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Oregon Moonshiner Seeks Welcome in China

In his report in 1876, the U.S. Internal Revenue Commissioner described moonshiners as “unlettered men of desperate character, armed and ready to resist the officers of the law.”  For the neighbors of Harry Scott of Derby, Ore., the description fit to a T.  

Scott was a loner, dividing his time between the Ellis and Briant places and sleeping wherever it was most convenient.  When he and Henry Ellis had a disagreement over their moonshine business, Ellis took a shot at Scott.  A few days later, a neighbor, Mae Webb, called Mrs. Ellis and invited her to dinner.  At the end of the call, Mrs. Ellis made a strange request, asking Webb to take in their adopted children if anything were to happen to her and her husband. The Ellis family disappeared before the dinner date, and soon afterward Scott moved into their cabin.
Neighbors remember the large bonfire Scott kept raging for days in the front yard of the Ellis place.  The sheriff was called but found no evidence of a murder, although Scott eventually served a year for moonshining, and then left for China, where he had heard moonshiners were welcome.

Sources: Rowley, Matthew B. The Joy of Moonshine: Recipes, Knee Slappers, Tall Tales, Songs, how to Make It, how to Drink It, Pleasin' the Law, Recoverin' the Next Day. illustrated ed.: Sterling Publishing Company, 2007. 40-45. Hegne, Barbara M. Country Folk: Butte Falls, Derby, Dudley.: Barbara M. Hegne, 1989. 13-14.

Christopher Shockey has been a long-time JPR listener and contributor. He lives on a 40-acre hillside homestead in the Applegate Valley with his wife, Kristen. He enjoys supporting both the Southern Oregon Historical Society and JPR by digging up regional stories for As It Was.