Williams / Sommerville
About 1887, Frank opened a government licensed distillery on the farm and manufactured whiskey and brandy which was hauled to markets as far away as Danville, Virginia. The still house was located on Harmon's Creek near the house. Water came from a nearby spring, through wooden pipes made by Frank by drilling holes through logs with an eight foot auger. The auger was still in Delma Hoots' possession in 1998. Apple, pear and peach orchards abounded at that time and the fruit was used to make brandy. Whiskey was made from corn and rye. The residue from the stills, called mash, was used to feed a herd of pigs. Frank's sons used to talk about the pigs staggering around drunk after eating the fermented mash. Although there was a government agent on the premises during working hours to insure that tax stamps were purchased and placed on each barrel, a good deal of illegal liquor was made after hours. Ben told of a man who agreed to buy 400 gallons of illegal whiskey from Frank. When the whiskey was loaded some men rode up on horseback, fired pistols in the air, said they were government agents, and took over the whiskey. After they left, Frank suspected a trick and rode to stop them. As Ben said, it was fortunate that Frank couldn't find them or someone may have been killed. After the incident, it was discovered that the leader of the gang was a known criminal who later shot his partner in an argument.
A cousin of Frank, Sarah, married John Craver, who started a wood working business about 1898 in a nearby village called Courtney Junction. It became one of the largest wood working busineses in North Carolina and is still in operation. All of the homes in the area had "cane bottom" chairs made in the factory. Recaning was done by the owners at home, using strips of birch wood. Rodney and his sister Jane helped recane some chairs during a childhood visit and thought it was great fun.
About 1900, Frank opened a general merchandise store on the farm with his son-in-law, Samuel W. Garner. One source of customers was a road that ran through the farm and, for a while, was a stage coach line. The coaches would stop at the store for passengers to buy food, drinks and merchandise. When a new road was built some distance away, the business dried up. The old store building is still standing.
A development that made life easier for Frank and the community was construction of a bridge over the Yadkin River in 1903. As mentioned above, goods sold by the farmers of Yadkin County had to cross the river to get to eastern markets. The first ferry across the river, established at Shallow Ford in 1749, was used by Jacob, John, and Daniel. Ferries were undependable, with long waits during busy market times, and could not operate when the river flooded.
The advent of Prohibition forced the closing of the distillery, which brought economic hardship to the family. Frank then turned to farming as his primary source of income but things were never the same. Farming was hard and the income sparse. Fortunately, the family had grown tobacco since their farm had started and, under Federal guidelines, was allotted a large amount of tobacco acreage. This was the sustaining crop, along with dairy farming, and some sales of grain and corn. Rodney remembers the unforgettable smell of the tobacco curing barns, where family members would have to man the fires 24 hours a day during the curing season. Another unforgettable experience was attending a tobacco auction in Winston-Salem, with the auctioneer chanting in a language that only the sellers and buyers understood. A major local industry was the manufacture of "plug," or chewing tobacco, and some women made pocket money sewing the small cloth bags that held tobacco for rolling cigarettes. The women were usually paid with "due bills" which could be used to trade in local stores.
Thanks, Chuck Hoots.
Copyright © Genealogy Trails
All data on this website is Copyright by Genealogy Trails with full rights reserved for original submitters.