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Bucket of Blood Saloon

The back of the Hotel Perrine, at the west corner of Shoshone Street and Main Avenue West in Twin Falls, is seen in this early Clarence E. Bisbee photograph. Obscured from view by the hotel is the Bucket of Blood Saloon, at the east corner of Shoshone Street and Second Avenue East. The saloon was in the rear of the building, which fronted Second Avenue.

TWIN FALLS • Early residents fought hard on both sides of prohibition, long before the 18th Amendment.

City trustees canvassed the new village of Twin Falls, deciding residents wanted few saloons in town.

The Bucket of Blood saloon, one of the first establishments in town, was operated by George Bassett at the corner of Shoshone Street and Second Avenue East. The saloon was in the rear of a general store, owned by the Young family, that fronted Second Avenue.

The Bucket of Blood developed an early reputation.

“The saloon had four methods of parting an individual from his money,” wrote City Trustee S.T. Hamilton. “First, by the sale of liquid refreshments; second, by permitting him to sit in a poker game; third, by feeding him in the dining room; and fourth, by ‘rolling’ him in the corral at the alley extension.”

On April 28, 1905, Twin Falls city trustees met for the first time after the village incorporated. The first order of business was to set an exorbitant fee for liquor licenses, in hopes of discouraging saloon business.

Trustees fixed the annual price of a liquor license at $2,000 — equal to about $50,000 today — predicting it would drive saloons outside the city limits.

In addition, city trustees approved ordinances restricting saloon business:

  • Saloons must close between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. weekdays and all day Sunday.
  • No blinds or screens were permitted.
  • No wine rooms were prohibited.
  • Women were not allow to enter saloons between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Two days after the city meeting, Dan Kingsley, who operated the ferry at Shoshone Falls, got drunk and drowned in the Snake River, further fueling the prohibition debate.

Meanwhile, barkeepers held their ground, refusing to pay the new liquor license fee.

Bassett, R.W. Jones, Jack Cunningham, S.G. Hamburg, W.S. McQueen and R.W. Carter were charged with selling liquor without a license. Carter was tried first and was found guilty.

At the May meeting, trustees offered the other barkeepers resolution: pay $500 for the next three months while the validity of the liquor ordinance is tested. The five men paid the fee under protest.

Afterward, the men agreed to pay $500 quarterly instead of a $2,000 lump sum, which satisfied the court, according to the Twin Falls Weekly News.

Later, police officers raided the basement of the Bucket of Blood and confiscated all gambling devices, including gaming tables, cards and furnishings. They piled the items and several loads of sagebrush several blocks away. The pile went up in flames the next morning, according to Hamilton.

In 1906, a local chapter of the decades-old Women’s Christian Temperance Union was organized to create a “sober and pure world,” according to its publications, and momentum for prohibition increased.

The Twin Falls County Taxpayers’ League unsuccessfully tried to stop the movement, citing the loss of needed revenues from liquor licenses.

In November 1909, Twin Falls County voted to abolish liquor and saloons in the county closed by February 1910. In 1916, the entire state of Idaho went “dry.” The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in January 1919 and took effect the following year.

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Mychel Matthews reports on agriculture and rural issues for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and on Magicvalley.com. If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at mmatthews@magicvalley.com.

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