Great Grandmother was a bootlegger

Like many Native Nevadans, I have attempted to collect interesting stories about my own ancestors and write them down before they are lost and forgotten forever. I have searched many old newspapers for snippets of stories that mentioned the “Cassinelli” name and some of the antics they performed.

Grandma Was A Bootlegger

In my book, Chronicles of the Comstock, I described how my ancestors started out as a farming and ranching family in Dayton in the late 1800s. They were engaged in supplying livestock, hay and produce to the Comstock and surrounding area.

My Great Grandfather, Pietro Cassinelli, arrived in Dayton about 1889 after working his way across the country from the east coast and working for a time as a cowboy on the old Chisholm Trail. He soon married Theresa Deluchi and acquired a ranch along the Carson River where the couple raised a family of 12 children. About 1910, the family left Dayton and a few of them started ranches in the Reno area. I grew up on a ranch on Glendale Road owned by Pietro and Theresa’s son, Pete.

I recently learned from Kim Henrick, Sharon Honig-Bear and Debbie Hinman that they had found an article in the Nevada State Journal about my great grandmother, Theresa Cassinelli, being arrested for bootlegging during the prohibition days. I was very surprised to learn that this had ever happened, since the old timers were always tight-lipped about things that had happened years ago and the more I learn about them, I can easily see why.

During the prohibition days, federal and City of Reno law enforcement officers, sometimes called prohis, conducted what they called “Dry Raids” to apprehend people possessing or selling alcoholic beverages. The following article appeared in the Nevada State Journal on March 30, 1931:

Reno Dry Raids Net Local Woman

Another raid and one arrest were added yesterday to the list of six raids and seven arrests made Saturday night in Reno by the local prohibition force, when a residence at 345 West Third Street was entered about 2:30 o’clock and Theresa Cassinelli was taken into custody.

The woman had about 100 gallons of wine in her possession, local officers said. The wine was hauled away and stored in the government vaults in the basement of the city hall. Mrs. Cassinelli will be taken before the United States Commissioner, Anne Warren for arraignment sometime this week, it was stated.

When I was a kid, I remember Pete Cassinelli telling me that the family took a Motel A flatbed truck down to Napa California every fall to bring back a load of grapes for making wine. No one ever did tell me that his mother was arrested for being in possession of 100 gallons of bootleg wine. I have since learned that The Italian families were the leading suppliers of illegal liquor in the Reno area during prohibition. Since wine was an integral part of their culture, many Italian citizens were arrested for making the vino. In 1921, a Reno newspaper reporter commented that the grand jury indictment list “looked like an Italian telephone book.”

I remember being told that Theresa Cassinelli had been hit by lightning when visiting at the Glendale Road ranch as she stood by a well that was located near the corner of Glendale Road and what is now 21st Street in Sparks. Perhaps this was her punishment for some of her escapades during the prohibition days.

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