Thursday, December 17, 2009

1931: Prohibition Agents Sieze a Large Still in Hague

December 5th marks the anniversary of the end of Prohibition in 1933. To remember that time when the social life of so many Americans was made criminal overnight, I thought I would offer this little nugget from the July 2, 1931 Ticonderoga Sentinel.

One wonders if the men arrested here ever served any hard time. I suspect they did.

Federal prohibition agents, assisted by state troopers, early Tuesday morning seized a [1,500-gallon] still in a remote section of West Hague, Warren county, and placed under arrest five men who comprised the “night shift” of the establishment.

The men were held in the Ticonderoga jail until Tuesday afternoon when they were arraigned before U.S. Commissioner David S. Fisk in Hudson Falls, who released the prisoners on bond of $1,000 each.

Two of the men, Natale Morino of Rutland, Vt., and Joseph Goricalo of Witherbee, were released pending a hearing tomorrow, and the remaining three waived examination, and were ordered to appear before Federal court at Malone on July 7th. The trio gave their names as Patrick Natti and John LaFerne of Newark, New Jersey, and Patrick Chioffi of Troy.

The plant was reported as one of the largest ever seized in this part of the state, and it is believed by Federal authorities that the still served as a source of a large proportion of the alcohol illicitly sold throughout northern New York and eastern Vermont.

The distillery was equipped with the most expensive apparatus, and the raiders estimated the cost of the complete outlay at about $3,500. The agents reported they found 300 gallons of alcohol, sixty barrels of yeast, two tons of coke, 34,500 gallons of mash, four 3,000 gallon vats and one 1,500 gallon vat.

Also Included in the equipment was a 25-horsepower upright steam boiler, a 1,500 gallon still and a 50 gallon condenser.

All the apparatus was dismantled and taken to Albany. The alcohol and yeast were destroyed.

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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