This blog was inspired by a great story that ran today in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about the rum runners of Lake Ontario. The newspaper had the ability to cite previous issues of itself dating back to 1921.
I was surprised to learn that prior to being a main route for alcohol smugglers during prohibition, Lake Ontario was a major gateway for fleeing slaves heading towards Canada.
The smuggling would reverse direction with Lake Ontario becoming a smuggler hot bed from 1923 to 1930. During this time, 56 smuggling boats were seized, with two smugglers killed by federal agents.
The biggest threat for smugglers on Lake Ontario was the weather, primarily ice. If ice didn’t crush the hull of your boat, it most certainly crushed your morale. From the article, “Now I’ve had a lot of tough jobs, but none to compare to that…There were times when we actually wished the Coast Guard boat would appear, take us off that craft and put us somewhere where it was warm.” Sounds like smuggling was pretty fun.
The other great lakes also served as alcohol portals into the United States, as did the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which extends from Montreal to Lake Erie.