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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: A Chronicle exposé named the two Canadian towns it alleged were behind the worst of the region’s booze smuggling

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )

The Spokane Daily Chronicle continued its bootlegging exposé by naming the two Canadian towns most responsible for smuggling traffic: Yahk and Creston, in British Columbia.

Both of these small towns had large liquor exporting firms. The Chronicle said that anyone could watch American cars pulling up to the export houses all day long. They did not load up with liquor there. Instead, they ordered their liquor, crossed back over the U.S. boundary line empty, then surreptitiously went back to the border via little-used road through the woods and met a car from the Canadian export company. There, they made the transfer.

For large deliveries, the export houses would simply drive their cargo over another secluded road from Yahk and load it onto rail cars bound for Spokane. The article claimed that Yahk was also a distribution point for narcotics into the U.S.

Even the established customs house at Port Hill was porous. Only one customs officer was stationed there, and “he is almost wholly dependent upon the honesty of the motorist” in reporting cargo.

Also from the bootlegging beat: The state’s Prohibition enforcement chief, Leroy C. Lyle, concurred with an earlier report that branded Ferry County as wide open to bootleggers.

He called Ferry County “a breeding place and a rendezvous” for all kinds of criminals. The law-abiding populace was afraid to speak up.

Prohibition agents sent into the region were invariably met with stony silence.

“Why, these people are afraid to harbor us, and they are even afraid to feed us,” Lyle said.

Occasionally, local citizens had cooperated with agents, but then “they become tongue-tied and afraid when we want them to testify in court,” he said.

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