Long ago, when the Concord Woolen Mill was in operation on Nickajack creek, there was a 20-foot high dam which created a very nice and scenic pond. This beautiful location in what is today’s Heritage Park, was a frequent picnic destination for groups from all over Cobb County, and even Atlanta. Old newspapers record the fun times had around the lake: boat races, fishing contests, buggy rides, baptisms, church singings, etc. One of the more unusual events chronicled in the papers happened 100 years ago this week. It was the shooting of farmer Ike Warren in the Concord Woolen Mill pond.
Ike was a local farmer, born around 1888, which would make him about 35 years old when the shooting occurred. It seems that Ike had gotten into some trouble a few years earlier in 1920 after prohibition went into effect at the national level. Making moonshine had been illegal in Georgia since 1907, but federal prohibition eliminated a lot of loopholes and brought in new resources for finding violators and prosecuting them. After being caught moonshining in 1920, Ike evidently skipped his court appearance and forfeited his bond. It wasn’t until the end of April 1923, however, that Federal Prohibition Agents A. C. Sowell, C. H. Forbes, and two other men, undertook to arrest him while he was working in his field near the old mill. Ike made the mistake of running from the prohibition officers, who gave pursuit while firing at him. Ike jumped into the pond and was swimming for his life when a bullet entered his lungs, stopping his escape.
Luckily, Ike survived the shooting and was taken to Grady Hospital in Atlanta. An investigation was opened into the shooting by Director Dismuke, Forbes and Sowell’s boss. The officers were surprised that Mr. Warren had been shot, and could not imagine where the bullet had come from. Sure, they fired at him while chasing him, but argued that the bullet could not have come from their guns–they could not have hit a target from so far away with a pistol while running. They also argued that if one of their bullets had hit him, it would have entered from the back, not the side where it did, because they were shooting at his back while he fled. This logic is not very satisfying to me, but it must have worked, because Sowell and Forbes were not charged, and appear in several other newspaper accounts of prohibition violence over the following months.
The newspaper accounts are pretty complete, and make an interesting story. I’ve transcribed the accounts below.
Cobb County Times, April 26th, 1923:
Isaac Warren, 35, a farmer of the Concord community was shot through the body late Tuesday afternoon by federal prohibition officers from the Atlanta office, who were attempting to place him under arrest on a charge of manufacturing moonshine liquor.
Warren was at work in his field directly opposite the old woolen mill, when the officers came to arrest him. Seeing them approach he is said to have run, and when the officers undertook to catch him he plunged into Nickajack creek, swimming to the eastern side. The officers determined that Warren should not make his getaway, are said to have started shooting as he rose on the opposite bank of the creek, and downed their man, a bullet taking effect in the chest. The wounded man was at once taken to Grady hospital by the officers and is said to be resting easily with excellent chances for a complete recovery.
Warren is a well-known farmer in that section of the county and for several years has been living at the old factory site. He has an excellent reputation among people in that vicinity and nothing is publicly known of any moonshining activity on his part. He has a wife and three small children.
The prohibition officers are said to have been armed with a warrant for his arrest. A. C. Sowell and C. H. Forbes were the arresting officers
Officers Deny Shooting
According to the officers the shot which struck Warren was not fired by them, an Atlanta newspaper carrying the following story:
Ike Warren, of Rice’s Station, alleged whisky maker is in Grady hospital with a serious wound in his right lung. Federal prohibition agents were wondering Tuesday night, they said, where, why and how the wound got there.
Nobody seems to know, except maybe Warren himself. A. C. Sowell and C. M. Forbes, prohibition agents, say they don’t know.
The two agents headed a raiding party of four on Tuesday afternoon to Warren’s place, to search for a 300-gallon still, which was reported to be there.
As the officers approached the house in their automobile, he fled across a nearby field they said. They took up the chase with Warren at least 300 yards in the lead. Several shots were fired at the fleeing man, none of which seemed to take effect, but when finally overtaken, he was found to be suffering with a bullet hole in his lung.
He was placed in a car and carried to Grady hospital. Mr. Sowell declared that Warren sat up unassisted throughout the trip, and in spite of a painful wound, carried on a conversation all the way into Atlanta.
Sowell and Forbes are baffled. They say they are unable to explain the wound in Warren’s lung. They hold that at the time they fired at him, Warren’s back was turned toward them. They fail to see how a bullet could have entered his side. They added that it is almost impossible to fire a revolver, while running at a range of 300 yards, with any degree of accuracy. Sowell added however, that it might have been possible for a bullet to have glanced from some object close by.
Warren has been arrested several times for distilling whisky, according to the officers. While his condition was reported to be serious Tuesday night, it was not thought to be dangerous. He is charged with violating the prohibition law.
From the Atlanta Journal, April 25th, 1923:
Ike Warren, of Rice’s Station, an alleged moonshiner, was at Grady hospital Wednesday suffering from a critical wound in the right lung. He was shot Tuesday afternoon while, it is alleged, he was fleeing from Prohibition Enforcement Agents A. C. Sowell and C. M. Forbes, both of whom stated Wednesday that the man’s wound is a mystery.
A investigation of the shooting will be made immediately, Fred D. Dismuke, director of prohibition enforcement forces in Georgia, said Wednesday.
Director Dismuke declared the shooting to be accidental. Details, however, could not be obtained from his department.
Agent Sowell when questioned concerning the shooting would not discuss it. In reply to a question, he said: “I don’t care to talk to newspapers now. If I write out the details myself, they might appear correctly in print.”
It is understood that Agents Sowell and Forbes headed a raiding party of four, which went to Warren’s place in search of a still, which was reported to be there. Warren is said to have fled across the field. Several shots were fired during the chase, it is understood.
Warren, at the hospital, declared to reporters Wednesday morning that he was shot by prohibition officers who had it in for him. He said he was arrested in 1920, and that when his case was set for trial recently he failed to appear and his bond was forfeited. He declared the officers came back Tuesday to get him.
While the wounded man’s condition is said to be critical, Grady physicians hold out hope for his recovery.
The Atlanta Constitution, April 29th, 1923:
The Georgia Historic Newspapers website, part of the Digital Library of Georgia, is a great resource of historic newspapers for research. The Ike Warren story in the Atlanta Journal can be viewed here. The New Georgia Encyclopedia has additional information on Prohibition in Georgia and its repeal here.