Bootleggers & Moonshine
Unless otherwise credited, the newspaper articles were compiled and transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb
Additional info. for this page is welcome!
Prohibition was a constitutional amendment due to the Volstead Act (18th Amendment), which went into effect January 20, 1920. Among a list of other items, prohibition banned the sale and production of alcoholic beverages in the United States. The amendment was repealed on December 5, 1933. Remote, wooded areas and hard to reach islands in the Mississippi sloughs, made Allamakee county an idea place for local individuals to engage in the manufacture and sale "moonshine". Some Allamakee residents ran afoul of the law. The area papers reported them as follows in this compilation of news reports .....
At Waukon this week Judge H.E. Taylor fined James Cahalan of Waukon Junction $500 and costs for operating a moonshine still.
~Postville Herald, Sept. 15, 1921
Clam shell boats - so called - are a popular way of peddling the moonshine manufactured in the caves and on the islands. It was in such a shell boat that Lou Willhite was crossing from his island factory near Waukon Junction when he was drowned last week.
~Postville Herald, November 17, 1921
Johnny Anderson, a dwarf, who has been a well known resident of Lansing since childhood, was found dead in bed at his home there Tuesday morning, a victim of heart disease, it is reported. He was here in Waukon Monday, having been served with a summons to answer to a charge of bootlegging. He waived examination and furnished bonds to appear before the grand jury. He was noticed as being in quite a perturbed state over his arrest, which may have led to his physical collapse. ~Waukon Democrat (from the obituary contributed by Reid R. Johnson)
Bootleggers Get Stiff Sentence at Waukon
Waukon Democrat - A coupe of young men arrested here for intoxication a few days ago admitted that they secured their fire-water of a Lansing man, and acting upon this information a raid was made upon the premises of Basil Gonyier, jr., of that place. Enough evidence was found to cause his arrest, and upon being brought before Judge Taylor here Friday he plead guilty to two charges filed against him.
The judge was convinced that Gonyier and several of his brothers have been persistent in making and selling hootch, and to impress them fully that the laws must not be broken with impunity, he imposed upon Gonyier fines of $700 and costs and a sentence of six months in jail in addition. One charge brought a fine of $400 and costs and the other $300 and costs.
Gonyier and his brothers have been diligent fishermen in past years and they were informed by Judge Taylor that if they would return to that vocation and refrain from trafficing in liquor he would suspend the jail sentence upon Basil if he and his brothers would furnish a bond binding them to fish and not to brew henceforth. Gonyier is disposed to accept this provision and is arranging to pay his $700 fine and file the good behavior bond.
~Clayton County Messenger, January 10, 1923
Federal Raid at New Albin
E.V. Baldwin, federal prohibition agent for fourteen Iowa counties with headquarters at Dubuque, came to New Albin July 9, and with the assistance of City Marshal Irons and Constable Eugene Kerrigan, arrested the following parties for violating the prohibition laws: Allen Crowley, Willard Inman, William Tippery and Fred Pohlman. Approximately four gallons of hootch, thirty gallons of wine, and about two hundred bottles of home brew were seized in the raid and brought to Waukon for evidence. All violators were placed under arrest and brought to Waukon and will be bound over to the grand jury. Federal charges have not been preferred.
~Allamakee Journal, Lansing, July 15, 1925 (contributed by Errin Wilker, Nov. 2016)
Waukon Junction Post-Master in Jail
Sheriff Davis swooped down upon Waukon Junction Friday and brought back three citizens of that place and landed them in the county jail. Two were held on charges of inebriacy and the third for maintaining a liquor nuisance.
Lee O'Brien, about 21 years of age, and Wm. Zeil, about 38, were examined by the board of insanity and were adjudged inebriates and sentenced to the Independence hospital. O'Brien was taken to Independence Sunday, but Zeil was parolled pending good behavior.
The sheriff caught Alfred Buetler, postmaster at the Junction, in the act of operating a still in a little dug-out among the willows along the creek and took him on a charge of maintaining a liquor nuisance, and also took charge of the still and seven gallons of finished hootch and six barrels of mash. Buetler's preliminary hearing has not yet been held and he is in jail. - from the Waukon Republican and Standard
~Elkader Register and Clayton County Messenger, January 7, 1927
Judge Taylor of Waukon recently gave a sentence of $400 and costs and four months in jail for bootlegging and a fine of $65 for trapping out of season to John Bray, a farmer living four miles north of Postville. The state officials had found 14 pints of alleged moonshine and several hides of skunks and coons on the man's premises.
~Elgin Echo, December 15, 1927
Raid Waukon Home and Discover Still
Waukon, Ia., Jan 2 - Sheriff Leonard Bulman and deputies raided the Vern Slack home near Ion for the second time this week and were rewarded, it is alleged, by finding a still and a quantity of liquor in the house. Slck, with all the still equipment, was taken to this city where he was bound over to the grand jury.
~Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Dubuque, Thurs. evening, Jan 2, 1930
Dry Agents Busy in Northeast Iowa
Federal prohibition agents returned to Dubuque Monday after staging several raids in Allamakee county and assisting Allamakee county officials in conducting other liquor raids.
Fred Schare (?Schara), operator of a pool room and soft drink bar at Postville, appeared before United States Commissioner Jess W. Green here Monday, charged with possession of liquor. Two ounces of alcohol were confiscated by the agents. Schare was placed in jail here when he was unable to produce a $1500 bond.
Three stills were junked and in two instances the alleged operators were apprehended. J.W. Dunfey is charged with ownership of a still near Waukon Junction. The agents believe they established ownership by tracing a path from the still, on an island in the Mississippi, to Dunfey's home. A man known as "Chip" Clancey is charged with proprietorship of two 50-gallon stills, located between New Albin and Lansing.
In addition to the three stills confiscated and the raid at the Postville establishment, all federal cases, there were two state cases, local agents cooperating with Allamakee county officials. A sheriff's raid was conducted at the home of Merritt Burke, Waukon, and it is alleged that two pints of moonshine whiskey and 60 pints of home brew, in addition to several empty whiskey bottles, were found. Burke is to be arraigned in state court.
Mark Donahue, Waukon, is now a prisoner in the Allamakee county jail, liquor having been found in several places about his home. Taken before Judge H.E. Taylor at Waukon, Friday, he pleaded guilty and was fined $300 and given three months in the county jail in addition.
Liquor distillers in the northeast Iowa district have a style and manner all their own, although it is not original. Barrel stills, such as used in Kentucky, were found. In these, the wooden barrel bottom is replaced by copper, which makes a simpler and more economical plant. Barrels containiing mash are placed in shallow 4X6 foot pits and then covered with canvas. Lanterns are placed in the pits to keep the mash warm, for mash once badly chilled or frozen is worthless.
In addition to departures from the local method of manufacture of liquor the northeast Iowans use peaches and apricots in the manufacture of their product, for several empty fruit cartons were found. The agents found several pits with charred barrels, where the lanterns evidently had done their work too well and ignited the containers.
~Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Dubuque, Monday evening, Jan 6, 1930
Stills Raided by Federal Agents
A ruling by a New Jersey federal judge regarding the validity of the prohibition amendment means nothing to federal prohibition agents working out of the Dubuque office, as two ruined whiskey stills in Allamakee county will bear witness to.
Fred Kelly was placed under arrest by agents in a raid Thursday at a place 11 miles south of Lansing, where a 15-gallon still, 25 gallons of mash were discovered. Kelly was charged with possession and manufacture of liquor, and will be arraigned here [Dubuque] Tuesday before United States Commissioner Jess W. Green. Kelly was released on his own recognizance.
Another still was found on an island near Waukon Junction, the agents crossing the ice to get to the island. The 100-gallon still, and 400 gallons of mash, were destroyed. There was no one near the still at the time of the raid.
~Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Dubuque, Iowa, Friday evening, December 19, 1930
Sheriff Bulman held an auction sale Saturday in which he disposed of the booty captured in the raid on the Leo O'Brien's still near Waukon Junction, says the Waukon Republican and Standard. In the lot were several lanterns, five sacks of sugar, a cistern pump, a copper wash boiler and other articles. Several bidders were on hand and when the receipts were totaled up the sheriff had just $27.30 to turn over to the school funds.
~Postville Herald, Dec. 26, 1930
Return to 'Lil Bits index