Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Ghost That Makes Booze
Officially Buffalo City, A Lumber Camp in the Carolina Swamps, Died Years Ago. But Today It Has Risen From the Grave to Haunt the Federal Drys—A Ghost that Keeps Its Stills Hidden in a Thick, Tangled Jungle and Refuses To Be Laid by Any Amount Of Raiding

By Ben Dixon MacNeill

     "The ghost makes liquor. Makes liquor with a prodigality and completeness that is without parallel anywhere else in the country, and liquor of an exceedingly high and desirable quality. … They call it Buffalo City (Dare County, NC). It is a ghost because a great lumbering corporation died there. And in its place has grown up what is perhaps the most extensive distillery in the United States.
     "Agents of the Department of Justice who have begun to turn gray above the temples puzzling over Buffalo City declare that annually, from this swamp-hidden village of 250 persons in the northeastern corner of North Carolina, 1,500,000 quarts of liquor find their way to markets in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Norfolk. Most of it is retailed in bottles that bear imported labels. No protest is made about quality. The ghost makes good liquor.
     "Time and again it has been raided, time and again a dozen big distilleries have been burned to the water's edge and thousands of gallons of distilled liquors and hundreds of thousands of gallons of 'mash' have been poured into the dark creeks that thread the jungle. But before the invaders have disappeared below the horizon the ghost has emerged from its hiding and gone back to work.
     "Lately an expedition was sent numbering fifty men, armed and equipped for invasion and siege. They succeeded in finding eleven huge stills. They burned the plants and wrecked with dynamite such machinery as could not be destroyed by fire. They discovered and destroyed more than 250 five-gallon glass containers full of new liquor. They took no prisoners.
     "Satisfied that a notable victory had been achieved, the prohibition forces withdrew to their larger boats and returned to their bases. The ghost would be sterile for a time at least, they felt.
     "Inconvenienced it may have been by the raid, but Buffalo City blandly fell back upon its reserves, relit the fires under the boilers that were left and continued to manufacture and ship the usual quantities of the usual qualities of rye liquor for the more discriminating demand and sugar-and-meal liquor for such of the trade as is satisfied with lesser qualities. The phantom of the swamp may resent raids, but it is not diverted by them.

These 11 North Carolina Ghost Towns Will Send Shivers Down Your Spine
[Taken from website "Only In Your State" at]
     "Innumerable times heavily laden trucks have been seized en route to remote markets with cargoes taken from a small swift boat in some hidden estuary of the broad sounds that encircle this ghostly town. Officers know that it is Buffalo City liquor. They know that it was loaded somewhere in the jungle in which Buffalo City stands hidden on its lonely creek. They know, too, that for every truck they capture a dozen or a score have slipped through their fingers.
     "LIke all proper ghosts, Buffalo City somehow belongs to another world—aloof, remote, inaccessible and not very much concerned about the periodical shoutings of those who would do something about it. At no time since the town's renascence has it caused an uprising of public sentiment. No sermons have been preached against it, no letters have been written to members of Congress by outraged neighbors—Buffalo City, happily for itself, has no neighbors. …
     "With the help of physical geography and its own ghostliness, Buffalo City makes liquor. The ghost has another powerful ally—civil geography—which has happily placed within easy reach dense and thirsty centers of population. …
     "Buffalo City, or East Lake, liquor is widely celebrated for a suggestion of excellent gin in its aroma and taste. The gin taste comes from the soft, densely colored fresh water of the creeks that tyread the illimitable juniper swamps. It is perfect water for use in the fermentation process preliinaty to distillation."
     Buffalo City's bootlegging operations thrived during the period of Prohibition. Before that, it had been a thriving community centered around the lumber industry. After prohibition, it died away. I will publish a story about the history of Buffalo City in a later post.

[Taken from the article written by Ben Dixon MacNeill in 1931 and published in several major newspapers, including The Des Moines Register,  and The Charleston [W. VA] Daily Mail.

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