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As It Was: Siskiyou County Bootleg Whiskey Gets High Marks

Northern California historian Jim Denny has called Whiskey Gulch above Old Etna, Calif., “One of the nicest little whiskey stills that ever turned out illegal whiskey. It was only out of business when whiskey could be produced legally.”

It was not always easy to purchase booze during the Depression, despite how many stills were scattered around Siskiyou County.  A man named Riley ran one of the largest stills at Cinnabar Springs.  Lester and Willis “Moon” Quigley packed in supplies on horses that carried out barrels of the finished product on their return trip.  Riley also ran a still at Barkhouse Creek that produced a higher grade of whiskey by filtering it through gravel and charcoal.  From 1922 through 1925, there were 66 arrests for possession of alcohol, bootlegging, moonshining, and transporting liquor, whiskey, and other alcoholic beverages.  Most convicted offenders received minimum sentences of 30 days in jail and fines as high as $500. 

From 1926 to 1933, the ratio of arrests to offenders remained relatively low, and it didn’t take long to rebuild destroyed stills.
 

Sources: Denny, Jim. “Bootlegging in Etna.” Siskiyou Pioneer, vol. 6, no. 7, 1994, p. 39; Betts, Doris Wohlfert. “Violators of Prohibition Act Arrested.” Siskiyou Pioneer, vol. 6, no. 7, 1994. p.49.

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Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.