It was apparently better known about 100 years ago as the place where good liquor originated.
Mick Hoover, the curator of the Lost River Museum, says that the moonshine operation in Mackay during Prohibition was on an industrial scale. Barrels of corn came into the Mackay Depot marked ‘corn for distilling,’ along with sugar and yeast. Everyone seemed to know what the ingredients were for but chose to not notice them. “Mackay Shine” was shipped by rail to Chicago and points east. It became known across the country for its quality, allegedly because the pure water in the area made for a good product. There is a small moonshine still on display in the museum.
But it wasn’t just corn liquor that Mackay was known for. On September 10, 1917, there was a report in the Blackfoot Idaho Republican, that a distillery was discovered in Custer County by the sheriff of Butte County, who was looking for the source of prune brandy that had been showing up in the area.
“For some time an intoxicating beverage has been used freely in the vicinity of the distillery,” the article read, “and the officials have been baffled in their efforts to located its source.” The distillery had been found only after “every possible ruse (had) been resorted to.”
The black market in moonshine came early to Idaho. The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in January 1919, but Idaho had outlawed the sale of booze in 1917. The Eighteenth Amendment was eventually repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933, after it became clear Prohibition was causing more problems than it solved.