly used. A couple of my favorite terms have distinctive North Carolina origins. Sow paw, named after a North Carolina patent medicine that was mainly alcohol, became a popular term in the 1890s and early years of the 20th century. Perhaps my favorite is peartnin’ juice, a term used in the far western part of the state and popularized by Asheville Citizen-Times columnist John Parris.”

By D.G. Martin

Moonshine has come to my rescue.

I am always trying to find ways to make North Carolina Number One in something important.

Thanks to University of North Carolina at Asheville Professor Daniel Pierce, we have a substantial claim to be Number One. In his new book, “Tar Heel Lightnin’: How Secret Stills and Fast Cars Made North Carolina the Moonshine Capital of the World,” he asserts that our state is tops in moonshine.

He writes, “Indeed, if North Carolina has ever held the distinction of being number one nationally in anything, it is in moonshine production.”

Then, in about 275 pages, showing the long and rich history of the making, sale and consumption of illegal liquor, he shows why and how North Carolina developed its number one connection with what we call moonshine, also known by other names such as corn liquor, white lightning, blockade, home brew and a host of other terms.

“From the earliest colonial times, farmers, using techniques their families had learned in the British Isles, distilled their corn and fruit into whisky and brandy.”

Until Civil War times, no government restrictions prevented them from making alcoholic beverages to trade or sell. In 1862, the national government passed an excise tax on liquor. After the Civil War, most farmers and other small producers ignored the tax, continued their production and made themselves petty criminals. Federal tax collectors tried to catch these moonshiners and put them out of business and into jail.

The high cost of tax-paid liquor made the production of untaxed moonshine more profitable and more prevalent in every part of North Carolina.

The prohibition movement was growing. In 1909 the state implemented statewide prohibition. Then in 1920, national prohibition went into effect.

Dr. Daniel Pierce

Pierce says, “Prohibition only increased the market for moonshine in the state and kept the state in the forefront of illegal liquor production nationally through the 1960s.”

As legal liquor became more available, this shine on moonshine dimmed.

Pierce’s great storytelling gifts make his thorough study of moonshine a fun read.

For instance, he gathers short articles on legendary personalities into a hypothetical “North Carolina Moonshine Hall of Fame (and Shame).”

My favorite of Pierce’s Hall of Famers is Percy Flowers. He was born in 1903 and grew up in Johnston County on a farm near the community of Archer Lodge. He left home at 16 to get away from an abusive father. He learned the liquor making craft from an African American expert and parlayed that expertise into a multi-million dollar enterprise. He was an organizer, hiring others to make the moonshine while he managed the distribution.

I first heard of Flowers from Lynwood Parker, owner of the White Swan Bar-B-Que near Smithfield. Flowers once owned the building where White Swan is today. Ever since, I have been eager to learn more about Flowers. Pierce has obliged.

Flowers entered the business about the time the 18th Amendment’s national prohibition began in 1920. He told people he made more money during those prohibition years than any other period of his life.

Pierce writes, “He was successful not only in making a fortune, producing and selling illegal liquor but also, especially given his high profile, in evading law enforcement.”

Flowers is joined in the Hall by famous figures such as Junior Johnson, the legendary race car driver who learned his trade driving moonshine in cars fast enough to evade the revenuers. Others include Rhoda Lowry, the widow of Lumbee hero Henry Berry Lowry and modern media figures, Popcorn Sutton and Jim Tom Hedrick, who had brands of “legal moonshine” named after them.

There is more, so much more. So if you are looking for a Christmas present for a hard-to-give friend or family member, “Tar Heel Lightnin’” could be a good option.

Comments

Crime

Blotter: April 14

Elections

Former North Carolina Gov. McCrory enters US Senate race

Crime

Salisbury woman arrested in Myrtle Beach for abducting child

Health

County updates health director job description, will advertise for position

High School

High school tennis: East beats Carson, still hopes to share NPC title

Elections

Board of Elections to purchase upgraded voting equipment using federal grant

Kannapolis

Kyle Seager drives in winning run in first game as Mariners split doubleheader with Orioles

Local

City exhausts this year’s funds for Innes Street Improvements, Municipal Services District grant programs

Landis

Landis adopts amendments to Zoning Ordinance related to signs, Planning Board terms

Nation/World

Cop, police chief resign 2 days after Black motorist’s death

Nation/World

Expert says cop was justified in pinning down George Floyd

Crime

Blotter: April 13

Coronavirus

County switches vaccines for Livingstone clinic after federal, state guidance

Coronavirus

US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

Education

Superintendent talks first 100 days, dives into district data

Business

‘It was an answer to a call:’ TenderHearted Home Care celebrates 10 years of providing care at home

News

Political Notebook: Local polls find increasing number of North Carolinians want COVID-19 vaccine

News

Trial begins on challenge to latest NC voter ID law

Local

Burch, Fisher, Marsh honored as 2021 recipients of Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Humanitarian Award

Landis

Landis board talks revenues, budget planning, department updates

College

College baseball: Catawba rolls 7-1 and 24-1

Nation/World

Student fires at officers at Tennessee school, is killed

Nation/World

Police: Minnesota officer meant to draw Taser, not handgun

Crime

Man receives consecutive prison sentences for sex offenses