Friday, December 11, 2015

Prohibition arrests leave Broward, Fort Lauderdale high & dry without local law enforcement

Man raising his glass in a toast. 19--.
 State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

By Jane Feehan

Liquor flowed to and from South Florida during Prohibition (1920-1933) and according to Jacksonville-based Federal Prohibition Administrator P.F. Hambsch, many across the nation knew about it.

In 1926 Hambsch decided to clean up that reputation.

In April that year, he wrote to Broward Sheriff Paul C. Bryan outlining the problem and asked for monthly reports on arrests of bootleggers and seizures to refute the widely-held notion that little was being done to enforce the law. According to Broward County Sheriff historian, William P. Cahill, Bryan said he “was ready to cooperate.”

Cooperation included Bryan’s invitation to send agents so he could get to know them. Unbeknown to Bryan, two agents were sent to work undercover as bootleggers for three months, gathering evidence for arrests. They paid $750 to the sheriff and his men in weekly installments of $5-$15.  

With protection payments, bootleggers enjoyed full police protection to make and then distribute booze to Miami, Palm Beach and other east coast resorts. There was evidence a few bootlegging rings were financed by some wealthy and respected citizens of Broward County and Fort Lauderdale. (And so evolved the moniker, Fort Liquordale).

In January 1927, raids were conducted by 18 agents, and a few Coast Guardsmen and customs inspectors, resulting in 41 (some say 32) arrests, including Sheriff Bryan, Broward County’s second sheriff, all six of his deputies, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Bert Croft and eight patrolmen. The raiders seized eight large stills, 10,000 gallons of mash, 300 gallons of moonshine and a quantity of bottled beer.

The arrested lawmen were brought to the Coast Guard Station (near today’s Bahia Mar). They were heavily armed but their weapons were confiscated. Bail was set at $5,000 for Bryan and Croft; for the others, $2,000. The arrests left Broward County and Fort Lauderdale without local law enforcement, but according to Cahill, Bryan served out his term until 1929.The Broward Sheriff’s website states he served until 1927.

Paul Bryan, son of Louis H. and Elizabeth Bryan, was born in Volusia County in 1891 and came with his family to Fort Lauderdale in 1900. His father helped lay out the town of Fort Lauderdale. After Paul left the Sheriff’s Office, he helped run the Dania café owned by his wife, Maude Henson Bryan. Bryan died in 1942; his wife died in 1988 at age 90. Local history is framed (and here, peppered) by Bryan family civic contributions.

The New York Times, Jan. 28, 1927
William P. Cahill, Broward Legacy, Vol. 24, No. 2 (2004)
Roots Web


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