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2 natives part of first class

POSTED: October 23, 2013 4:00 a.m.

Two outlaws of Dawsonville's notorious illegal liquor trade have been named to the inaugural National Moonshiners Hall of Fame.

Brock Crane and Duck Thurmond "probably made more moonshine in Dawson County than anyone," said Gordon Pirkle, who earlier this fall helped establish the new moonshining hall of fame.

"We're real excited about this. It's something we've wanting to do for a long time and we're real happy to have the families and some of the inductees with us at the festival this year," Pirkle said.

Proud daughters Carolyn Cantrell and Aline McClure said they are honored their fathers were chosen as pioneers of the trade that many today still consider disgraceful and wrong.

"I was always proud of dad and never ashamed of what he did," said Cantrell, Thurmond's daughter. "These men were considered, by a lot of people, illiterate, ignorant, lazy ... I've heard all kinds of words about them.

"None of it is true. These men had the highest degree of personal honesty and integrity. That's how he supported our family."

McClure, Crane's daughter, said making liquor was a way of life that had been passed down from generation to generation for her father, who learned the process at a young age from his grandfather.

"He made it to help the family," she said. "They didn't have any money and, after him and mom got married, he continued to do that."

While there's little debating that illegal liquor is still being made in the backwoods of Dawson County today, those pioneers helped birth a booming business that has become legal due to a recent state law.

The old-time distillers are among five men selected into the inaugural hall of fame class, who will be celebrated this weekend during the opening ceremony of the 46th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival.

Simmie Free, whose multi-generational family recipe paved the way for the first legal distilled moonshine produced in Georgia, and the nationally recognized distillers Jeff Waldroup and X Mark from the cable series "Moonshiners" will also be inducted into the hall on Saturday morning.

A special area at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame museum in Dawsonville will be dedicated to recognize the men who were a vital part of so many generations of families in the area.

"There were 12 children and the brothers, most of them were in the whiskey business," Cantrell said. "Daddy did it his whole life."

Eventually, Crane stopped working at the stills, but his trade wasn't lost or forgotten.

"He just provided the money and equipment after that. He hired lots of young folks and taught them how to make whiskey," Cantrell said.

Staff writer David Renner contributed to this article.

 

 

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