In the late 1920s the country started in on the great Prohibition. The hills around Colorado Springs became candidates for home-grown bootlegging, and El Paso County was a hot spot for stills, producing gallons of illegal brews each week.
I recently ran across a story of one of the largest operations ever raided in this area, though by the time this raid happened in the spring of 1936, Prohibition was over.
It seems that the sheriff was alerted to suspicious activity at a ranch some six miles north of Colorado Springs. The ranch was near the Porter gas station on the Denver Road. In researching the spot, it would be near where the south entrance to the Air Force Academy is located today. The ranch was a quarter mile west, which would put it not far from Monument Creek, well into the edge of the forest. Photographs show a simple two-story house, with basic farm buildings near it. It seems several days were taken to watch the spot. Quite a bit of grain and sugar had been purchased for the farm over the last year from a variety of sources, probably to lessen any suspicions.
The sheriff — assisted by federal agents — decided to take action early in the morning. They were quite taken by surprise when they saw the size of the operation. In the back of the house they found a still nearly the full height of the building; it extended well into the rafters. In an adjoining building, a tank for the mash was found, holding some 18,000 gallons. It was estimated that the still could produce hundreds of gallons a day.
The operation was clearly the largest ever found in the area, and had been producing its product for several years. The discovery of the works obviously interrupted a massive production schedule. Initially, it was thought that most of the product was being shipped to Denver and Pueblo for sale, but this was later found to be only part of the network.
Today this spot is unlikely to be recorded for posterity.
E.M. “Mel” McFarland is an artist, historian and railroad enthusiast. Mel is a Pikes Peak region native and has written a handful of books and guides highlighting the area’s rich history. With questions and ideas for his column, contact Mel at email@example.com.