And Now You Know: A disagreement between Russian John and the Bootleggers raises questions

Published 5:26 am Saturday, May 29, 2021

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Mike Louviere
And Now You Know

Sometime in late June or early July 1903 an altercation, possibly an assault with a pistol occurred between a man known as “Russian John”, Guy Hoover, and (possibly) a group of (alleged) bootleggers. The incident was reported in the Orange Leader, Russian John was greatly offended by the report and sent a letter to the editor to set the record straight.

Russian John wrote that the Leader had written “false and untrue statements” regarding his recent arrest.

“I have seen in your daily publication about me, Russian John, that I was to attack the Honorable Guy Hoover with a pistol and the telephone call to the sheriff’s office that saved his life. This is “false and untrue”, wrote Russian John.

He then gave his version what happened: “I saw Guy while on my way to the butcher shop on the afternoon of June 23 when I went to get my dog some meat. As I was coming out with a package of meat, I was arrested and willingly gave up my pistol without any objections.”

That was his comment about the first article. He then addressed an article that was printed the following day: “In Monday’s paper appeared again that I have made threats of violence against Guy Hoover and at their request, the citizens of the eastern part of the city, I was arrested because of my boisterous conduct.” He then labeled these statements “false and fabrications”, and noted that they were probably made by moonshiners, “with whom I have had difficulties, they who burned my house down with everything I had, (and) sunk my boat afterward during the night with the balance of my personal effects left from the fire.”

Russian John did not name the moonshiners, who were probably rough customers. He explained why they were so down on him, “I caught a moonshiner’s boy one bright Sunday morning taking brass works off my engine. He was a boy of only about 16 and on account of his age, I let him go. How many of your eastern citizens of Orange would do that?”

Russian John continued, “I have been known here for about 18 years as a law-abiding citizen and I guess the Orange County Courthouse will hardly carry my name at all. Why Guy Hoover is mentioned in your paper so much and for me to attack him is something I do not understand. I have never had any words with him for I think he is a virtuous gentleman and strictly attending to his own business. I have known him and seen him in Phoenix Lake near about my place most every day in the week for the last three years with fishing poles and good bait in his skiff.”

With these issues taken care of, he then began to address the “important part.”

“Now about the pistol, the pistol was bought by me Sunday morning from a man who arrested me on the Louisiana side and asked me to cross him over. This occurred as I landed and having given the man $1.50 for the gun. I left it at Wright’s restaurant until I could do some shopping. Getting ready to return home, I got the gun and the meat for my dog. I saw Guy but did not bother him. I was arrested, but not for attacking anyone. Yours Respectfully, Russian John,”

This, according to Russian John was the true story. It is a bit confusing. He does not give many details, and it was questioned at the time if he had written the letter to the editor by himself since it seemed to be “a little legal and literate” for Russian John to have written alone.

Russian John’s letters raise a few questions: Why was he arrested? Did the moonshiners set him up and if so, did they go after him again? Who were the “citizens of the eastern part of the city”, and did they have cause to complain to the sheriff again about Russian John’s conduct?

“And now you know.”