Thursday, May 17, 2018

The devil du jour and Norwood's midnight rangers

The boys were fighting that war to end all wars on the battlefields of Europe and strong drink was the devil du jour across America back in September of 1918 when a bootlegger made the mistake of including the village of Norwood on his travel itinerary whilst heading from Chariton to Des Moines with at least 150 pints of whisky.

Here's how the Herald-Patriot reported in its edition of Sept. 26 what happened after Norwood's midnight rangers had given chase and recovered the whiskey, but lost the bootlegger:

"Last Friday evening an Overland car belonging to Gomer Evans was stolen from the public square in Chariton. Officers reported the theft to nearby towns, and late in the evening citizens of Norwood, in Ottercreek township, discovered a strange car approaching.

"They ordered the driver to halt, but instead he speeded up. Larb Harvey and several others started in an auto in pursuit and shot at the fleeing driver, who commenced to throw packages out of his car, thinking that when his pursuers stopped to pick them up, he would gain on them, and then he didn't want to get caught with the wet goods in his possession either.

"He was driving a Hudson 'Six' and was chased to the Des Moines city limits, where he managed to elude his pursuers and make his escape. About 150 pints of whiskey were picked up from the roadside and are now stored in the city jail.

"The following morning the stolen Overland was found near the county farm, minus one tire. While the fugitive did not have the stolen car, he had contraband goods in his possession that would have landed him in the locker."


The brief article also brings to light two given names --- Gomer and Larb --- that give the whole affair a vaguely hillbilly flavor although nothing of the sort would have been thought of at the time.

Gomer is Biblical (as in the eldest son of Japheth) and Gomer Evans (1878-1937) was a coal miner of Welsh descent who had moved his family from Lucas to Chariton during 1914 and gone to work in the expanding mines stretching northeast into Pleasant Township. He also was an active union organizer, a mainstay of the Latter Day Saints church (now Community of Christ) and active in a variety of community affairs. Badly injured in a mine accident during 1933 he died at age 59 in Gary, Indiana, where he and his wife had moved in order to be nearer four of their eight children.

Heaven only knows by this time where "Larb" came from, but it was borne proudly by Larb Harvey (1874-1944), remembered primarily as a Norwood-area farmer. In 1918, however, Larb was operating an automotive repair garage in Norwood and selling Jeffery automobiles. Whether or not the Norwood rangers took out after the bootlegger in a Jeffery I can't say.

1 comment:

ruth said...

Many fond memories of my teen years living on a Norwood, Iowa farm.
Ruth nee Rosenberger Ferguson