Monday, March 21, 2011

WAR HEROES, CRIME AND BOOTLEGGERS


BEHIND THESE MOUNTAINS VOL. I

While most of the county residents were at the three-day picnic at Alger, Montana saluting the returned service men, a robbery was taking place at gunpoint in Heron.

SANDERS COUNTY INDEPENDENT LEDGER
July 7, 1919
"The general store of Kinney Honberger, at Heron ...was robbed of goods and money valued at $3,150 by two men shortly before midnight Friday night ... the proprietor and one customer were held up, tied up, and put in the cellar where they finally worked themselves loose and notified Sheriff Hartman...
"Goods stolen consisted of $1,500 in Liberty bonds, $700 in thrift stamps, $750 in cash and three cases of whiskey, valued at $80 each." The robbers used revolvers. "It later developed there were three men in the party and they walked to Heron and escaped the same way, going to Clarks Fork and Hope, Idaho ...
"On Sunday morning Ray Murray, a Milwaukee fireman address unknown and Tom Mays, of Paradise were arrested at Hope and brought to jail ... Murray pleaded guilty.
"The other holdup man is Raymond Spoor, of Sand Point, who got away from Murray and Mays. Spoor had the cash, bonds, and thrift stamps. Spoor was clever enough to get Mays and Murray drunk so he could leave them.
"Roy Hart and Jack Prouty are on the trail of Spoor and it is likely that he will soon be in custody."
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Noxon's returned servicemen included heros the children could look up to, balancing the other influences in their lives. If life lacked in material things, it was so rich in the adventures of living few children considered themselves poor. But when soldiers returned from the war across the ocean, well, now that was an especially enriching adventure to remember! More exciting even than talking about the cheap crooks who occasionally made headlines.

Sargeant Geo. E. Hampton son of Edward Hampton, a former resident of Noxon, stayed with relatives in Noxon long enough to recount many of his experiences before going to visit his parents at Port Angeles, WA where they'd moved to in 1917.
"Sargeant Hampton has the French decoration for bravery the Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star and Citation Certificate ... awarded by General Petain with the approval of the Commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Forces in France ..."1.
Every school kid who saw it was awed, as schoolteachers read Stewart's citation aloud to them:
"Sargeant Geo. E. Hampton, Co. C 1st Signal Batn. 'Besides establishing telephonic communication between the Regimental post of command and that of the Battalion under violent bombardment, he advanced with the first wave of Marines during a violent attack at Blac Mont on the front and left flank."
Following the war, crimes in Sanders County settled back into normal patterns. Dick Oullett, Geo. Good, Denver Laughlin, Alec Allan, Chester Garred and Walter Davis, jurors in the court of Justice W. C. Adams, found H. J. Beal innocent of stealing a mink skin Mr. McKernin had missed and accused Beal of stealing. County Attorney Alvord presented the states case. A. S. Ainsworth, Esq. defended Beal.2.

Crimes were changing, too. Theodore Roosevelt was president. Changes in the law would soon add new dimensions. Bootlegging to Idaho would change into moonshining and bootleg running from Canada southward.

Since the end of 1915, Washington and Idaho had had a "dry" law, which served to make Noxon dances very popular. Montanans also put liquor in the NPRR tender, burying it, then bring it into Idaho on the train. Swan Swanson, who managed large crews of men who got out timber products for him, said,
"Everett Jenkins bought so damned much whiskey when the country went dry. It would have been dry if he hadn't had all that. He and Bob put in half a carload before the country went dry, you know and had it stashed up. He sold it. He took his whiskey out of the valley.
"They used to make a joke about him going on the train all the time with a suitcase that was always full of whiskey. He got good money for it. He got five and ten dollars a quart for every darn bit of it. That's where he made his money."3.
Emil Dettwiler didn't fool with liquor, being more concerned with the problem of getting across the river to Heron to sell the vegetables he grew to the store, or to ship them out of the valley. The river had a high current and to get across the river in a rowboat you had to row way upstream, get out to the current, then row like heck to get across before it floated you too far down stream and into the rocky disaster of the Heron Rapids. The same process was used to return.

But every once in a while someone would untie his boat and it would get down the river. Dettwiler had to build about five different rowboats to cross the Clark's Fork. One particular boat would carry about two tons of freight across the river.

One day when he went to use it, someone had chopped off the tree that he'd left his prized boat chained and padlocked up to. So Emil walked down the river to Clark's Fork, looking for it.
"It was 1918, when World War I was being fought," Ruth Dettwiler said.
"It was taken and used for transporting moonshine to Idaho. My dad walked all the way to Clarks Fork and all the way back searching both sides of the river for it. He'd even asked John Derr to let him know if he saw it."4.
 He talked to Derr, a businessman, about his loss, telling him about the cost of lumber to build it. When he got back to the railroad bridge there were two army boys. They said they'd been there about 10 days, guarding the bridge.

The soldiers told him the boat had gone by the day before, being towed by a big powerboat. Emil learned that Derr had been using his boat to haul cases of liquor from Cabinet.
"Archie Johnson, a fiddler with a big wart on one side of his face and big bushy mustache, always chewing tobacco, would get his fiddle out and play for us," Austin Clayton said. "He owned a team of horses.
"Archie would get his team and bring a case of whiskey from the Idaho line down to Cabinet. Then they'd transfer it to the boat on the river where it would be run down to Sandpoint for sale."5.
Noxon's only two entertainment businesses were Bill Finnigan's Saloon and Charlie Maynard's Saloon. Both enjoyed a lively trade on Main Street, serving drinks and having card tables and pool tables where men gathered. Finnigan had a victrola and many records and while Saturday nights got loud, they were circumspect for their time. Men argued, discussed, enjoyed games and drank hard liquor.

Until - prohibition became effective with passage of the Bolstead Act, effective at midnight December 30, 1918, making it illegal nationwide to sell alcoholic beverages.

That ended Finnigan's saloon business. He closed up. Charlie Maynard's saloon business ended, too, in 1918. He gave it to his son, Don, who turned it into a poolhall and card hall where men still gathered to play poker, until laws ended that, too.

Finnigan was in the county jail awaiting trial. He died there. His place stayed vacant until Jim Finnigan, his brother, sold it to Mrs. Ethel Bartholomew. Ethel and her sister, Jude Legault Johnson, converted it into a restaurant. They operated it in conjunction with the rooming house they had in a cabin behind the restaurant.

But were men really going to give up their liquor? Before long making moonshine became a way of livelihood for many area residents all across the country. Western Sanders County was certainly no exception.

Booze wasn't only coming in from Canada. Albert Sandy, who lived far up Pilgrim Creek, soon had the reputation for making premier whiskey. Also a liquor running business at Heron sent regular loads out over the west fork of Elk creek over Divide Ridge by packhorse out of Montana into Idaho. It was quite successful.6.
"Old Shorty Hayden, he was a bootlegger," Lanky Jamison said. "He sold it. I was fishing up on Elk Creek and I walked right into his still. You know, he was running it. You could smell it. Not everyone was involved in it, of course. Not the Chinamen nor Clifford Weare, for example.
"I never seen Chinamen bootleg," Weare said. "Maynard done the bootlegging. And a fella named Red Haves here. Red Haves. And Ethel Bartholomew, she done the selling. And Albert Sandy, he lived up on there on Pilgrim Creek. He made the best whiskey, they said.
"Everybody pret' near, 'ceptin Cliff Weare, hahaha. I never. They wanted me to. This Red Haves and Coley Calvin bootlegged. He made it up there. He didn't sell it.
"I was clearing land on my homestead and Red Haves wanted me to. 'I'll pick you up a still and you run it in your clearing here and they'll never suspect you of it,' he said. He'd bring me over everything at night, 'And all you gotta do is keep a fire under it.' But I never done that. Hahaha.7.
"Albert Sandy. Albert Sandy, he would tell me a funny story. He got an order for 10 gallons of bootleg whiskey, of moonshine. So he said he put it in a pickup truck. He had an old truck. And he started to Spokane with it.
"'I kept a pint out to drink on the way because it was pretty cold,' he said.
"He'd never drove in the city, or anything, and he started down the street, looking for this place. Well, he was driving on the wrong side of the street. So pretty soon they hailed him (cop stopped him) and they said, 'Where you going?'
"He told 'em he come from Montana and where he wanted to go. They seen he was drinking a little, you know, the sheriff or whoever he was. 'Get over and I'll drive you down to where you want to go,' this sheriff told him.
"Albert, he moved over, and they drove him down to the jail! Hahaha. 'C'mon. You can leave your truck right in here. It won't go no place.' "So Sandy went in, and the sheriff put him in jail. The next morning he was brought before the police judge.
"'What's this man charged with?' "'He's driving on the wrong side of the street and he's drinking, and don't know where he's a goin', and so on."
"Sandy said, 'I looked at the police judge and I knew I'd seen him somewhere before. But I don't know where. And I looked at him quite a while then it come to me. He was up there on Pilgrim Creek fishing. Him and two other guys was there and one of them go so drunk,' Sandy says, 'that he couldn't get into the truck and they loaded him in. They'd bought the whiskey from me'.
"The police judge said, 'Where you from?' "'Noxon'. "'Your name's Albert Sandy?' "'Yah.' "'You live on Pilgrim Creek?' "'Yah.' "'Well, next case,' the judge said. 'Let his case go until morning.' "So Sandy says, 'They put me back in the jail and I stayed there all night, the next night, and the next morning they went down and the judge said, 'Your name is Albert Sandy, and you never drove in the city before, did you?' Sandy said he hadn't.
"'Well,' the judge said, 'you was driving on the wrong side of the street.' "'Well, I might a been. I didn't pay no attention,' Sandy said.
"The judge said, 'For this time, case is dismissed.' "Sandy said the judge was the fella who was so drunk they had to load him up when he was fishing. "'I went out and looked, and my ten gallon of whiskey was gone. I turned around and drove back to Noxon.' "They'd got the booze and turned Sandy loose." Weare always laughed when telling the story.
It isn't likely that the editor was laughing when he wrote in the August 7, 1919 edition of Sanders County Independent Ledger,
"A party of Washigton (sic) bootleggers caused considerable excitement in the west end of Sanders County on last Friday, and gave the local officers quite a chase, resulting in the arrest of five of the bootleggers and confiscating of 55 gallons of whiskey and two Super Six Hudsons and an Oldsmobile.
"The party of bootleggers had gone to Missoula from Spokane to purchase 120 gallons of whiskey from Geo. Miles. On Thursday evening about 7 o'clock they went to the old brickyards where Miles had the whiskey cached and it was put in the cars and just as it was loaded one of the bootleggers came up and ordered all to hold up their hands."
Miles was a U. S. Revenue agent. The bootleggers figured out that it was a frame up. Miles fought with one man, who declared he was also a revenue officer. The others then jumped in and Miles was beaten badly before the bootleggers drove away.
"Miles came to in a few hours and rushed to the Sheriffs office where word was sent out to stop the cars and Deputy Sheriffs Roy Hart and Jack Prouty were on the watch here. The cars came to town about 2:30 Friday morning and they split up taking side streets and the officers, including Sheriff Hartman who had come down to catch (NPRR train) No 4 started bombarding the cars with their revolvers, but failed to disable any, although it was afterwards learned that one car was hit in three places and a bloody handkerchief was found in the car that was hit.
"The officers with I. M. Wade and his speeder then followed the cars and at Trout Creek left word to phone to Noxon which side of the river the cars were coming. The cars started up the river and the word was phoned that they were coming up the north side but they evidently started that way to fool the officers on watch, as they came back and crossed the bridge and got by Noxon on the other road.
"One car got as far as the Clarks Fork ferry when the occupants John Arnold and Wm. Nason were arrested and brought back here and later taken to Missoula. The whiskey had been cached and the occupants of the other car abandoned them.
"On Saturday J. Mathews with his lawyer A. B Slagle of Spokane arrived here and tried to claim one of the cars, but it happened the victim of the holdup, Miles, was here with Sheriff Green, of Missoula, and he identified Mathews as one of the gang and he was placed under arrest and taken to Missoula with Arnold and Nason.
"On Monday another car was recovered at the W. R. Ginther ranch where it was left by the men, saying it was broke down and they would go after repairs.
"Fifty-five gallons of the whiskey and the Oldsmobile are at Sandpoint where Sheriff Spohr contends that it is contraband of Idaho as it was found on that side of the line. "But the local officials expect to show Sheriff Spohr that he is mistaken. "The bootleggers certainly made a supreme effort to reach the Idaho line, their time from Plains to Thompson Falls was 35 minutes and they drove at a speed of 50 to 60 miles an hour all the way."
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While the revenue men were looking for the three cars, Sheriff Joe Hartman's friend, Clifford Weare, said that Hartman didn't want to catch the moonshiners. The county judge was a southerner who kept a big jug of moonshine in his safe. The bootleggers were tried by him with no convictions being made. Shultz, who was quite a gambling man, was the county attorney. The three of them were in cahoots.8.
SANDERS COUNTY INDEPENDENT LEDGER
September 9, 1920
"So long as most people consider the prohibition law a joke, so long will bootleggers abound. U.S. District Attorney Edward C. Day says many persons think it a fine trick to operate illicit stills and peddle intoxicants."
The law officers know booze comes in from Canada regularly and believe airplanes, flying over the valley, are carrying moonshine. A new era has fingered its way into the valleys behind the shining mountains of Montana. Jim Saint got rid of his team of horses and remodeled his long, narrow building, just west of Henry Larson's home. Removing the horse stalls, he made a garage for the Baby Overland car he'd bought, brand new. He was out of the logging business and into bootleg running.9.

FOOTNOTES
  1. Sanders County Independent Ledger, August 14, 1919.
  2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, November 6, 1919.
  3. Swan Swanson, tape-recorded oral history January 15, 1970
  4. Ruth Dettwiler McQuaide, oral history April 19, 1988
  5. Austin Clayton, oral history, July 12, 1982.
  6. Heron Reminisce Day, July 12, 1982.
  7. Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history, March 10, 1972.
  8. Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history, March 10, 1972.
  9. H. R. Bob Saint, tape-recorded oral history, November 18, 1983.
  

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