The book Booze, Badboys & Bootleggers: North Country Tales Grandpa Never Told You (Self-Published, 2022) by James E. Reagen chronicles the early days of Prohibition in communities across St. Lawrence County.
During Prohibition, some Northern New York families made a living as smugglers, bootleggers, and booze runners. During the first year of Prohibition alone, a Watertown police officer leaped from a moving taxi onto a fleeing car to arrest Massena bootleggers; Federal agents raided Ogdensburg by land and sea to crack down on rum-running; two Potsdam ministers helped federal agents conduct righteous speakeasy raids; a high-speed chase down the streets of Massena led to the arrest of Potsdam bootleggers; an Ogdensburg mayoral candidate defended the city’s leading speakeasy owner; 12,000 quarts of liquor were seized on a ship docked at Cardinal, Ontario by Prescott Customs agents after the booze showed up in Ogdensburg; an ALCOA crane operator’s suicide in Massena was blamed on bootlegging, smuggling, and gambling; Governor Fred Scozzafava crashed into the New York Central train in DeKalb while hauling a load of smuggled booze; burglars robbed the U.S. Customs House for booze at Rouses Point; Cranberry Lake, Norfolk, Pyrites, and others were raided; and Federal G-Men led raids across Northern New York.
The St. Lawrence County Historical Association will host James Reagen on Thursday, July 13th at noon for a talk about his book as part of their Brown Bag Lunch Series. There is a $5 suggested donation. The Association is located at 3 East Main Street in Canton, NY.
James Reagen was a long-time managing editor of the Ogdensburg Journal and Sunday Advance News. He is the author of two other regional histories, Warriors of La Présentation, a History of the French and Indian War in Northern New York and Fort Oswegatchie, A History of the Revolutionary War in Northern New York. He also published a sword and sorcery novel Wizardry: The League of the Crimson Crescent. He and his wife Donna are the proprietors of the Sherman Inn in Ogdensburg.
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