Nashville’s Whiskey Distillery

Just days before the passage of the National Prohibition Act, a writer to the Pearson Tribune reminisced about a whiskey distillery that once operated in Nashville, GA.

The National Prohibition Act was enacted October 28, 1919 by Congressional override of President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. The Act, known informally as the Volstead Act, was enacted to carry out the intent of the 18th Amendment (ratified January 1919), which established prohibition in the United States. The Anti-Saloon League‘s Wayne Wheeler conceived and drafted the bill, which was named for Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who managed the legislation.

But in 1908, Georgia already had already enacted a state prohibition, that legislation having been vigorously promoted by Jonathan Perry Knight, a native of Ray City, GA.  Knight’s legislation was in opposition to longstanding pioneer tradition; alcohol was widely produced in Wiregrass Georgia. Pioneers brewed their own farm beverages – wine, buck, cane beer, or liquor. On court days, liquor was an expected stapleNumerous toasts were drunk at social events. In the days of old Lowndes County, before Berrien County was formed, the county seat at Troupville was considered a wild and wicked town…with much drinking.  Licenses for legal, market production of liquor were issued by the state.  In the late 1870s even Nashville, GA had its own, licensed  whiskey distillery.

Anonymous memoir on 1876 whiskey distillery at Nashville, GA appeared in the Pearson Tribune, October 24,1919.

Anonymous memoir on 1876 whiskey distillery at Nashville, GA appeared in the Pearson Tribune, October 24,1919.

PEARSON, GEORGIA, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 1919

MEMORIES OF THE LONG AGO.
Nashville’s Whiskey Distillery, Paulk’s High License Law.

One of the industries of Nashville in 1876 was a full-fledged, licensed, distillery. It was located on the lot now [1919] occupied by the First Bank of Nashville. A man by the name of John Tucker was the owner and John Carey was the distiller.
Various grades of the “Ardent” were manufactured here, but the principal product was corn whiskey. Some grape wine and brandy, blackberry wine and brandy, small quantities of peach and apple brandy, and rum from cane skimmings. The products of the plant were absolutely pure, and it was strange that only a small quantity of it was sold locally. The greater portion was shipped to Savannah.
Mr. Tucker became indebted to my father for supplies and finally turned the plant and the land over to him in liquidation.
My father did not attempt to operate the distillery. He sold the plant and fixtures to parties who moved it away from Nashville. The title to the land was disputed, an ejectment suit followed and resulted in my father losing the land two years later. He was represented by Messrs. Peeples & Whittington. He got enough out of the plant to reimburse him for the advances he had made Mr. Tucker.
The most remarkable fact about the presence of this distillery at Nashville: There was no apparent increase of drunkenness, the old topers would take their occasional sprees as had been their custom. It was there in plenty, there was no embargo on it, and anyone could get some who wanted it. No one seemed to care anything about it.
The plant was sent away; the government, in its effort to tax the non-essentials for the payment of the war debt, assessed a heavy revenue tax on distilled spirits, made it high-priced, scarce and hard to get. it was then the mania for liquor in Berrien county —and else where —had its origin. A few years later Berrien county was represented in the legislature by Hon. Thomas Paulk, father of Dr. George A. Paulk, of Alapaha. He saw the tendency of the times was toward drunkenness and debauchery, and set himself to the task of finding a remedy for the situation. As a result of his quest, he drafted and procured the pass age of the first high-license law ever placed on the statute books of Georgia. If provided for the payment of a license tax of $10,000 before a person could engage in retailing ardent spirits in Berrien county.
The example was soon followed by representatives of other counties; they adopted and placed their counties under the prohibitive tax law. It put the retail dealers out of business in every one of the counties adopting the measure.
The writer wants to make this observation, in passing, that not a single one of his young men associates at Nashville, embracing W. H. Griffin, H. B. Peeples, Wm. Slater, John Parramore, Silas Tygart, R. K. Turner, J. J. Goodman, Arthur and John Luke, W. H. Morris, W. Henry Griffin, Alfred Simpson, John Connell and Lott Sirmans, were addicted to drinking whiskey, and if they acquired the habit of getting drunk they did so after the good year 1867 [typo? 1876?] Some of them chewed tobacco. I attempted to acquire the habit but did not succeed. It made me deathly sick, the first quid, and I have never taken the second. Tobacco chewing is an evil hardly second to whiskey.

 

Prohibition didn’t stop drinking of Demon Alcohol in Ray City. There were plenty of “blind tigers” running moonshine stills and selling liquor in Berrien County, despite the efforts of lawmen like Jim Griner, Bruner Shaw and Cauley Shaw.   In 1919,  reports of drunkenness and lawlessness in Ray City were making newspapers throughout the section.

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William Lastinger Family Reunions started at Cat Creek

William McDonald and Jane Lastinger McDonald, hosts of the first Lastinger Family Reunion, were the parents of Lacy McDonald.  Lacy McDonald later moved to Ray City, GA where he served as the mailman. His brother, Arthur Walton McDonald, was also connected with Ray City and a friend of Ray City Mayor, Dr. Charles X. Jones.

All six of Jane Lastingers brothers served in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War; five of them served in the Berrien Minute Men.

The Lastinger Family Reunions were held at Lacy McDonald’s home in Ray City in 1945, 1950 and 1953.

Children of Louisa English and William Lastinger. FRONT ROW (L to R): Henry Andrew Lastinger, Annis Lastinger Elliot, Elizabeth Lastinger Wilkerson, Peter Cornelius Lastinger. BACK ROW (L to R) Nebraska Lastinger, Kansas Lastinger, Joshua Lastiner, Arizona Lastinger, Lacy Elias Lastinger, William Hiram Lastinger, Jane Lastinger McDonald. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Children of Louisa English and William Lastinger. FRONT ROW (L to R): Henry Andrew Lastinger, Annis Lastinger Elliot, Elizabeth Lastinger Wilkerson, Peter Cornelius Lastinger. BACK ROW (L to R) Nebraska Lastinger, Kansas Lastinger, Joshua B. Lastinger, Arizona Lastinger, Lacy Elias Lastinger, William Hiram Lastinger, Jane Lastinger McDonald. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Excerpted from the Lastinger Book:

The Lastinger Family Reunions

“In the early part of the year 1904, Mrs. Annis Elliot was visiting in the home of her sister, Mrs. Jane McDonald, at Cat Creek, (Lowndes County), Georgia, and they expressed the wish to have their brothers and sisters meet there for a family reunion.  Later, Mrs. Arizona Turner (another sister), was visiting her brother, Joshua B. Lastinger in Arcadia, Florida, when she made this wish known to him. It was fully decided that all the brothers and sisters meet on their father’s one hundredth birthday, which was October 1st, 1904. All were delighted to enter into this arrangement.  Thus the movement began with the first meeting being held at the home of William McDonald at Cat Creek in Lowndes County near the old home of William Lastinger, their father, who was born October 1, 1804 and departed this life in February of 1893 and who would have been one hundred years old at the day of this meeting.

“At this first gathering, there were present ten of the twelve children that had reached maturity. One child, Seaborn, lost his life in the Civil War, and William who lived in Texas was unable to be present. In addition there were present many grandchildren and great grandchildren, numbering more than one hundred. In a beautiful pine grove in front of the McDonald home a long table was spread and loaded with good things to eat for which South Georgia is noted.

“Henry being the oldest child was placed at the head of the table and in choice words, humbly thanked God for the happiness brought them on this occasion, and for God’s love and protection for having brought them thus far.  It was then that Cat Creek became the Ebenezer of the Lastinger Clan.  The afternoon was spent in social intercourse and at night a religious service was conducted by Henry, and ordained minister of the gospel. With a few exceptions, these reunions have been held annually and largely attended by the descendants of William Lastinger.

“All of the children of William Lastinger have ascended and live anew in the glorious world of God beyond the skies with the exception of Aunt Scrap, 84 years of age, still lives to bless nieces and nephews and spread joy and happiness wherever she goes, and to receive their love and homage.”

Thus is recorded the first Lastinger family reunion on pages one and two of the minutes book still in use (1960). Since the 1942 reunion minutes follow, this was evidently written up in that year.

Children of Louisa English and William Lastinger

  1. Henry Andrew Lastinger, born November 20, 1832, Lowndes County, GA; enlisted August 1, 1861, Berrien Minute Men, Company C,  29th GA Regiment; married Emma J. Sinquefield on April 11, 1867; died December 28, 1906; buried Bold Springs Cemetery, Cairo, GA
  2. Peter Cornelius Lastinger, born November 8, 1834, Lowndes County, GA; enlisted Octber 1, 1861 in Berrien Minute Men, Company D, 29th GA Regiment; married Joe Anna Sylvanah Isom on May 16, 1858 in Lowndes County, GA; died July 17, 1920 at Walkersville, Pierce County, GA; buried Ramah Cemetery, Pierce County, GA
  3. Seaborn James Lastinger, born May 3, 1837, Lowndes County, GA; enlisted August 1, 1861 in  Berrien Minute Men, Company C,  29th GA Regiment; died September 15, 1863 at Charleston, SC; buried Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA
  4. Annis Lastinger, born September 6, 1839; married Robert Allen Elliot, June 24, 1855; neighbors of Thomas M. Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill; died June 8, 1913
  5. Elizabeth Lastinger, born September 28, 1841; present May, 1861 at Grand Military Rally for Berrien Minute Men; married May 12, 1861 to William J. Wilkerson, son of William D. Wilkerson; died January 11, 1935 at Cat Creek, GA; buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA
  6. Lacy Elias Lastinger, born August 3, 1843; enlisted Berrien Minute Men, Company D (later Co. K), 29th GA Regiment; married Sophronia J. Williams; died December 4, 1936; buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Adel, GA
  7. William Hiram Lastinger, born April 23, 1845; served in Berrien Minute Men, Company C (later Company G, 29th GA Regiment); married Georgia Augusta Jones, December 13, 1866; later moved to Waco, TX. Died December 23, 1918. Buried Oakwood Cemetery, Waco, TX
  8. Joshua Berrien Lastinger, born February 22, 1847; said to have served with the 5th Georgia Reserves; married Louisa Bowden, December 25, 1870; later moved to Florida; died October 15, 1931, at Arcadia, FL; buried Owens Cemetery, Arcadia, FL.
  9. Jane Lastinger, born October 11, 1849; married William C. McDonald; died April 1, 1918; buried Cat Creek Cemetery.
  10. Kansas Lastinger, born September 19, 1855; married Francis Marion “Frank” Smith, December 18, 1882; died January 28, 1907 at Fitzgerald, GA; buried Brushy Creek Church.
  11. Arizona Lastinger, born November 27, 1859; married 1) Robert K. Turner, on January 24, 1900, 2) William C. McDonald, on July 27, 1919; died February 15, 1954; buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.
  12. Nebraska Lastinger; born October 6, 1857; married Dr. Joseph Gustavus Edie on December 13, 1888; died 1940; buried Old City Cemetery, Nashville, GA.

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