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Family ties to bootlegging during prohibition

Posted on May 13, 2024   7 minute read Family ties to bootlegging during prohibition

As we get older, we get more nostalgic. As both my parents have aged, my brother and I have spent time going through things they have kept/collected throughout the years. In doing so, you come across all sorts of interesting things, I feel like the older you get, the more interesting some of those things become.

One thing I came across a few years ago, and flagged for future research, was a newspaper clipping. Actually it was more than a clipping, it was the entire front page of the May 13th, 1924 Sedalia Capital. The headline at the top of the newspaper read

AGENTS FIND BIG STILL

I saw this and wondered why would my father have this paper, it was from 21 years before his birth. The 1920s were deep in the prohibition era, and if you spend any time researching that time period you’ll find almost daily mentions in the papers about violations of prohibition.

Being that this article was published 100 years ago today, I figured it was a good time to put a blog post together about it.

When Dad passed last year, I spent some time in Sedalia for his funeral and also for my uncle and great aunt’s funerals. In doing so, I was able to spend some time walking around a couple of cemeteries and looking at the various names. One of those names was Butterbaugh. The article mentions the Still was found in a raid of the E. H. Butterbaugh farm, north of Sedalia. The Hammond and Butterbaugh families have a lot of space consumed at the Hopewell Cemetary north of Sedalia.

I’ve spent some time over the past couple of years dabling with ancestry.com, trying to see how far the family tree stretches, earlier this year I went down the rabbit hole of tracking down who E. H. Butterbaugh was, and how we are connected. Before I get into the family specifics, let’s take a look at a couple of the articles I’ve been able to dig up relating to this corn whiskey still. Besides the Sedalia Democrat front page, I was able to use NewspaperArchives.com to track down a number of reports and details about the raid with a variety of articles that reported on it through the years.

Here’s the text of the article from the Sedalia Democrat from May 13, 1924 (image of article transcribed by ChatGPT, I’ve tried to ensure correctness but it’s possible it missed some words, original paper clipping attached to the gallery)

IMMENSE STILL SEIZED IN RAID LATE MONDAY

Found Concealed Beneath Barn on Farm of E. W. Butterbaugh.

What is declared to be the largest still ever sized in Pettis county was found late Monday afternoon by Sheriff W. H. Fewell, Deputy Sheriff Landon Welch and two federal officers working under Chief General Prohibition Agent W. D. Moss, of Kansas City. In an underground room on the farm of E. W. Butterbaugh, eight miles northeast of Sedalia. The officers were acting under a search warrant issued by United States Commissioner W. E. Miller.

Butterbaugh was taken in custody, brought to Sedalia and appeared before Commissioner Miller, where he furnished bond of $1000 signed by J. W. Roach, for his appearance at a preliminary hearing before Commissioner Miller, at 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon, May 17.

So carefully concealed was the still that although the officers had received tips, stating that it was underneath the barn, they searched the place for two hours before they finally came upon a trap door under the manger, covered with hay, which led down steps into a concealed room, where the fifty gallon capacity copper still was found. He was brought to the county jail by the officers.

This room, the officers stated, was 12 by 15 feet, well ventilated, and lighted by a lamp. The farm had been searched about a half dozen times before, but although the officers had received their information very straight, they were unable to locate the hiding place.

Nearly 300 gallons of mash was found, but no corn whisky. The officers did find about a gallon and a half of corn whisky in jugs across the road from the Butterbaugh place, but were unable to find to whom it belonged, or by whom it had been placed there.

According to the officers, they tapped the telephone wire leading into the home, and overheard a conversation in which some one “tipped” Butterbaugh to the fact that the raid was going to be made. “This is Fred” the voice is said to have informed Mrs. Butterbaugh, and told her to get her husband, and get him quick. Later, the officers stated, a car left the Butterbaugh place, going south, and returned in about twenty minutes.

Butterbaugh later admitted to the officers that he had removed the coil from the still, and had thrown it into the creek.

The officers also arrested three negroes, during the afternoon, Melvin Jones, charged with selling four and one half pints of corn whisky for $1 per half pint; Oscar Bell, charged with possessing and selling corn whisky, and Babe Bell, also charged with possessing and selling whisky. All were released on bond and bound over to the action of the federal court, which convenes in Jefferson City in October. The bonds of Oscar and Babe Bell, for $500 each were signed by their mother, Mary Preston, while Jones’ bond was signed by his brother-in-law, A. T. Jackman.

The federal officers stated this afternoon that they had been given splendid support in their work in Pettis County by Sheriff W. H. Fewell and his deputies.

How am I connected to E. W. Butterbaugh? Well, through a lot of digging and family tree research I have determined that Edward William Butterbaugh was the step grandson of my 3rd Great Aunt on my father’s side. Kicker, he’s also the Stepson of my 1st Cousin 4x removed….

Here’s a more detailed breakdown.

My 4th Great Grandfather on my Dad’s side was Anson Hammond (1821-1864). Anson was married to Margaretta A. Witty Hammond (1825-1891), they had 8 children. My 3rd Great Grandfather was their second eldest, Barzillia Hammond. Their youngest Daughter was Susan E. Hammond (1858-1939). Susan E. Hammond originally married Benjamin Ditton in 1874, they had I believe two children Wilbur and Ruth Ditton. (In finalizing this article I came across a third child, listed below.)

I believe Benjamin Ditton passed and Susan remarried in August 1890 to David Butterbaugh. David and Susan had 2 children between them, Margaret Jane “Maggie” Butterbaugh (1891-1969) and Golda “Goldie” Hazel Butterbaugh (1893-1981). David had 7 children prior to marrying Susan. One of those children was William B. Butterbaugh (1864-1952), Edward W. Butterbaugh’s (1891-1965) father.

E. W.’s mother was Elizabeth Edwards (1876-1891). Now here’s the twist. E.W.’s father William, after Elizabeth’s passing, married Edith M Belle Ditton (1876-1911), who I believe to be Susan E. Hammond and Benjamin Ditton’s daughter. So, E.W.’s grandfather was married to his step mom’s mother (step grandmother).

Butterbaugh Prohibition Issues

In doing research for this article, I came across multiple short blurbs in newspapers about the Butterbaugh family having run ins with the law during prohibition. I wish I had a connection to a recipe or something from back then, would be cool to start a Butterbaugh Whiskey business based on family history! I’ve included a number of different incidents and paper mentions in the gallery here.

Hammond Family History

Stay tuned for another Hammond family history post next month as I get into the topic of Mattie Corrine Hammond! I’ll post that over on HorsesAndCars.com as it doesn’t have a whiskey tie into it (that I’ve found).

Here’s another Hammond Family history article that is actually a transcription from something that Susan E. Hammond wrote before she passed.





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