Library Catalog - Kentucky Historical Society

Object Record

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Object Name Still
Catalog Number UNNUMBERED-430
Maker Messer, Dr. Allen
Date ca. 1850
Material(s) Copper
Dimensions H-30 Dia-20 inches
Description This is a moonshine still. There are three parts to the still. The lower section of the tub (part a) is made of four pieces of copper riveted together. One piece of the lower section has a copper spout soldered to it. The bottom of the tub is one sheet of copper soldered to the lower section. The top section of the tub is made up of eight sections of copper soldered together and then soldered to the lower section. There is a neck made of copper that is riveted to the upper section of the tub. Part (b) is the top that fit into the neck of the tub. It is also made of pieces of copper soldered together. It has a long horizontal arm or spout. There is a copper handle or support that is riveted to the body of the cap and is attached to the arm with a riveted loop. Part (c) is the spiral condensation tube. It is solid piece of copper tubing.
Notes According to the great granddaughter of the owner, this still was used around 1850 in Knox County, Kentucky.

Summary of an article by K.S. Sol Warren, "Uncle Tip Carnes and the dogged 'One-Arm,'" published in the Barbourville Mountain Advocate, Thursday, August 3, 1978.

Dr. Allen Messer operated the most famous distillery on Stinking Creek after the Civil War. He used what came to known as "the Old Kaiser", which is an 85-gallon still at his home at the mouth of Lost Fork. The still became somewhat of a legend after "Revenuers" found it after a 22-year chase.

In 1916 Bill Yates bought Dr. Allen Messer's two government stills from the doctor's widow. Yates then took the still up to Roaring Fork, where he operated a government distillery until the Prohibition Amendment passed. When the amendment became effective in January 1920, Yates had to discontinue his manufacture of government whiskey. He was supposed to surrender his license, as well as the stills, but he never did so the government revenue officers began their chase. Bill Yates sold the 85-gallon still to Uncle Tip Carnes for $20. Uncle Tip became known as the best producer of "country whiskey" in Roaring Fork. Yates warned Uncle Tip that the government would be looking for the still, under the leadership of "One Arm Wooton", the head revenuer. As the story goes, Uncle Tip put the still in his wagon and covered it with hay, and on his way home, passed "One Arm Wooton" on the road.
Jeff Carnes, Tip's brother, and a third brother went into business with Uncle Tip. Before the first run, Uncle Tip christened the still "Old Kaiser". Tip told people that he learned to make sure pure whiskey from Dr. Messer.
Eventually some "rogues", as Tip described them, found "Ole Kaiser", took it and set it up in the head of Lost Fork. By this time, Wooton had retired and another group of officers was on the chase. They eventually found the still in 1942. Nobody had ever seen a still like "Old Kaiser", including the judge himself. Someone told the judge that the still was a relic and the Kentucky Historical Society indicated it would be interested in preserving it as a relic of a bygone era.
Collection KHS Museum Collection
People Messer, Dr. Allen
Uncle Tip Carnes
"One Arm" Wooton
Bill Yates
Subjects Stills (Distilleries)
Alcoholic beverages
Moonshine stills
Search Terms Knox County (Ky.)
Uncle Tip Carnes
Stinking Creek
Lost Fork
Physical Holder Kentucky Historical Society - KHS