Crooked Whiskey

The Oglethorpe Echo
Crawford and Lexington, Oglethorpe County, Georgia
Friday, February 25, 1876
(Vol II, No 20), Page 3, Columns 4 and 5

"‘CROOKED WHISKEY.’ The Revenue Officers Make a Raid on Our County. 22 CITIZENS AND 9 STILLS ARE CAPTURED. Full Account of the Affair.

On Saturday last our usually quiet and law-abiding county was invaded by a batch of infernal revenue officers, backed by a company of blue-bellies, who, without ceremony, commenced to arrest our citizens in a manner that for awhile fears were entertained that one entire community (Sandy Cross) would fall a prey to them. Twenty-two parties were arrested "from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same," besides the capture and destruction of nine stills and several thousand gallons of "prepared corn." The prisoners were brought into Crawford on Sunday last, as also the captured stills, under a guard of fifteen soldiers, commanded by Lieutenant Harkins, and a squad of detectives, from the mountains of North Georgia, headed by the notorious Findley, who is, we believe, considered the best "tracker" in Uncle Sam’s employ. It is said that he can sit down in Gainesville and smell a run being made in the heart of the Okefinokee Swamp.

Below we give the names of the arrested parties, several of them being among our best citizens:

Whites - W.T. Doster, Joseph Moore, Thos. C. Jennings, Wm. Pass, Taylor Eades, Rainy Eades, Wiley Hopper, John Escoe, J.F. Cunningham (U.S. Commissioner), and James Cunningham (once Republican Representative from Oglethorpe).

Colored - Stephen Faver, Dab Arnold, Henry Thornton, Lee Hubbard, Scott Parks, Nathan McElvoy, Manson Fleming, Step Hubbard, Jesse Davenport, John Goolsby, Jacob Davenport.

On Sunday night they were taken to Atlanta, where, we learn, all, with a few exceptions, gave bond for their appearance before Judge Erskine on the first Monday in March next. But little difficulty was experienced in securing bondsmen, as several gentlemen from this county accompanied the prisoners as witnesses, who readily went on the same.

Besides the arrest, no indignities, we believe, were shown the prisoners. While in Crawford, their friends were allowed to visit them, and we noticed several of them walking about the village. On being carried aboard the train, the negroes were tied with ropes, but not so the whites.

The captured stills had been mashed and rendered worthless by Findley. They will be sold as old copper, at ?? per pound. One of them had been in use so long that it could be torn like paper — a trooper expressing the opinion that it was some of the copper-plating from Noah’s Ark.

We interviewed Mr. Findley, and found him very communicative, readily answering all inquiries. We learned from him that some months since he equipped several wagons at Gainesville, under charge of detectives, which started out ostensibly for the purpose of selling apples and "blockade whiskey," but, in reality, to spy out illicit distilleries. Two of these wagons wended their way through Jackson county, where they first began to "strike ile," and at last, as if directed by fate, entered our county, which had always borne a reputation as spotless as the falling snow, and drew reins at Sandy Cross. Here they struck such a bold well that they concluded to go no further. So "spotting" eleven "crooked whiskey" manufactories in almost a stone’s throw of that point, which their pretended business rendered an easy matter, they retraced their steps, leaving the victims unconscious that their sacred precincts had been invaded by wolves in sheep’s clothing–that they had nurtured hissing reptiles in their bosoms.

Reaching Gainesville, they reported their success to Findley. He having other business on hand, allowed the matter to lay over a couple of months, well knowing that the fruit being within his reach, he could pluck it at any time.

Arranging all matters, he telegraphed to Atlanta for fifteen "head" of soldiers, whom he secreted in several wagons hired for the purpose, with the detectives for drivers. Proceeding on, they "gobbled" up the victims as fast as found. Before reaching this county, they traveled all night, so as to take their victims completely by surprise, and commenced the onslaught at Sandy Cross at 7:20, with what success the array of names at the head of this column will show. No resistance was made to the officers, and as fast as captured the prisoners were turned over to the troops for safe keeping, Findley and his detectives doing all the arresting.

The news of the raid, of course, spread like wild-fire, and it was a race between the officers and the distillers as to which would remove all signs of the stills first. When Findley reached the site of one of them, he found the still gone, the logs of the building burned up, and a contra busy with a mule plowing up the very foundation of the shanty. But the branch was knee deep in "mash," which told the tale.

You may burn, you may remove the house if you will,

But, the signs of the whiskey will cling ‘round a still.

The darkey was captured and frightened into disclosing the hiding place of his master, who was also taken. But the missing still could not be found. Rumor even goes so far as to assert that an old lady who ran a still on this same branch, a couple of miles below, succeeded in catching enough of this "mash," as it went "floating down the stream," to make a fair "run" that night. But as to the truth of the report we do not vouch.

Several citizens were arrested who are known to be innocent of the charges brought against them, at which their friends were justly incensed. In fact, at one time, the passions of the citizens were so inflamed that about fifty men met with the avowed intention of rescuing their friends at all hazards. But, happily, cooler counsel prevailed, and they decided to trust to the law to correct and punish this wonton outrage on a (said to be) free people. We are glad that they allowed their discretion in this case to overcome valor, for had they made the attempt, if even successful, ‘twould have involved them in a serious difficulty with the Federal authorities.

Those distillers against whom conclusive proof was had, while having the sympathy of our people in their difficulty, of course cannot complain. They knew the law and ran the risk. They lost, and so must take the consequences. A majority of them are good citizens, who consider any means by which they can "beat" the United States Government a righteous act. These are our sentiments, but we hope that in future they will discover a more successful method to "get back" some of the funds the Government robbed them of.

Mr. Findley says that according to the revenue laws, all property found within the enclosure that surrounds an illicit distillery is confiscated, whether it be land, stock or personal property. Under this rule the entire farm of one of our citizens will go, for the house was unenclosed, and he was caught in the act of making a run. In North Georgia, where the distillers have been arrested until they begin to rather like it, the first thing a man does when he starts a still is to build a fence around it.

Among instances of unjust arrests, we will mention the cases of two negroes, who were persuaded, under a plea of accommodation, to sell a couple of detectives a dime’s worth of whiskey and tobacco. They were then arrested for a violation of the revenue laws. Any man who would use such means to secure the fee attached to the arrest of a prisoner, would not hesitate to pick your pocket had he an opportunity.

We do not think Sandy Cross will be a very healthy locality for apple peddlers in future. In fact, we doubt if one of that class could even comfortably pass near the place, and so would advise them to give it as wide a berth as possible–even if they had to go 100 miles out of their way.

We learn that some of the distillers accuse Mr. D.C. Smith, formerly of that settlement, with reporting them. We asked Mr. Findley in regard to this suspicion, and he says there is no truth whatever in the report–that the distilleries were found and reported by one of his own detectives, who, under a plea of purchasing liquor, visited every one of the stills in person.

P.S.–We learn, since the above was in type, that Mr. James Cunningham has been released. It was the junior, not the senior, James Cunningham, that was wanted.

Messrs. Mathews and Lumpkin, who accompanied the prisoners to Atlanta as counsel, made able arguments in their behalf."

Submitted by William H. Caldwell