…..Pescadero during Prohibition…..(1)

[Note: I wrote this in 1977.]

More than 20 prisoners watched in misery as Sheriff T. C. “Brick” McGovern shattered 1,000 bottles of illegal whiskey with a hatchet in 1925–at the peak of Prohibition.

It was the “father” of our country, George Washington’s birthday, and as fumes filled the county jail in Redwood City, the unhappy inmates, stuck behind bars, called the sheriff’s actions “un-American”….adding that Washington would have disapproved of such extreme measures.

Their humorous analysis didn’t move the sheriff as two convicted bootleggers were ordered to pick up the shards of glass and haul them off the garbage heap.

Strict Prohibition laws kept federal agents on their toes, with one eye on the goings on at secluded Pescadero, a favorite drop-off spot for rumrunners. In the early 1920s Chief Field Agent W.R. Paget led his armed forces in a raid on Ano Nuevo Island, south of Pescadero.

By then Paget and his men, interested in self-preservation, preferred to carry sawed-off shotguns on all Coastside missions. At Ano Nuevo*** as the unsuspecting smugglers unloaded their valuable cargo of whiskey from a small boat, Paget’s men cautiously closed in on another rumrunning operation near Pescadero.

According to plan, the feds, with guns drawn, completely surprised the smugglers. When the agents shouted “Give Up,” the heavily armed rumrunners instinctively dove behind the boxes of Scotch whiskey (which then sold for about $90 a case in San Francisco.) The smugglers, accustomed to danger, swore to risk everything, including the booze, before giving up to the authorities.

Bullets riddled the booze boxes, permeating the air with the strong smell of whiskey. The smugglers fired back, and there was a lot of noise, but on this occasion they were outnumbered and it was easy to figure out who was going to win. The final act was anti-climactic, a real frowner, as the rumrunners ran out of ammunition, dropped their weapons and emerged from their makeshift barricade.

Reportedly, Paget arrested several men and seized more than 240 cases of whiskey. Paget labeled one of the nameless men as the “man,” or “the mastermind,” behind three major liquor operations that routinely smuggled contraband whiskey from Canada to California.

Other reports described the same nameless man as the president of a Canadian rumrunner’s organization.

….Look for Part 2…..

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