Pine Log Mountain
The Largest Moonshine Bust
John Henry Hardin, known as the Moonshine King, lived in the Sutallee community near Stamp Creek, south of Pine Log Mountain. In the years following World War I, Hardin became the most successful--and notorious--maker of moonshine (usually illegally made corn whiskey) in the area.
Hardin operated dozens of--reportedly more than 100--stills in the rugged area from the south side of Pine Log Mountain down to the Etowah River. Pictured was the largest moonshine bust ever made in Georgia at the time, when tax revenuers broke up Hardin's stills, though not for the last time.
Hardin had been a corn farmer and a deacon at Sixes United Methodist Church. But when times got tough in the 1920s and 1930s, he used his corn crop to produce whiskey, employing a lot of other struggling farmers to work the stills.
Tragically, Hardin’s son Paul, in a panic about going to jail after a moonshine bust in 1932, killed himself and his entire family, a wife and four children. They are buried at Stamp Creek Baptist Church.
This photo appeared in The Atlanta Constitution on March 14, 1920.
Moonshining was a form of obtaining income for poor farmers for many years and was practiced primarily in the southern and mountain regions of the U. S.
The term “moonshining” originally referred to a job done at night by the light of the moon, but the term was quickly picked up by the public to also refer to any liquor that was distilled illegally.
The distillation of moonshine wasn’t illegal until the government started heavily taxing liquor in order to generate revenue after the Civil War. In Georgia, the “Moonshine Wars” started in the 1870s and continued through the 1920s, with federal tax agents, called “revenuers,” trying to find and destroy stills. The informants who told the revenuers where to find the stills were hated and sometimes killed, and there were occasional shootouts between revenuers and moonshiners.
Still Complex in Cherokee County
This still complex in Cherokee County could have been one of Hardin’s or other local moonshiners.
The Moore family of Lost Town and Waleska operated a legal distillery near Shoal Creek for a time, as well as some illegal ones.
William M. Brewer, in his book
Moonshining in Georgia (1897), wrote:
“In all other respects, the mountaineer observes the law of the country with as much respect as will be found in any other section. He is honest, as truthful as the average man, and as peaceable and law abiding; but when the question of ‘wild-catting,’ ‘blockading’ or ‘moonshining’ is under discussion, all reverence for law is cast on one side, with the result that often murder is committed by the man or men who at the start merely intended to beat the government out of a little revenue money.”
Photo courtesy of Cherokee County Historical Society.
Revenuer “Doc” Puckett
In this photo, William Bird “Doc” Puckett, of the Lost Town Puckett Clan, busts up a still.
Puckett, holding the gun, was a U. S. Deputy Marshall with the Revenue Department for about six years during the 1920s. He is assisted here by fellow revenuer Billy Kimp, who holds the axe. According to the book History of the Puckett Family, the woman in the photo was also arrested when she brought lunch to her husband.