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Old-time moonshiner visits local distillery
Home-brewer making his last batch in Dawson
4 Moonshiner pic
Bill Pope takes a sample from the worm box to test the proof and quality of moonshine hes making. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

After spending nearly a century in the mountains near Canton, one moonshiner is preparing his last batch in Dawsonville.

Bill Pope, who started making corn liquor with his father at age 8 in 1931, visited the Dawsonville Distillery on Monday.

"I've been at it so long, I just wanted to make one more batch," said Pope, 90. "I prefer to make it this way, with corn malt and meal, like the old days."

He said his old-time recipe is a mixture of the ingredients fermented with yeast and honey. His original batches would cook in an old steel drum.

Pope said back then moonshiners could make a gallon of liquor for 90 cents. It wasn't uncommon for him to make more than 1,000 gallons with just $20 of materials.

"The most I ever made at once was 104 gallons in one batch," Pope said. "That still was so big you could drive a car through it."

On Monday, however, Pope didn't have to constantly be looking over his shoulder like the "old days." Instead, he made his last batch in peace surrounded by friends and family at the distillery.

Pope's trip began when his granddaughter, Starla Landers, contacted the distillery's owner, Cheryl Wood, after launching a social media page, the "Old Moonshiners of Georgia."

"We hadn't met until today," Wood said. "Starla had made a page dedicated to the old moonshiners and her 90-year-old Papa. We shared stories for a while and found we were kindred spirits. I reached out to her and she mentioned that her Papa had wanted to make one final batch, so I said, ‘Why not just do it here?'"

So Landers brought Pope to the legal distillery to make his final batch.

"Papa's been talking about making his last batch for over a year," Landers said. "I've been posting things about Cheryl and this distillery since it opened, so I finally reached out to her and here we are."

While there, Pope recounted tales of running moonshine up and down the backwoods dirt roads, getting his cargo to its destination while outrunning the "revenuers."

"They jumped me one time, coming out of the woods," Pope said. "I had to outrun six of them. I could go places they couldn't. I had a rebuilt Ford engine in that truck and airplane shocks on it. Back then you made your own roads, so I knew where I was going and they didn't."

Despite all of the close calls, Pope was never caught and continued to make shine for years after.

"I never did get caught," he said. "They chased me a lot, but they never did catch me."

Pope also shared his strategy for being so elusive.

"No secret there," he said. "You just have to be faster."