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Franklin County Moonshine Stills

28 February 2012

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Note: I found these photos on my hard drive from a walk I did last August. It’s not really this green in February. ;-)

Franklin County, Virginia has been called the Moonshine Capital of the World. I’ve commented before on how easy it is to find old moonshine stills rusting away in the woods. There has been so much moonshine made in Franklin County that you can literally walk up any creek and find an old moonshine still.

I decided to put that bold statement to the test one day: I drove around Franklin County, randomly picked a creek, parked on the side of the road, and just walked up the creek.

And I found three moonshine stills.

The area I picked was near the Smith River in a remote section of the county (much of Franklin County is remote.) The Smith River divides Franklin County on the south from Henry County and I’ve found many stills on the Franklin County side of the river, but few on the Henry County side. I drove until I found an area where there weren’t too many houses around and just parked on the side of the road next to a creek.

The first moonshine still I found was at the confluence of two creeks. The still was typical of most that I find: a twisted, rusting piece of metal. It’s interesting to note that I’ve found many stills where two small creeks meet. I think it’s because the terrain that’s created by two creeks meeting is typically flat – a nice area to place a moonshining operation.

I also found what appeared to be a perfect still furnace. It was shaped with rock on three sides and even had rocks across the top. It looked very much like the still furnace diagram in the Foxfire Book. When I looked at it closer though, I noticed water trickling out of the bottom of it. It was probably a spring box which is pretty common in these parts.

I continued walking up the main creek and I found two more stills. One was located high on the banks of the creek. It looked like that’s where it had landed after being blown up by the law. The third still was further upstream, lying in the creek, and hidden by weeds.

Franklin County, Old Still Sites, Virginia Moonshine

5 Comments to “Franklin County Moonshine Stills”

  1. I never got to know my maternal great -grandparents but I was told by my mother that when they came to western Nebraska from Floyd County Virginia Great-Grandad had a still pus he also had one back in Virginia. I’m laughing because I saw some moonshine jugs in my Mom’s basement as a child. She told me that they had belonged to her Grandfather.

  2. Moonshine has always had a colorful history and a great part of American lore. Here in Hawaii we share a similar history since before the turn of the century 1900. Hawaiians call it “okolehao” meaning “iron bottom.” Originally made from the root of the ti plant but as more immigrants from Japan, China and the Philippines arrived to work on sugar or pineapple plantations, rice and pineapple were also used. Like moonshine, it was illegal to home-brew “okolehao” and the Revenuers would confiscate the stills during raids. The Honolulu Police Dept. has a still in their museum taken from a raid back in the 1930′s. The museum is open to the public.

  3. My late Father had a still in Franklin County in 1938 and sold his product in Hillsville from the trunk of his car. It was an area know as ” Shootin’ creek ” he owned 70 acres there until the mid 90′s when it was sold. As a young child 10-12
    years old I would ask my Dad to take me to our property so I could see it, he would say we cant do that, and I would ask why? He said their making corn liquor there, I would argue that its OUR land, and he would say that dont matter Son, you dont walk up on a man making liquor, that’ll get you hurt.

  4. wanna learn more ,need a still !

  5. Wow-just came across this. Really jealous I’m not able to go on similar moonshine still hunts. These photos are incredible. The stills look like they’ve all seen much better days though. They should go check out all the moonshine stills for sale at Makin’ Moonshine: http://www.makinmoonshine.com/moonshine-stills-for-sale/!

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