Moonshine has deep roots in Franklin County, an area known for its long-standing tradition of illicit alcohol production. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of moonshining and meet Henry Lee Law, a third-generation moonshiner who has made a living out of this age-old craft. From evading the law to documenting the history of moonshine, Law’s story sheds light on the unique culture and heritage of Franklin County.
The Legacy of Moonshining
Moonshine holds a special place in the hearts of Franklin County residents, and the Moonshine Express event provides an opportunity for people to experience the different types of moonshine. But what exactly is moonshine? It is illegal homemade alcohol, typically distilled in secret to avoid detection. This lucrative but risky trade has been passed down through generations in Franklin County, with moonshiners like Law continuing the family tradition.
A Lifelong Pursuit
Henry Lee Law learned the art of moonshining from his grandfather and father, both of whom had extensive experience in making illegal alcohol. At the age of 18, he began making moonshine with his father, embarking on a journey that involved countless close encounters with the law. The adrenaline rush that comes with evading capture adds an exhilarating aspect to the process. Law fondly recalls the thrill of outsmarting the authorities and escaping with his hard-earned profits.
The Cat-and-Mouse Game
During the 1970s, Law and his father had to operate with utmost caution to avoid jail time. Their moonshine operation was intricately planned and constantly on the move to stay one step ahead of the authorities. The constant need to evade detection meant they had to be aware of any signs of trouble and relocate their operations accordingly. Law’s father even had a police scanner, ensuring he always stayed one step ahead.
A Legacy Documented
While moonshining was once an illegal activity, Law’s operations are now completely legal. He eventually turned his passion into a legitimate business, applying for a license and complying with regulations. However, his journey to legitimacy was not without its challenges. He faced difficulties in obtaining his license due to the unconventional methods he used to build his stills. Nevertheless, Law persisted and overcame the bureaucratic hurdles, allowing him to continue his family’s legacy in a lawful manner.
Celebrating the Heritage
Moonshine remains an integral part of Franklin County’s history, and the Franklin County Historical Society is keen on recognizing its cultural significance. To honor this heritage, the society hosts an annual Moonshine Festival to showcase the time-honored craft and its impact on the community. Linda Stanley, the managing director of the Franklin County Historical Society, emphasizes the essential role that moonshine played in the local economy. She explains how illegal liquor production helped finance crucial community projects such as church construction and school development.
The Bright Side of Legality
Now that moonshine is legal, moonshiners like Law are delighted to be able to openly share their craft and its history. Law has even written a book, documenting the rich legacy of moonshine in Franklin County. For Law, it’s not just about the moonshine itself but also about preserving a piece of heritage for future generations. He believes that everyone wants a better life for their children, and appreciating and understanding the history of moonshining is crucial to that pursuit.
Franklin County’s moonshining tradition runs deep, and Henry Lee Law stands as a testament to its enduring legacy. From the thrill of evading the law to the challenges of legitimizing his craft, Law’s story exemplifies the resilience and resourcefulness of moonshiners throughout history. As Franklin County celebrates its moonshine heritage, it is important to remember the integral role these moonshiners played in shaping the local community, leaving behind a legacy that will be cherished for years to come.