Legends & Lore marker commemorates Moccasin War in Highlands

The Moccasin War was fought in 1885 on Main Street in Highlands and was commemorated with a Legend & Lore® marker on the corner of Main and 4th streets on Monday morning.

“This adds to the tradition in Highlands and as a resort town, people always want to learn more about it,” said Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor at the dedication ceremony. “The Historical Society and Ran have done a great job documenting the history of this town, and this is another example.”

Highlands Historical Society Archivist Ran Shaffner explains how the two warring parties passed each other silently without confrontation ending the Moccasin War in 1885.

Town Engineer Lamar Nix was at the dedication ceremony and has a tie to the War most don’t have, his grandfather fought in it on the Georgian side, or as Nix puts it “the righteous side.”

If you’re not familiar with the story, a breakdown of the legend as told by Highlands Historical Society Archivist Ran Shaffner is as follows:

Highlands was founded in 1875 by god-fearing northerners who practiced temperance and despised bootleggers bringing moonshine in Town.

The Legend & Lore marker for the Moccasin War dedicated on June 10 at the intersection of Main and 4th streets.

A revenuer (police officer) arrested a moonshiner from the Moccasin Township just over the Georgia border. Highlands didn’t have a jail at the time (they built one the following year), so the perpetrator was incarcerated at the Highlands House (Highlands Inn) to await trial. One of the bootlegger’s colleagues made his way to Highlands to help his friend out and was also incarcerated.

Upset their whisky-loving comrades were being held against their will, 18 volunteers made their way up the mountain declaring war on Highlands. For three days a gun battle ensued across Main Street between revenuers at Highlands Inn and bootleggers holed up at the Central House (Old Edwards Inn) across the street.

The firefight came to an end when Tom Ford stood upon Highlands House and shot Moccasin youth Tom Ramey twice. The Moccasin group pulled back to attend to Ramey but left a note that they would return, panicking Highlands officials calling for reinforcements throughout the area.

Supporters of Highlands history gather for the dedication ceremony on the corner of Main and 4th streets on Monday.

The army of 18 men from Moccasin did not return. Instead, they cut off the only road to Highlands threatening to kill anyone attempting to pass. After about a month and running low on supplies, confederate veteran Lovin volunteered to make the journey down south from Highlands.

As Lovin rounded Pine Mountain he came face-to-face with four gun-toting and known bootleggers, the Billingsley brothers. Lovin wasn’t a religious man, but if there was ever a time to pray, this was it. He said three prayers and the adversaries passed each other without bloodshed. No one knows if it was the prayers or threat of violence that held everyone’s trigger finger that day, but two things are known after the incident; the Moccasin War had ended, and Moonshining did not.

Legend & Lore marker

Town officials and about 20 history buffs showed up for this morning’s dedication. Shaffner recounted the legend of the Moccasin War and then unveiled the marker, which was approved by the N.C. Folklore Institute. It was funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation® in Syracuse, New York.

Article and Photos by Brian O’Shea
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