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Moonshine History in Somervell County (Glen Rose)


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When I first came to Somervell County back over 20 years ago, I walked the property I was fixing to buy with a neighbor from across the street. He told me he had walked over all the lots then currently for sale, and had decided on his across the road, largely because it was downhill and had some impressive large oaks. For the property I wanted, it was and is on a hill, lots of fossils and rocks, and some woods. I liked it because it had so many different landscaping features. I figured I could fix the caliche by adding dirt, branches and other materials to build up the ground, but also loved the woods along the road that gave privacy. What I didn''t realize with all the cedar wood was that this was also a privacy feature for the moonshiners that used to be in this entire area. Neighbor told me that when he had first walked this property, he saw the remains of a still in the woods. 

I was a volunteer at the local Somervell County History Museum, downtown, for awhile, and got a chance to see more relics and information about what had happened with the moonshiners. Apparently at one point, Glen Rose was known as the Moonshiners Capital of Texas. When, in 1919/1920, Prohibition came about, making alcohol in the woods became a regular activity, albeit illegal. From Yesterday''s America

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Somervell County, Texas, was perfect for illicit whisky-making, with its rocky hills and hiding places; and it’s proximity to Dallas/Fort Worth meant bootleggers would have plenty of customers just down the road. The small mill town Glen Rose boasted an artesian springs that brought in a few curious tourists. Locals Sam and Rabbit Darnaby set up their still (from the word “distillery’) using artesian waters along Paluxy Creek. Others caught on, and moonshine became the number-one industry in poor Somervell County. Glen Rose would soon gain the attention of the Governor of Texas himself.

Texas Governor Pat Neff enlisted Special Prohibition Agents to bust up and arrest moonshiners.

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Governor Neff found his soldier in Texas Ranger Red Burton, who would lead the coming raid on Glen Rose. On August 25, 1923, Texas Rangers made their move against the Glen Rose moonshine enterprise. Lawmen from all around were brought in to assist. All day long, apprehended bootleggers were marched into the courthouse. The public was given a spectacle of confiscated still equipment, dumped on the courthouse lawn. By afternoon, the courthouse lawn was stacked with seven whiskey stills, sixty-six gallons of corn liquor, eight gallons of wine and eight hundred pounds of sugar. The mass arrest yielded thirty-one Somervell County moonshiners and bootleggers.

Here''s a video I did in 2010 with Terry Gosdin telling the story from a perch on his truck while selling farm goods at the downtown Glen Rose farmers market.

But notice, according to the article, that "Dick Watson, the bootlegger turned Special Prohibition Agent, was the star witness in several trials, but was assassinated before he could provide testimony in all. In such a moonshine-friendly community, Watson’s friend the imposing Texas Ranger Red Burton couldn’t convince the grand jury to indict his suspects."

One of the local Somervell citizens who knew about this was Kenneth Hopson. I interviewed and recorded him back in 2010; he has since passed away.

There is an old, gorgeous fossil rock gas station at the edge of town on Hwy 144 at 67. Even it has a history connected with moonshine. Roadtrippers

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Moonshining, or the unlicensed distillation of spirits, traces its Texas roots much further back than Prohibition, to the early pioneers. Making moonshine was often a family operation with distinctive recipes and techniques, passed down through generations. Adding a variety of ingredients to increase the whiskey’s color and flavoring was a common practice; the soft drink Dr. Pepper, created in Waco in the late 1880s, was a popular additive.

Glen Rose’s proximity to Dallas and Fort Worth assured the bootlegger plenty of customers. A backwoods economy flourished during Prohibition; local legend says that most residents of Somervell County were involved in the creation or distribution of moonshine at one time. 

Now just a shell of the original structure, Young’s Outlaw Station is missing its roof but the fireplace chimney still stands. With an enormous crack splitting the façade of the front wall, it’s impressive that it’s survived at all. Constructed using petrified wood and fossilized stones, the surprisingly decorative and stylish building features contrasting bands of red and white brick and beautiful, high-arched openings where the gas pumps once stood. Empty sockets are all that remain of lights that once lined the arches like a movie theater marquee.

An unsubstantiated rumor claims that Bonnie and Clyde were some of Young’s regular customers. The legendary pair hailed from Dallas—80 miles northeast of Glen Rose—and were most likely familiar with the back roads and small towns in these parts. A joint like this would have been just their style: a secret spot on the edge of town offering liquid libations to friends and trusted clients. 

The moonshine business declined after Prohibition ended in 1933, although some say that you can still find the legendary liquid in the backwoods of Somervell County. Outlaw Station became a legitimate gas station and a small grocery store through the 1960s, until it was abandoned for good.

 

Here are some pics I took from a modern time Glen Rose Moonshine Festival in October 2010

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