After finding several stills earlier today on our hike with the Dan River Basin Association, we left Jamison Mill headed toward Salt House Branch. This park is one of many along the shores of Philpott Lake in Franklin County, Virginia. We were headed to Salt House Branch on a tip from one of the rangers at the park. She said that there was an even better still at that park in the woods.
We soon found the still after following her directions. Wow! This moonshine still was in even better condition than the one at Jamison Mill! This was a submarine still like most of the others I’ve seen in the area. One of the wooden sides was completely intact. There were buckets and barrel pieces scattered about and there was even an old mason jar lying protected under the still. This still had ax marks from the revenue agents making it inoperable.
The cinder blocks that composed the furnace looked very old. They had an irregular shape, narrower than the modern, standard concrete block. The texture of the block was very coarse, unlike the smooth concrete blocks of today. If anyone reading this can date concrete blocks by their appearance, please comment below. I’d love to know how old this still is.
The oddest thing about this still was its location. It was not located along a creek, but instead it was high in the woods above a creek, about 100 feet from water. The bootleggers must have pumped water up from the creek. Running water is needed to cool down the alcohol vapor and condense it into liquor. We searched for signs of pipes, but couldn’t locate any. It might also be possible that there is running water or a seep in the area during wetter times.
We cut through the woods to get back to the car, following a stream. We came across a second still that was mostly decayed. It looked like a typical submarine still.
On our way back to the car we cut over a ridge and as we were coming down the other side, my friend said he spotted another still at the bottom of the ridge along a creek. This third still was a submarine still. The odd feature of this still is that it appears to have been blown apart with dynamite. When the revenue agents found moonshine stills in the woods, they would destroy them, mostly with axes, but they would dynamite larger operations. This still looked mangled and blown apart. It’s possible that this still was dynamited.