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June 17, 2024

Railroads, whiskey and moonlight: Meet ‘Snap’ McCoy, Hagerstown’s prolific moonshiner

Article Author: Abigail Koontz (This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail July, 2024) While American gangsters Al Capone and Bugs Moran were terrorizing Chicago, over 631 miles away in Washington County, local moonshiner Harry “Snap” McCoy was busy distilling and selling illegal liquor in Hagerstown and the surrounding communities. McCoy’s story captures the turbulent years of Prohibition and the history of moonshiners active in Washington County during that time. McCoy was born Jan. 7, 1870, to blacksmith Elbert McCoy and Emma (Ardinger) of Williamsport. In 1878, Elbert died of tuberculosis, leaving Emma to care for five children. McCoy’s childhood in Williamsport was a bustling, novel one. The Cumberland Valley Railroad reached the outskirts of Williamsport in 1872. The following year, the Western Maryland Railroad ran directly into Williamsport, connecting to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The railroad had a profound effect on McCoy. Although he only completed the fourth grade, by age 30 he worked as a conductor for the WMRR in Williamsport. A 1906 photograph in the Washington County Historical Society collection captures McCoy posing for the camera beside his friend, Sam McClannahan, at the train station. An oncoming train is visible just over their shoulders. In January 1919, […]