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'Fix'ing the Volstead Act on Grand Island | Crime

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'Fix'ing the Volstead Act on Grand Island
'Fix'ing the Volstead Act on Grand Island


Courier, October 27, 1925

  •    They were reputed "rum barons" of the Niagara Frontier;  one time fish pirates; owners of a score of boats, including two submarine chasers, a speedy motor craft and a $65,000 steel ferry; hated and feared; admired and liked--that's the Fix Brothers as they were known to thousands of Buffalonians and everyone along the Niagara from the Lake to the Falls.  A strange manner of men are these brothers, Frank and Charles, and interesting and romantic are their careers of forty years on the river during the course of which they arose from poor boys to undisputed power and reputed wealth. And they act just the same and talk just the same according to river veterans who have known them all their lives.
  •     Interwoven into the story of the Fixes, is the story of Grand Island, one time the pleasure ground for the wealthy and the scenes of thousands of picnics, clam bakes and old fashioned parties which ceased with the advent of Volstead. Just as the act of Volstead killed these convivial parties on the river, so did it make this isle of about sixty square miles, and 650 inhabitants a veritable treasure island for hundreds of rum-runners who started to give relief to thirsty persons a few days after the now-famous law took effect and have successfully given such relief, with intermittent interruptions, ever since.   
  •     The interruptions have been caused by activities of federal officers just as much despised by the veteran river men as "revenoo men" are by the denizens of Tennessee and Kentucky. While Federal enforcement officers have succeeded in decreasing the flow of Canadian liquor, the knowledge of the river and the island, possessed by the nervy runners, gives them a great advantage over the officers.    Of all the men who have lived around the river or on the island, the Fix brothers probably know it best. Either Frank or Charlie could literally pilot any sort of craft blindfolded along this treacherous stream and land it any one of hundreds of coves along Grand Island or the American shore.    
  •     The Fix brothers are about fifty-five years old, Frank being about two years older than his brother. Frank is about five feet seven in height, is slender and wirey. Charles weighs well over 200 pounds and is not as active as his brother. Neither cares a whole lot for conventions in dress and both cling to ancient black river captain's hats. The fixes were born on Grand Island on the site where the Edgewater Hotel now stands. The family moved to Black rock when Frank and Charles were boys and have lived there ever since. In all their years neither has been away from the river for more than a few weeks at a time. Both boys started working on the river as helpers on excursion boats when they were in their teens.
  •     They were not twenty when they bought their first boat, the "Silver King", with the money they saved. In those days of two decades ago any one with an excursion boat was certain to make money during the summer months and the Fixes started to prosper. Nearly every stag organization held a picnic at which the now forbidden fluids flowed un-checked. Hotels on the Island were the mecca for thousands of pleasure seekers, and the wealthy started to build summer homes.
  •    As far as can be learned the Fixes never took part in the smuggling of Chinese so prevalent and profitable years ago. They devoted their entire attention to their boats, and as they made money, acquired other boats. In time they gradually had so many boats that nearly every excursion party that circled the island traveled on a Fix owned and Fix piloted craft.  As the brothers gained boats and money so did they gain power along the river. Even a decade ago they made many enemies, among these hardy river men of strong likes and dis-likes.   As they made enemies so did they make friends along the river, on the island and in the city. In time they acquired the Grand Island Ferry running from the Bedell House dock to a dock about a mile and a half from the city line off the River road.  
  •   The Bedell House, surrounding docks and property, was another profitable purchase made by the brothers. This spot was a rendezvous for many excursion parties and everyone using the ferry boat passed it. So before prohibition it can be readily seen why the Fixs can be regarded along the river "as being pretty well off" and why they were gaining power. But it was not until the advent of prohibition that these unusual brothers startled even those who knew them intimately by their ingenuity and fearlessness. Veterans along the river said the Fixes started running liquor shortly after the law went into effect. Nearly every other river man did too for that matter. They are said to have been buying fast motor boats from wealthy residents of this city and utilized them in their operations....

Story continues in The Buffalo History Gazette

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