Thursday, January 16, 2014

94th Anniversary of Prohibition-Rum Running in Cavendish

Many people in Cavendish will proudly tell you how their house, or one of the houses in their neighborhood, was part of the underground railroad. While former slaves found safety here, there was no need to hide them. Vermont outlawed slavery in 1777 and continued to pass laws that made it difficult for those trying to recapture slaves to come to far into the state as they could easily be caught and prosecuted.

Yes, there are tiny rooms and odd places in many of the old houses in our town. Some had very practical purposes. If they were close to a chimney they could have been used for curing meat and storing large cooking pots etc. Tunnels and other hiding places had other practical purposes-rum running and smuggling.

Because Vermont shares a border with Canada, smuggling has been part of the state’s “underground” employment from the early days of its settlement.

On January 16, 1920, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes" went into effect. Breweries, distilleries and saloons closed their doors. This did not sit well with Vermonters, who believed the government had no business interfering with their drinking habits. Consequently, more people drank more alcohol during Prohibition than they did before or since.

Everywhere people helped bootleggers, hid them in barns from chasing customs agents, covered up, covered over, and supported them by making bootlegging a very profitable venture. Stories abound showing the bootleggers as the folk heroes they quickly became, and revealing the customs patrol as being slow minded, dim witted, and unpopular spoil sports. VT Historical Society 

When Suzanne Beyer, author of “The Inventor’s Fortune Up for Grabs,” and granddaughter of Una and Leon Gay visited Cavendish in 2011, she related that her great Uncle Art Hadley was engaged in rum running during prohibition at her grandparents home-Glimmerstone. Were other people in town involved in rum-running? Probably.

If you have stories about Cavendish’s involvement in various bootlegging or smuggling activities, please send them to the Cavendish Historical Society , PO Box 472, Cavendish VT 05142 or e-mail or call 802-226-7807. 

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