An audio documentary about working families, bootleg whiskey and corrupt officials in Franklin County, Virginia.

Luther Shively carrying a turnip still pot, Endicott, VA / Blue Ridge Institute & Museum of Ferrum College, Franklin County Bicentennial Collection
Franklin County Virginia was once called “The Moonshine Capital of the World.” For struggling hillside farmers, moonshine was a path out of poverty. For powerful men, it was an opportunity to get rich on the backs of those farmers.
During prohibition and after
The 1920s and 30s were difficult for small scale farmers in the hills of western Virginia. Moonshine offered extra cash and a path out of poverty. In the most mountainous parts of the county, nearly every farming family was involved in the making and selling of illegal whiskey.
The "Big Wheels" saw an opportunity, and they took it
For the most powerful men in the county, the moonshine trade was an opportunity to get rich on the backs of those farmers, charging large protection fees in exchange for looking the other way.
Death and taxes
You can’t make that much illegal whiskey without drawing the attention of the federal government.

With the help of a retired WWI spy, the Federal government indicted many of those men, including the State’s Attorney, the sheriff, a federal agent, and several deputies.

In 1935, over 200 farmers testified about their role in the massive racket resulting in Virginia’s Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial.