Long before shopping centers, fast food restaurants, and 4-lane highways, there were the quiet agricultural communities of the North Georgia mountains.  Long before rapid population and economic expansion and before communities with swimming pools and tennis courts there was the business of…MOONSHINE.  The making of moonshine is not limited to the North Georgia mountains.  However, the counties of North Georgia have a rich and somewhat checkered history of distilling and distributing untaxed and unregulated alcohol.  Counties such as Dawson, Lumpkin, Pickens and Gilmer became major suppliers of moonshine during the 1930’s and 40’s.

As far back as the colonial days, farmers in North Georgia discovered an easy way to make much-needed extra money for their families.  Farmers used part of their crops, such as apples, peaches, and corn to make whiskey and brandy, and then sold it locally.  Selling their alcohol in small glass jars was easier to handle and less bulky to transport than hauling crops by wagon over rough roads to local markets or to Atlanta.

Today, the general perception of a moonshiner is a simple person with limited means and little education.  The image of a moonshiner conjures up one who has few teeth, a long un-kept beard, a tattered hat, and someone smoking a corncob pipe.  Actually, back in the 1700’s, a moonshiner was a respected member of the community.

It was not until the late 1700’s that the Federal Government attempted to place a tax on all home-made alcohol.  This tax was repealed shortly after it was implemented.   Then in 1862, President Lincoln had to find a way to pay for the Civil War, otherwise known as “The War of Northern Aggression.”   Congress established the Internal Revenue Service to collect their newly imposed taxes on “luxuries”, which included alcohol.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with the farmers of North Georgia, and many refused to pay the new tax.   These farmers began to make their whiskey out of sight, in home-made stills that located deep in the woods.  They were known as ‘Moonshiners” because they made their product in the moonlight.  Thus, the legendary battles between moonshiners and revenue agents (revenuers) began.

In 1907, the Georgia legislature passed a law prohibiting the manufacture and consumption of alcohol.  For the most part, it had little effect on the moonshiners of North Georgia.  However, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, along with the Volstead Act  (which defined “intoxicating liquors” excluding those used for religious purposes and sales throughout the United States) established Prohibition in the United States.  Its ratification was certified on January 16, 1919.  It was the only amendment to the Constitution that has been repealed (by the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933).  This changed the business of moonshining  forever.

The  Prohibition Era, as it is known, created an unprecedented demand for whiskey.  The illegal corn alcohol, sometimes called “White Lightning”, was in such high demand that  business changed from local farmers making and selling small quantities of their moonshine to help make ends meet, to big business involving ‘gangsters” of the 1920’s and 30’s.  These so-called “gangsters” created networks of farmers to operate stills just for their own use.

The moonshine could not be transported to Atlanta and other cities by normal means.  Local sheriffs and federal revenue agents scoured the countryside looking for stills and were constantly on the lookout for moonshine shipments.  This prompted a dangerous and sometimes deadly game to evade revenue agents.

During the 1940’s, high-speed cars driven by “trippers” were built to transport the illegally produced alcohol.  The “trippers developed “tanker cars” with secret compartments to hold their cargo of alcohol.  The “tanker cars” were often faster than any car used by the sheriffs or revenurers.  The “trippers” drove at high-speed over country back roads, often busting through blockades to deliver their precious cargo.  Many attribute these ‘trippers” and their powerful cars to the start of the sport of stock car racing, and eventually to NASCAR.

The history of North Georgia moonshine and “trippers” is celebrated every year at the “Moonshine Festival” in Dawsonville.  It is usually held in late October.  Also in Dawsonville, is the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.  On display are some of the early “tanker cars” and stock cars that were raced on dirt tracks throughout the North Georgia mountains.  The “Georgia Moonshine Cruz-In” will be held in Hiwassee on August 12-14.  There you can enjoy mountain music, an incredible car show, and of course, a working moonshine still.

As an architect and custom builder in North Georgia, I love learning about the history and folklore of the mountains and its people.  It is my desire to bring a bit of that mystic to every home I design and build.  Please visit my website http://www.henryzuckerman.com  I can be contacted at henry@henryzuckerman.com; 678-947-1187



Christmas in north Georgia conjures up images of colorful lights twinkling through the bare branches of trees, the glow of a warm fire crackling in an old stone fireplace, and a cup brimming with hot chocolate to warm the senses after a walk in the cold night air.  Like many North Georgians, I envision snow flakes gently falling on obscure mountain roads.  I dream of being bundled under blankets with my soul mate – the cold air on our faces, the sound of jingling of bells, the faint sound of carolers in the distance – as we are drawn through a perfect north Georgia white winter enchantment in an open sleigh.

Small towns and villages all across the north Georgia mountains are planning “old-fashioned” Christmas celebrations; from Santa arriving on an old-time train in Blue Ridge, to visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus  at their home in Canton. North Georgia has celebrations and activities for kids of all ages.  Take time to enjoy a local, “old-fashioned” celebration in your home town.  You will be glad you did.

We all know Santa lives at the North Pole, but since 2002, Santa and Mrs. Claus have opened their “southern home” in Canton to thousands of admirers.  The festivities begin with a warm welcome from Mrs. Claus.  Inside the home, you can view one of the largest collections of Christmas memorabilia south of the North pole.  You will delight at the Christmas villages all lit up for the holiday, including many model railroad train displays.

Upon exiting the home, you will find a path lit up with colorful lights and decorations leading to…Santa’s Workshop!  You can feel the excitement in the cold winter air as each step brings you closer to the “sacred shop”.  Kids instinctively know Santa is inside waiting to greet them with a resounding HO! HO! HO!  All children get to sit on Santa’s lap, and tell him what they want for Christmas.  Be sure to bring your camera to capture all the smiles.  Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at 6951 Vaughan Road, Canton every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Please call 770-345-6314 for more information

The tiny mountain village of Helen, known for its Alpine Village theme and Oktoberfest, is aglow in celebration of Christmas.  The streets are lined with displays of trees, candy canes, and garland.  Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through the village streets for a wonderful and charming experience.  Visit www.helencvb.com/events/ for more information.

The “Christmas on the Square ” celebration takes place in downtown Blairsville on December 5.  The activities begin at 1:00 P.M. with open houses at the Mountain Life Museum, and historic courthouse.  The Christmas parade starts at 4;00 P.M.  Then at a little after 5:00 P.M., everyone will gather on the courthouse lawn to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree and sing carols.  Visit http://www.downtownblairsville.com/eventxmas.html for more information.

For a truly unique holiday experience, make plans to see the “Holiday Show” at the Rollins Planetarium on the campus of Young Harris College in Young Harris.  The holiday show,  ” Season of Light”,  is scheduled for two shows – December 4 and 11.  The show explores the traditions of the season, the burning of the yule log, Christmas tree lights and candles, the lighting of luminaries and the traditional Jewish Menorah.   The show also includes religious and cultural rituals, and of course Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, and St. Nicholas.  Weather permitting, The College Observatory will be open to the public.  For more information contact the college at 706-379-5195 or www.yhc.edu

Dawsonville celebrates its annual Christmas tree lighting on December 5.  There will be hot cider, cocoa and coffee to warm all in the cold night air.  The Dawson County High School Chorus will be performing and Santa will arrive as the crowd sings  “Here Comes Santa Claus”.  The kids will want to visit with santa just to make sure they are on his “good” list.  For more information, visit www.Dawson.org

Always a family favorite and worthy of inclusion is the ” Magical Nights of Lights” on Lake Lanier Islands.   There are over six miles of giant illuminated characters created from millions of lights.  Plan on visiting the Holiday Village, complete with a roaring bonfire, pony rides, and of course, Santa himself.  For more information please visit www.lakelanierislands.com/event.php?id=133

“An Old Fashioned Christmas in the Mountains” will be held in Cleveland on December 5.  The fun begins at noon in Historic Downtown Cleveland.  The celebration will feature a “Gingerbread House” competition.  Each entry must be modeled after an historic building or landmark in White County.  The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia will choose the finalists on December 3.  The winner will be chosen on December 5.  There will also be a Christmas parade, caroling on the square, and a Santa look-a-like contest.  Free hot cocoa and cookies, kids activities, and games will also be featured.  Visit www.clevelandbetterhometown.org/events.html for more information.

Jasper will celebrate “Night of Lights Christmas Celebration” on December 5 beginning at 3:00 P.M.  Kids can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  There will be a parade of lights and special music, face painting and activities for the kids.  Please visit www.jaspermerchantsassociation.com

Celebrate an “Old fashioned Christmas” in Dahlonega with a real “home-town” Christmas parade that will bring Santa Claus to town.  There are plenty of other holiday festivities planned throughout December such as caroling on the square, wine sampling, live theatrical Christmas events.  A visit to this charming mountain town during the holidays will simply amaze all with its lights and decorations in the town square.  On December 6, local “Bed and Breakfasts” will host a “Sleigh Bell Tour” of their facilities.  Please call the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Visitors Center for more information, 706-864-3513, or www.dahlonega.org

Nothing is more special or rewarding than celebrating Christmas at your home with family and friends.  As an architect and custom builder, I take great pride in creating homes that will welcome family, friends, and…Santa to your special holiday celebration in the North  Georgia Mountains.  Please visit www.henryzuckerman.com

From our home to yours… HAPPY HOLIDAYS !!!