My new book with
Theresa Griffin Kennedy, Murder & Scandal in Prohibition Portland, is all
about the enforcement of Prohibition in Portland between 1916 and 1933. We also look very closely at the anti-radical
politics and the financial and sex scandals that riddled the administration of
long-time Mayor George L. Baker. I tell you all about it in the preview posted
on Weird Portland. The book is also about murder and that is what I am going to
tell you about tonight.
Claremont Roadhouse Robbery
Walter Banaster, aka Little Dutch Herman, who ran The
Wigwam resort in Olympia, Washington in the 1930s was one of the most violent
and powerful northwest organized crime figures of his time. Running a murder-for-hire ring out of his
gambling and bootlegging joint, Banaster was behind several gang-land style
killings in both Portland and Seattle.
He got his start in Portland. The first big splash of his career was the
robbery of the Claremont Roadhouse in 1919.
The Claremont Roadhouse was located on the Highway
between Portland and the then separate town of Linnton on the Columbia
River. Roadhouses, where people would
drive outside city limits for dining, drinking and dancing, had been popular
since 1906 when Fred T. Merrill, Bicycle King of the Northwest and long-time
city council member, opened 12-mile House on the Baseline Rd. in southeast
Portland. They gained in popularity when
Prohibition came in in 1916. Larry
Sullivan, ex-professional boxer, ex-crimp and one of Portland’s earliest
organized crime bosses, controlled several roadhouses in the early days of
prohibition, including the Friar’s Club in Milwaukie and the Claremont
Roadhouse on the way to Linnton. By 1919
the Claremont was rivaled only by Birdlegs’ Roadhouse on the eastside.
On November 21, 1919, just days after Leon Jenkins became
Police Chief, Jasper N, Burgess, a member of the state highway commission, and
George Perringer, a prominent rancher, both from Pendleton, were staying at the
Benson Hotel in downtown Portland on a business trip. Portland, a wide open town, was always good
for a junket, so Burgess and Perringer picked up two switchboard girls at the
hotel and took them on an afternoon drive. Stopping at the Claremont Roadhouse
for lunch, the party was already tipsy from drinking when three men, masked
with handkerchiefs, forced their way into the roadhouse, herding the customers
together in the large central room. One
of the robbers, most-likely Banaster although he blamed his companions, went
into the private room where Burgess and Perringer were drinking with the women. The robber killed Burgess and Perringer with
two shots each before herding their companions into the central room with the
rest of the guests.
The three robbers, Banaster, James Ogle and Dave Smith,
made off with over $3000 worth of cash and jewelry and used a safe-house,
provided by a Japanese criminal gang to hideout. Police Chief Jenkins was joined in the
investigation of the crime by legendary central Oregon lawman Til Taylor, who
had been friends with both of the victims.
Taylor and Jenkins made a point that the deaths of Burgess and Perringer
had been the result of a robbery gone wrong, but rumors abounded that the real
purpose of the “robbery” had been killing the two men. Later developments gave credence to the
rumors. The next year Til Taylor was killed in a Pendleton jailbreak and soon
after Hyman Weinstein, a junk dealer from South Portland moved to Baker, OR and became the “vicelord” of Central Oregon.
Weinstein, whose brother Abe was involved in bootlegging, gambling and
fencing in Portland, was an associate of Bobby Evans criminal
organization. The extension of power
from Portland into the rest of the state is a strong possible motive for the
killings at the Claremont Roadhouse.
Murder of Frank Akin
One of Portland’s oldest and most controversial “unsolved”
murders is that of Frank Akin, a special investigator sent by Governor Julius
Meier to investigate corruption in Portland’s Port Commission. Akin was shot to death in his southwest Portland
apartment in November, 1933, just days after releasing the findings of his Port
investigation and before he had released a preliminary report on an
investigation of the city’s Water Bureau, which he had just begun. The Oregonian,
which was heavily involved with the Republican establishment, scotched rumors
that Akin’s investigative activity was the motive for his death, instead
spreading false rumors of his womanizing and financial scams. Although one man, Leo Hall -- believed to be
the gunman, was executed in Washington state for another crime, and another
man, Portlander Jack Justice, was convicted of murder for hiring him, the true
motive for the crime was never discovered.
|Leo Hall was executed for murdering six people at Erland's Point, WA. He was believed to be the trigger man in the Frank Akin murder.|
In the new book Theresa and I examine all
the available evidence in the Akin case and present it in a clear manner. While it is not likely that a solution to the
case can be found after nearly eighty years, we are able to shed new light on
the case and suggest a motive for the killing that has been long overlooked. Historian E. Kimbark MacColl in his book Growth of a City, presents an abbreviated
version of the case and speculates that the killing was prompted by Akin’s
investigation of the Port of Portland.
In the new book we suggest that the Port Investigation was a red
herring, designed to hide the real motive for the killing. We present evidence
that suggests that his investigation of the Water Bureau, which had been run
for more than a decade by corrupt city councilman John Mann, was the real
motive for the killing. In addition we
connect both Jack Justice and Leo Hall to the murder-for-hire ring operated by
Walter Banaster in Olympia, Washington.
The gruesome Torso Murder case, which saw several
packages of human body parts in the Willamette River over several months of
1946, has captured the imagination of murder mystery fans for nearly seventy
years. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s
Department and the Oregon State Police never got anywhere in trying to solve
the case, mainly because they were never able to identify the victim. Seventy years later new evidence has been
unearthed that points at the possible identity of the victim and a possible
solution of the case, along with an explanation of why the police never
identified the victim.
|Anna Schrader came to Portland in 1910 and became a thorn in the side of Mayor Baker and Chief Jenkins near the end of Baker's administration. Her mysterious disappearance in 1946 coincided with the unidentified body parts found in the river.|
If you’ve been following the podcast Murder By Experts,
then you already know about Anna Schrader, secret-police private detective,
lover of Police Lt. William Breuning and outspoken opponent of Mayor George
Baker’s administration and Police Chief Leon Jenkins. Theresa and I have been researching Schrader’s
life and career for more than a year and in the book we present all the
evidence we have found. The book makes a
compelling case that Schrader is the victim in the Torso Murder and that
the motive for her death lies in the secret bootlegging operations carried out
by the Police Bureau in the 1920s. The
hatred and anger that fueled the brutal murder were most likely created during
the so-called Schrader-Bruening scandal of 1929, which rocked the city and
forced major changes in the Police Bureau.
If Schrader is the victim it is very likely that Bill Breuning was the
With all of the suspects long dead and all of the
physical evidence missing, we can only speculate on a solution for the case,
but we present compelling evidence not only for who the victim and killer could
be, but of the machinations of Police Chief Leon Jenkins and Police Captain
James Purcell that covered up Breuning’s involvement in the murder and derailed
the murder investigation.
All of that and more will be available when the new book Murder & Scandal in Prohibition Portland
is released by the History Press in February, 2016. See you there.
|Welcome to George Baker's Portland.|