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Davis Dairy, Maryville, Blount County, Tennessee on Wildwood.
Taken by Judith Richards Shubert, September 28, 2005, Copyright

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Moonshiners, Bootleggers, Prohibition and Federal Revenuers

Just as I have been learning more about my husband's Conner and Rogers family in Tennessee and Georgia, the very moving and relevant "When Love is Not Enough: the Lois Wilson Story" aired tonight on CBS. The Hallmark Hall of Fame's presentation is based on the true story of the "sorely-tested but ultimately enduring love between Lois Wilson, co-founder of Al-Anon, and her husband Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous."

Their story took place during the years 1918 and 1934. James Ray Rogers was nine years old when Lois and Bill got married and he died four years before Lois, in 1934, finally witnessed Bill get and stay sober – not through her help, but from the support of a fellow alcoholic and later Dr. Bob Smith. Out of their relationship, AA was born. But I did not intend to tell the Wilson's story, but to tell you of the young Ray Rogers.

My father-in-law used to tell me of a couple of his uncles, George or "Shorty" and Jim, whom he remembered coming into Lenoir City in their fast cars and their fancy clothes and staying at the hotel down town. He said he thought they were bootleggers and that they had eventually moved from Blount County, Tennessee, to the Columbus, Georgia, area as whiskey dealers. He also told me Ray Rogers was killed by Federal "Revenuers" while he was carrying whiskey for his father, George.

The Rogers descendant I told you about in my previous post, Conners & Rogers in Lenoir City Cemetery, has told me that my father-in-law was correct. His grandfather, George "Shorty" Rogers, and great-uncle, James "Jim" Rogers, were the ones Mr. Shubert was talking about. Mr. Rogers sent me pictures of  George and James "all dressed up like I imagine they were in Lenoir City so long ago."

 George R. "Shorty" Rogers on Left
James "Jim" Rogers on Right
Brothers and sons of Jesse and Martha M. Graves Rogers

No one knows who was the first of the Tennessee Rogers to go to Columbus, Georgia, but go they did! No one knows why they chose Columbus, but everyone agrees that they had to leave Tennessee - some believe they were "run out" of the state. George had many ties to moonshine before and after leaving Tennessee and in the 1920 Muscogee County, Georgia Census he lists his birthplace as the "United States" - not Tennessee or Georgia or Arkansas - just the United States! Do you think he didn't want anyone to know where he was?

George worked as a cab driver in Columbus and later owned a grocery store, selling and delivering moonshine in the Columbus area. He had many conflicts with the law and others during the Prohibition time. His son, James Ray Rogers, paid the ultimate price while working for George. On July 25, 1930, at the age of twenty-one he was killed by a federal dry agent while delivering a gallon of moonshine in Columbus. It was ruled that the agent's gun went off accidentally and the case was dismissed.

James Ray Rogers
1909 - 1930
Son of George "Shorty" Rogers and Elizabeth Humes Stinnett
Brother of R. M. Rogers

When Prohibition ended, George and his son, R. M., opened one of the first liquor stores in Georgia, Rogers Liquor Store. They also opened the popular Rogers Supper Club, a restaurant next door at 14th Street and 5th Avenue in Columbus.
R. M. Rogers
1914 - 1988
Son of George "Shorty" Rogers and Elizabeth Humes Stinnett
Brother of James Ray Rogers

It is said that George's brother, Jim Rogers, never married or had children. He slipped one morning and hit the back of his head on the foot-board of his bed. The fall killed him. He is buried in the Rogers family plot in Riverdale Cemetery in Columbus.

by Billie Atkins
Permission to publish here by Paul Rogers

  James Ray Rogers
Dec. 12, 1909
July 25, 1930
"Gone But Not Forgotten"

George R. "Shorty" Rogers
holding his son, R. M. with son, James Ray standing beside them.

I wonder where their mother, Eliza, was when this photograph was taken. Was she looking on, smiling proudly at the men in her family or was she sitting with them in the next photo?

"Hallmark Video - Sneak Peek -" CBS TV Network Primetime, Daytime, Late Night and Classic Television Shows. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. .

All photographs in the private collection of Paul Rogers, Columbus, Georgia. Permission given to publish here. Copyright 2010.


Carol Yates Wilkerson said...

My Yates family in Roane and Meigs county were moonshine runners for many years. My cousin Tooter Yates (living) has sent me pictures of the still they had. He and his dad William O. Yates both drove cars and delivered the booze. This wasn't in the 30's, but in the 50's and 60's. Maybe they all knew each other? Or, were competitors? ;)

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Yes, they may have been competitors! I'll have to ask Paul Rogers if he remembers the Yates name being mentioned. You know, even though my bunch "escaped" to Georgia, they probably ran back and forth through the hills into Tennessee, maybe even helping one another out!

Judith Richards Shubert said...

By the way, Carol, do you have that picture of the whiskey still on your blog? Would love to see it!

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