View Full Version : Bootlegging days

11-13-2008, 13:42

bathtub gin and the whole shootin' match - by Nancy Nixon

"Many a poor farmer turned to boot legging as a source of income. Auburn resident Felix Marchizza, a member of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative, Auburn, was born and raised in southern Illinois' Franklin County, and remembers bootlegging well. He says that in the 1930s, he was a young boy in about the second grade. His dad was a coal miner and the family barely lived from day to day, so bootlegging kept food on their table. Once, when an officer arrested him and threatened to put him in jail he retorted, "You can do that, but you'll have to feed my family." .......

"My dad did a lot of bootlegging," Marchizza says. "We kept the still in the shed or in the basement, depending on where we lived at the time." He adds, "My dad's buddy had a big still set up in his barn and we sold moonshine to the Mafia in Chicago. They bought it a truckload at a time. They'd come down south in their Model T- and Model A-trucks, and men with machine guns would stand guard while they were loading up." .....

When asked what he thought of the Mafia back then, Marchizza replies, "Heck, we couldn't wait for them to come. We were so poor we couldn't afford to buy candy, so whenever they came down, the Mafia members would bring all the kids candy.".....

"For a number of years, during Prohibition, southern Illinois was the battleground between warring bootleggers, the Shelton Gang and the Birger Gang.".......

"There ain't a little town around here that's not gonna miss its whiskey. These farmers may vote dry on election day, but they drink wet on Saturday night. We can run enough rum up here from the Bahamas to flood all of Little Egypt (southern Illinois)."........

"One would think the law would step in and try to break up these gangs and the illegal bootlegging. In reality they were literally overpowered and outnumbered by the local gangs who used armored cars with bulletproof windshields and machine guns. In addition, some lawmen were known to take bribes to keep the peace in their small towns, and sometimes to even make a little money on the side."...........

"Today, some evidence of the Prohibition era still exists in Illinois. Bootlegging continues in some areas of the state, while some counties are dry, meaning alcohol can't be sold there. "......

11-13-2008, 14:34
Bootlegging wasn't the only cause of violence in that vicinity. A search for "Bloody Williamson", including the quotes, yields an astonishing 3,750 hits.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

11-13-2008, 14:51
Wow! That area is your home turf isn't it Dave?


"Williamson County is often referred to as "Bloody Williamson" due to several outbreaks of violence that have few parallels in American history.[6] These include the following: the Bloody Vendetta, 1876; the Carterville Massacre, 1899; Coal Strike, 1906; The Herrin Massacre, 1922; the Klan War, 1924-1926; the Birger/Shelton Gang War, 1926."

The Herrin Massacre occurred in June of 1922 in Herrin, Illinois. 19 strikebreakers and 2 union miners (Jordie Henderson and Joe Pitkewicius) were killed in mob action between June 21-22, 1922.


"The Bloody Vendetta of Southern Illinois covers the deadly family feuds and Ku Klux Klan activities during the decade following the Civil War focused in the counties of Franklin, Jackson and Williamson."

Another lovely bucolic rural area.....

11-13-2008, 18:22
Wow! That area is your home turf isn't it Dave?


I grew up, at least part way, about three counties north of there, where coal country gives way to oil wells and rolling hills transition to broad vistas. My home town of Flora was an ingrown hair on the ass of the world.

I didn't hear many crime stories as a kid on the 1950s. However, we had one police officer who allegedly won the admiration of all by entering the Silver Moon Saloon alone and taking into custody one Charles "Blackie" Harris (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-us&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=%22blackie+harris%22+illinois&spell=1) , whose name is connected to the Shelton gang.

My wife is from Jackson County, which borders Williamson County on the west.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield