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, February 21, 2018

Massive Prohibition Raid in 1927 Netted Four Bootleggers and 225 Kegs of Beer

The work was back-breaking, almost certainly.  Early in the day on an early spring morning in May, 1927, four men in Troy, New York loaded a railroad freight car with thousands of pounds of freight consigned for delivery to "Reilly" at Pelham Station in Pelham, New York nearly 150 miles away.  As they worked, a sneaky fellow lurked nearby watching the men go about their work.  Once their work was done, the train departed.  So did the sneaky fellow.

Early on Thursday, May 26, the freight train sounded its whistled and pulled into Pelham Station where it uncoupled the freight car onto a freight line side track.  There the freight car sat for much of the day as another sneaky fellow lurked nearby, watching.

Late in the day, four young men appeared at Pelham Station with the necessary papers and accepted the freight consignment from the freight agent in the tiny little freight office that once was accessible via the western end of the station.  The men pulled two trucks near the freight car and began their own back-breaking work.  As Federal Prohibition Officer Curtin lurked nearby, the men unloaded from the freight car 225 kegs of beer and loaded it all onto the two trucks.

Quite cannily, Officer Curtin allowed the four men to finish off-loading all 225 kegs.  Once all the work had been completed, Officer Curtin sprang on the four men.  He arrested Clay Griffen (of 22 Goling St., Yonkers, NY), William McCann and John Murphy (both of 40 Palisade Avenue, Yonkers, NY), and Maurice Davis (of 558 Lafayette St., Brooklyn, NY).

Officer Curtin seems to have been as befuddled as many regarding the multiplicity of villages within the Town of Pelham.  He hauled the four bootleggers off to the Pelham Heights Police Department to have them jailed.  There he was told that he had made the arrests on the Village of North Pelham side of the railroad tracks and would have to take the prisoners to the Village of North Pelham lockup.  He took them to the Town Hall lockup where the four men were jailed.

That night local Justice Anthony M. Menkel imposed bail of $1,000.00 each pending their appearance before the United States Prohibition Commissioner in New York City.  The two trucks of beer kegs were taken to New York City the same night.

Officials believed that Pelham Station was the offload point for a large delivery of beer that was scheduled for distribution and sale in the City of Yonkers.  Prohibition violators, it seems, had been stopped -- once again -- in the little Town of Pelham.

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"Prohibition Raid Nets 225 Kegs Of Beer; Four Men Held
Federal Officers Trail Freight Car of Liquor From Troy to Pelham, Quartet Held In $1000 Bail Each

Trailing a freight carload of alleged alcoholic beer from Troy, N.Y., to Pelham station a U.S. Prohibition officer seized 225 kegs of the beverage and two motor trucks at the New Haven main station here yesterday and four men into custody on charges of possessing and transporting liquor.  They were arrested after they had unloaded the freight car of its burden and had loaded the beer on the motor trucks.  Judge Anthony M. Menkel held the quartet in $1,000 bail each last night pending their appearance before the U.S. Prohibition Commissioner in New York City, Tuesday morning.  The seized trucks and liquor were taken to New York last night.

The defendants are Clay Griffen, of No. 22 Goling St., Yonkers; William McCann, of No. 40 Palisade avenue, Yonkers; John Murphy, of No. 40 Palisade avenue, Yonkers, and Maurice Davis, of No. 558 Lafayette street, Brooklyn.

After watching all day, Officer Curtin waited until both trucks were loaded and ready to move before he showed himself.  He then placed the quartet under arrest and took them to Pelham Heights police headquarters.  There it was explained that the arrest was made in North Pelham and the action shifted to the other village.  The four were locked up at the Town Hall.

Judge Anthony M. Menkel fixed bail at $1,000 each.  Morris Friedman, of No. 15 Overlook Terrace, Yonkers, was bondsmen for the four.

According to a statement made by the prohibition officer the beer was consigned to Pelham in the name of Reilly.  The first name was not given.  The name however is believed to have been fictitious.  He expressed an opinion that it was intended for distribution in Yonkers."

Source:  Prohibition Raid Nets 225 Kegs Of Beer; Four Men Held -- Federal Officers Trail Freight Car of Liquor From Troy to Pelham, Quartet Held In $1000 Bail Each, The Pelham Sun, May 27, 1927, Vol. 18, No. 13, p. 1, col. 2.

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

Tue., Jan. 30, 2018:  Visit to the Wrong House Uncovered Massive Pelham Manor Bootlegging During Prohibition.

Wed., Jan. 03, 2018:  The Massive Illegal Still Discovered at 137 Corlies Avenue During Prohibition in 1932.

Wed., Jun. 21, 2017:  The Infamous Ash Tree Inn of Pelham Manor and its Prohibition Violations During the 1920s.

Thu., Feb. 02, 2017:  Bootleggers Began to Feel the Heat in Pelham in 1922.

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.

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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