From the Vineyard Gazette edition of August 27, 1926:
Ten liquor raids, made almost simultaneously by the combined police forces of the three down-Island towns, created much excitement in Oak Bluffs on Saturday night.
In ten autos, the police, State Officer Raymond R. Cook, Sheriff Thomas A. Dexter and several Coast Guardsmen assembled at rendezvous near the New York wharf and proceeded to a point in the Eastville pine thicket near the cemetery. Here they scattered in all directions, swooping down upon the places under suspicion with a swiftness which gave no opportunity for warning.
In an hour’s time it was all over, but for many hours after there was a hurrying and scurrying to and fro by friends of the eight persons who were arrested, to furnish bail as they were arraigned, and also by the groups of men, women and children who began to congregate as soon as the police cars made their appearance.
Four moonshine stills of small capacity were found. A large quantity of mash, some shine, wine, home brew and some bottled goods, purported to be the “real stuff.” There was also many strong smelling “empties” and much paraphernalia for bottling: glass stoppers, siphons, labels, caps and so on.
Police officers assert that a virtual epidemic of illicit traffic in liquor has recently struck the town and expressed the belief that it has been nipped in the bud. This statement was borne by the fact that no great quantity if liquor was found in any one place, but there was no lack if raw material or equipment.
Lights shone from the courthouse windows until a late hour, for Judge Eldridge and Court Clerk Ferguson were busily engaged in making the bail arrangements while a crowd of excited persons filled the hallway and sidewalk in front, carrying on an endless conversation in mingled English and Portuguese. It was doubtless pleasing to the authorities to have the prisoners bailed out, since it was announced by the officers that the Edgartown jail was completely filled, and all cells in the Oak Bluffs lock-up were crammed with the fruits of this and other raids.
The places raided were those of Joseph Fraates, Joseph Dix, Antone White, Mart Concertina, Manuel Parent, Manuel Caton, Antone Andrada, Joseph Travers Barboza, Manuel Swartz, Louise Robinson. All were arrested with the exception of the Robinson woman and Andrada, whose premises failed to yield sufficient evidence warranting their arrest.
The tug Margaret Howard, which laid in Vineyard Haven harbor during the last weekend, carries equipment which speaks volumes for the ingenuity of liquor smugglers. Originally sailing under a different name, she has been seized by the government and sold, more than once, before being put into the lawful service of towing coal barges in which she is now engaged.
The liquor was smuggled in bulk and an idea of the amount carried may be gained from the fact that the tanks, built in the coal bunkers, reduced the tug’s coal carrying capacity by 50 tons. To all appearances they were water tanks and were sounded many times by inspectors even as the whiskey was being pumped from them. The game was worked in this manner:
First of all, the filling caps were under the brick floor of the galley and were plastered over after the tanks were filled. Concealed pipes then led from the bottoms of the tanks to a point in the vessel’s side well below the water line. Here a pipe passed through the side and a short piece of hose was coupled on. When the tug was at sea this hose was drawn up snugly against the side, but on making port, it was dropped under water. Under cover of darkness the hose was coupled to a longer length under the wharf, which led to a warehouse, and then the circulation pumps were started, pumping the tanks dry.
Of course, much planning must have been done before the scheme was perfected, but once in operation it worked like a charm. Men in the warehouse barrelled and bottled the liquor, and the tug returned to the West Indies for more.
But the pitcher which goes oftenest to the well is soonest broken. Somehow the agents discovered how they were being tricked and thus we ding the tug towing coal barges today, an unromantic calling, but an honest one. The tanks, however, still remain aboard and are used for carrying water.
Now that Butterfield’s band is with us again, we realize that the Island is pretty well filled with people. At the evening concerts especially, in Ocean Park, hundreds of automobiles line the roadways and the applause after each number is deafening. One must notice also that the applause after a popular dance number is much more persistent than that which follows when the band has finished a classical number. The strange part of it is that the most dignified appearing and elderly people apparently are more pleased with “Valencia” than with “Light Cavalry Overture,” although the latter is one of the most popular numbers in the band repertory.
Compiled by Hilary Wall