Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Feb. 4, 2002

A look back at Prohibition

By Lynda Jensen

Prohibition touched the Howard Lake and Waverly areas in a number of ways as reported by the Howard Lake Herald in the early part of the 1900s.

Prohibition initially sprang from the aftermath of war, following the horror of World War I.

Local tidbits printed in the paper documented Prohibition from its inception Jan. 29, 1919, to its demise Dec. 5, 1933, during the Great Depression.

Going dry

The Herald picks up the story of Prohibition in the local area by reporting the progress of states climbing on the bandwagon of anti-alcohol sentiment.

Six more states join nat'l dry roll

Indiana, Arkansas, California, Washington, Illinois, North Carolina ratify.

28 states on wagon.

Twenty-eight states have now ratified, and eight more states are needed, to make the proposed amendment part of the constitution.

The newspaper goes on to record the addition of Minnesota, and other states to reach the number necessary to amend the constitution.

Minnesota joins dry procession

The Minnesota House of Representatives has adopted the resolution already passed by the senate, ratifying the Prohibition amendment to the Federal constitution by a vote of 92 to 36, making Minnesota the 40th state to ratify.

The story further develops, as steps are taken to control the traffic of liquor, or an attempt thereof. How truly difficult this task will be proves to unfold later.

During this same time, news clips and letters from home indicate that a large number of local soldiers were still stationed in France.

The aftermath of war and uncertainty of the future appeared to reflect the times.

The first Howard Lake soldier to return home from France was Myron Gerard, April 17, 1919.

There is also reference to the heavy use of nerve and mustard gas during World War I ­ or what is described as "the World War," in news reports, since the former editors had no idea that another world war was in the future.

Checks liquor shipments

Bill would prohibit transportation in the state.

A bill introduced in the House Saturday by Representative Wicklund prohibits transportation of intoxication liquor through or into any county, city, or village of the state, except that steam railroads may deliver the duly license druggist for medicinal purposes. Right of search is given the sheriff and other peace officers.

A fine of $10 to $100, or 90 days of imprisonment are provided.

The story continues with moonshine and stills being discovered on a regular basis, a sample of which follows.

Sheriff unearths biggest still yet

4,000 gallons of mash, 100 gallons of moonshine are seized.

The biggest moonshine still ever unearthed in Wright County was put out of business last Monday night when Sheriff Carl A. Anderson and Deputy Sheriff George Elsenpeter of Buffalo raided the farm rented by Godfrey Gatz in Franklin Township and found two complete stills with 150-gallon capacity each. They also found 4,000 gallons of mash and 100 gallons of moonshine.

It required three truckloads to remove the entire paraphernalia. The moon making facilities were complete, there being two electric motors, which were used for pumping water and furnishing air pressure in the manufacturer of the amber fluid. There were electric wires leading from the house to the barn to carry the electricity. The switch was in the house, while the still was located in the barn. Twenty feet back of the barn there was a cesspool about 18 feet square that took care of the overflow water, the drainage running from the still to the cesspool.

While Gatz had been manufacturing moonshine on such a large scale, very few people living in that vicinity knew anything about his activities, nor had they had any idea that such a complete still was in existence, even the scent from the cooking mash being absorbed so that there could be no suspicion.

Gatz was placed under arrest and taken to jail in Buffalo. He was charged with having a nuisance, manufacturing moon, and with possession and sale.

While transferring the prisoner Gatz to Buffalo, the sheriff picked up two intoxicated men from Franklin on the road between Montrose and Buffalo. He stopped and picked them up, too. They paid $25 fines each.

The wet tide

Following the realization that Prohibition didn't appear to be working, discussion took place in 1933 about repealing the amendment.

Even with the wet tide and sudden swell of support to repeal it during the early 1930s, locals appeared to be against changing the law, as shown by notes from small organizations that adopted anti-liquor sentiments in meetings, and guest speakers that addressed anti-alcohol sentiments.

The Herald reported a vote taken during election day Sept. 12, 1933, where Howard Lake voters wanted to stay dry.

Drys win in Howard Lake

The vote on repeal of the 18th amendment held Tuesday in Howard Lake brought out 116 votes ­ 100 against, 15 for, with one ballot being thrown out.

Middleville Township cast 149 votes ­ 38 for dry, 109 wet, and two thrown out.

Victor Township cast 95 votes ­ 44 dry and 51 wet.

The 1933 legislature discussed the possibility of repealing the 18th amendment, although not without going into special session over it.

A lengthy narrative from a Minnesota statesman, Sen. Henry Spindler, was published on the front page of the Herald on a weekly basis keeping locals informed.

Spindler described the quandary about liquor control in his Dec. 14, 1933 column.

"Evils which accompany the undue use of alcoholic beverages may not be cured or prevented by legislation," Spindler wrote. "Righteous education and individual self control will prevent them. Legislation, however, may mitigate them."

Spindler noted that many members of the legislature were concerned about large sums of taxes being missed with the illegal sale of alcohol, although he personally expressed doubts about looking to profit from a tax on liquor, since this would require people to drink more to earn more taxes, he said.

Later, Spindler wrote "They want the business in private hands, where they can get in their high pressure salesmanship methods and make big profits at the expense of humanity."

The Prohibition amendment pushed the legislature into special session, where the Temperance committees from the senate and house went around about repealing the amendment.

Apparently, many constituents were upset about the cost of the special session ­ to the tune of about $56,252 ­ which caused Spindler to write an extended explanation of why the special session took so much time.

The town of Marshall was the first mention of a city opening a municipal off-sale liquor establishment, to be managed by the Marshall police chief.

Later that spring, the City of Waverly conducted an election where voters decided to have private liquor establishments sell liquor, rather than a municipal liquor store.


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