Amos Owens, the “Blockader” of Cherry Mountain

The original image is a pencil drawing from a photograph and is owned by Charles Davis, grandson of the legendary Amos Owens.

The original image is a pencil drawing from a photograph and is owned by Charles Davis, grandson of the legendary Amos Owens.

Amos Owens is one of the most famous moonshiners in North Carolina history, however, he could have faded from memory if it weren’t for a biographical paper by M.L. White in 1901 that chronicled the life of Owens.

Owens began his career as a distiller prior to the Civil War, in which he served two periods of enlistment. Settling back in his “castle” on Cherry Mountain, which he boasted was one story high and three stories long, Owens began making a concoction called “Cherry Bounce,” a delectable liquor of corn whiskey, crushed cherries and honey. People from all over Rutherford County and across the state came to imbibe Cherry Bounce, which became renowned as far away as the Mississippi River. Come June when the cherries were ripe each year, there was a massive celebration on Cherry Mountain, complete with dancing and banjos and fiddles.

Legend has it that revenuers (tax collectors) made a surprise visit to Owens’ castle one morning while he was shipping out a large stockpile of Cherry Bounce  — so, in a show of good manners, he offered his captors some breakfast. After they refused, Owens proceeded to offer them some Cherry Bounce, which they drank without pause, and then drank some more. And more. The officers ended up piss drunk, but Owens didn’t try to flee. Instead he waited for the agents to sober up and do what they came to do. Owens spent the next six months in jail, then upon his release returned to Cherry Mountain to do what he did best: making Cherry Bounce.

In his seventies, Amos Owens was sent to prison one final time for a short term. Afterwards Owens actually gave up making Cherry Bounce and took up going to church.

Beautiful, delicious cherries still grow each season on the trees of his mountain. And hopefully someday, Cherry Bounce will flow again.

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