04 April 2012

John McBrearty Convicted of Violating the "Blind Tiger" Law

"Blind Tiger" (a term popular in the southern states) is a lower class version of a speakeasy, a place that illegally sold alcohol during Prohibition. Prohibition in Georgia, by the way, was from 1908 until 1935. This started well before and went on after the national prohibition of 1920 to 1933. In a mid-September 1914 week in Macon, seventy prohibition cases were on the docket for the city court. John McBrearty was one such case.

Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
10 February 1914, pg. 8

Police Secure a Barrel of Whisky and Claim to Have Evidence of a Sale. McBrearty Denies Ownership.

For the second time since the first of the year, the police have raided John McBrearty's grocery store on Monroe street and gotten sufficient whisky to warrant charges of violation of the city blind tiger ordinance and the state prohibition law. The last raid was made last night by Chief Riley and Plain Clothes Officers Morris and Dave Riley.

Not only was a barrel of whisky taken from McBrearty's place, but a sale is also alleged to have been gotten on him, which the officers are confident will "stick" when the case comes to trial. McBrearty declared the whisky did not belong to him and that he knew nothing about it.
I conducted some research in an effort to make sure this article pertained to the John McBrearty (1882-1961) resting beside his wife Margaret Thomas (1882-1957) in the St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery section of Rose Hill. The 9 April 1930 Federal census for Macon, Bibb County, Georgia lists John with his wife Margaret and son John F. (1913-2005, also buried in same plot as parents). John and Margaret were both born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in the early 1900's. They were married about 1911.

In the 1920 census (same family, same locale), John is listed as a retail grocery store owner. And in the 1918 Macon City Directory, John is listed (with Margaret) as being a grocer at 336 Monroe.

In late June 1915, after John exhausted his appeals, the final ruling came down:

Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
23 June 1915, pg. 11

John McBrearty Must Pay Fine of $150 Imposed by the Recorder

Clerk R. A. Nisbet, of the superior court, yesterday received notice that the court of appeals had affirmed the judgement of the superior court in the case of John McBrearty, convicted at the February term, 1915, of violating the "blind tiger" law...McBrearty was sentenced to pay a fine of $150 or work sixty days on the county roads.
Another interesting find was John McBrearty in the 1910 Macon, Bibb County, Georgia Federal census. He was working for grocery merchant John Moss (born Ireland) as a Near-Beer clerk. Seems John McBrearty really was in the "thick of things" during Prohibition!

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