When I was 14 or 15 (in the early 1970’s), my father was teaching me to drive on the dirt roads of Middle Tennessee. During one such lesson, he told me that when he was my age he was running moonshine, but never explained or really mentioned it again. Although, I do recall a trip one time when he picked up some moonshine, but I was young and had no clue where we were, but looking back now I know we were in Grundy County, Tennessee.
Then my father went on with the driving lesson and told me…”This is how you get away from the police”. Some dads teach the best lessons…
Recently, I decided to do some research and see if I could find any connection between my father, his immediate family, and moonshine. I was surprised to find it was not that hard to find the connection.
My father grew up in Coffee County, Tennessee, in a small community known as Goose Pond. His mother was from a neighboring county, Grundy County, and that is where her people had been for more than a century.
I searched for information about moonshine during the time my father would have been 15 and I found an article about a guy named Pewter Garner. This article was written by a Grundy County historian named Jackie Layne Partin. She had apparently done a great deal of research, talking to local people and going thru newspaper articles and some official records. She painted quite a picture of this Pewter Garner, who was a local moonshining gangster. The 1930 US Census even listed his occupation as moonshiner, and his father’s occupation as bootlegger.
Pewter’s first wife died while Pewter was in a gun battle with some other thug, who he later killed. Pewter’s second wife was my grandmother’s sister, making Pewter my dad’s uncle by marriage. Since my grandfather was dead, and his older brothers were married and living in the North, it is not hard to imagine my father falling in with his uncle. So there I found a link between my father and a documented moonshiner which causes me to believe there may have been something to my father’s claim that he ran shine when he was a teenager.
Sometimes the sinners in our history provide the best stories.
If you would like to read Ms. Partin’s article about my Great Uncle Pewter you can find it here. You can also find other articles written by Ms. Partin at the Grundy County History website.
And in case you are wondering, I put my father’s driving lessons to good use…I’m a retired police officer.
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