Willamette’s Summer Market (Moonshiners & Bootleggers)

Some Oregon Moonshining History ...


Hi and welcome to another episode of Around The Neighborhood with me, Scott McMahon.  This is the show about the quest for fun, history, and mystery in our backyard.


And today, we’re headed back to another Wednesday at the Willamette Summer Market where we’ll be discovering all the liquor goodness from our local moonshiners.  As you can see, we’re nowhere near West Linn and the Willamette Market, but here at the coast.  And that’s where our story begins.


When it came to prohibition, Oregon was actually ahead of the curve.  Way back in 1836, missionaries formed the Oregon Temperance Society and their presence and mission became part of most Oregon state laws.


Believe it or not, a lot of Oregon’s historical banks that exist today were built from the profits of liquor.  But that didn’t stop the temperance movement from declaring public drunkenness as a public health crisis and was able to pass prohibition in the state of Oregon in 1914, and to be enforced in 1916.  Federally, prohibition didn’t get passed until 1919.  So, Oregon was a dry state 3 years before the United States passed the amendment.


Fast forward a few years to 1932, and illegal liquor sales had become big business for over a decade.  Oregon was no exception to this illegal profiteering.


In February, 1932, a boat named the SEA LION, ran aground here in whale cove, or back then was referred to as Bootlegger Bay.  We know it as Depoe Bay today.  Anyway, the SEA LION was manned by three Canadians who buried 400 cases of whiskey in the sand and then set the boat on fire.  I guess to hide their tracks?  The Canadians would switch out the license plates and steal a car to drive up to Portland.  But they fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a ditch, where the police found them and saw that the license plates were switched.  The Canadians were arrested, and the fire they set to the boat back at Bootleggers Bay, well that drew attention from the locals who found all the whiskey buried in the sand.


That’s just the beginning of the story.  The Canadians and the 400 cases of whiskey were held in the Toledo Jail, which is a few miles inland from Newport, Oregon and Depoe Bay.  A few months after the arrests of the Canadian bootleggers, in the dead of night, men in 4 vehicles drove down the streets of Toledo towards the jail.  Armed with machine guns and welding equipment, these men broke out the Canadians, grabbed as many of the cases of whiskey as they could and headed back north up to Portland.  The jailbreak was led by the Remaley Gang.  The ringleader, Paul Remaley, was an international motorcycle racing champion who held world records.  But I guess he dabbled in bootlegging on the side.


Anyway, someone snitched about the jailbreak and police from Tillamook came racing down towards Toledo.  When they passed an unusual convoy along Highway 18, they spun around to chase them.  And that was it.  The bootleggers just stopped their cars.  There was no shootout or bloody demise, just a surrender. 


There’s a great story about all of this over at the Oregon Historical Society’s website and our state government’s website, which I’ll leave links in the description.  But yes, that’s a little bit of history of moonshiners and bootleggers here in Oregon.  But today you don’t have to smuggle in whiskey from Canada, or do a jailbreak, or be on the run from the police, you can simply go to your local farmer’s market.  And that’s where we’re headed right now!


But before we zoom over to West Linn, you may be wondering what happened to all the whiskey?  They dumped it into the Columbia River, which traveled to the sea to be lost forever.  Alright, let’s head back to the market!




You know, one of the great gems in West Linn is that it’s the home of Old Oregon Photos dot com.  Owned and operated by John Klatt, it’s become one of the best resources to find historic photos for the whole state of Oregon.  Speaking of moonshining, John’s wife, Jody, one of her favorite photos happens to be “Chicken and Beer”.  Just a bunch of jokers from Oswego who were enjoying some beer and chicken.  This was back in 1910, so little did they know that liquor was going to be outlawed 6 years later.  Another photo from the 1930’s shows two fine gentlemen sharing a drink up at Pete’s Mountain.  So, there’s a little bit of history from the West Linn area.  Again, you can find more photos at Old Oregon Photos dot com.


And if you get a chance, always try to sneak away to get to the coast.  I mean, c’mon.



Oregon Historical Society Article: https://ohs.org/blog/the-moon-shines-on-the-moonshine.cfm

Oregon dot gov article: https://sos.oregon.gov/archives/exhibits/prohibition/Pages/rameley.aspx

Historic Willamette: http://historicwillamette.com

West Linn Historical Society: http://westlinnhistory.org/

Willamette Ale & Cider House: http://www.aleandcider.com/

Maui Melts: https://mauimelts503.com/

Trail Brew: https://trailbrewpdx.com/

Gompers Distillery: https://gompersdistillery.com/

Dregs Vodka: https://www.dregsvodka.com/

Straightaway Cocktails: https://www.straightawaycocktails.com/

Coin Toss Brewing: https://www.cointossbrewing.com/

Catman Cellars: https://catmancellars.com/

Just Rum: https://justrum.com/

Sidlab Haircouture: http://www.sidlabhair.com/



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Scott McMahon, Real Estate Broker

Licensed in the State of Oregon

Premiere Property Group, LLC



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