Friday, September 8, 2017

Moonshine Still, Dawson County, GA

Moonshine still on display in downtown Dawsonville, GA
Moonshine stills have been a fixture in Appalachia since the settlers took over the area in the 18th and 19th century. It was prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, that resulted in an explosion of bootlegging activity in Dawson County, primarily because of its proximity to Atlanta. Located approximately 50 miles north, the heavily wooded areas, countless ravines and gullies, and being sparsely populated made Dawson County an ideal location for the manufacturing of moonshine (also called white lightning, hooch, corn liquor, and mountain dew, among others).

The demand for spirits by the population of Atlanta was so great that an entire culture rose out of the hills to meet this demand. Stills were constructed; corn was grown and fermented; drivers were hired to transport the product south on back roads, where they learned how to out-maneuver the police cars. Even after prohibition ended in 1933, moonshine was big business in Dawsonville. It is believed that today's modern stock car racing rose from this culture of bootlegging.

The best drivers were hired by the moonshiners, and they in turn altered their cars to be able to outrun the revenuers. Apparently, nowhere was this done better than in Dawson County, where the drivers transitioned from a life of crime, to making an honest living from fast driving. Dawson County boasts five winners at the Daytona Speedway, going back to the 1930s with Lloyd Seay, to the 1980s with Bill Elliott.

Whether you are a stock car racing fan or not, you have to admit that a small, rural county in north Georgia that boasts 12 Daytona victories, is pretty impressive. All because of the driving skills that were honed while running the end products made from stills like this one. The Moonshine culture here is acknowledged with the Mountain Moonshine Festival, which will be holding its 50th annual celebration this October.

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