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Wet Or Dry?

February 2024
1min read

WHEN F. E. ABERNETHY, THE SECRETARY-EDITOR OF THE TEXAS FOLKLORE SOCIETY , did some digging at the Museum of East Texas in Lufkin, he came up with documentary proof that a local legend was true. The conclusive photo he found, he writes us, “shows John Young Fowler standing on the walkway to his liquor store built over the Neches River. Previously, Fowler had had a honky-tonk—a dance hall and beer store— on State Highway 94, on the Angelina County bank of the Neches River.

 
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WHEN F. E. ABERNETHY, THE SECRETARY-EDITOR OF THE TEXAS FOLKLORE SOCIETY , did some digging at the Museum of East Texas in Lufkin, he came up with documentary proof that a local legend was true. The conclusive photo he found, he writes us, “shows John Young Fowler standing on the walkway to his liquor store built over the Neches River. Previously, Fowler had had a honky-tonk—a dance hall and beer store— on State Highway 94, on the Angelina County bank of the Neches River.

“On March 28, 1936, Angelina County voted dry, and shortly thereafter Jim Townsend, the county attorney, closed down Fowler’s beer store but left the dance hall. Fowler circumvented the prohibitionists by building a new beer store just past the middle of the Neches River, on the ‘wet’ Trinity County side. Then he constructed a pedestrian bridge over the river from Angelina County, allowing his customers to walk about 50 yards from the dance hall, have a beer, and return in time for the next dance. To obey the letter of the law, the walkway didn’t touch Angelina County soil, so the customers had to step up and out over a gap to reach it.

“Townsend responded by invoking a law that showed Fowler’s midriver liquor store was obstructing a navigable stream, a ridiculous charge, since during a dry spell one can easily wade across the Neches. The case went to trial in the early spring of 1938, and after the jury returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict, it went on to appeals court, where Angelina County won. It is said that Townsend himself took an ax and directed the destruction of the store, bridge, and pilings.”

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