…being a story of Alabama moonshiners, their history, techniques and recipes
“Bama Dew” consists of the many tales of historical and present day moonshine in Alabama. The tales are narrated by Melvin Cane. We hope you enjoy the stories and ask that you share your own stories with us. Thousands of men and women made moonshine in the early days of Alabama. Making and selling moonshine proved to be a simple way of providing for their families.
Thorsby, Alabama was founded in 1895 by several Scandinavian immigrants, that allegedly came down from Minnesota and Iowa. Notably among them Theodore T. Thorson – for whom the town was eventually named, John F. Peterson, Jno. E. Hedberg and K. G. Faegre(and?) – Norwegian.
The town grew quickly, with two hotels, a sawmill and lumber company, and two wineries being built within the first couple of years. The town of Thorsby was declared a promised land for northerners looking to relocate to a warmer climate, suitable for farming and better health. The fertile soil of the South produced grapes in large numbers, along with other fruits such as strawberries, and the peaches for which Chilton County is famous.
Sept. 16, 1887
In the Federal court some twenty dealers in that good stuff called “moonshine” from Lamar County, were brought forward to the bar of the court in order that they might arrange their bonds. Congressman BANKHEAD promptly stepped forward and agreed to become their bondsman. Thereupon ex-Gov. Smith in his driest style but with a twinkle in his eye, arose and said: “If it please the court, there are about twenty more moon shiners from this congressional district who are anxious to find a bondsmen. I would like to have them brought before your Honor, in order that I may qualify upon their bonds.
What is said to be one of the most exciting gun battles between officers and
outlaws took place on the streets of Lineville Alabama on Wednesday, October 17th, 1928, when officers of Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office and officers from Clay County Sheriff’s Office apprehended Sebe and Joe Echols of Cleburne when they were discoverd in Lineville and attempted to arrest them. It seems that Sebe was apprehended by the officers and after being placed
under arrest, made a dash for liberty, whereupon the officers gave chase,
firing twice but not hitting the fleeing man. Joe Echols, a brother, some
distance away, fired four or five shots at the officers as they persued Sebe
then made a get away but was later located at the home of Howell Turner, some five miles east of Lineville. Sebe was recaptured in the home of Dr. J.S. Ray by John W. Kilgore, a Cleburne County officer, where he happened to run while trying to make his escape. Sheriff Allen and Deputies Cook and George Thrower of Cleburne and Pope of
Talladega, were at the scene of the home where Joe was shot and captured following a pistol battle lasting several minutes.
Alabama’s first legal distillery since Prohibition has opened in a county famous for producing illegal whiskey.
High Ridge Spirits operates in a former horse barn in rural Bullock County. Its shiny metal tanks and spotless concrete floor look like any food processing facility. Employees’ relaxed pace indicate there are no worries about a raid by state liquor agents. Head distiller Jamie Ray says it’s a little different from the way it’s been done in the woods of Bullock County for decades.
Conecuh Ridge is described as an “Alabama Style Tippling Whiskey”, a rather imprecise designation which basically means that it is patterned after the spirits that would have been available at informal “tippling houses”. Clyde May used spring water from Southern Alabama and added oven-dried apples to his barrels. The resulting hints of green apple and cinnamon not only made it smoother than other whiskeys—they’re what made it Alabama Style. It is then aged for five to six years in heavy-toast charred white oak barrels. Conecuh Ridge Whiskey is a type of whiskey produced and officially marketed as “Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey” by Conecuh Ridge Distillery Inc. It is marketed as a high-quality aged moonshine whiskey which was produced illegally in Alabama during the mid to late 20th century.
“Then it’s true then; what they say?” Melvin seemed eager to talk. Smiling, he turned to Raven and said, “Maybe, but probably not. At least probably not the way you heard it. Why don’t you tell me what they say; what you’ve been told, and we’ll talk about it.”