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”).

11 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…

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