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About This Site

Midwest Warehouse, approx. 1930.

During Prohibition, northern Natrona County developed a reputation for being somewhat lax in the enforcement of the liquor laws. Indeed, however, as pointed out by Professor Larson, Larson 2nd Edition revised, pp. 439-443, with the fines being regarded merely as a source of revenue and a cost of doing business. Indeed, however, public officials may have taken enforcement lightly, when the officials themselves may have been known to imbibe. Professor Larson cites, as an example, Judge T. Blake Kennedy's complaint that he had loaned the state prohibition commissioner two quarts of gin for a party, but it had not been returned. The judge concluded, "If he could replace it, it seemed to me that he was getting liquor from an illegal source." It may, however, be questioned as to where the judge got the gin.

Midwest Theatre, Midwest, Wyo., 1920's

The theatre was torn down in 1960. In Natrona County, similar instances relatling to violation of the Prohibition laws were found. Judge Volney Jean Tidball described in colorful style one incident involving Byron J. Powers where the laws against moonshining were enforced:

The defendants are brothers, and lived on homesteads in Natrona county about two miles apart, located in what is described as "the sand hills" some 20 miles from Casper, on the lonely, wind-swept, dry, and sandy desert. In the middle of the Carl Powers place was located the only improvement, save a fence, that had been erected on his homestead, said improvement consisting of a still house constructed of fence posts and covered over with mother earth, situated in a commodious sand blow-out. The furniture in this house consisted of a still of large dimensions, and thirteen 50-gallon barrels of mash. Directly from this still house to the home of B. J. Powers, but leading nowhere else, there was a road which showed signs of much use by a narrow-tired wagon.
On the B. J. Powers place was a small tar-paper covered house, a barn, shed, and corral. On the fateful day alleged in the information, an undersheriff of Natrona county, named W. C. Irving, and a federal prohibition agent, S. R. Owens, went to call upon the Powers brothers at their respective homesteads. Before arriving at their destination, Sheriff Irving had car trouble, and returned for repairs, but Owens proceeded on his journey, and, after visiting the still house on the Carl Powers place, took up a lonely vigil on a hilltop overlooking the still house in question. After a long wait his vigilant effort was rewarded. B. J. Powers rode up to the still house, dismounted, then, seeing the lonely figure on the hilltop, remounted and rode up to where Owens was situated, and, at the latter's urgent suggestion, B. J. remained until Irving's return. Irving then invited Powers to go on ahead and wait by the gate at the B. J. Powers homestead until the arrival of Irving and Owens. B. J. proceeded as directed, but failed to stop, and was seen no more until late that night. When the officers arrived at the B. J. Powers home, the horse that B. J. was riding was there in the corral, but the rider was missing. In the house were three sacks of sugar and a sack of corn. Near the house, in another sand blow-out, was a shed which, the evidence indicates, had been used as a storeroom for barrels, and nearby was found a barrel with the bung removed, but still containing some 20 gallons of moonshine whisky.
About 9:30 that evening, defendant C. R. Powers arrived at the B. J. Powers homestead, driving a narrow-tired wagon laden with a 50-gallon barrel of gasoline, 20 gallons of kerosene, some coal, and an empty 50-gallon barrel, and he was placed under arrest. Later, about midnight, an automobile drove by, going south, and immediately the two officers started in pursuit and followed for about a mile. The pursued car then turned off its lights and was lost to view. Later, two other cars appeared on the scene, and from 12:15 to 2:15 in the morning the three cars were pursued by the officers over the trackless prairies in a radius of about three miles. It was in the morning after this chase that the 50-gallon barrel containing about 20 gallons of whisky was found on the prairie where the chasers and the chased had operated. During the chase, Undersheriff Irving recognized B. J. Powers as one of the occupants of one of the automobiles that was pursuing its elusive way over the prairie unmindful of roads and barbed-wire fences. At the time of his recognition, B. J. was down by the side of his car unwinding barbed wire from a wheel by the glare of a flashlight which he held in his hand. The next day, the B. J. Powers car was found in Casper in a badly scratched condition, the windshield broken, and with barbed wire wound around its wheels. There are other circumstances related in the testimony, but we believe this sufficient to show the nature of the state's evidence. The defendants offered no evidence. State v. Powers, 33 Wyo. 424, 239 P. 1044 (1925)

Enforcement of the prohibition laws had an unintended impact on sporting parlors. The proprietress of one such establishment observed. "You can't run a sporting house on crick water."

Midwest Hotel, 1920's

The question might be posed as to just how close must W. C. Irving been to recognize Powers at 2:15 in the morning, out in the sand hills squatting next to the wheel, and yet not be able to effectuate an arrest? We may now have an answer. Willian C. Irving later became state law enforcement commissioner. In 1930, Irving was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to violate national prohibition laws.

Midwest Oil Company Office, Midwest, Wyoming, approx. 1930.

Another Natrona County defendant was caught with 600 gallons of illegal hooch and defended on the basis that it was "sacrificial wine." The judge asked incredulously, "600 gallons of sacrificial wine?" To which the defendant replied, "Well, I ship it to Rock Springs, Cheyenne and Sheridan." The Defendant was fined $100 and his still was confiscated. As to Rock Springs, it was unlikely that there was a shortage of "sacrificial" wine. Rock Springs was the center of Wyoming's wine industry. During the fall, as many as 100 freight car loads of grapes would be parked on the North Front Street siding awaiting the consignees to claim the grapes. The principal Rock Springs varietal wine was "dago red." In Rock Springs, Mike Perko, would normally fill some of the need. Unfortunately, he purchased three tons of bad grapes from the Rock Springs Commerical Co. When he failed to pay for all of the grapes plus 4 barrels, the Commerical Company sued. He defended on the basis of breach of warranty. He argued that the company "warranted the [grapes] to be fit and proper for making wine, and intoxicating liquor, prohibited by the laws of the state of Wyoming and the laws of the United States;" that the grapes were, instead, "musty, damp, and green, and that they did not make wine, but vinegar, and that said grapes when received were in a spoiled condition and unfit for use in the making of wine." He lost in the District Court and on appeal in the Wyoming Supreme Court. See Perko v. Rock Springs Commercial Co., 37 Wyo. 98, 259 P 250 (1927).

Midwest Clubhouse, approx. 1930

In Midwest and Edgerton, the story is still told of "Rippy Joe" Parsons, a local moonshiner. In those days, the Knighten dairy would deliver milk by wagon and ladle it out from the milk cans into the customers' own containers. Rippy Joe, observing Ina Knighten delivering the milk, adopted the same system, driving down the street in the wagon and ladling out the booze for his customers. Rippy Joe was also noted for being somewhat parsimonious, collecting wool from barbed wire fences and saving it in a gunny sack.

Edgerton, approx. 1930.

Edgerton is located approximately one mile from Midwest. Edgerton was allegedly named as a result of being on the edge of the Salt Creek Field. Another possibility is that it took its name from early rancher Frank Edgerton.

Midwest Waterplant, approx. 1930.

Midwest, undated

Music this page: Whiskey in the Jar.

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