Whiskey has come a long way in Hamilton County.

Gov. Bill Haslam said this week he was likely to sign a bill that would allow the libation to be distilled within county lines, but 76 years ago, bootleggers were going to great lengths to keep the illegal beverage flowing.

An archived clip of the Chattanooga Times, shared today by the Chattanooga Local History and Genealogy chapter of The Public Library, tells the hilarious tale:


“County patrolmen in the overalls and slouch hats of river fishermen paddled two miles in a rowboat to surround a bootlegger’s houseboat near Riverside Drive and interrupt a brisk retail whiskey business that had been flourishing many weeks.

“The chief deputy, with a squad of six men, returned to the jail with 155 pints, 43 half-pints and two captives. Reportedly, previous attempts to arrest the bootleggers only resulted in officers on shore being taunted from the boat, ‘Come out here and get my whiskey.’ The boat served a floating shack at the riverbank using a bucket and pulley system. The whiskey was then sold from the shack to buyers in cars. Two officers were disguised and boarded the houseboat, where one arrest was made, while other officers made a second arrest at the shack on the shore.”

To read more about the city’s past, visit the Chattanooga Local History and Genealogy Facebook page.