Aunt Haley Liner Notes

Mahala Collins Mullins was born March 30, 1824 and died Sep 10, 1898 (aged 74) in Hancock County, Tennessee. She was very large in stature and a lifelong moonshiner. Many facts about this infamous person are masked in legend. Many newspaper clippings from the time don’t agree on her name, her weight, the number of children she had or what she could actually do. Mahala/Mahalia pronounced “Ma-Haley” was locally known as “Aunt Haley” sometimes “Big Haley” and did indeed sell vast amounts of apple and peach brandy that was reported as being of the finest quality. Her family was a member of the Melungeon society and her notoriety from being the matriarch of moonshine added to the mythos of the people.
She was married to John Mullins around 1840 and they did have approximately 20 children (some who passed in childbirth). It was likely that John and some of their sons were the distillers of the moonshine and Haley served as salesperson. After her children were born, it is thought she contracted lymphatic filariasis which led to the syndrome of elephantiasis. In photos, her legs and arms are shown to be quite enlarged and her mass overall had been estimated to be 250-600 lbs on a 5’9” frame. Later in life, her size limited her mobility until she was finally bedridden.
The Hancock County justice system did attempt to arrest Haley multiple times with one officer writing in his report that she was “catchable but not fetchable”. It was said she was a kind hostess to whomever visited, whether it be lawmen, customers or family. She would tell the lawmen to “take me if you can” and would tell them that she would love to come down from the ridge and meet the judge. Truth be known she lived her entire life in a 3 mile radius on top of Newman’s Ridge. It was said that they built her coffin around the bed she died in, tore out the wall where a chimney was supposed to be built, and buried her in the yard nearby.