Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Prohibition Rum-Runners Delivering A Boatload of Booze Were Foiled in Pelham in 1925

During Prohibition, Pelham had bootleggers.  Pelham had illegal stills.  Pelham had speakeasies.  Pelham even had a speakeasy section.  Now research reveals that Pelham also had rum-runners who attempted to deliver illegal liquor by the boatload to the shores of Pelham Manor.  

I have written extensively about Pelham's struggles with Prohibition and the enforcement of the unpopular laws that it spawned.  See:

Fri., Apr. 24, 2015:  The North Pelham "Speakeasy Section" Created Quite a Stir During Prohibition.

Tue., Nov. 18, 2014:  More Bootleggers and Speakeasies Raided in Pelham in 1929 During Prohibition.

Fri., May 23, 2014:  How Dry I Am -- Early Prohibition Efforts Succeed in Pelham in 1896.

Thu., Apr. 03, 2014:  The Prohibition Era in Pelham:  Another Speakeasy Raided.

Tue., Feb. 18, 2014:  Pelham Speakeasies and Moonshiners - Prohibition in Pelham: The Feds Raid the Moreau Pharmacy in Pelham Manor in 1922.

Thu., Feb. 07, 2008:  Village Elections in Pelham in 1900 - New York Athletic Club Members Campaign Against the Prohibition Ticket in Pelham Manor.

Thu., Jan. 12, 2006:  The Beer Battle of 1933.

Thu., Aug. 11, 2005:  How Dry I Am: Pelham Goes Dry in the 1890s and Travers Island Is At the Center of a Storm

Bell, Blake A., The Prohibition Era in Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 25, June 18, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog details an interesting rum-running incident that was foiled by Pelham Manor police in early August, 1925.  The beloved motorman of the Pelham Manor Trolley -- the trolley that inspired Fontaine Fox to create the Toonerville Trolley -- was making the last run of the evening to Pelham Manor at about 1:10 a.m.  

Skipper "Louie" was the motorman that night.  "Louie" was a nickname used by Emil Matter who worked for 35 years as a motorman for the Third Avenue Railway system.  He lived for many years in Mount Vernon and piloted the little Pelham Manor trolley for 25 years.  See Fri., Jun. 17, 2005:  "Skipper Louie" of Pelham Manor's Toonerville Trolley.  

Trolley car that ran from Pelham Station along Wolfs Lane
with a short stint on Colonial Avenue then along the length
of Pelhamdale to Shore Road where it turned around and
repeated the trip. The two trolley operators standing in
front of the car were Skippers Dan and Louie (on Right).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Skipper Louie's senses were somewhat heightened that night because robbers recently had murdered a trolley operator and trolley inspector during a robbery at Mount Vernon's border with the Village of North Pelham.  He noticed near the end of the trolley line where Pelhamdale Avenue intersects with Shore Road that there were two men who were acting "suspiciously."  

He hurried the trolley back to "Red Church Corner" (known today as "Four Corners," the intersection of Boston Post Road and Pelhamdale Avenue).  There he flagged down Pelham Manor police officer Arnt H. Arnsten and expressed his concern.  Officer Arnsten alerted headquarters and joined with Police Chief Philip Gargan and three other officers who quickly headed to the desolate, dark, and then-unpopulated area where Skipper Louie had seen the two men.

The police searched the nearby woods and checked along Shore Road, Pelhamdale Avenue, Bolton Road, and Mt. Tom Road.  They found two trucks hidden from sight.  One had a fake license plate.  They also found a Hudson motorcar.  They rounded up a man from New Rochelle and seven men from New York City.  

The police seized the trucks and car.  They charged the men with loitering and vagrancy.  They interrogated all the men.  Only one had anything to say.  He admitted the men were there to accept delivery of "cases," but clammed up after that admission.

After completing their investigation, the police concluded that the trucks and their crew were awaiting the arrival of a boatload of liquor and that they planned to unload the liquor to small boats off Travers Island and carry it to the trucks near Shore Road.

Below is the text of a news article about the foiled rum-running incident.  it is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"Police Capture Gang Loitering On Shore Road
Domenick Trotta, His Hudson Car, And Two Trucks, Seized in Secluded Spot.

Ten men, including Domenick Trotta of New Rochelle, were taken in custody by the Pelham Manor police shortly after midnight Monday, after they were found loitering in the vicinity of Mt. Tom Road, Pelhamdale avenue, and Boston Post Road.  Two trucks and a Hudson touring car were taken to headquarters.  No charge was made against Trotta.  Seven of the crew were charged with loitering.  The trucks had no lights.  It is believed by the police a plan for transportation of a cargo of liquor was frustrated.

'Louie' the motorman of the 'dinky' trolley car, on his final trip to Pelham Manor, noticed two men acting suspicious at the end of the car line, near the Shore Road at 1:10 a.m.

Having in mind the recent murder of a trolley inspector and a motorman in Mount Vernon, he drove his car to the Boston Post Road, where he informed Policeman Arnt H. Arnsten, at the Red Church Corner, of his suspicions.  Chief Philip Gargan, with Sgt. James Burnett, and Policemen Gennerrazzo and Fowler, scoured the woods in the vicinity.  

The big Hudson touring car of Trotta, 5V-2504 was discovered in a secluded section near Travers Island.  Nearby were two trucks.  One had wrong license plates.  Harry Margolis, 704 Coster street, Bronx, and Charles Newman, 516 West 111th street, New York, with Trotta, and his brother-in-law, Caneo Nannerello, of 203 Union avenue, New Rochelle, were at the scene.

Loitering in the vicinity were John Burke, 303 E. 91st street, Patrick Murphy, 446 E. 146th street; Harry Freeman, 324 E. 118th street; John Haigh, St. Nicholas Baths, New York; Robert Kennedy, 623 Cortlandt street; John Kelly, 328 E. 70th street, and Louis Kaufer, of 3214 Cortelyou Road, and 109 Lenox avenue.  All reside in New York city.

Kaufer told police he maintained two addresses.  He was found over on the Shore Road where he had his taxicab parked.

Morris Feiger, 60 St. Nicholas avenue, New York, who the police believe is chauffeur of a G. M. C. truck, Model 16, X-706369, could show no motor number.  Chief Gargan after investigation announced the license plates on the G. M. C. truck belonged to a Ford truck.  The card for the license plates bore no motor number.  

The Stewart truck, X-739540, which the police believe was operated by Harry Margolis, 704 Coster street, Bronx, carried authentic license plates.  Chief Gargan took the fictitious license plates off the G. M. C. truck.

None of the men would talk.  In reply to questions by the police each said he knew nothing.  One of the gang finally admitted he had been notified at his home in the Bronx, his services would be needed to move some 'cases' in Pelham Manor.  He would say nothing more.

Employees of the New York athletic club on Travers Island told the police they saw the two trucks on Travers Island in the evening.  Patrolman Fowler drove one of the trucks from Mt. Tom Road to police headquarters.  Patrolman Generrazzo drove the other.

It is the impression in the minds of the police that the trucks and their crew were awaiting the arrival of a boat load of liquor and it may have been planned to unload it in small boats off Travers Island and carry it to the trucks near the Shore Road.

In Pelham Manor police court on Tuesday night, Freedman and Kaufer were each fined $5 on loitering charges.  Sentence was suspended on charges of vagrancy.  

Charges against five other men in the crew were continued until tonight.  Trotta promised he would have the men in court.  He explained to Judge L'Esperance that they were employed at daily occupations and often had to work 'quite late' at night in addition.

The two trucks are at police headquarters.  No one has claimed them, according to Chief Philip Gargan.  He told a reporter of the Sun that the owners, when they appear, will be held, one on a charge of having wrong license plates, and both for having no lights.  One truck was discovered on Bolton Road.  The other on Mt. Tom Road."

Source:  Police Capture Gang Loitering On Shore Road -- Domenick Trotta, His Hudson Car, And Two Trucks, Seized In Secluded Spot, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 7, 1925, Vol. 16, No. 23, p. 1, col. 1.  

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