Julius Roth, “Intox Driver”, 24 May 1941

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By the end of 1921, two years after the start of prohibition, illegal liquor was a major trade in Lawrence County. Jack Dunlap, a thirty-year-old former state policeman and private security officer for US Steel, was appointed county detective in January 1922 and told to shut down the bootleggers’ operations. He began a campaign of raids, uncovering stills in farms outside New Castle and houses around town and arresting hundreds of liquor manufacturers and traffickers, from the Serbian gang who had constructed a huge underground alcohol factory beneath a farm to the west of the city to small-timers like Julius Roth, a Carpathian-German immigrant who ran a domestic still on his farm on the county line road.

Julius arrived in the United States from Transylvania in 1920, a few months after prohibition became law, and bought a small piece of property on which to raise a herd of dairy cows. His land was the last remnant of the farm that had belonged to Charles Whippo, the chief engineer of the Beaver and Erie canal that had first made New Castle an industrial centre in the 1840s. Whippo’s grandchildren had sold most of the land to the Lehigh company, which had torn up the fields to get at the rich limestone below and built a cement factory on the portion adjoining the plot that Julius owned. Consequently, Julius grazed his cows on a high pasture on the Desprink farm a mile away, where, one summer, a quarter of his herd was killed by lightning.

Julius was arrested by Jack Dunlap on a liquor charge in May 1922 and given a short sentence. The next time Dunlap arrested him, he received a $500 fine and three months in the workhouse. On his third arrest, he was given eighteen months.

By the end of 1922, a year during which Dunlap had presented the court with up to eighty bootleggers a month, the county had earned $10,000 in liquor-related fines. In 1923, the sum doubled as Dunlap and his deputies—known in the press as the three musketeers—made ever more arrests. On 19th June 1924, fifty pounds of dynamite exploded under Dunlap’s home on Epworth street. The kitchen was utterly destroyed and the lower floor of the house was wrecked. Dunlap, his wife and their baby, who had been sleeping upstairs, were unharmed.

That Sunday, more than a thousand people crowded into the First Methodist church to show their support for Dunlap. His character and work were praised by speakers who denounced the bombers as foreign anarchists who were determined to undermine law and order in America. One city official said, “How Lenin must have laughed if he heard of the atrocity.” The editor of the New Castle News said, “Get the dastards who attempted to destroy Mr Dunlap and his young family as they slept. Get these persons who would tear down the very foundations of this country’s freedom, and leave no stone unturned to see that they are brought to the summary justice they so richly deserve.”

Dunlap was not present at the meeting—the audience was told that he was out working on a case—but he later said, “This is not the first time that an attempt has been made on my life by bootleggers and violators of the eighteenth amendment. About a year ago, a foreign-born resident of this county planned to take my life. We have received many intimations in the past few months that the bootleggers were out to at least annoy us, if not take our lives. They have called on the telephone in an effort to frighten my wife. They have rapped mysteriously on the doors and windows and disappeared and many such little things in the effort to frighten me and those associated with me. However, despite their efforts, I expect to continue to do my whole duty.”

The police believed the bombers to have been part of an Italian rum-running gang that was consolidating its control of the liquor trade in western Pennsylvania. No one was ever charged in connection with the crime.

In the year following the bombing, Dunlap made more arrests than ever before. The revenue raised from liquor-related fines rose to $35,000. However, when Dunlap’s four-year term was up at the end of 1925, the new district attorney declined to reappoint him. Dunlap tried to run for sheriff, but failed to win the Republican nomination. In the end, he had the support only of the organised prohibitionists; everyone else favoured a change of approach. There were significantly fewer liquor arrests in subsequent years.

Dunlap celebrated his last day as county detective with a raid on the de Mary farm, which resulted in the confiscation of the biggest still ever found in Lawrence County. A few days later, he became the county probation officer and spent the next forty years operating the city’s juvenile detention home and the industrial schools in Morganza and Oakdale. After his retirement, in the late 1960s, he organised New Castle’s annual old-timers’ day celebrations. He last appeared in the press in 1969, leading the old-timers through Cascade park as the band played, “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Julius Roth continued to work on his farm beside the cement works. His only crime following the repeal of prohibition was driving while intoxicated, for which he was arrested—and had his mug shot taken—in 1941. He died in 1948, at the age of seventy-three.

Sources: New Castle News (23 Jan 1907, “Options On More Land”; 11 April 1922, “Another Big Still Raided By Detective”; 1 May 1922, “Charge Bribery Attempt Made”; 29 May 1922, “Cave Men Distillers Operate Huge Still In Mahoning Township”; 1 June 1922, “Gave Bail Of $1,000 in A Liquor Case”; 17 June 1922, “Two Sentenced On Liquor Charge”; 4 Sep 1926, “Grand Jury To Meet Monday”; 29 Sep 1926, “Prisoners Taken To Penitentiary And Workhouse”; 15 November 1922, “Big Clean-Up Is Being Made”; 16 April 1923, “Find Immense Booze Plant Underground”; 19 June 1924, “Bomb County Detective’s Home”, “Cowardly Attempt Will Not Check My Efforts To Do My Whole Duty”; 23 June 1924, “Hundreds At Big Mass meeting”; 27 June 1924, “Seek Detective Dunlap Home Bombers In Erie”; 2 Jan 1925, “500 Cases Tried in 1924”; 11 Feb. 1925, “Officers Penetrate Secret Room; Find Pretentious Plant”; 2 May 1925, “Alleged Bootleggers Taken Friday Night”; 2 Oct 1925, “Dunlap Withdraws As Candidate On Prohibition Ticket”; 14 Nov 1925, “Three Arrested For Operation Of Immense Still”; 31 Dec 1925, “Mammoth Still Is Confiscated Last Night By Officials”; 2 June 1926, “County Detective Makes Arrest On Liquor Charge”; 15 June 1931, “Five Cows Are Killed By Lightning”; 26 May 1941,“Auto Driver Is Under Arrest; ”6 May 1948, “Deaths Of The Day”; 23 June 1966, “Dunlap Honored For 50 Years Service In Correction Field”; 7 Aug 1969, “Oldsters Gather For A Special Day In The Park”).

15 Comments

  1. Mike V. says

    “By the end of 1921, two years after the end of prohibition, illegal liquor was a major trade in Lawrence County.”

    I think you meant “two years after the START of prohibition”.

  2. Mike V. says

    I hate to nitpick so much, but I think you might mean the Beaver and Erie Canal (a.k.a. the Erie Extension Canal) made New Castle an industrial center. This canal was part of the Pennsylvania Canal system. The Erie canal was in New York.

    I don’t know if Charles Whippo was involved with the Beaver and Erie Canal, or just the Erie Canal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver_and_Erie_Canal

    • Quite right again, Mike! My confusion comes from the fact that some 19th century articles in the New Castle News referred to the Beaver and Erie Canal as the Erie canal, as their readers would know they meant the canal that goes from New Castle to Lake Erie, not the canal in New York state. As I had never heard of the canal in New York state, I just used their term. Thanks so much for pointing out my error – I really appreciate it!

  3. johnny says

    Good story.
    I thoroughly enjoy the picture.
    The man looks totally gassed.

      • johnny says

        yep, and the overalls. you can tell that he’d worked his ass off earlier and that shirt is laden with sweat/dirt.
        i picture him behind wheel of a Beverly Hillbillies type of rig, just zig zagging all over the road after taking some of Grannie’s special Mountain Medicine…

  4. I just happened upon this site by chance. How surprised I was to see it was a story about my grandfather Jack Dunlap. I remember my dad telling me years ago when I was a boy, the story of how some unknown criminals set off some dynamite underneath the porch of their house. He was 3 1/2 yrs old at the time. Both my dad and I were named after my grandfather. My earliest memories of him are when he was the superintendent of the boys home in Oakdale. I remember at a young age going there on Christmas and other holidays. My grandmother died in ’66 while my dad was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. My grandfather was living in Chicora when he died in 1982. He is buried in New Castle at the Oak Park Cemetery.

    My father continued the law enforcement tradition in my family. After college (1942) he joined the Army Air Corp and flew B-24 Liberators out of Cerignola, Italy. He was in the 15th AF, 461st BG(H), 765th Sqdn. After the war he joined the FBI and became a special agent. He did that for about 7 yrs. In 1953 during the Korean War he returned to the Air Force to fly again. After the war ended he transferred to Air Force Intelligence for the remainder of his career. He retired in OCT/1970 as a Major. For a couple years after that he worked as an investigator for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, while waiting for a civil service job opening. In ’72 he began working for the U.S. Army Provost Marshal Office both state side and overseas. He returned to the U.S. around ’79 and transferred to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (King of Prussia, PA) where he stayed till his retirement sometime in the mid ’90’s. Not one to just sit around he got a part time position with the Chester County Sheriffs Dept, as a deputy sheriff. There he stayed till around 2000 when at that time he resigned. He then moved from Exton to a retirement community in Willow Street and lived there several years. On Feb. 06, 2007 my father passed away at the age of 86. He was buried at Arlington Cemetery with full military honors. Another from the greatest generation laid to rest.

    I thought I would include a little more to the time line. It seems the people that visit this site are genuinely interested in the history surrounding New Castle.

  5. Hi Jack – thanks for dropping by; it’s an honour. And thanks for fleshing out the story, too. I became very impressed with your grandfather while reading about his exploits in the old newspapers. I’m glad that his line appears to be doing well!

    I suppose you’ve probably seen your grandfather’s old house in New Castle – the one that was bombed – but just in case you haven’t, here’s a link to a photograph I took of it last summer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/angusmcdiarmid/5979534198/

    Thanks again for writing. I really appreciate it — Diarmid

  6. I was aboy in boys home in 1961/1962. would have never knew mr dunlap had a life as he did. some one needs to go on with this story . I feel honored to have known this man. readed grandsons article about his dad also great man. I am 70 years old and enjoy history very much. Mr Dunlap is apart of history.

    • Thanks very much for writing, Robert. Mr Dunlap seems like quite an amazing man, and you’re lucky to have know him. He’d be a great subject for a movie…

  7. Jack C Kenna Sr Grandson of Jack M. Dunlap Sr. Was surprised to see this post from My Cus. I lived with my Grandparents in Oakdale for 18 years till I joined the US. Marines. My Dad left my Mom when I was like 6 months old and my Granddad and Grandma took my mother in to live with them I have the best childhood a person could ask for. I can tell you many stories about my Granddad. If Hollywood would ever want a real story. This man’s life would be one good one.As I said My Cus. dad found my Dad as he skipped town to pay for Support and Granddad took all rights from him away and was made my Gardening. Even My Mom did not know this till I joined the Marines. When She had to sign for me cause I was 17. They said OK Now we need his Granddad’s permission. Like I’m saying I could tell lot’s of stories about him But I do not think there is enough space On hear to do so. He also was a State Policemen Back in the early 1900. He meant my Grandma then and they were married in 1918. That is a story in it’s-self. This man was like living with Wild Bill Hickcock and Eletot Ness Combined. I never seen anyone shoot a pistol as well as Him. I’m a very bad writer and speller. So If you want more Let me know. I may of not had a Dad growing up. But Grandad took that place and was the Best. But I was very lucky to of Had two Mom’s. Grandma and Mom. I always signed my Letters for Vietnam your Son and Grandson.
    Jack .

    • Hi Jack. Thanks for writing. I would LOVE to hear more stories about Jack Dunlap. Any time you want, you can leave another comment on this page with a story or a memory about him. I mean it. Lots of people come to this site to find out about people from Lawrence County’s past, and I’m sure a lot of people remember your grandfather. It would be great if we were able to memorialise him here!

      • Glad to see your interested. Let me say this before I start. My spelling is the worst. so you will have to forgive me. Let’s see. Where do I start? Well Let me start before I was born and tell you what My Mom and Grandma told me.Have you ever heard of Glen Dage and IrIine Shorder? She was the first women Put to death in the ELE. Chair. Hear is there story. She was a Bad person and got in with this Glean Dage who was suppose to be a Good guy. They had a son Called Donnie Shorder. One day while doing some bad stuff. They were pulled over by a state Policeman in East Brady I think. May Of been New Castle. She shot Him and they fled to Az. One day the little boy was I think in a town there and seen a Policeman. The boy said to him. My Mommy shot a man like you. This started there being caught. They were all brought back to New Castle and held in the Jail there during there Trial. My Mom watched the Little boy and Played with him. I’m guessing after they were put to death he was Adopted. My Grandma was telling me one day they was out for a ride in there Car.( A model T I’m guessing) Along with them was his Deputy. Elmer Tinsman and his wife With the deputy driving and the women in the back seat. A car went around them and The driver must of given Grandad the Bird. He said to the deputy. There wanted pull up along side then. Grandad got out on the running board jumped on to there running boards put a guy in the guy’s face and said pull over and arrested them. (No wounder my Grandma had 5 heart attacks) She was also a Probation officer. Another Time They found the head of a person in a swamp. At that time a Streetcar ran from New Castle to Pittsburgh and the Deputy had to put this head in a Hat box and take it there to be reconstructed to find out who it was.When Grandad was a State Policeman In Armstrong And Butler County he would ride his horse all around stop the Train Board the train with his Hoarse go so far stop the train get off and continue his route. He said one place They called shanty town there was so many Killings that the Creek ran red with blood and they never could solve all of them. It was around this time My Granddad meant my Grand ma.He was dev. from his first wife and was 6 years older then My Grandma. He Dad did not like her dating Grandad. (Her Dad asked what she wanted with that old man) But Her Dad was surfeiting with a Bad Heart and Granddad sat up with him many nights and so her Dad got to like Him and When he died He said He wanted them married befor he was put in the Ground. So on the was to Youngstown on the train they stoped in New Castle and was Married at the Eptworth Church. This will be all for now. The next time I’ll give you more of when My time was with them if you like?

        Jack

  8. That’s wonderful stuff, Jack — thanks for writing it down! I’ve heard of the Irene Schroeder case, and it’s interesting to hear about your family’s involvement with it. And also the head in the swamp case — I guess that’s part of New Castle’s Murder Swamp story, which is one of the more gruesome episodes on the county’s history. I’m not kidding when I say that the stories of Jack Dunlap and his family would make a great TV series. (I hope someone’s listening!)

    Looking forward to hearing more from you. Thanks again!

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