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The case of the mysterious barrel of whiskey

By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times

The opening of the railroad museum in Morehead reminded Janis C. Ellis of a great railroad story she heard long ago from her father. She shared the story with me. 

His name was Lindsay Caudill and he worked for the Railway Express Agency which handled freight for the railroad. 

Alcoholic beverages were illegal in the entire U.S. during Prohibition (1920-1933) and everyone was expected to cooperate fully with federal agents, called “revenuers”, who enforced the anti-booze laws. 

In the course of his work at the Morehead freight station, Mr. Caudill handled everything from caskets to livestock to crates of currency. He likely was not surprised when a barrel of Canadian whiskey showed up one day on the freight manifest. 

Like all law-abiding citizens were required to do, he notified the local police who, in turn, alerted the revenuers that someone would be coming to claim that barrel of whiskey.

When the wooden barrel arrived in Morehead, it was unloaded and stored on the wooden platform at the end of the freight station. 

Armed with rifles, the revenuers took up positions on the second floor of a hotel across the street and waited for the culprits to show up to retrieve their illegal, untaxed whiskey. The federal agents waited and waited. After three days of surveillance with no suspects, they decided to examine the barrel.

To their surprise, the barrel was empty. They turned it over and found a hole had been bored through the bottom. Lo and behold, a hole of the same size was visible in the freight platform which is enclosed down to the street level.

It didn’t take the revenuers long to figure out that someone had crawled under the platform, drilled those holes, drained the whiskey into other containers and left town.

I believe it was President Andrew Jackson who said he had never seen a Kentuckian without a gun, a deck of cards, and a jug of whiskey.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com



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