My colleague, The Gilded Lilly, recently inquired if I planned to write about something that involved the lifting of spirits in our beloved Magnolia State, especially during these difficult times.
Little did she know, the Time Traveler had something in mind.
Spirits do indeed need lifting in light of the dreadful Coronavirus plague, and just this year, the Mississippi Legislature acted accordingly.
Prohibition in Mississippi has come to an end — no, that is not a headline from yesteryear.
House Bill 1087, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2021, lifts prohibition on alcohol sales and consumption across the State of Mississippi, even in dry counties.
Mississippi may move slowly on some things. Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s our innate stubbornness to change. After all, Prohibition in general in the Magnolia State was not lifted until 1966, long after Prohibition nationally was repealed more than a half century before.
Now before the torchlight brigade begins their march in my direction, this Presbyterian pastor is not championing hooch, either imbibing it or selling it. Just saying …
But it is indeed interesting that Prohibition was lifted initially after its passage, way back in 1920 — January 17, 1920 to exact. More than 100 years ago. It ended on Dec. 3, 1933 in the bleak, dreary days of the Great Depression.
The effects of alcoholism in our nation has had a damaging impact on families, work production, crime, and the list is seemingly endless. However, as a Methodist for many years, the old saying goes, “everything in moderation.”
Well, almost everything. But no sermon today on that subject.
It is also interesting to note that 60 years ago, almost to the day, our law enforcement in these parts was actively engaged in busting up illegal whiskey stills.
On page 8 of the DeSoto County News, at the top of the page, was an article and a photo of famous Deputy Sheriff Burmah Hobbs and fellow Deputy C.E. Laughter confiscating a moonshine whiskey still off Horn Lake Road.
According to the article, which is part of the newspaper collection now in display inside the new Archive Room of the DeSoto County Museum, “the cooker was still warm” when deputies moved in.
“The deserted still was located near the base of a cliff,” the article went on to say. “Confiscated along with the distillery outfit was the copper worm and four barrels of mash. According to deputies, the still could produce about 60 gallons of illegal whiskey a day.”
For months now, the Time Traveler has been diligently searching for someone to donate a “non-working: whiskey still to the museum but we have had no takers.
That either means two things. One conclusion is such contraptions are obsolete, and another likely scenario is that they are perhaps still in use. The home brewing industry is booming statewide.
We must be careful when dealing with these relics of history. I am informed that a few years ago, a museum several miles southwest of here received a visit from our friendly ATF agents when they set up a similar still on display.
I am also informed that holes must be punctured in the base to render such a still inoperable.
Seems like a shame to do that kind of damage to a historical artifact but the law is the law, after all.
The new law enforcement exhibit does include historic photographs of lawmen and whiskey stills, including one of Burmah Hobbs and Constable Hop Durdin. Hop’s son Randy recently donated Hop’s badge, pistol holder, hat, handcuffs and several other items which belonged to the legendary lawman.
The daughter of DeSoto County’s first African American deputy sheriff Ray Richardson also donated a very handsome, framed photograph of her father for the display.
Longtime Deputy Earl Ward, now retired, has donated a uniform, with the blessing of the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors and Skip Rexroade has also donated items for display which chronicle the legendary exploits of DeSoto County’s men and women in blue, tan and black, all colors of Sheriff’s Department uniforms over the years.
The DeSoto County Museum continues to receive visitors from across our region, state, nation and world, despite the pandemic.
The amazing collection of artifacts and research materials gave rise to the Museum being named as “Mississippi’s Best Small Museum” in 2003.
Now in its 17th year, the DeSoto County Museum continues to add to its collection and the share of stories that go along with each and every artifact.
The DeSoto County Museum, located at 111 East Commerce Street in Hernando, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.