Sanches, a Lufkin
sawmill hand in the 1920s, not only made some of the best bootleg
whiskey in East Texas;
he had the best customers--people like singer Jimmy Rodgers, Clyde
Barrow of the Bonnie and Clyde gang--even the local sheriff.
Sanches worked for the old Long-Bell Lumber Company at Lufkin Land,
a sawmill town on Lufkin’s
east side, but he had a house full of kids, so he needed some additional
He started making whiskey and found that he had a knack for it.
His whiskey was soon being sold to some of Lufkin’s
best-known families during the days when Lufkin
was supposedly dry.
When Jimmy Rodgers traveled to the Lufkin
area to perform, he came to Sanches’ home to pick up some hooch.
The father of country music was so pleased with the taste that he
gave Sanches a 78 speed record.
it, kept it on the wall and worshipped it,” recalled Linda Burgess,
Years later, the family gave the record to the Country Music Hall
of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, where it is on display.
When Bonnie and Clyde made one of their dashes through East
Texas, with lawmen close on their heels, Clyde stopped long
enough in Lufkin
to search out Sanches’ house and buy a jug of whiskey.
“While Clyde was buying his whiskey on one side of our house, the
local sheriff was buying his on the other side,” recalled Mrs. Burgess.
Sanches’ plank house at Lufkin Land was built so whiskey could be
stored behind the walls in special, hidden compartments.
When Sanches went to work for Long-Bell in the 1920s, he was told
to “be an Indian instead of a Mexican,” even though he was born
in Nacogdoches County. But he dropped the Z from his name, substituted
an S and followed his employer’s wishes.
When the Border Patrol came to Lufkin Land and wanted to move Sanches
he carried the officers to Moral, a Spanish community in Nacogdoches
County, and showed them his christening record in the local Catholic
“At Lufkin Land, we lived in what was probably the first mixed neighborhood
in Lufkin,” said
Sanches’ daughter. “On Long Street, the main road, there were Mexicans,
blacks, whites and, of course, the Sanches Indian family,” she laughed.
When the sawmill closed at Lufkin Land, Sanches found a job building
a paper mill near Lufkin.
It was the first mill to make newsprint from Southern pine wood
Sanches could not read or write until he was sixty-five when the
last of his four wives taught him how to do both.
Sanches gave up bootlegging in the 1930s when his children’s schoolmates
started calling them “the bootlegger’s kids.”
Years later, while fourteen-year-old Linda Sanches was preparing
a garden around the family’s home, she plowed up a five-gallon jug
full of homemade whiskey. Any whiskey aged that long should have
been placed in a hall of fame, too.
January 28, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers