By Kathryn Stovall
My grandmother, who was born in 1923, grew up in the height of the depression and prohibition, recalls vividly what life was like during that time. Their family worked as sharecroppers and moved from farm to farm in Kaufman and Ellis Texas counties several times during her childhood.
She recounts how moonshining and whiskey stills were everywhere and no one really cared. You didnít look down on your neighbor as ìdoing something illegalî even though they were. She remembers that their neighbors had a whiskey still on their farm and it was a typical occurrence for the regulators to make one of their many ìbustsî on the property. On one particular occasion, she remembers one of the men that lived there running through their crop and hiding in their barn, where he was eventually found. She also remembers hearing them ìchopping upî the still. As a small child, I can imagine this was all very exciting and also a bit scary.
Sheís told me often of times where her family and the neighboring families would gather around and play fiddles, banjos and guitars. I canít help but picture a scene from a movie complete with shoeless children, old porches, moonshine drinkiní and square dancing of some sort.
Iím sure many families have similar stories. Iím sure many Stovalls even had their own whiskey stills or made their own moonshine, though I havenít been successful in uncovering anything exciting on that topic. (if you have anything I would love to hear!)
Most people forget though that prohibition had actually started a few years earlier. By 1916, there were already 19 states that didnít allow the manufacture or sale of alcoholic beverages. In December 1917, Congress ratified and passed the 18th Amendment.
Prominent groups such as the Anti-Saloon League and the Womanís Christian Temperance Union had pushed for prohibition for decades. The war effort demanded rations on grain and the association of alcohol with the Ku-Klux-Klan and anti-German sentiment also played a role leading up to the finalization of the 18th amendment.
Stovall’s played their own part in prohibition. In Georgia, the front page of the Athens Banner on November 06, 1915 tells how Senator A.J Stovall worked to pass what was called “The Stovall Anti-Saloon Bill” and later known as the Stovall-Hopkins-Mangham Prohibition Bill. The bill passed with a 38-2 vote.