The Short Mountain shiners
Every now and then, as folks sign our November referendum petition, someone shares with us a wonderful family story of a time when it was said that illegal moonshine from Short Mountain was considered the finest in the country.
They were stories of neighbors, family and friends. They were also stories of outlaws like Cooper Melton as shared with us by Melanie Garrett Nistad, the great granddaughter of Cooper Melton.
Cooper vs. Capone
Story Told by Joe Underwood
Mechanicsville History Meeting December 1, 2002
“Here’s one for you… Jim Dearman and my dad were pretty close in age. They both told me that the best moonshine in the country was made at Short Mountain. They were very particular they really wanted to make good whiskey, and they did- like a cook would want to make a good cake, they came from everywhere. Al Capone was running big guns in Chicago and he sent two cars to Short Mountain, to get whiskey that Cooper Melton made.
They all will tell you, that the cooler the water is for the condensing coil in the process of making whiskey, the quicker it will condense. Now, the coldest water anywhere around the mountain is running out the north side of the mountain and Cooper Melton’s big spring ran water out of the north side of the mountain. He had a fabulous still up there. He had super big boiler. Ruth Hale Barrett confirms that she has been to that spring (but confirms that she has not taken part of the whiskey!) It was one of the most modern stills for the time.
Capone came here to get a load of whiskey and he had a pretty bad name. The old timers’ told me this, they said the locals were really scared that he would come and load up, shoot them and go away and not pay. So, what they did was these locals got them a plan. They said they hid behind rocks and holes in the ground and up in trees and everywhere with their firearms. They said “they’ll drive up to the still and they will load up”.
They brought a carload of thugs with him with guns, which would scare anybody. “If you hear a shot fired, don’t let them come out of that holler from that still”. So, they were laying for them in case they tried to rob them, and they wouldn’t have gotten away. So they came, got their load of whiskey, paid for it, and them ol’ boys let them drive right on back to Chicago!”
Tell us your stories about Short Mountain moonshine. We’d love to share them with the world.