SAUK RAPIDS -- One hundred years ago Americans were living in the time of prohibition, but that didn't mean the folks in Benton County weren't enjoying a little nip of alcohol.

Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says the sheriff at the time was under a lot of pressure.

That the sheriff was put in because the sheriff really wanted to enforce moonshine but was basically told by the people if we can't feed our families you won't feed your family and he struggled with that trying to find a fine line.

Ostby says there are stories of some pretty famous gangsters hiding out in the county too.

It was very hush hush but on his way on the run Al Capone was hiding out in Mayhew Lake someplace in that Popple Creek area for a while.

She says Highway 10 was known to be a big route for running moonshine.

Benton, Stearns, and Morrison counties all voted to be wet counties so a majority of their residents never supported prohibition.

She says farmers would produce the 'moonshine' and sell it to businessmen in towns like Sauk Rapids who had converted their bars into "soda shops" or "billiard halls" and sold the liquor on the down-low.

She says the Studer family is one of the more well known for selling the liquor.

They were one of the finest brewers of moonshine in Benton County.  The Studer moonshine sold for about $25 a gallon.

In fact, some of their customers included the local Catholic priests.

With the priests of the area, he would get them moonshine.  He called it 'angel protection' from the federal government.

The Studer family still has been donated to the Benton County Historical Society and is on display there.

Photo courtesy of the Benton County Historical Society

Ostby says at the time common everyday products like sugar and copper wash bins, which were needed to make moonshine, were monitored closely by store owners.

Once prohibition ended that's when we saw a lot of municipal liquor stores start opening because the government realized there was money to be made in alcohol.

The Volstead Act lasted from 1918 through 1933 and got rid of whiskey, brandy, and beer.

Benton County Historical Society

Once a month Ostby is on the News @ Noon Show on WJON talking about the forgotten history of Benton County.

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