Guide to the Moonshining in Burke County: The Career of N.C. ABC officer Fred Hennessee, 1960 - 1989

Summary Information

Title: Moonshining in Burke County: The Career of N.C. ABC officer Fred Hennessee, 1960 - 1989
Collection: AC.469
Extent: 1 linear foot (3 boxes)
Abstract:

The Moonshining in Burke County: The Career of N.C. ABC officer Fred Hennessee collection represents Fred Hennessee's twenty year career as a North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control officer in Burke County. Born in Morganton, N.C. in 1926, Hennessee joined the Navy before he finished High School. Upon his return home, Hennessee held a number of jobs including: grocery store operator, gas station owner, Morganton city police officer, Burke County deputy sheriff, and eventually ABC officer for Burke County. For nearly twenty years, Hennessee spent most of his time staking out, investigating, and gathering evidence on possible illegal still operations. Most investigations began with anonymous phone messages or other "tips." His records indicate the discovery and destruction of 153 illegal stills during his career.

The collection consists only of reproductions of the originals. The original items were scanned or photocopied and returned to Fred Hennessee's family. The collection contains digital scans stored on CDs and printouts of the scans of the scrapbook photos, loose photographs, publications and ephemera related to Hennessee's specific career activities. There are also photocopies of newspaper articles and index cards of illegal still and alcohol finds. The time span for most of the collection items is 1950-1989.

Creator: Hennessee, Fred 1926-1997

Biographical/Historical Note

Long before the European settlers arrived, the western North Carolina area was inhabited by the Catawba and Cherokee Indians. In 1752 Moravian Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenburg came to North Carolina in search of land for Moravian settlement. His travels led him into the western part of the state where he made the first written description of what later became Burke County.

On June 1, 1777 the North Carolina General Assembly passed an act dividing Rowan County. Lands to the north and west became Burke County, named after Thomas Burke, then a representative in the Continental Congress. In October 1784, in a Newbern session, the General Assembly appointed a commission to lay out the town that would become Morganton. Their work appears to have been completed in the summer of 1806. The town was named in honor of Daniel Morgan who was considered to be a hero in the Revolutionary War.

The origin of illegal moonshining really began in England in 1659 when the first homemade liquor tax was enforced along the border of Scotland and in Ireland. Homemade liquor was often a way of life for these families as well as a source of additional income. When the Scot-Irish began settling in Pennsylvania and piedmont North Carolina, they brought their whiskey making skills with them. New North Carolina tax laws spurred unreported distilling practices and facilitated the career of the revenuer.

Tax laws could not be strictly enforced in the mountains of North Carolina and whiskey became the prime money crop of country farmers. Moreover, the tax was highly resented. The distilling of spirits from corn was the only way farmers in Western areas of Pennsylvania and North Carolina could profitably sell their surplus corn crops. This dislike of liquor taxes led to the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania, one of the first challenges to the new Federal government.

Hikes in taxes on spirits were supported by tea-totalers and evangelical abstainers. Hence, liquor taxes were often known as "sin" taxes. The tax on whiskey would come and go through the years, the tax often being more than the retail cost of the product. Revenuers were often unwilling to venture back in the mountains to look for moonshiners due to the fact that it frequently lead to skirmishes.

Fred Hennessee was born in Morganton on March 9, 1926. He attended Morganton High School, but never graduated. He joined the Navy at age 17, and served in the Pacific in WWII. After returning home Hennessee operated a grocery store at Lake James and owned a service station. During this time he married Mary Louise Rose and had two daughters.

In 1961 Hennessee began his law enforcement career as a Morganton city police officer. Later, he joined the Burke County sheriff's department, rising to deputy sheriff. In 1968 he became an officer for the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board, where he worked for the next 20 years. During those years as an agent, he spent most of his time hunting, seizing, and destroying illegal stills. It was very involved work, often requiring that he and his fellow officers spend hours looking for stills after a tip off. They would frequently go undercover, lying in wooded areas for long periods of time watching the stills, gathering proof of their operating status and ownership. Hennessee was quite the character, often being greeted at suspects' homes by curious children and referring to himself as "Uncle Fred" so they would not know he was with the ABC. His personal index records indicate 153 seized and destroyed stills during his career.

Some other aspects of Hennessee's career involved doing undercover work for neighboring counties, working with ABC stores to protect bank deposits, and liquor license enforcement on local night clubs. The latter often involved not taking a shower for several days and washing his mouth out with whiskey to be a believable customer.

Towards the end of Hennessee's career, his work as an ABC officer began to change with the growing presence of other controlled substances such as marijuana. The marijuana fields were often full of trip wires and traps to harm officials. Hennessee cited this change as contributing to his decision to retire in 1988. He felt moonshiners were most often the kind of people you could sit down and have dinner with, men just trying to make ends meet. The people involved in the sale of drugs were the true criminals.

After retirement, Hennessee continued to participate in the Burke County Law Enforcement Officers Association. In August 1988 he received the Long Leaf Pine Award. This is the highest civilian honor for service in North Carolina given by the governor.

Hennessee passed away on March 27, 1997. The scrapbook collection was created by Fred and passed on to his daughters after his death. The collection's condition was fair upon its delivery. Much of the biographical information about Hennessee's life and career was provided by his daughters and brothers as well as the Sheriff John McDevitt.

Sources:

The Burke County Historical Society. Burke County Heritage - North Carolina. Winston Salem: 1981, pp. 1-9.

The News Herald. "Moonshining: Family Tradition for 304 Years". Morganton: October 25, 1963, pp. 1,3.

The News Herald. "Retired ABC Officer helps revamp cave". Morganton: June 1, 1989, pp. 1C.

Hennessee family: Sharon, Margaret, Carl, Ervin - friend: Sheriff McDevitt

Chronology

9 March 1926 Born in Morganton, North Carolina
ca. 1940-43 Attended Morganton High School
ca. 1943 Left school to join the Navy during WWII, serving in the Pacific
ca. 1945-59 Operated a grocery store at Lake James. Owned a service station in Morganton.
1948 Married Mary Louise Rose
ca. 1960-64 Entered law enforcement, beginning as a Morganton city police officer and then becoming a Burke County deputy sheriff
1964 Became a ABC officer in Burke County, still discovery near Icard, NC
September 19, 1967 Liquor still destroyed near Valdese, Mountain Springs Rd.
January 3, 1968 Still discovery near Linville River
January 9, 1969 Still under construction discovery off Linville Church section
February 2, 1970 Liquor raids in Burke County
April 9, 1970 Still discovered and destroyed in the Sunnyside section off old Highway 18 south.
13 October 1970 1964 Pontiac car seizure (liquor in trunk) belonging to Harry Conley
1971 Still discovery in Hildebran, North Carolina
21 February 1972 Glen Alpine still discovery
17 January 1973 Still discovery on Warlick Chapel Road, Burke County, North Carolina
26 October 1981 Discovery of a still in barn off U.S. 64 South
1988 Retires; receives Long Leaf Pine Award in August of that year
June 1989 Helps restore a former moonshine cave as a tourist attraction
27 March 1997 Died in Morganton, NC at the age of 71.

Scope and Contents

The Moonshine Collection content is either directly connected or related to the career of Fred Hennessee as an ABC officer in Burke County, NC. The majority of the items were assembled by Hennessee. It appears nearly all of the photographs were taken by a Morganton News Herald employee and given to Hennessee. Some of the original photos were stamped as taken by local Morganton photographer, Andy Hern, under his employment with the News Herald. The collection covers the years 1960-1989; the bulk of the material spans 1967-1989. One can get a sense of what Hennessee's career involved and also an idea of what being an ABC officer during this era might have been like.

The collection consists only of reproductions of the originals. The original items were returned to Fred Hennessee's daughter. The collection contains digital scans on CDs and printouts of the scans of the scrapbook photos, loose photographs, publications and ephemera containing moonshine information and warnings. There are also photocopies of newspaper articles and index cards of illegal still and alcohol finds. The hardcopies of the materials are housed in a legal size flip-top Hollinger box and filed in folders and the CDs are housed in separate CD boxes. For the sake of brevity, the list of individual photographs and scrapbook pages is located under Series I: Photographs in this finding aid. Each photograph/scrapbook page title contains a note at the end that indicates where the digital scan is located on the CDs.

These CDs are currently not available for public use. Use of audiovisual materials requires the creation of a user copy, if none exists. The user copy will be maintained as part of the collection. Researchers desiring a user copy for their own use outside of the repository should consult the Application for Duplication of Closed Collection Materials on the Special Collections website.

Arrangement

Series Description: Series I: Moonshine Photographs Located in this series are copies of digitally scanned original loose and scrapbook bound photographs covering a large span of Fred Hennessee's career as a Burke County ABC officer. Many of the dates of the photographs are unknown, however they cover roughly 1964-1988. The photos depict mostly still discoveries and destructions as well as the officials and suspects involved in those events. There are also some photographs depicting marijuana finds later in Hennessee's career. Subseries: Loose Photographs These photographs were loosely placed within the scrapbook. Some of them correspond with scrapbook bound photographs. Digital copies of them are located on the Moonshine 469 CDs 1-9. Subseries: Scrapbook Photographs These photographs are bound in the scrapbook and have digital copies on the Moonshine Scrapbook 469 CDs 1-19. Series II: Newspaper Clippings This series contains copies of newspaper articles and clippings related to moonshine still and marijuana finds. All but a few of the articles have to do directly with Hennessee's career, but several have to do with either moonshining history or activities Hennessee participated in after retirement. The time span for the articles and clippings covers 1963-1989. Series III: Index Card Files The series contains copies of items found in a filing or index box belonging to Fred Hennessee. There are 153 index cards pertaining to still busts. These cards contain dates and times for the bust, locations, the individual(s) arrested, and the contents found at the bust. Also in the index card box are notes of vehicles seized along with the owners name (it is unclear if all of these seizures have to do with moonshine), miscellaneous documentation having to do with moonshining, and 13 cards with suspects names, addresses, and other crime related information. Series IV: Publications Related to Moonshine This series includes copies of digitally scanned original pamphlets, and a small report. The pamphlets present warnings about the dangers of moonshine and are directed towards teenagers and the general public. The report contains information about the "war" against moonshine production and distribution. It provides information on still seizures and law enforcement activity for the years 1950-65. Series V: Ephemera Related to Illegal Substances Included in this series are copies of digitally scanned original flyers, a fan, and a post card. The flyers and fan contain warning messages about the dangers of moonshine. The postcard illustrates the moonshine cave, a tourist attraction that Hennessee helped develop after his retirement. Series VI: CDs Containing Digital Scans of Collection The images in this series are copies of the actual photographs, ephemera, and publications found in the collection. The corresponding CD that contains the images can be found in the series' box and folder lists. CDs are currently not available for public use. Use of audiovisual materials requires the creation of a user copy, if none exists. The user copy will be maintained as part of the collection. Researchers desiring a user copy for their own use outside of the repository should consult the Application for Duplication of Closed Collection Materials on the Special Collections website.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for use in the Dougherty Reading Room. An appointment for research is recommended. The Dougherty Reading Room is located on the 4th floor of Belk Library in Special Collections. Use of audiovisual materials requires the creation of a user copy, if none exists. The user copy will be maintained as part of the collection. Researchers desiring a user copy for their own use outside of the repository should consult the Application for Duplication of Closed Collection Materials information on the Special Collections website.

Acquisitions Information

The Moonshining in Burke County: The Career of N.C. ABC officer Fred Hennessee collection material was loaned by Sharon Hennessee Williamson and Margaret Hennessee Stump, the daughters of Fred Hennessee. The collection was loaned in March 2008. The original items were returned to Fred Hennessee's daughter. The accession number for the collection is 469. The collection will be open to the public by May 1, 2009.

Processing Information

Inventoried by Rachel Westrom, 2009; Processed by Rachel Westrom, April, 2009; Digitized by Rachel Westrom, February & March, 2009; Encoded by Rachel Westrom, April, 2009

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], AC.469. Moonshining in Burke County: The Career of N.C. ABC officer Fred Hennessee, W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA.

Container List

Series I: Moonshine Photographs
   
    Subseries: Loose Photographs
Box Folder
1 1 Mountains South of Morganton, Photos 1 - 2, Williams, Hennessee, and Whisnant with beehives and moonshine jugs (CD 1)  
  2 Lex Poteat's still - Pete Britain Road in Burke County, Photo 3, small picture of a still (CD 1)
  3 Still discovered in Hildebran, NC in 1971, Photos 4-15, house with trap door in back - views underground (4-13 on CD 1, 14-15 on CD 2)
  4 Still belonging to Pearlie Workman, 1973 - Warlick Chapel Road, Photos 16-20, views of Workman's still above and below ground (CD 2)
  5 Aerial view identified as Pearlie Workman's place, Photo 21 (CD 2)
  6 Unknown underground Still # 1, Photo 22, Bob Deviney standing on right (CD 2)
  7 Unknown underground Still # 2, Photos 23-28, Hennessee and Sheriff Jerry Richard in underground Still (23 on CD 2, 24-28 on CD 3)
  8 Hennessee with police cars in unknown location # 3, Photo 29, open field with police cars and officials (CD 3)
  9 Warlick, Smith, and Cox with moonshine jugs in unknown location, 1976, Photo 30, officers standing behind jugs (CD 3)
  10 Silver Creek - destruction, Photos 31 - 32, Deviney and Hennessee (CD 3)
  11 Unknown above ground Still # 4, Photos 33-37, Hennessee, Clark, and Williams in wooded area with hidden door to Still (33 on CD 3, 34-37 on CD 4)
  12 Unknown liquor destruction site, Photos 38-40, Hennessee, Richards, Garner throwing illegal items on pile for destruction (CD 4)
  13 Unknown liquor destruction site, Photos 41 - 42, Jerry Richards with dozer in the background (CD 4)
  14 Officers with confiscated liquor, Photos 43 - 44, officers Smith, Epley, Hennessee, Edwards, and Orders in headquarters (43 on CD 4, 44 on CD 5)
  15 Unknown underground Still # 5, Photos 45 - 46, unknown officer pointing to trap door and with hand in mash barrel (CD 5)
  16 Unknown above ground Still # 6, Photo 47, color photo in wooded area of Still (CD 5)
  17 Unknown location # 7 - possibly belonging to Pearlie Workman, Photos 48-57, views of shed and inside of shed looking at trap door (48-53 on CD 5, 54-57 on CD 6)
  18 Linville Church Section - January 1969, Photo 58-64, still belonging to Loy Beck (58-63 on CD 6, 64 on CD 7)
  19 Unknown location # 8, Photos 65-68, various views of flooded basement (CD 7)
  20 Lall Rd. at Glenn Alpine - 2/21/72, photos 69 - 70, view of mash barrels along walls, Ed Mayfield and Tom Patton charged (CD 7)
  21 Unknown underground still #9, photos 71-73, central views of Still (CD 7)
  22 Trunk of 1964 Pontiac belonging to Harry A. Conley - 10/13/70, photos 74 - 75, liquor in trunk (CD 8)
  23 Jugs of moonshine, photo 76 (CD 8)
  24 Unknown above ground Still # 10, photo 77 (CD 8)
  25 Unknown underground Still # 11, photo 78 (CD 8)
  26 Marijuana Field, photo 79, Hennessee and John McDevitt in field with marijuana plants (CD 8)
  27 Officials at above ground Still - unknown #12, photo 80, Wilbur Wilson, Paul Dale, E.L. Edwards, Jack Morris surrounding Still (CD 8)
  28 Fred Hennessee framed photograph, photo 81 (CD 9)
  29 Outdoor Still photos in color (unknown # 6), photos 82-84 (CD 9)
  30 Unknown Indoor Still # 13, photos 85 - 86 (CD 9)
  31 Unknown Outdoor Still # 14, photos 87 - 88 (CD 9)
  32 Unknown Still site # 15, photos 89 - 90 (CD 9)
  33 Unknown location # 16, photo 91 (CD 9)
  34 Unknown outdoor Still # 17, photo 92 (CD 9)
  35 Unknown outdoor Still # 18, photo 93 (CD 9)
   
    Subseries: Scrapbook Photos
Box Folder
1 36 Cover page (CD 1)  
   
    Two snapshots of Fred Hennessee (larger on top)  
   
    Page 1 (CD 1)  
   
    Photo A - 2nd from left Sheriff Jerry Richards at destruction pile site  
   
    Photo B - L to R: Evan Willis, Gene Huffman, Manuel Britain, unknown  
   
    Photo C - unknown location with moonshine jugs  
   
    Page 2 (CD 1)  
   
    Photo A - unknown location with hidden door  
   
    Photo B - unknown location with moonshine jugs  
   
    Photo C - Front left: Fred Hennessee at unknown location  
   
    Photo D - unknown officer with still  
   
    Photo E - unknown officers with still  
   
    Photo F - Unknown above ground still  
   
    Page 3 (CD 2)  
   
    Photo A - Frank Browning with still  
   
    Photo B - L to R: Fred Hennessee, James Whisnant, Jack Williams  
   
    Photo C - Front right: Fred Hennessee  
   
    Page 4 (CD 2)  
   
    Photo A - officers with moonshine jugs - still bust  
   
    Photo B - Frank Browning  
   
    Page 5 (CD 2)  
   
    Photo A - L to R: Jack Williams, Fred Hennessee, James Whisnant  
   
    Photo B - Still near Linville River, 1/3/68  
   
    Page 6 (CD 3)  
   
    On right: Sheriff Jerry Richards throwing things into destruction pile  
   
    Page 7 (CD 3)  
   
    2nd from left: Jerry Richards, 3rd from left: Fred Hennessee with destruction pile  
   
    Page 8 (CD 3)  
   
    Liquor and beer confiscation  
   
    Page 9 (CD 4)  
   
    Hildebran bust, view of back of truck, 1971  
   
    Page 10 (CD 4)  
   
    Front to back: Alvin Wise, Fred Hennessee, Lee Britain at Hildebran bust, 1971  
   
    Page 11 (CD 4)  
   
    L to R: Steve Smith, Ernest Epley, Fred Hennessee, Keith Richards, Allen Orders in police headquarters with confiscated materials  
   
    Page 12 (CD 5)  
   
    Unknown officers and location  
   
    Page 13 (CD 5)  
   
    L to R: Dean Lloyd, Fred Hennessee with marijuana plants  
   
    Page 14 (CD 5)  
   
    L to R: Renee Stump (granddaughter of Hennessee), Fred Hennessee, unknowns  
   
    Page 15 (CD 6)  
   
    Unknown location (beer and liquor in box)  
   
    Page 16 (CD 6)  
   
    Unknown location - police headquarters?  
   
    Page 17 (CD 6)  
   
    L to R: Lee Britain, Bob Deviney, unknowns at Hildebran bust 1971  
   
    Page 18 (CD 7)  
   
    2nd from left: Fred Hennessee, 3rd from left: Sheriff Jerry Ricards at destruction pile site  
   
    Page 19 (CD 7)  
   
    Fred Hennessee in unknown underground still  
   
    Page 20 (CD 7)  
   
    Fred Hennessee  
   
    Page 21 (CD 8)  
   
    Steve Whisnant by car trunk with alcoholic beverages  
   
    Page 22 (CD 8)  
   
    L to R: Fred Hennessee, Bill Hemphill, Jerry Richards  
   
    Page 23 (CD 8)  
   
    L to R: Ned Whitener, unknown, Fred Hennessee, Bill Hemphill  
   
    Page 24 (CD 9)  
   
    Confiscation material in unknown location  
   
    Page 25 (CD 9)  
   
    Marijuana plant  
   
    Page 26 (CD 9)  
   
    Confiscated beer and liquor in unknown location  
   
    Page 27 (CD 10)  
   
    L to R: Jack Warlick, Robert Smith, Larry Cox in 1976 - standing behind moonshine jugs  
   
    Page 28 (CD 10)  
   
    L to R: Charles Clark, Bill Holland, Joel Smith in police headquarters with a Still  
   
    Page 29 (CD 10)  
   
    L to R: Alvin Wise and Manuel Britain  
   
    Page 30 (CD 11)  
   
    Photo A - L to R: Herman Avery, Fred Hennessee, Sheriff Ralph Johnson, Captain Robin Dale  
   
    Photo B - unknown location  
   
    Page 31 (CD 11)  
   
    Photo A - Still in unknown location / L to R: Sheriff David Oaks, Chief Deputy Joe Burns  
   
    Photo B - L to R: Jack Williams, Fred Hennessee, James Whisnant  
   
    Page 32 (CD 11)  
   
    Photo A - Sheriff Alvin Wise in underground Still  
   
    Photo B - Still in Burke County, July 29, 1964, Sheriff Oaks and violator Grover Clark  
   
    Page 33 (CD 12)  
   
    Photo A - Still and jugs in unknown location  
   
    Photo B - L to R: Fred Hennessee, James Whisnant, Jack Williams with moonshine jugs  
   
    Page 34 (CD 12)  
   
    Still in unknown location  
   
    Page 35 (CD 12)  
   
    L to R: Alvin Wise, Fred Hennessee, Jack Williams, Manuel Britain, Lee Britain in underground Still  
   
    Page 36 (CD 13)  
   
    L to R: Fred Hennessee, John McDevitt, Albert Suttle in field with marijuana plants  
   
    Page 37 (CD 13)  
   
    Still possibly belonging to Pearlie Workman  
   
    Page 38 (CD 13)  
   
    Still in unknown location  
   
    Page 39 (CD 14)  
   
    L to R: Fred Hennessee and Charles Clark in wooded area with hidden Still door  
   
    Page 40 (CD 14)  
   
    Lall Rd. at Glen Alpine still - February 21, 1972 - Ed Mayfield and Tom Patton charged  
   
    Page 41 (CD 14)  
   
    Lall Rd. at Glen Alpine - February 21, 1972  
   
    Page 42 (CD 15)  
   
    L to R: Bob Deviney, J.B. Simmons, Tom Patton, Alvin Wise at Lall Rd. still - February 21, 1972  
   
    Page 43 (CD 15)  
   
    L to R: unknown, Lee Britain  
   
    Page 44 (CD 15)  
   
    Far right: Fred Hennessee - unknown location  
   
    Page 45 (CD 16)  
   
    Unknown location  
   
    Page 46 (CD 16)  
   
    Gambling machines  
   
    Page 47 (CD 16)  
   
    Marijuana leaf  
   
    Page 48 (CD 17)  
   
    Center: Chad Miller and to the right Fred Hennessee  
   
    Page 49 (CD 17)  
   
    Far left: Fred Hennessee - unknown location  
   
    Page 50 (CD 17)  
   
    L to R: Alvin Wise, Fred Hennessee, unknown, Manuel Britain, Lee Britain  
   
    Page 51 (CD 18)  
   
    Unknown location  
   
    Page 52 (CD 18)  
   
    Left: Fred Hennessee in marijuana field  
   
    Page 53 (CD 18)  
   
    L to R: Charles Clark, Fred Hennessee  
   
    Page 54 (CD 19)  
   
    L to R: Fred Hennessee, SBI Agent John Suttle, Charles "Shad" Miller, John Obie Buff - Hennessee receiving Longleaf Award  
   
    Page 55 (CD 19)  
   
    L to R: Fred Hennessee, John Suttle, Charles Miller, John Buff  
   
    Page 56 (CD 19)  
   
    Unknown location
,
Series II: Newspaper Clippings Copies
Box Folder
1 37 Illegal Still and Liquor Busts in and around Burke County
,
Series III: Index Card Files Copies
Box Folder
1 38 Names & addresses of suspects
  39 Seized vehicles
  40 Still locations & find information
  41 Last activity report & various statistical data
,
Series IV: Publications Related to Moonshine
Box Folder
1 42 ABC patch, photo 1 (Publications CD)
  43 Killer Moonshine tri-fold, photos 2 & 3, outside and inside view of killer moonshine pamphlet (Publications CD)
  44 Letter to teenagers, photos 4 & 5, outside and inside view of letter to teenagers (Publications CD)
  45 Operation Moonshine, photo 6, outside cover of Operation Moonshine booklet (Publications CD)
,
Series V: Ephemera related to Moonshine
Box Folder
1 46 Moonshine fan, photos 1 & 2, front and back view of moonshine fan (Ephemera CD)
  47 Moonshine cave postcard, photos 3 & 4, front and back view of moonshine cave postcard (Ephemera CD)
  48 Large Moonshine warning poster, photo 5, warning about poisonous effects of moonshine (Ephemera CD)
  49 Moonshine warning poster, photo 6, warning about poisonous effects of moonshine (Ephemera CD)
  50 Wanted poster, photo 7, information wanted about bootleg stills (Ephemera CD)