Booze and bootlegging, right in your backyard
Local historian digs up details of Dakota County’s Prohibition-era underworld
John Loch is finding that booze was abundant, and moonshine raids by federal agents were commonplace, in Dakota County during Prohibition.
Loch, an Apple Valley resident and vice president of the Rosemount Area Historical Society, has been poring through old newspapers on microfiche at the library, and talking with locals who were alive at the time, to piece together a picture of the bootlegging underworld in Dakota County at the time of Prohibition when production and sale of alcohol was illegal.
There was the massive, 70,000-gallon distillery – said to be the largest distillery west of Chicago – operating on the outskirts of Rosemount. It was raided in 1924 or 1925.
There was the deputy sheriff from Rosemount who kept confiscated moonshine stills in his backyard as trophies and disposed of illegal booze by pouring it into the city sewer system.
And in Miesville, there seemed to be a citywide conspiracy.
“Just about everybody in Miesville was involved in producing or selling moonshine,” Loch said. “The farmers made it, the in-town people sold it at their dance hall.
“They were never raided – there’s one highway that runs through Miesville, and they had lookouts. If an unknown car passed through town, they’d sound the alarm.”
Loch will present his findings in a talk titled “Blind Pigs, Speakeasies and Moonshine” on Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Robert Trail Library in Rosemount.
The talk, presented under the auspices of the Rosemount Area Historical Society, is one several community events being held as part of the One Book, One Rosemount program. This year, the One Book program has residents reading “Moon Over Manifest” by Clare Vanderpool, part of which deals with bootlegging during Prohibition.
As for the title of Loch’s presentation, he borrowed a bit of Prohibition-era lingo.
“Speakeasies” were high-end establishments where alcohol was served, while “blind pigs” referred to lower-end establishments. Patrons were charged admission to see a blind pig, or some other freakish animal attraction, and were given a glass of ale with admission.
‘I Read It in the Paper’
“Blind Pigs, Speakeasies and Moonshine” is one of two presentation Loch will be giving this month as part of One Book, One Rosemount.
On Sept. 22 he’ll present “I Read It in the Paper,” an interactive talk at which guests will piece together details from the life of a prominent, early-1900s Rosemount resident based on articles published in the Dakota County Tribune.
Loch, who researches local history by reading old editions of newspapers at the Wescott Library in Eagan, said he uncovered about 300 short news items about William Cadzow, who was involved in politics, owned a hotel, managed a baseball team and had his hand in a host of other aspects of Rosemount civic life.
The presentation, Loch said, is about “how you really can find out the history of an individual and a place by reading the columns you find in old newspapers.”
“I Read It in the Paper” will be held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, and “Blind Pigs, Speakeasies and Moonshine” is set for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27. Both events will be held at the Robert Trail Library in Rosemount and are geared to adults and youths ages 12 and older. Admission is free.