Taking on the Blind Pigs
North Dakota entered the Union as a dry state, and perhaps as a consequence, it has quite a history of bootlegging. One place to purchase illegal alcohol was a speakeasy, named for the habit of speaking quietly at the door to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Such establishments in North Dakota were also known as “blind pigs.” The owner of the illegal saloon would charge customers to view an attraction, such as a blind pig, and would serve complimentary drinks. A blind pig was considered a lower-class establishment.
A great flurry of excitement over illegal liquor rippled throughout Grand Forks on this date in 1900. The Grand Forks Herald reported that six indictments had been handed down against Andrew Lindelie, the secretary of the State Enforcement League. The State Enforcement League was charged with enforcing prohibition. Lindelie was accused of taking bribes and destruction of evidence. Lindelie was not in custody very long. As soon as he was indicted he posted bail of $2,100.
The evidence against Lindelie was the testimony of F.J. O’Leary, who was accused of running a blind pig in Larimore. O’Leary said he paid Lindelie $100 to protect his blind pig from the law. Lindelie countered, saying he received no money at all from O’Leary. O’Leary said that in the summer of 1898, Lindelie wrote to him and advised him to leave Larimore immediately, to avoid prosecution. And that Lindelie agreed to return O’Leary’s money, but only after O’Leary returned the letter. O’Leary said that exchange did indeed take place, during a clandestine meeting.
Lindelie asserted that the charges against him were trumped up by his enemies. As secretary of the State Enforcement League, he said he had earned the enmity of blind piggers who were trying to run him out of office and discourage the League from diligent enforcement of the law. Lindelie’s friends said they were willing to testify on his behalf. They said it was doubtful that Lindelie could be found guilty without the evidence of the letter, which he was accused of destroying.
The affair sparked a great deal of local interest. The Herald was sure it would be a topic of conversation for quite some time to come. And while we don’t know the outcome of the trial, we do know that it would be another 33 years before prohibition would end.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Fargo History Project.
Accessed 13 November, 2015
Grand Forks Herald. “The Grand Jury.” 14 December, 1900.