Local jurors side against liquor agents in Prohibition-era trial




This picture postcard identifies the members of the Leitz family, circa 1920. Back row, Leola and Alberta Leitz; middle row, Katherine and Fred Leitz, and baby Frederick; and front row, Fanata and Alvina Leitz. Photo from Steve Chou’s vast historic photo collection.


MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


During Prohibition, scandalous notices dotted local newspapers, identifying citizens arrested for trying to outsmart the law.

In January 1927, a Palmyra woman living near Greenwood Cemetery was seen dropping liquor bottles out of a window as law enforcement officers approached her front door. While no liquor could be found inside the house, 13 pint-size bottles of moonshine were discovered hidden in the tall grass along the fence row.

The following March, a Hannibal couple was arrested after Sheriff Bender and Deputy Marks unearthed a liquor cache in the rear of a house on Hannibal’s Fulton Avenue.

At the end of March, federal prohibition officers entered the establishment operated by brothers, Fred and Louis Leitz, 310 North Main St., Hannibal. The agents, Robert A. Brock and Thomas J. Kearney, maintained that they each purchased liquor at the establishment, and the Leitz brothers were subsequently indicted in April by a grand jury for the sale of intoxicating liquor.

When the case against Fred Leitz came to trial in September, the jury of 12 men failed to believe the testimony of the agents, and returned a verdict of not guilty. Subsequently, identical charges were dropped against Louis Leitz.

By 1927, Prohibition had been the law of the land for seven years. This time frame allowed ample time for the establishment of an underground network of moonshiners and illegal importers to supply the liquor needs and wants of a thirsty population.

And that thirsty population had likely grown weary of the government’s mandate on sobriety, which may have led to the jury’s unanimous vote in favor of the local shopkeeper, and against the federal liquor agents.


The jury

Some of Hannibal’s notable citizens served on that jury in the Hannibal Court of Common Pleas:

Asa J. Garland, painter

John F.. Cole

A.C. Winkler, foreman for the CB&Q Railroad

E.M. Plowman, Plowman and Greenville

John B. Sultzman

Phil Miller, Miller & Worley dry goods store, 224 Broadway

T.C. Moon (foreman Storr’s Ice and Coal Co.)

Clarence Dodds

August Lohmeier, former manager of City Brewery Saloon

E.L. Seibel, plumbing, heating and electrical contractor

J.B. Wheelan, salesman Hannibal Garage and Machine Co.

W.T. Greenville, Plowman and Greenville


Neighborhood

For many years, the neighborhood of North Main Street, where the aforementioned illegal liquor sales were alleged to have taken place, and the 200 block of North Street, served as home and business locations for the extended Leitz family.

Fred and Louis were sons of Louis Leitz (1850-1923) and Minnie Leitz (1861-1924), who lived at 206 North Street as early as 1897. Fred Leitz’s daughter, Leola Leitz Hatten Waide, lived at 202 North Street as late as 2000. (She died in 2004, at the age of 99. Mrs. Waide operated Hatten’s Cigar Store at 318 N. Main from 1943 to 1969.)

By 1911, the Leitz family had moved to 210 North, and it was in this house that they hosted a family reunion for 28 relatives in May 1920.

In attendance were their children, George L., Louis and Frank Leitz, all of Hannibal, Fred Leitz and family of Troy, Ill., and Mrs. Anna Hagan of Ashland, Ill.

Soon after this reunion, Fred, his wife Katherine, and their children moved back to Hannibal, and after a few years made their home at 210 North St.


Five children

Frank and Katherine Becker Leitz had five children who lived to adulthood:

Alberta Leitz Dalton, 1905-1997 (married to William M. Dalton)

Leola Leitz Hatten Waide 1905-2004 (married first to Henry Bryan Hatten (1897-1943); second marriage to Leroy Clinton Waide (1900-1966).

Faneta Leitz Chase, 1909-1985, (married to Erby Chase in 1928)

Alvina Leitz, 1911-1992

Frankie W. Leitz, 1917-1937. Died at the age of 19 from complications of diabetes. At the time of his death he lived with his parents at 210 North St.

Son Frederick died as an infant, according to family data.


Street department

Fred Leitz held several jobs throughout his career, including that of a painter, a laborer, a carpenter and a mine worker (at Jarvis, in Madison, Illinois). In the late 1930s, he was employed by the Hannibal Street Department.

In fact, he was one of nine street department employees who were unexplainably fired in August 1939, to be replaced by nine new employees.

This unfortunate situation became the basis for a loud and angry exchange between councilmen in early August, 1939.

Council members asked John Fogel, street commissioner, if the men had been laid off because of drunkenness or incompetence, and he said they had not, but that he had received orders to discharge them.

Council members wanting the men reinstated:

William Gilbert

Peter M. Walterscheid

Jones

Mueller

Councilmen who did not want the men reinstated:

Moore

Shaw

Morris

Mahan

Harry Johan

Those employees affected by the firings, were:

Perry Hinds

Life Wyatt

L.E. Lefever

C.A. Thurston

Herbert McCann

C.E. Cashman

Dan Mahoney

V.L Lonergan

Fred Leitz


Death calls

Fred Leitz died June 10, 1946, and his wife, Katherine, died Oct. 28, 1951. At the time of their respective deaths they lived at 210 North St., in a house that is still standing in 2022. They are buried together at Grand View Burial Park.


Note: The 1940 census shows that Fred Leitz was employed by the city as a laborer. At least some if the men may have been reinstated in their jobs with the city. The story about the firings was published in the Quincy Herald Whig, Aug. 8, 1939.



Frankie Leitz, age 17, is pictured in his Western Union uniform. The picture was taken beside the home he shared with his parents, Fred and Katherine Leitz, 210 North St., Hannibal, Mo. Two years later, Frankie died of complications from diabetes. Photo from Steve Chou’s vast historic photo collection.




A headline in the Sept. 20, 1927, edition of the Quincy Herald Whig declares that Fred Leitz was found not guilty of selling liquor during Prohibition. Accessed via the Quincy Public Library’s newspaper archive, https://www.quincylibrary.org/newspaper-archive/.



Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.editor@yahoo.com Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com

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