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Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses, and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World Paperback – April 20, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This informative, engaging work wonderfully reveals the culture and colorful history of a region with intimate ties to the illegal production and distribution of alcohol during 'Prohibition.'"--Booklist

 
"Thompson brings the area to life, offering a portrait of a place that the government forgot, a blue-collar town run amok with barefoot children and well-armed men. . . . A meticulous, exhaustive history of moonshining, poverty and Blue Ridge culture."--Kirkus Reviews
 


"A well-researched and well-written study and a thought-provoking portrait of 1930s Appalachia."--Library Journal

"Worthy of the attention of both scholars and an interested public."--The Historian

 

 


"An exceptionally passionate, sensitive, and complex analysis of Great Depression-era life in rural Virginia."--The Journal of Southern History

"Spirits of Just Men is an example of microhistory at its best."--H-Net Reviews


 
 
 

Book Description

A rousing tale of moonshine and conspiracy in Depression-era rural Virginia
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (April 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 025207808X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252078088
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is Shellie at The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast here in "Franklin County, the Moonshine Capital of the World" and this is my personal review of Dr Charles D Thompson Jr's book "Spirits of Just Men."

"Spirits of Just Men" takes you on a fantastic journey through "the Moonshine Capital of the World Franklin County" to learn about the hardships and circumstances that helped form the uber independent people of these Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

Hardworking, passionate and sober were the people most often stereotyped in the media as gun-toting, ignorant and lazy in this Appalachian region of The Blue Ridge. As Dr Thompson so poignantly shares, the Depression did not hit hard in these mountains, they were struggling to survive before, during, and after. Each day was like the last, where families endured hard times being so isolated from industrial America at the time, doing their best to make ends meet.

These mountain people born of sturdy Scotch-Irish stock had determination like none other, and had a crop with some ingenuity they could indeed get to market! They could grow corn, and from this corn make whiskey, which they held as a longtime tradition. This was became a hot topic nationwide as the government wanting its portion of the sales from the whiskey, pursued them deep in the hollows and at top speed along the roads of Franklin County. The moonshiners, of which made up a large percentage of these poor mountaineers, simply could not afford to pay this revenue and provide for their families as well. The vast majority of liquor producers here made just enough to keep them going until the next batch was sent to market.
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Format: Paperback
This is a family's story centered around a 1930's trial were the exploiting haves and once again use the have nots. This was the least effective (and affective) part of the book which is packed with fascinating history. History that spans from Scotland to Ireland to Pennsylvania and finally to the Blue Ridge region of Virginia. Wherever these people went to try and find a better life they were exploited. They gentry were in the business of making money by keeping them yoked to the land usually to the point that they could barely feed themselves and their families much less get ahead. Out of this poverty the one constant was their resourcefulness and will to live. The farm and its products might be entailed but one way to keep body and soul together was by handing down the tradition of whiskey making. Fine whiskey, though not easy to make, was easy to sell, transport and most importantly was one of the few ways they had to make money. Their crops kept them from starving but seldom provided cash. The cash they needed to survive. The cash that helped them keep the dream of a better life alive.

I'd always heard how lazy and ignorant `hillbillies' were. They're portrayed as feuding alcoholics. This book opened my eyes to some truths. The feuds started when the government intervened to tax whiskey. Since the individual producers couldn't afford to pay the tax they were breaking the law. And then prohibition hit and the real trouble began. Though there were some slow parts in the narrative the history far outweighed that and kept my interest. Thompson does an excellent job of conveying individual faces and lives of the people who lived through and shaped Blue Ridge history.

This review is based on an egalley supplied by the publisher.

4/5
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The book had everything I was anticipating--analytical competence, historic insight, human empathy. But it had in spades something that I had not really anticipated--true literary merit. The structure of the story telling and the tone and clarity of the writing were terrific.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a tremendous book. The social history of Franklin County Virginia and moonshining is very interesting about life during the Depression in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The discussion of the Primitive Baptist faith and its Preacher James Goode Hash's social and religious ministry is quite revealing. I had read Matt Bondurant's book "The Wettest County in the World", but this historical account is far more interesting.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My ancestry traces back to Franklin, Floyd and Patrick counties. The economic impacts and migration of subsequent generations ring true throughout my family tree. I especially appreciate the author's discussion of the historical roots of these Scots-Irish settlers and the Primitive Baptist Church. I learned a lot from this book.
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By Steve D. on November 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is based on the Virginia county where I grew up and still live. It does a great job of capturing the heritage of the age on which it is based. To some it may sound overly dramatic, but to those who know the stories it just scratches the surface. It includes corruption of the local authorities who looked the other way. It captures the essence of the people of this area of that age and time.
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This is an amazing book, both in terms of the personal content and the historical research. The author is related to several of the people who feature as historical figures within the larger narrative context of the book. Overall, Thompson does a fantastic job of portraying the good and the bad of Franklin County--the violence and corruption intermingled with the stories of honest, hard-working men driven by poverty and lack of options into the trade of illegal stilling. If you enjoy, or are interested in learning more about, the history and culture of Appalachia and its long-standing ties to whiskey-making, this is a great point of departure.
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