Uncle Charles’ Apple Brandy
Uncle Charles James French, who lived in the house on the farm across Poplar Road (located between Donovan Lane and Orchard Lane in a new subdivision), was famous for making apple brandy. His French brandy was known throughout Stafford County.
John: I had an uncle who was a lawful distiller.Stafford County Oral History Project, Interview of JOHN FITZHUGH, by Eillen Chartters. April 12, 1986. https://www.librarypoint.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/60/2018/06/John_Fitzhugh.pdf
Eillen: Oh, good.
John: Yeah–his name was Charles French.
Eillen: Okay–was he in Stafford?
John: He owned the farm right across the road from here. Part of the French property.
Eillen: All right–what–?
John: And he made apple brandy–the French brandy was noted all over the country.
Eillen: Oh, and it was–and he was a licensed distiller?
John: He was a licensed distiller.
Eillen: Oh, all right–and how long ago was that?
John: Oh, I–it’s been, been at least 75 years–it was before Prohibition that he made it.
Eillen: And he–and brandy?
John: Apple brandy. He was noted for that. And he was a Confederate verteran. And he died fighting damn Yankees.
Eillen: Where did he die? Where was–
John: He died right here in this house–in our hime when he was 80, I think, he was 85 years old when he died, but he never did stop fighting the Civil War.
Eillen: Oh, I see what you mean. I see–he fought the war the rest of his life. Okay-and is he buried here?
John: He is buried in the family cemetery.
Eillen: Family cemetery here–okay, and what was his name you said?
John: Charles J. French.
This reproduction of a Stafford County map shows the C. French distillery in its location on the east side of Poplar Road:
Uncle John and the Whiskey Still
I raise crops and cattle-a little bit of everything. Have been known to make whiskey.Stafford County Oral History Project, Interview of JOHN FITZHUGH, by Eillen Chartters. April 12, 1986. https://www.librarypoint.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/60/2018/06/John_Fitzhugh.pdf
I grew up hearing stories about Uncle John French Fitzhugh’s illegal whiskey still out in the woods on the south side of the property. Story was his homemade whiskey was very strong and hard to drink. One of the farmhands, Randolph, was known to drink the whiskey, and he eventually went blind. Daddy told me that one day he left school at the University of Virginia and came to visit the farm. Uncle John wanted to teach him a lesson and gave him some whiskey from his still. Daddy drank it without coughing, but to his everlasting joy, Uncle John could not!
Miss Sallie’s Dandelion Wine
Aunt Sally Lou told me that her mother, Sallie Virginia French Fitzhugh, used to be known for making dandelion wine. I haven’t found her original recipe, but here’s one you could try.