David's Reformed Church Congregation

David's Reformed Church Congregation
Congregation of David's Reformed Church, Montgomery Co, Ohio, Circa, 1900

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Discovery! Moonshiners in the Family

For many years, I have heard stories about the family of my husband's grandmother, Carrie Retsel O'Dell (Odle) Zimmerman. She was born in Turkey Creek, Scioto County, Ohio, on the banks of the Ohio River. We made a trip down there a couple of years ago, and even today, it still has quite a bit of wild country. Much of the land where she grew up is now contained within the confines of the Shawnee State Forest and Resort. She came from a large family and she was one of only two daughters. Her extended family was also quite large and I have been told that they had plenty of time and space to get into various kinds of trouble.
Today, I confirmed at least one of these stories. Luther and Charles Odle, both cousins of Carrie, were arrested for moonshining on January 24, 1921.
This story appeared in the Portsmouth Daily Times later that day:

Portsmouth Daily Times – January 24, 1921

Sheriff Swoops Down on Still – Four Moonshiners Caught

Two Make Getaway But Officers Say They Were Identified; Plant is Seized

Four men, giving their names as Thurman Thompson, Charles Odle, Charles Clifford, and Harry Beckman were arrested, and two others, said by officers to be Luther Odle and his son, Dallas, Odle, aged 17 years, escaped early Monday morning when Sheriff E.E. Rickey and a squad of officers swooped down on a moonshine liquor plant by a hollow on the Labold land in the wilds of Turkey Creek, West Side.

The raid also resulted in the capture of an immense copper still of 90 gallons capacity, in addition to more than 600 gallons of mash and about six gallons of high proof distilled liquor. The mash was destroyed and the still and liquor were seized, together with a Buick touring car belonging to Luther Odle and brought to the city along with the quartet of prisoners, who were landed in the county jail where they are held to meet charges of unlawfully manufacturing intoxicating liquor.

The still was in operation and the six men were huddled around a fire in the furnace under the cooker when the officers arrived on the scene about two o’clock and took the whiskey makers by surprise. When Sheriff Rickey suddenly slid down a hillside landing right in the midst of the distillers, there was a wild scramble of members of the gang to escape, but officers had been stationed at various points in an effort to cut off all avenue of escape and four of the men were caught.

When searched it developed none of the prisoners were armed except Charles Odle, on whose person a .38 caliber revolver, fully loaded, was found, but in a search of the premises a rifle and a discarded pistol holster were discovered.

From information received by the sheriff, the still had been in operation but a short time, as he visited the place only a few days ago and from all indications then it had been used little, if any, at that time. No one was about at the time and the officer did not disturb the outfit but waited for a more opportune time, which came this morning. It is by far the most complete outfit for the making of liquor which has been taken by local officers since the prohibition law went into effect. The still was equipped with a 30 foot copper coil and a perfect cooling system, fed from a small stream of water.

Thompson, Charles, and Luther Odle are the reputed owners of the still. Clifford and Beckman, who are Dry Run young men, claiming they have no interest in the outfit and just chanced to accompany the others to the camp Sunday night.

Besides Sheriff Rickey and Deputy Harry Dunham, railroad detectives Lee Einspander, Andy Leslie, Robert Reno, and Ehner Pratt participated in the raid.

Tomorrow: The trial of Luther and Charles Odle


  1. Haha,Apparently I have a few ''rum runners'' in my tree too. Saints and sinners!!

  2. I join the list of having a few bad boys! Actually, I LOVE researching the bad ones, hey, they make the paper, my farmers never do. LOL

    Thanks Lori for your kind commments on my blog post today.

    I was fascinated and surprised when I came over to visit you and found this article about bootleggers, I have been working on a family with a few, one got himself kidnaped AND shot in the arm.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. I LOVE reading these stories. It's true you never find the farmers in the paper! lol!

  4. I agree...these are the parts of families I LOVE to find and research. I know there are a few moonshiners in my West Virginia ridge runners family. I wish I could find a newspaper article like you. Great work on your research.

  5. Lori,
    Cuz I am running a dollar short & a day late, I first read Pt 2. Such a fun read. I love old newspapers stories. So right to the point and tellin' like talking over the back fence. Great!

  6. Great story. This type of "enterprise" runs in my family, too. :)

  7. Hi Lori..I am from that southern Ohio area and my grandparents, James and Pearl Blevins, lived back in that area, and the time period is the same as your people's so they all probably were acquainted! They moonshined and had a large family. When the feds would be snoopin' around, my granny would hang a certain lantern on a tree, so the story goes. This was upper Twin Creek in Shawnee Forest..I have other stories from the area..email me if you are interested..Inaliandme@yahoo.com Brenda