Friday, August 5, 2011

Moonshine Chronicles I

When people from out of town ask me questions about the Ozarks’ History, the topic of moonshine will arise ever so often in our conversation. There will always be speculation & rumor. Nevertheless, I thought it is time to pull up some of my stories I have collected over the past concerning this topic. This is a growing file, and I will post more in the future. Though some may seem entertaining and humorous, others will show division and tragedy.

In our first chronicle, we will discover the tragedy that occurs in a small town in the Ozarks, Mountain Home, Arkansas.

DRANK BLIND PIG WHISKY
Series of Sudden and Mysterious Deaths in Baxter County, Ark.
Little Rock, Ark., Jan 18 - There is intense excitement in Baxter county over a series of sudden and mysterious deaths that have occurred in the vicinity of Mountain Home within the last few days. No less than six men, all of who were apparently in robust health, have been suddenly stricken and died within a very short time after the attack.  In every case there were unmistakable symptoms of poisoning. Besides those who have died a number of others have suddenly become violently ill and their lives have been saved only by prompt medical attention. The men were believed to have been poisoned by bad whisky purchased at a “blind pig.”
End of Article

In researching this heartbreaking misfortune, I actually came across quite a few stories about this incident.  Here are a few more headlines.
Though this next article carries some of the same information in its beginning as the other articles, it also adds more a little more detail to the circumstances and some of the names of the men who partook of this deadly nectar.

Poison in Whiskey 
Arkansas Town Startled by Many Mysterious Deaths. 
Victims Are All Men.
They Tackled the Product of a "Blind Tiger."
Whisky To Be Analyzed.
Little Rock, Ark., Jan 18 - There is intense excitement in Baxter county over a series of sudden and mysterious deaths that have occurred in the vicinity of Mountain Home within the last few days. No less than six men, all of who were apparently in robust health, have been suddenly stricken and died within a very short time after the attack.  In every case there were unmistakable symptoms of poisoning. Besides those who have died a number of others have suddenly become violently ill and their lives have been saved only by prompt medical attendance. Last week four men died in different places in almost exactly the same manner, showing the same symptoms. One of these men was a farmer named Hogan and the other Dr. Simpson, a physician at Mountain Home. The names of the other two are not obtainable here. On Friday E. L. Hayes, proprietor of a hotel at Buffalo and owner of an extensive zinc mine, died in the same sudden and mysterious manner.

A few miles away John Foute, another prominent citizen, pass away at almost the same time under exact similar circumstances. Both men were apparently in the best of health. Suddenly they grew faint, their faces turned deathly pale, their legs weakened under them and they fell to the ground and in a few minutes they were dead.

A strange feature of this series of mysterious deaths is that in every case the victim has been a male – either a man or boy over 16 years. This leads to the belief in the minds of some people that the systematic effort was being made in some mysterious way to rid the community of at least a large portion of its male population and that agency employed was some powerful poison. Some men became so frightened that they refuse to eat or drink anything until they were out of the neighborhood. Hardly a day has passed for more than a week which has failed to bring to light its new case of poisoning and physicians have kept their horses saddled in their stalls expecting emergency calls at any hour.

An investigation revealed the fact that Hayes and Foute as well as one or two other who had died in similar manner, had been attacked shortly visiting Mountain Homes, other victims had also been seen in Mountain Home just prior to their sudden illness. On further investigation it developed that the victims had in all cases taken a drink of whisky before the attack. The discovery seemed to settle the fact the poisonous whisky was the cause of the deaths, but there is no saloon at Mountain Home, and the source from which the whisky comes is a mystery. It is thought that a “blind tiger” is dispensing poison whisky, but whether it be through ignorance or with murderous intent is not known, and this doubt has added to the excitement. A bottle containing a small quantity of the stuff has been sent to St. Louis for an expert examination by a chemist. No one seems to know where it came from and determined effort is being made to discover who is responsible.
 End of Article

One of the gentlemen that was documented in this story was Dr. Jeremiah Brady Simpson.
Dr. J. B. Simpson was born the 12th of March, 1851, and passed away 3rd of January, 1899. He is buried in the Mountain Home Cemetery in Baxter County, Arkansas. Dr.  Simpson was the son of John Wilson and Sarah "Sallie" (Murphy) Simpson. He practiced medicine for three years in Ozark County, Missouri; then in 1876, he established a practice in Mountain Home, Arkansas, in partnership with Dr. A.J. Brewer. He later entered into partnership with his brother, Dr. Joseph T. Simpson, and Dr. R.C. Wallis.

Although his gravestone says he died on the 30th December, 1898, Mary Ann Messick, in The History of Baxter County, stated he died suddenly on the 3rd January, 1899. She notes that his obituary in the North Arkansas News begins with the statement "Never before was the entire community so shocked, as it was last Saturday morning, when the word was mournfully passed from lip to lip -- Dr. J.B. Simpson is dead." The day before that Saturday in January, 1899, was January 3rd. The 30th of December ,1898, was a Tuesday. 

His grave-site can be found at these two links.
        

Works Cited:
“Blind Pig Whiskey.” The Cambridge Jeffersonian, Cambridge, Ohio (19 Jan., 1899) 2. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 15 Nov., 2010. http://access.newspaperarchive.com/.
“Blind Tiger Running.”  The Butte Weekly Miner (18 Jan., 1899) 14. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 15 Nov., 2010. http://access.newspaperarchive.com/.
“Drank Blind Pig Whisky.” Aberdeen Daily News (18 Jan., 1899) 1. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 15 Nov., 2010. http://access.newspaperarchive.com/.
Messick, Mary Ann, (1973). History of Baxter County: Centennial Edition 1873-1973. (44). Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce. International Graphics, Little Rock, AR.   
“Poisoning by Wholesale.” Omaha World Herald (17 Jan., 1899) 1. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 15 Nov., 2010. http://access.newspaperarchive.com/.
“Poison in Whiskey.”  Kansas Semi-Weekly Capital (17 Jan., 1899) 1. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 15 Nov., 2010. http://access.newspaperarchive.com/.
“Simpson, Jeremiah Brady.” Arkansas Gravestones Project. http://agp.arkansasgravestones.org/ .
“Simpson, Jeremiah Brady.” Find A Grave  # 19218191.  http://www.findagrave.com/.     

1 comment:

Allison Kirkpatrick said...

Dr. Simpson was my Great-great Grandfather. My Granfather's Mother was Gertrude... I had no idea that he had died that way!! Very interesting, and thank you for sharing that!