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Early Production

By the time the railway arrived in 1871, Uxbridge had eight hotels, three drug stores, several grocery stores and two liquor stores which sold alcohol and other goods.


Uxbridge Railway Station. Courtesy of the Uxbridge Historical Centre. Acc. #: 985.18.1     

To supply these businesses, attempts were made to commercially produce alcohol in the Township. James Terry opened a brewery in 1854 on Gould Street but it was short-lived. The Hamilton Brewery began in the 1860s but was out of business by 1879, when the Uxbridge Journal noted that the building was falling apart. Thereafter, all alcohol consumed within Uxbridge was brought in from elsewhere such as Pefferlaw or made secretly within homes.

moonshiners & bootleggers

People who produced, smuggled, and distributed alcohol without a license were known as moonshiners and bootleggers. Moonshiners conducted their business at night, under the moon, to avoid detection of the authorities. Bootleggers were the people who moonshiners hired to transport illegal alcohol to buyers.


Postcard of Uxbridge Men. Courtesy of the Uxbridge Historical Centre.

Acc. #:  984.59.1  


Horse & Buggy. Courtesy of the Uxbridge Historical Centre.

Acc. #: 983.32.3          

The term bootlegger comes from when smugglers rode on horseback with alcohol concealed in their tall riding boots. Bootlegging was common throughout Uxbridge's prohibition era, as it was easy to travel to nearby communities that were not under temperance legislation, to buy alcohol in bulk.

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This caused several organizations such as the Sons of Temperance and the Women's Prohibition Committee to demand stricter enforcement of the dry by-laws and argue that people were still selling alcohol, just out of their houses instead of stores.


Some people even built their own homemade stills. The quality of homemade alcohol was often so poor that many became sick. Deaths from alcohol poisoning rose dramatically during Prohibition.

Where to Buy
1825 - John P. Plank's Tavern
1835 - Joseph Marsland's Tavern on the Hill
1843 - Plank's Hotel
1850 - Peter Thompson's Hotel
1855 - Uxbridge's First Distillery - James Terry
1860 - Hamilton Brewery
1862 - Liquor and Grocery Store
1870 - Joseph Gould's Mansion House
1871 - Bartholomew Plank's Plank House
1871 - The Revere House
1871 - Finch's Hotel
1872 - Commercial Hotel
1877 - J.W. Bowman
1884 - Scott Temperance Act
1900 - Only 3 hotels remain
1917 - Uxbridge Votes to go dry
1960 - The Hotel Evelyn opens
1965 - The first LCBO opens
1973 - The first Beer Store opens
1974 - Uxbridge officially votes "wet",
            prohibition concludes

The winter supply of liquor and beer was brought in by the hotels in Uxbridge. In 1896, 3520 gallons of beer and 155 cases of ale were stored within hotels to help quilt visitors.

making moonshine

Moonshine is any kind of alcohol that is made in secret to avoid high taxes or bans on alcoholic drinks. The recipe for moonshine is simply cornmeal, sugar, yeast, and water. The recipe for whiskey is much the same; although, the whiskey sold today is aged for several years in charred oak barrels. This process gives it its amber colour and mellow taste.


Moonshine, however, has no aging requirements. It is bottled and sold straight from the still, which is why it is clear and has a much stronger taste. To produce gin during Prohibition, moonshiners would use a small still to ferment a 'mash' of corn sugar, fruit, beets, and turnip or potatoes. To turn the potent liquid into gin, glycerin, juniper oil, and water was added. 

The bottles used for this alcohol were often too tall to fit under the tap of a normal sink, so moonshiners used bathtubs instead. Bartenders often added sweeteners to mask the bad taste of this 'bathtub gin'.

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