Lewis Redmond - Outlaw, Bootlegger and killer from the NC Mountains
Lewis Redmond was a North Carolina bootlegger, moonshiner, outlaw and murderer. He was also the most infamous fugitive to ever come out of the Appalachia Mountains of North Carolina.
It was lean and difficult times in Appalachia in the 1850s. Just surviving was a daily struggle and earning an actual dollar, for most families, was next to impossible. The people that settled Appalachia were rugged, and Irish Immigrants accustomed to hard times and with tenacity and sacrifice had learned to scratch a living from the mountains. In the 1850s mountain families lived in log houses built from the surrounding forests. The lucky ones had a little livestock but they all grew what vegetables they could coax from the rocky soil and bartered with other families for what they couldn't grow, kill or gather themselves. The system worked well until land taxes and the need for actual “spending money” forced them either out of the mountains or into the making of illegal liquor.
Lewis Redmond was born in the 1850s in the mountainous, backwoods region of what is now Swain County, North Carolina. This is the world he grew up in and this is where he learned his craft. Redmond learned his trade from the best whiskey makers the mountains had to offer and he learned it well. The making of illegal whiskey by the people of Appalachia was not by choice but out of despair and necessity. It was the only way they had to earn the money to pay for their land and other demands being made on them from a growing country.
By the time he was 21 years old Redmond was already a skilled and experienced moonshiner with his own still hid somewhere back in the mountains. His reputation for making high quality whiskey was well known, even by those who hunted him, and his “shine” was in high demand. Redmond, being the consummate salesman, was in the habit of making home deliveries to his customers. One day in May 1876, while making a delivery in his wagon, he was confronted at gunpoint by Deputy U.S. Marshall Alfred Duckworth at the Lower Creek ford of Walnut Hollow Road in the East Fork section of Transylvania County, NC.
After Duckworth read him the warrant for his arrest, Redmond told him to put his gun away and that he would go willingly. But, as Duckworth lowered his weapon, Redmond pulled a small derringer and shot the officer in the throat, carrying with it a collar button. The 24-year-old officer died shortly thereafter. Whether the murder of officer Duckworth was intentional or accidental is unknown but by any standard it was ruthless and cold bloodied and it began a violent career for what had started out a simple bootlegger.
After the shooting incident Redmond became somewhat of a hero to the mountain people and others from around the country who opposed federal revenue laws. Redmond, described as a ladies man, was part Indian and stood better than six feet tall. He was stoutly built, muscular, agile, and not only admired by the ladies, but looked up to by children and other moonshiners. Many of the state newspapers openly supported his activities, while the less friendly northern pro- revenue press labeled him "the bloated brigand of the Blue Ridge." Books were written and his exploits were pasted across national newspapers as an outlaw and folk hero.
Upwards of thirty men rode with Redmond through his outlaw years, and they were pursued by dozens of revenue officers through the Blue Ridge with no success despite the $1,000, big money at the time, reward posted for his arrest. Still, things were hot enough that in the spring of 1879 he moved, to a cabin set against a cliff, three days west to Maple Springs on the Little Tennessee River.
In the next few years Redmond's cabin hideout was raided three times. On the first raid, one of his mountain friends had warned him, and he slipped out of the cabin and down the river in his canoe 20 minutes before the law arrived. The second raid caught him, in his cabin, but he managed to get away, through a small escape hole in the rear of the cabin as the officers came in the front door. The third raid turned a little more intense when Redmond, being caught in the cabin without a means of escape, came out with a gun and attempted to run. He was shot six times for his efforts, arrested and taken to jail where he, some how, managed to survive.
After the arrest he was held in the Bryson City jail, where his wife managed to slip him a pistol concealed under a pillow. The officers somehow found out about the pistol and confronted Redmond with the advice that if he didn't give up the pistol he would gladly be killed saving them the trouble of a trial. After surrendering the pistol, he was moved to Asheville, NC and then on to Greenville, South Carolina, for trial.
There was undoubtedly some controversy about the shooting of officer Duckworth because for all of Redmond's dastardly deeds, he only spent three years in prison and was granted a pardon by President Chester A. Author in 1884. Redmond died a law abiding citizen in Seneca, South Carolina in 1906 leaving a wife, two sons, and seven daughters, who had inscribed on his gravestone: "He was the sunshine of our life."