The Roaring Twenties Part V
The Roaring Twenties in Hendersonville was a time of great growth and prosperity. North Carolina passed a Prohibition Amendment of their own in 1909 and the 18th Amendment turned the local blockade distillery into a lucrative and dangerous business.
Local law enforcement and the federal government in the form of Revenue enforcement officers waged war on the Moonshine business in Henderson County. Hendersonville turned into a small-scale version of Al Capone’s Chicago complete with car chases, shootouts, retribution, and murders.
The Moonshiners formed their own crime syndicate and certain communities in the Henderson County area such as the Dark Corner, Cathead, and Hog Rock became known for their blockade distilleries their willingness to protect their own. These locations and other areas like them became mythical places that still not much is known about.
Tourism was booming in Hendersonville throughout the 1920’s. Trains were bringing tourists in droves to Hendersonville and were running as many as 12 times a day. By 1926, the summer population of Hendersonville had quadrupled thanks to the tourists flocking to the area.
National attention was also brought to Hendersonville when Boxing champion Jack Dempsey trained in Laurel Park in 1926 for his upcoming bout with Gene Tunney later on that year. He was paid a lump sum of money to train at the Laurel Park Casino by the developer of the Fleetwood Hotel. Dempsey and his actress wife Estelle Taylor were often seen enjoying the Hendersonville night life after his days training session was over. Jack Dempsey liked to drink and he carried on his tradition in Hendersonville. Since this was the middle of the Prohibition era, one can only speculate as to where he went in Hendersonville to get his alcohol.
As many as 200 sports reporters followed him to Hendersonville and many of the locals got to spar with the champion. Although Tunney lost the fight a few months later to Gene Tunney, he spent a couple of months in Hendersonville.
As the 1920’s drew to a close, the Great Depression was on the horizon. The housing boom had slowed down in Hendersonville by 1928, the trains bringing tourists to Hendersonville slowed down as well and the Roaring Twenties slipped quietly into the next decade.
Hendersonheritage.com is an excellent resource on the history of Henderson County and there is an excellent article, “Famous Fighter Jack Dempsey’s Laurel Park Reign”, in the 1 MAR 2016 edition of Bold Life magazine on Jack Dempsey’s time in Hendersonville.