Cupp Cabin

moonshine still
A still (cat. #1885) found in the park

Making and selling moonshine liquor was another source of cash and the residents made it clear that, while some of it was made for their own consumption, they also sold it as one of their more lucrative products. Lige Gibbons recounts being able "to make corn liquor up there, and Martin Green down here, why he was the high sheriff. . .he'd get a big lot of it. . .I knowed of him getting as much as twenty-five dollars at once." Gibbons got "ten dollars a gallon for it."

Park Hensley seemed to have had a vigorous trade in moonshine. He says, "when I made whiskey, I sold it to just anybody that would come along about that want it. But I bootlegged here at Page. I'd bring a load off on my mule bout once every week. I sold to Sherman Lawson. I'd bring him about six gallons every week and sell him down there. He'd buy about six gallons every week from me." Park Hensley only got "two dollars a gallon" for his liquor. He would "contract with him [Lawson], you know. . .and he'd buy mine. Now I done that for I'd say a year or so." The other man would resell the liquor, "no doubt he sold it in pints. . .got maybe five or six dollars a gallon and maybe more than that out of it by pinting it out. . . but he sold it in littles."

While the contractor made most of the money, the residents of the settlement did the hard work. Park Hensley found that, while moonshine might be lucrative, "it's hard work. You had to pack and tote, get your wood and everything you know. It was hard work."

pouring moonshine
Jim Howard is all smiles as Tom Jeff Cupp pours a depth-bomb drink of sour mash likker for friend in the person of one Earl Palmer.

NPS Photo, Earl Palmer Collection

Earl Palmer, known as the "Roaming Cameraman of the Blue Ridge" was a prolific photographer of the southern Appalachians in the 1920s-1940s and took many iconic photographs of the residents of Hensley.

One of his favorite subjects was Thomas Jefferson Cupp, a moonshiner who lived about one mile from the settlement near Martin's Fork. These three photos are Palmer's work, along with his original captions and descriptions.

Visitors to Cupp cabin
Thomas Jeff Cupp is visited by two of his ridgetop neighbors while he was hitching up one of his horses to a sled, the only means of conveyance he ever had.

NPS Photo, Earl Palmer Collection

moonshine still
Hardly a sea-going rig, the moonshine still pictured here nevertheless is known as a "submarine still." Of 100-gallon capacity the still pictured here presents a larger area to the fire than the time honored "Turnip bottom" still and thus supplanted it in the late 30's.

NPS Photo, Earl Palmer Collection

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Last updated: June 17, 2015

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91 Bartlett Park Road
Middlesboro , KY 40965


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