27 August 2011

Matt Bondurant. The Wettest County in the World. New York: Scribner, 2008.

 photo from UNC Libraries

These days, the fact that Franklin County, Virginia, was the “Moonshine Capital of the World” in the 1930s is more of a fun trivia tidbit than something at which to take pause. That's right, Southside's very own Franklin County - not Chicago or New York City - was the mecca for liquor during Prohibition. 

Locals see it as a significant part of our proud history. One can take the Franklin County Historical Society’s Moonshine Express Tour every April, buy knickknacks that tout this designation, and sing along to tunes that shout out specifically to Franklin County’s moonshine enterprise (my favorite: Jean Shepard’s Franklin County Moonshine). The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College offers an extensive history of the trade in its online exhibit Moonshine – Blue Ridge Style: The History and Culture of Untaxed Liquor in the Mountains of Virginia. A simple Google search will yield results that point to hobbyists’ interest in this topic as well (try here or here), and every so often, larger media venues will also take an interest in it (see the History Channel’s Hillbilly and Rumrunners, Moonshiners, & Bootleggers, National Geographic’s Moonshine documentaries, and this “vintage” news story). Nearby Climax, Virginia, even held an annual Moonshiners Jamboree for a time.