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.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Bootleggers Began to Feel the Heat in Pelham in 1922

It was 1922.  The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was the law of the land.  American Prohibition was well underway.  That meant that nearly every American who was determined to evade Prohibition had to find a way.  The manufacture and sale of bootlegged liquor soared.  

Evaders in Pelham in 1922, particularly those living in Pelham Heights, seemed to prefer a local bootleg "brand" known as "Hill and Hill."  Sourced in New Rochelle, "Hill and Hill" was the illegal brand by which many drinking Pelhamites swore.  

Others in Pelham, however, abhorred illegal hooch and believed all others should as well.  Tired of blatant Prohibition violations, they insisted that Federal, State, and local authorities crack down and enforce the Eighteenth Amendment.  Pelham citizens began reporting suspected bootlegging activities and complained that authorities were not doing enough to stop the bootleggers.

Authorities got the message.  They cracked down.  One fascinating effort to crack down became known locally as "The Moreau Case."  

Harry L. Moreau was the proprietor of a drugstore in the Cole Apartment House on Boston Post Road next to today's CVS Pharmacy where the gas station now stands.  Ironically, the structure was built around (and upon) the remnants of the original "Little Red Church at Four Corners" that had been moved to the site when the church sold its original wooden sanctuary and had it moved a few hundred yards down the road to make way for today's Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church.  

On March 14, 1922, Federal and local authorities raided Moreau's drugstore in the apartment house built from the remnants of the wooden sanctuary of the Little Red Church.  Moreau was carted away, not only for hooch, but also for drugs.  The successful raid encouraged Pelham's Prohibitionists.  I have written before of The Moreau Case.  See Tue., Feb. 18, 2014:  Pelham Speakeasies and Moonshiners - Prohibition in Pelham: The Feds Raid the Moreau Pharmacy in Pelham Manor in 1922.  

The local Pelham newspaper, The Pelham Sun, seized on the opportunity presented by the successful Moreau raid. The paper's headline only two weeks after the Moreau raid read "Bootleggers Are Sensing Danger In Pelham Trade."  Citing the Moreau case, the article stated:  "The bootlegger, sensing the danger, is leaving town."  As one might suspect, subsequent history proved that pronouncement terribly inaccurate -- an over-optimistic pronouncement on behalf of Prohibitionists.  

In that same article, the newspaper reported that a suspected bootlegger who had been operating a profitable bootlegging establishment "in Pelham Manor not a long way away from Washington avenue" had fled to parts unknown and had removed "his goods and chattels to other spheres."

For a time, bootleggers considered the situation in Pelham to be so risky that they halted home deliveries of bootlegged booze.  For example, a popular New Rochelle bootlegger who delivered "Hill and Hill" to "several patrons in Pelham Heights" grew wary.  He feared that his delivery automobile was under constant surveillance at its garage.  Thus, he notified his patrons, including those in Pelham Heights, "that if they want the stuff they must come and get it."

History shows that things cooled down enough in Pelham for roadhouses, drugstores, and other locations to sell illegal bootlegged booze throughout most of the period of Prohibition in Pelham.  Though authorities broke up stills and arrested deliverymen throughout Pelham during the Roaring Twenties, the flow of illegal liquor continued unabated until Prohibition was lifted. 

Stills Discovered by Pelham Manor Police in a Home on James Street
During Prohibition.  From the February 3, 1928 Issue of The Pelham Sun.
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Below is the text of an article from The Pelham Sun that forms the basis of today's article.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"Bootleggers Are Sensing Danger In Pelham Trade
Deliveries of Hill and Hill From New Rochelle Discontinued During Week
Bootlegger In Pelham Manor Reported to Have Folded Tents and Stolen Away

The activities of a group of residents actuated by a desire to see that the law is enforced are bringing results.  The bootlegger, sensing the danger, is leaving town.  The Moreau case has shown that these men mean business.  

During the week a certain party who it is believed has been conducting an extremely profitable bootlegging establishment in Pelham Manor not a long way away from Washington avenue, has found it advisable to remove his goods and chattels to other spheres.

Another violator of the Eighteenth Amendment who has several patrons in Pelham Heights, has seen fit to forego deliveries this week.  His automobile has been closely watched from its garage in New Rochelle, but the bootlegger is wary and the expected 'Hill and Hill' which has been the main brand delivered in Pelham Heights has been conspicuous by its absence.  It is understood that patrons have been notified by telephone that if they want the stuff they must come and get it."  

Source:  Bootleggers Are Sensing Danger In Pelham Trade -Deliveries of Hill and Hill From New Rochelle Discontinued During Week -- Bootlegger In Pelham Manor Reported to Have Folded Tents and Stolen Away, The Pelham Sun, Mar. 31, 1922, p. 1, col. 6.  

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I have written extensively about bootlegging, illegal stills, and liquor raids in the Town of Pelham during Prohibition and even earlier when Pelham went dry under New York's Raines law.  For a few examples, see:

Mon., Dec. 26, 2016:  Pelham Stood Alone in Westchester When It Voted to Go Dry in 1896.

Mon., Aug. 22, 2016:  Pelham, It Seems, Became a Hotbed of Bootlegging and Illegal Stills During Prohibition.

Mon., Jul. 06, 2015:  Police Raided a Massive 300-Gallon Illegal Liquor Still on Corlies Avenue in 1932.  

Fri., Jun. 19, 2015:  More Liquor Raids in Pelham During Prohibition in the 1920s.

Wed., Jun. 17, 2015:   Prohibition Rum-Runners Delivering A Boatload of Booze Were Foiled in Pelham in 1925.

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.

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