( excerpt from Coeburn, VA newspaper article, 1898 )
"UNCLE MAT, THE MOONSHINER"
A Short Sketch of His Career, the Chases He Led the Revenue Men, Etc.
Madison Greer, better known as "Uncle Mat the Moonshiner", died at the home of his brother,
Shade Greer at Coburn, VA on the 26th of January last, aged about 65 years.
He was one of the most noted moonshiners that ever infested Eastern Kentucky and
one of the most successful in eluding the angry eyes of revenue agents.
He commenced operating illicit stills soon after the tax was put on whiskey and though
closely pursued many times, was never caught.
He operated a still in Morgan County, or in fact, several places, but was never caught
red handed in the act. One time, however, they had him in uncomfortably close quarters,
and he used to say that for a few minutes he thought that "the end of old Mat's moonshining."
The revenue officers were so hot on his trail that he sought the shelter of a large piece of
bark that had been stripped from a poplar saw log. He had just concealed himself when one of
his pursuers, badly winded from the run he had made, took a seat on the very log from
which Greer's bark covering had been stripped. "He had treed me," he used to say he
thought at the time, "as I was looking him in the eye and thought he was looking as straight
at me. He lit his pipe and smoked and after muttering something about 'he must have sunk
into the earth,' got up and walked away. Oh, it was a close call, and when I found that he
had not discovered me the cold chills chased up and down my spinal column at the thought of
what might have happened had he dropped the match with which he lighted his pipe into
the leaves that littered the ground around.
On another occasion he was in his still at work when the revenue men came onto him and he
hastily turned a hogshead upside down, under which he hid to await developments.
The heat of his improvised hiding place was so intense that he was just about to cry out
and make known his presence when he heard one of the officers say, "Well Boys , we will go
back where we hid our horses and wait awhile; he'll be along directly , and then we'll catch
him red handed. Don't disturb anything to make him suspicious." Hearing them withdraw,
and waiting for them to reach their horses, concealed at a point he had heard the officer
name, which was hidden from the still site by a high hill, he emerged from his
hiding place nearly exhausted. He rested a little while and then turning out the
beer he shouldered his still and hied him to a point where he could see but not be seen.
A few hours later he had the satisfaction of seeing the posse swoop down upon hi lately
vacated still, and from his observatory heard some of them swear, some laugh and
one fellow singing "Thou art so near and yet so far."
He frequently made trips to and from Virginia, and on one occasion carried a still
with him and moonshined en route to pass away the time and pay expenses.
He usually operated a still that held about 35 gallons, easily portable, and as
he was nearly always sober he succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the officers.
On a recent occasion when the revenue officers caught Jim Peyton, at the mouth of
Blackwater, and cut up his still, Uncle Mat, whom they were really in quest of,
was operating a still within 300 yards of the same spot. He not only escaped but
took with him his still, though it was hot at the time.
The close places he was in and the escapes he made, if given in detail would fill
several columns of closely printed matter. But suffice to say he was never caught
and never had a still confiscated or destroyed during his career.
Of him it can be truthfully said, though, that he never knowingly sold
liquor to any man who was in the habit of drinking too much or to a minor, and his
purse was ever open to the calls of deserving charity.
Uncle Mat had amassed some property. He owned a farm in Virginia and one in
Morgan County, each worth $1000, perhaps, and left some money beside. His brothers,
of whom Hiram Greer, of Morgan is one, will succeed to his property as he had
no family. In fact, was never married."
(Madison Greear was born 1830 in Grayson Co., VA and died 26 Dec 1897
in Coeburn, Wise Co., VA. He was the son of Noah and Mary (Bonham) Greear
and the brother of Hiram Greear. He was a blacksmith in Morgan Co., KY in Grassy Creek.)