Probably everyone knows the story of Robin Hood, the outlaw who stood up for the poor when England was being oppressed by the Normands. But have you heard about Lewis Redmond also known as the ‘Robin Hood of moonshiners’? He was a skilled moonshiner and bootlegger from the 19th century who became an outlaw after shooting a deputy U.S. marshall in North Carolina (USA). From then on he and his own merry men were hiding in the rough Appalachian mountains and became a hero to the poor locals, since he fought the tax collectors and supported them with the profits of the illegal liquor he made by moonlight.
Redmond was born in 1854 and 2 years later his family settled in the Middle Fork Community in Transilvania County, North Carolina. An incredibly rough part of the world where people had to struggle daily to survive. Most of the habitants were Irish immigrants who were already pretty accustomed to hard times. They tried to grow vegetables on the rocky ground of the Appalachians and further they relied on hunting and trading with other families. Nobody had an extra buck to spend but the system worked to keep most of them alive. That was until land taxes were introduced and people needed actual money. Most people saw only 2 options: leave the mountains and try their luck elsewhere or moonshining, distilling their own illegal liquor by the light of the moon.
Redmond was lucky enough to learn from some of the finest moonshiners in North Carolina, a state where the homemade spirits were known for their excellent quality. At age 21 he already had his own still hidden in the mountains and he had gained a reputation of making great whiskey, that he would deliver himself at customer’s homes. In 1876 one of these drop offs went horribly wrong as Redmond was stopped by deputy Alfred Duckworth. He spoke the legendary words “Allright, put up your gun Alf, I will go along with you” and then shot him in the throat with a small derringer. The 24-year old officer didn’t survive this shot and from then on Redmont became an outlaw with a 1.000 dollar reward on his head. A huge amount of money in those days.
Redmond instantly became a hero for many people in the Appalachian mountains, who had a serious problem with the law that made their lives so difficult. In other parts of the state and the country the Robin Hood of moonshiners was less loved but among his own people nobody seemed to be interested in the award for bringing him in. Redmond, who was part Indian, traveled from place to place leading a group of more than 30 men fighting the revenue officers. Or he hid himself in the mountains where he kept making moonshine. Since he couldn’t settle down and spend the money on himself, he helped out poor mountain families and became an even bigger hero to them. Newspapers (even national ones) gladly printed his latest adventures and even some books were written about him.
By 1879 Redmond moved into a mountain cabin near the Little Tenessee River. This hideout was raided three times by officers of the law until they finally caught the outlaw. The first time a friend warned him about the raid and Redmond escaped in a canoe down the river, just 20 minutes before the arrest team arrived. The second time was a close call. As the officers came in through the front door of the cabin, Redmond sneaked out a small hole in the back. The third time in 1881 the moonshiner didn’t ran from the confrontation but stormed out with a gun. He was shot 6 times but still he survived and was taken to the Bryson City jail. However he would only spend 3 years there as in 1884 President Chester A. Arthur would grant him a pardon.
After his release his days as an outlaw were over and he lived a quiet life until he died in 1906, leaving a wife and 9 kids. The production of whiskey had become legal and shortly before his death he was hired by a government distillery in Walhalla, South Carolina to improve it’s whiskey, which till then was of poor quality. No matter how many laws he had broken in the past, no goverment official could deny Redmond’s skills when it came to making liquor.