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Moorhead Prohibition Fears


The Fargo Forum reported the fears of Moorhead residents concerning North Dakota’s prohibition on this day in 1917. The national Reed Amendment was to take effect on July 1 of that year, and residents of Clay County feared the consequences for their area. Although prohibition had been a feature of North Dakota since it gained statehood in 1889, the state’s prohibition act was restricted to the sale and manufacture of intoxicating beverages. The Reed Amendment would include an additional provision banning the shipment and transfer of alcohol into the state, making North Dakota completely ‘bone dry.’ This amendment would make arrests much less difficult for prohibition enforcement officers as anyone even caught in possession of liquor could be charged. The old law required the violator to be caught in the act of selling or manufacturing, or for officers to provide sufficient evidence to prove the action beyond doubt. Minnesota, on the other hand, allowed individual counties and areas to decide prohibition for themselves, and although Clay County had elected for prohibition in 1915, their law was modeled on the more lenient North Dakota law. North Dakota’s tougher law would make Minnesota a much greener pasture for bootleggers, and Moorhead residents feared that their city would become the headquarters of liquor shipments into North Dakota. Citizens also believed that once North Dakota became completely dry on July 1, Moorhead’s close proximity to Fargo would also make it vulnerable to blind-pig establishments, at which North Dakotans would be able to obtain a wet drink only a short drive from home.

With the July 1 date quickly approaching, Clay County farmers called a county conference on May 15. There, citizens passed a resolution that would prohibit shipments of alcohol into Clay County at any point. The farmers felt that this measure would deter possible bootleggers from flooding the area. Attendants of the meeting unanimously voted to adopt the resolution, and it was forwarded to the Minnesota Public Safety Commission by Judge C. A. Nye, the elected chairman of the meeting. When the Reed Amendment went into affect on July 1, twenty-three U.S. states became completely ‘bone dry’. That same week, a sack full of coconuts was seized by a prohibition agent in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The coconuts were en route to their destination, and had been emptied of their milk, filled with whiskey, and plugged with a cork stopper.


Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. May 16, 1917: p. 8.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. June 28, 1917: p.1.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. July 2, 1917: p. 2.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. July 5, 1917: p. 8.