Moonshine Factory In Plain Sight

A 450-gallon still that was donated by Chuck Williams to the Smoky Mountain Heritage Center is shown Jan 3. 2006, in Maryville, Tenn. Williams' father, the late Charlie Williams, produced moonshine in the still on Carr's Creek in Townsend. The center, located on in Townsend, will open to the public on Sunday, Feb 12.
AP/The Daily Times
"The best moonshine you ever tasted."

That's the description Charles Mike "Chuck" Williams uses for the illegal but popular product his father, the late Charlie Williams, produced in an underground moonshine still on Carr's Creek in Townsend, Tennessee.

Chuck Williams, a Venice, Fla., resident, donated the 450-gallon still to the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center. The museum, located in Townsend near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, opens its doors for the first time on Feb. 12th and will emphasize local culture – including that of the Indian tribes who made East Tennessee their home long before the arrival of European settlers.

"They're going to recreate the entire installation. They're going to have an underground viewing area so it will be in its original configuration," he said.

Charlie Williams' operation gives a look back into the past.

"It was a way a farmer could turn his corn into money. You couldn't always sell corn because everybody grew it, but you could always sell whiskey," Chuck Williams said.

While many moonshiners operated stills beside streams far back in the mountains, Charlie Williams had a complex operation which was never found by Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms revenue agents.

ATF revenuers were constantly on the hunt for illegal stills so they could destroy them.

"They never came close to finding the still," Chuck Williams recalled.

It helped that Carr's Creek is a dead-end road.

Disposing of the mash was primarily what caused moonshiners to get caught by ATF agents.

"You can smell spent mash for miles. My father stored it in a big tank that was below the stillhouse. He stored it there until Carr's Creek got up and then he released it into the creek," Chuck Williams said.

Charlie Williams' operation did not draw an excessive amount of traffic.

"My father just had a few customers. He was a wholesale distributor. He didn't sell it by the pint. He sold it by the case. There were six gallons in a case," he said.

"Originally, glass canning jars were used, but then the ATF people cracked down on individuals buying large quantities of fruit jars," he recalled.

"As an alternative we used plastic jugs. Usually they were recycled jugs. My father was recycling way before it became popular," he said.