Southold Town historian Amy Folk was immediately immersed in Samuel Boerum’s story when she came across his codebook almost eight years ago while working at Oysterponds Historical Society.
“Samuel Boerum, who was a fisherman in Greenport was pulling in his net and a rumrunner went past his boat being chased by the Coast Guard. And as the boat passed his net, he saw a little brown thing come out and fly and pull into the net as he’s pulling it in. He kept pulling in the net, and when he got to the little brown thing turns out, it was a notebook that had codes for phrases, and then the code numbers of each one of those phrases,” Ms. Folk said. “He realized that it was the codebook from the rumrunners and that it was fairly dangerous for him to have it because if the rumrunners found out that he had actually saved this rather than [it] going all the way into the water — he could have used it to really hurt their businesses.”
The codebook was passed down through his family until one of his descendants decided to give it to the historical society, Ms. Folk said.
As a historian, Ms. Folk’s fascination with Mr. Boerum’s story led to her digging into the Prohibition years in Suffolk County. From 1920 to 1933, a U.S. constitutional amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale and transportation alcoholic beverages in the country.
“Rumrunning in Suffolk County: Tales from Liquor Island” is historian Amy Folk’s newest book which recounts the overall story of the Prohibition years across the North Fork and all of Suffolk County.
The 192-page book was published on June 20, 2022, by The History Press. It took Ms. Folk around three years to complete the book.
“People got very thirsty. I mean, it was a crazy time — really interesting for stories looking back on it, but the time period, it was just crazy,” Ms. Folk said.
“I’m going to be talking about rumrunning and bootlegging on in Suffolk County,” Ms. Folk said. “I usually start off with the history of it and then I tell some of my favorite stories and just sit back, relax.”
The event is free for members of the historical society and $8 for nonmembers. Registration is required. To register, visit suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org/events. There will be a limited number of books available for purchase at the museum’s Weathervane Bookshop.
Suffolk County Historical Society executive director Victoria Berger said the museum that has worked with Ms. Folk in the past and they always enjoy collaborating with her. Ms. Berger added that they immediately got to work booking Ms. Folk for this event once they learned that she had completed the book.
“She’s a very engaging, wonderful presenter, and who doesn’t love the topic of rumrunning on Long Island?” Ms. Berger said. “She adds a wonderful dose of comic personality into her presentations. They’re always very entertaining on any of her topics that she speaks.”
The next Book and Bottle event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 13, at 1 p.m. with author Claire Belllerjeau discussing her book “Remember Liss.” For more information on the Suffolk County Historic Society, visit suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org.