Don’t Mess With My Family Mr. Federal Man!

The crack of a gunshot slices through the air.
Afra takes aim and fires again at the Federal Man.
He has just smashed the family’s still to pieces.
It is said she disliked the Federal Man
until her dying day.

Federal Man post
My 2x great-grandmother Afra Gestach nee Goldstein

The Federal Man is a revenue agent for the United States government. A revenue agents job was to make sure that stills were registered and that the taxes were paid. There has always been a segment of the population who don’t want to pay taxes on whiskey. Especially homemade whisky. The first tax imposed on whiskey in the United States was instituted in 1791 and started the Whiskey Rebellion. Farmers would distill surplus grain and corn into whiskey. This is still true today more than 200 years later. Whiskey was and is equivalent to money especially in rural areas.

Afra’s story is said to have taken place on the family homestead in Dahlgren, Carver County, Minnesota. Details about when it occurred have not been determined, leaving only my speculation that it occurred sometime prior to July 1899 and more than likely prior to June 1898. On 9 June 1898 Afra and her husband Johann Gstach aka John Gestach entered into a contract to transfer the family homestead to their son John and his wife Lena.1 The contract, in part requires son John to provide his father and mother with two cords maple wood, three cords oak wood and two cords soft wood to be delivered at his parents place either in “Chaska or Carver each and every year during their lifetime.” It also provides for three tons of hay to be delivered free of charge. The contract goes on to stipulate that John and Afra can use and occupy the room on the second floor in the SE corner of the dwelling house on the homestead for their lifetimes.

Title Abstract news article
Abstract title and newspaper clipping

A little over a year after the contract was filed, during the week of 16 July 1899 Afra & her husband John moved from the farm to a home on 1st street in Chaska, Carver County, Minnesota.2

Afra and John Gestach’s Farmhouse

Whiskey is a grain based alcohol typically made with rye, wheat, barley or corn – or a combination of grains. The only verifiable evidence supporting the family story are the 18703 and 18804 agricultural censuses. Both censuses shows that John & Afra grew grain on their farm. They had the raw materials to make whiskey.

Census Spring Wheat Winter Wheat Buckwheat Wheat Oats Barley Indian Corn
1870 325 Bushels 174
13 Bushels N/A 100 Bushels 80 Bushels N/A
1880 N/A N/A 0 475 Bushels 210 Bushels 80 Bushels 220 Bushels

1870 Census Records
1870 Agricultural Census

1880 Census Records
1880 Agricultural Census

One only needs to take one look at the photograph of Afra and there is no doubt in my mind that she could have taken a few potshots at the Federal Man.

  1. O. O. Rekow Register of Deeds and Abstractions, (Chaska, Minnesota), “Abstract of Title: To the following described Real Estate situated in Carver County, Minnesota. The West Half of the Northeast quarter (W1/2 of NE 1/4) and the Northwest quarter of the Southeast quarter (NW 1/4 of SE1/4) of Section Eleven (11), Township One Hundred Fifteen (115) North of Range Twenty-four (24) West,” last dated 30 March 1955; Copy of original made in 1992 by Ann C Gilchrest. Held by Ann C Gilchrest, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2018. 
  2. “John Gestach and family,” article, The Weekly Valley Herald, (Chaska, Minnesota), 27 July 1899, p.5, col. 3. 
  3. 1870 U. S. census, Carver County, Minnesota, agricultural schedule, p. 383–4 (penned), line 31, John Stach; Ancestry (https:// : accessed 25 November 2016); citing NARA microfilm M-593 specific roll not listed. 
  4. 1880 U. S. census , Carver County, Minnesota, agricultural schedule, p. 11 (penned), line 2, John Gystock; Nonpopulation Schedules from Federal Census of Minnesota 1860–1880, MHS microfilm publication (Saint Paul, Minnesota Historical Society), roll 4, frame 512. 

7 thoughts on “Don’t Mess With My Family Mr. Federal Man!

  1. Fascinating story based on your very credible deduction of whiskey making, Ann. The details of the land transfer seem unnecessarily precise, given that the transfer occurred within the same family. But perhaps Afra’s contract with her son is a Midwestern version of Robert Frost’s wry observation that “good fences make good neighbors.”

    As usual, excellent art work, esp. the digital drawing of the homestead with the family tree roots sinking into the Carver County map. Nice going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. agilchrest

      Thanks Dan. When I see the contract for the land transfer it reminds me of all the court cases I have seen where nothing was spelled out and family members are sueing other family members. I have to think that Afra and John were wise by spelling out there son’s responsiablities. PS Mom watches way to much Judge Judy & Peoples Court. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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