Prohibition Days in Durbin

Many of you recognize Jason Bauserman as being the “Bartow Weatherman” on Allegheny Mountain Radio, but Jason is also quite the historian, He is the Chairman of the Pocahontas County Historical Landmarks Commission. He also has been researching the magistrate’s records for the Cass area regarding alcohol arrests made during Prohibition. Prohibition began with the January 15, 1920 ratification by the states of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which made it illegal to manufacture or sell alcoholic beverages in the U.S.  Prohibition lasted for thirteen years until it was repealed by the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933.  Bauserman tells us some of the interesting things he has learned about those times in Northern Pocahontas County.

“I have all of the Justice of the Peace books from the Green Bank District” said Bauserman. “so, this did include down to Dunmore, Cass and this whole upper end. And I want to talk about in particular, right when Prohibition started. And that really changed a whole lot in this area.”

“The unbelievable thing as the Justice of the Peace was J.B. Sutton -James Byron Sutton- that did live in Cass. In fact, his home is still there. It is the Cass Inn that he had as his home. That was a nice brick building on the East side of Cass. And, he was also an undertaker. But J.B. Sutton actually had all the cases. He was the Justice of the Peace from 1919 until 1933. Since he lived in Cass, most all of his arrests took place in the Cass area.”

“I have been writing down the names of every person that was arrested by J.B. Sutton, and I probably have at least three hundred names, and in fact, in a one-day period -there must have been a big drinking party- and there were five pages (of names) all from the same site of about twenty arrests.”

“And the Justice of the Peace, I never see in the books where he ever went to school.”

“There were so many cases in this county. And this was a felony if you were caught with alcohol, the Justice of the Peace was deciding those cases, and I’ve never seen a Justice of the Peace try a felony, they were always sent as a felony down to Marlinton to be tried at the courthouse.”

“Now, up here, the Sheriff was Brown Buren Beard, who was Jessie Powell’s father. And I think he was in from about 1920 t0 1926. And Jessie, who was my great neighbor, she often told me stories of going with her father, as a sheriff, when he would make an arrest.”

“I found very interesting what alcohol was made from. Locally, a lot of people would make out of corn what was called ‘old hen.’ And the good Justice of the Peace actually had a list of what you would put in. He told you how to make old hen from corn. It was sugar, yeast, fermentation, and then run it through a still. But alcohol was also made out of potatoes, peaches, elderberries, raisons, and apricots. So, there were quite a few local things that could be used. A lot of what they made was in a fifty-five gallon -probably wooden- barrel.”

“You could be arrested if you had a still, if you transported alcohol, if you were just caught drinking with friends, and you were fined one-hundred, two-hundred or three-hundred dollars, and you quite often spent thirty, sixty or ninety days in jail.”

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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