Mica Peak and Prohibition

Mica Peak today is a popular hiking spot with the entrance at Liberty Lake Regional Park. The very qualities that make it perfect for recreation today made it perfect for another activity nearly a hundred years ago - making moonshine.

From the beginning of Prohibition in Washington in 1916 until its end in 1933, industrious Spokane bootleggers brewed potent white lightning among the dark trees of Mica Peak. Although most stills were owned by individuals, Mica Peak also sheltered some larger commercial operations. These hidden little distilleries were so well known that the product they put out had its own brand name, "Mica Moonshine."

Aside from using the cover of the forests to hide their illegal business ventures, moonshiners had other tricks they employed to evade arrest. The State Survey and the Federal Survey markers that were supposed to mark the state line between Idaho and Washington were inconsistent, leaving a swath of about 40 feet between the two. When Washington officers showed up, the moonshiners would simply point out the markers and tell the officers that they had no jurisdiction there because they were in Idaho. If Idaho officials showed up, they would tell them they were in Washington's jurisdiction.

Many of the ingredients for the moonshine came from Spokane business owner, Albert Commellini. Commellini was an Italian immigrant who had a knack for business. He owned several in Spokane, including the upscale Ambassador's club. He used his Italian import company, to import the required ingredients for moonshine. He was often arrested, but none of the charges stuck, as Commellini was careful about keeping his records where police would never find them. It was even rumored that he had a speakeasy in the basement of his own home on the South Hill.

The end of Prohibition in 1933 brought an end to the need for the backwoods brew, but a few remnants of moonshiners' cabins still exist, the last testament to the entrepreneurial, if not law-abiding, spirit of early settlers in the Spokane Valley.