Where the Bootleggin’ Began!
This particular branch extends through my paternal grandmother
A prominent German American family my 3rd Great Grandparents immigrated from Luxembourg in the 1850’s. Not quite sure if they met in America (or on the boat over) but they raised more than 10 children where they settled in Wisconsin. Providing them the best America could offer, the children grew into very lucrative businessmen. Sometimes owning several businesses at once. Saloons, liquor stores, boarding houses and hotels seem to be the common theme.
My great-great grandpa Mathew had run a boarding house in Manitowoc before he moved his wife Sallie and the 7 children to North Dakota just outside of Lisbon township in 1910. Eventually they owned and operated as many as four ranches in the surrounding area.
2nd Great grandparents Mathew and Sarah (Sallie) 1890
Born in 1893 my great grandpa Ed was the eldest son of Matt and Sallie. Quite the tradesmen, Ed became quite a rancher. Marrying the love of his life Clarissa in 1916, they took over the North farm. (pictured below) It was here that he raised my grandma and her two older siblings.
In the late 20’s Ed began running rodeo horses out of Canada into North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota. At times, as many as 75 head of wild horses were brought to the local dirt rodeos for breaking. Ed was a hell of a rider. Standing only 5’8″ he was a strong rider even though at times he was dwarfed by the huge beasts.
“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”John Wayne
Always the resourceful one ready to provide for his family, Edwin wasn’t about to let the law stop him from taking care of things. In 1931, Ed was arrested in Lisbon for dealing potatoes without a license. Given a continuance it’s not clear how long he spent in the pokey but I’m sure it wasn’t even overnight. Apparently Ed had driven down the Red River Valley and picked up an inexpensive truckload of potatoes that he hauled Northwest to sell for a higher market price. (The Bismark Tribune September 28, 1931)
When prohibition started in 1920 ND was already considered a dry state. However, most German American’s felt it was their god given right of this great nation to be free to partake in their favorite pastime. Now I’m not sure exactly when the bootlegging began but it’s been stated that in order to make ends meet, horses weren’t the only thing that Ed was bringing in from Canada.
My Great Grandma Clarissa was a very devout Catholic and very concerned over Ed’s safety. The thought of losing him to prison or death caused her a lot of grief. Needless to say she spent a lot of time praying for the family. Her prayers were thankfully answered. Time and time again.
Throughout the 20’s and 30’s the farm received it’s fair share of visits from Federal Officers. As my grand uncle Bud once put it: “If you were tryin’ to hide something, chances are they’d find it. So it was hid in plain site where they’d trip over it and they never found it.”
On one such occasion the G-men came calling to the farm where they proceeded in taking long rake handles and poked around through the various hay stakes on the property. My grandma’s older brother teased them for looking for a needle in a haystack. Eventually the men tore the stacks apart looking for the large containers of whiskey. As a little girl my grandma remembers being very scared and ran looking for her mom for comfort. Eventually discovering my great grandma on her knees in the bedroom, hands to Jesus praying. She told my grandma to kneel down beside her and pray too. With hands tightly clasped and eyes shut she too took to praying. It was then that Ed opened the door and told them both: “You can quit yer prayin! They’re Gone!” They lived to bootleg another day.
This wasn’t the first and it wouldn’t be the last time my grandma set eyes on these men. Her older siblings and her attended Catholic school in town and one day the lawmen decided they’d come to question the kids. (Can you imagine??) So while out at recess one of the nuns blew her whistle and called my grandma and her older brother into one of the large main offices. It was here they were hidden for safety while the Sister’s removed these men from the grounds. The Federal Officers were actually going to question the children to find Great Grandpa’s stash. Back then there were no rules when it came to that sort of stuff.
The Secret Under the Rock Sled
Not growing up on a farm I’m taking everyone’s word for the following details. Apparently while farming you may run across a lot of rocks that may damage the farm implements. So these rocks are usually stacked on the side in a pyramid fashion and eventually picked up and hauled away. I guess it’s still not uncommon to see pyramids among the farming landscape as you drive by. Little man made monuments.
This is where a rock sled comes in. I’ve also seen them called stone boats. Great Grandpa’s rock sled sat out in the field. Almost as a landmark on the property. Well hidden beneath it lay a hole that was constantly stocked with his bootlegged treasure. If those law men would have only noticed that that rock sled never once moved from that spot.
Eventually prohibition ended in 1933 and with the Great Depression the family farm was lost. Forcing my Great Grandparents to move into the town of Lisbon ND around 1937. In 1939, Edwin purchased and ran the Staudt Liquor store in town for many years. Ed and Clarissa would live out the rest of their lives in Lisbon where they helped raise my dad.
Great Grandpa Ed was my dad’s main father figure until Ed passed in 1968. I may not have known him but through the stories of my father and the lessons he taught my dad, I feel like I know the best part of him.
And my Grandma??? Well she too went on to run many many liquor stores in Colorado. But that’s another post.