Internal Revenue Officer Gawne’s big haul on Kauai

Prohibition — which made it illegal to manufacture, sell, import, export and transport intoxicating liquor, with certain exceptions — was enacted in the Territory of Hawaii on Aug. 20, 1918, about a year and a half before the 18th Amendment came into effect throughout the United States on Jan. 16, 1920.

The first federal agency charged with enforcing Prohibition was the Bureau of Prohibition, a unit of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which maintained an office in Honolulu.

In August 1919, Honolulu Internal Revenue officer J. S. Gawne arrived on Kauai to attempt to detect illicit distillation and sale of alcohol.

Thereafter, during a casual visit to a local tin shop one afternoon, he discovered two stills being assembled and was informed by the tinsmith that others had been built and distributed to distillers, but the tinsmith would not reveal his customers’ identities.

Later, while engaged in a friendly game of pool in Nawiliwili, Gawne by chance saw an Oriental man through an open window lugging a five-gallon demijohn from a nearby house to a woodshed.

He immediately ran outside, commandeered the demijohn filled with liquor and entered the house, where he found another 10 gallons and, later, five gallons more in the woodshed.

Gawne also uncovered a cellar beneath the house, in which he located two barrels of mash in process of preparation — 150 gallons or so.

After arresting the owner of the premises, Gawne turned him over to the deputy sheriff, took possession of the incriminating evidence and placed it under seal.

A subsequent investigation led him to a camp at the foot of Lihue’s German Forest, where he seized two stills in operation and an eight-quart bottle of liquor.

Following his apprehension of the German Forest moonshiner, Gawne released him to the custody of the deputy sheriff, seized the illegal stock and returned to Honolulu after a successful two week investigation on Kauai.

Incidentally, the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition in 1933.


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