April 24, 2024
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Lyndonville: Vermont’s Notoriously Tough Prohibition Town

Vermont’s Toughest Town Moves to Rid Itself of Gangsters

Lyndonville, Vermont

Photo courtesy of Doug Kerr and Wikimedia Commons

The Boston Evening Transcript headline proclaimed the news on July 29, 1931: “Vermont’s Toughest Town Moves to Rid Itself of Gangsters.” Prohibition was at its height with two more years to go before its repeal by the Twenty-First Amendment.

Lyndonville Town Residents vs Big City Bootleggers

During the Prohibition era in the early 20th century, the small town of Lyndonville, Vermont developed a widespread reputation as one of the toughest towns in the state. This was due to the village's rise as a major hub for rum running and gang activity along the Canadian border.

Lyndonville's strategic location made it an ideal spot for smugglers to transport illegal liquor from Canada into Vermont and beyond to other markets. Its proximity to multiple back roads connected the remote town not just across the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, but also to neighboring New Hampshire and beyond.

The most notorious bootlegging gangs operating out of Lyndonville were based in metropolises like Boston and New York City. These big city mobs brought violence and vice to the otherwise quiet Vermont community as they feuded over territory. Local law enforcement and resistant residents were caught in the crossfire both literally and figuratively.

Vermont Locals Have Had Enough

Tensions between the town residents, local authorities, and invading mafias came to a head in July of 1931 during a series of dramatic, wild events that epitomized Lyndonville's rough-and-tumble notoriety across Vermont.

First came a major raid by federal prohibition agents on a Lyndonville hotel that was serving as warehouse, resulting in 4 arrests and the seizure of a large liquor stash. This was followed days later by a shocking daytime shootout between two rival bootlegging gangs right on Main Street in broad daylight, leaving one dead among several wounded.

Having had enough, over 500 Lyndonville citizens signed a petition begging state and national authorities to help rid their town of the mob influence plaguing them. A large protest saw locals form their own vigilante protective force, cooperating with the law to reclaim their community from the grip of Prohibition's most defiant criminals.

This succession of defiant resisting acts against Lyndonville’s pervasive rum trade culture let the state know that Vermont locals were through with being victims and pawns caught between the mob wars. The tough townspeople were determined to unravel the web of gangsters using their home as a bootlegging battleground.

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