The Jamestown Alert followed a criminal case out of LaMoure County with interest a century ago.

At issue was not the fate of the criminals but the car they were driving.

According to the newspaper reports, H.K. Kottman and E.O. Valain were a couple of residents in Minneapolis and worked for a lady of some means there. One of their responsibilities was to serve as a chauffeur for this woman.

That nice lady told her employees they could use the car while she took a trip.

She probably didn’t think those two enterprising workers would use the car to make a trip to Minot to pick up some smuggled whiskey to haul back to Minneapolis.

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“All would have been lovely had it not been for an ornery sheriff down in LaMoure County,” wrote the Jamestown Alert in its Nov. 4, 1920, edition.

The thing that made this story more interesting than the normal bootlegging tale, which was common in 1920, was the car.

The vehicle was described as a “big Stearns 8.”

Stearns cars were the luxury limousine of the era. The cars were also considered the fastest vehicles of the era with racers such as Barney Oldfield using the vehicles for some competitions.

Depending on the model, some of the vehicles sold for as much as $3,500 prior to 1920. Adjusted for inflation, that would be about a $90,000 vehicle now.

While the courts sorted it out, the car was “doing as well as could be expected at the LaMoure County Motor, Co. garage.”

The two whiskey runners were each fined $500 plus court costs and released by a federal court in Minot. That was the penalty for hauling “80 gallons of good American whiskey” back in 1920.

A couple of months later, the lady now identified as Anna Palmer and the sister of one of the men arrested driving the car full of whiskey, appeared in court.

Palmer produced the receipts for the purchase of the car and convinced the judge her brother had used the vehicle without her consent.

The judge ordered the car be returned to its owner.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at