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Old News Stories
Moonshiners Shoot Out, 1922

From The Atlanta Constitution
March 7, 1922



A. J. Spence Says That Alleged
Moonshiners Fired First Shot.

Complete details of the interception of a train of automobiles bearing whisky through north Georgia on the road to Chattanooga, near Chatsworth, Ga., Saturday night, which resulted in the fatal shooting of John Howard, 24 years of age, and a resident of Chattanooga,. were given to a reporter of The Constitution Monday afternoon by A. J. Spence, prohibition agent who headed the party of government agents. Air. Mr. Spence was in the office of Fred B. Dismukes, prohibition director, Monday when he narrated the events leading up to the capture of 250 gallons of liquor in Murray county, Georgia.

"I was called to Chatsworth to detect the whisky cars, which 1 was told were going to pass through Saturday," he said. "I was accompanied by H. H. Leonard, county policeman in Murray county, and Lark Bishop, deputy marshal, at Cartersville. "The whisky was in wagons at a church named Smyrna on the Chattsnooga road, we had been told by people of the neighborhood. We were also told that two cars had passed on in the direction of the Tennessee line and that four cars had been seen near the church.

"Howard Had Made Boast."

"From information we had received, we knew that John Howard and his men were planning to run over and kill anybody who opposed them and that they were heavily armed. Howard had made his boast that he wanted all to know that he was going and that no man could stop him.

"When I got back to Spring place, about 3 miles from the church, 1 asked a citizen to go after Sheriff Wilbanks and his deputy, who accompanied us. We kindled a little fire by the roadway and waited for the train of whisky runners.

"Before long we saw three cars coming, which halted when they saw us and transferred several large boxes to the rear car which turned around and made off down the road. It was then 2 o'clock,

"The front car began to turn and we drove our car up so as to prevent it. It was then that the liquor car attempted to pass us and crashed into our front fender, both cars interlocking. The first shot came from the whisky runner, after .which several shots were fired by both parties.

Howard Meets Death.

"It was then that Howard was killed and his companion wounded.

"At dawn we went back and tracked the cars by the ruts. We found two caches of whisky, 200 gallons in all. "There is no question that the first shot was fired by the men in Howard's car. Sunday morning the county police found one of the bootlegger's pistols, containing two exploded cartridges. One of the men in the car pointed a shotgun at me and it was wrenched out of his hand. Later we found it to be loaded with buckshot,"

The names of the alleged whisky-runners taken in the encounter are John Martin, alias John Mannin; O. P. Wilson, said to be the driver of the second car, and Jack Bailey.

Warrants are being sworn out for all concerned, it is said. The cars taken in the raid have been confiscated.

Released From Prison.

The dead man, John Howard, according to Mr. Dismukes, was released from the state prison in Georgia just five months ago, after his arrest for carrying 60 gallons of liquor in a car.

According to Mr. Spence and Mr. Dismukes, the account of the melee carried by a Chattanooga newspaper failed to uphold the government in the affair. On the other hand, they said, it appeared to accord sympathy to the whisky-runners, whom, it is intimated, were cogs in a system which has operated throughout the southeastern states which the government agents have been trying to stamp out.

Mr. Spence praised the co-operation of the people along the Chattanooga road, who, he says, are anxious to see the law enforced and who are deeply concerned over the current notion that north Georgia is the stamping grounds for bootleggers and distillers.

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