100 Years Ago: Sheriff Nabs Saline Bootleggers

By Brad Dison

Prohibition in the United States began on January 1, 1920, and the manufacture, importation, sale, and transport of alcohol became illegal.  All across America, people who participated in the alcohol trade, who had been law-abiding citizens, became outlaws of sorts.  Bienville parish was no exception.

Sheriff J.E. Currie was determined to “rid the parish of that class of law violator.”  Sheriff Currie installed special deputies in communities, towns, and villages in the parish whose sole purpose was to arrest illegal manufacturers or possessors of liquor, so-called bootleggers.

Deputies E.E. Howell, Jim Vance, and special deputy C.A. Sullivan had been working on a case against bootleggers in Saline for some time but until July 8, 1922, they were unable to secure enough evidence to make an arrest.  

On that Saturday night, July 8, the deputies finally got the necessary evidence to justify arrests although sources failed to detail what that evidence was.

On the following Monday morning, Sheriff Currie travelled to Saline and arrested Oliver Smith of Natchitoches parish, Tom Babers and Manie Williams of Bienville parish.  Oliver Smith and Tom Babers were charged with the illegal possession of liquor.  Manie Williams was charged with the illicit manufacture of liquor.  These were the first arrests of bootleggers in Saline.

Prior to prohibition, about 15% of all tax revenue came from legal alcohol sales.  The Great Depression in the 1930s led to a further loss of tax revenue.  Prohibition was eventually repealed on December 5, 1933.

Source:  The Bienville Democrat, July 20, 1922, p.1.

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