Waterloo Region Generations
A record of the people of Waterloo Region, Ontario.

Ephraim Zinkann

Male 1866 - 1944  (77 years)


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  • Name Ephraim Zinkann 
    Born 16 Dec 1866  , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2, 3
    Gender Male 
    Occupation 1901  Wellesley Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Clerk 
    Occupation 1911  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Traveller, White Wear 
    Residence 1911  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    New Jerusalem 
    Occupation 1921  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    License Inspector, Government 
    Residence 1921  296 Frederick St., Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Residence 1921  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    New Jerusalem 
    Eby ID Number Waterloo-52359 
    Died 25 Feb 1944  Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Cause: Cause: Carcinoma of Pancreas 
    Buried 29 Feb 1944  Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I52359  Generations
    Last Modified 22 Apr 2021 

    Father Johann N. "John" Zinkann,   b. 1 Nov 1835, New Hamburg, Wilmot Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 8 Jan 1911, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 75 years) 
    Mother Maria Schmidt,   b. 10 Mar 1838, Waterloo Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Jan 1928, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 89 years) 
    Family ID F13496  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Emily Kane,   b. 1874, , Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1969, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 95 years) 
    Married 29 Jun 1911  Kingston, Frontenac Co., Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Children 
     1. Doris Emily Zinkann,   b. 1915, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Jan 2005, St. Catharines, Welland, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 90 years)
     2. Doug Zinkann,   b. 1915, , Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 23 Apr 2021 
    Family ID F259257  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • When bootleggers reigned, bullets flew over Waterloo

      By Greg MercerRecord Reporter
      Fri., Dec. 19, 2014


      WATERLOO \emdash It was late afternoon on Erb Street in the heart of Waterloo when bullets ripped across the roadway, chasing a truckload of whisky. Crowds scattered in the dust. It's July 18, 1921.
      A year and a half into Prohibition, America was dying for a drink. All across Ontario, where the unpopular Temperance Act meant making booze was legal but selling it was tightly restricted, armed liquor inspectors roamed towns looking for citizens flouting the ban on alcohol.

      WATERLOO \emdash It was late afternoon on Erb Street in the heart of Waterloo when bullets ripped across the roadway, chasing a truckload of whisky. Crowds scattered in the dust. It's July 18, 1921.
      A year and a half into Prohibition, America was dying for a drink. All across Ontario, where the unpopular Temperance Act meant making booze was legal but selling it was tightly restricted, armed liquor inspectors roamed towns looking for citizens flouting the ban on alcohol.

      It was a strange time in the region's history, when gangsters were said to roam the streets, gunplay occasionally echoed, and people engaged in cat-and-mouse games with authorities to skirt the rules.

      In Waterloo, a distillery and brewery town, people grumbled about the provincial laws. Booze-making brought jobs, and voters here had more lenient attitudes to alcohol than some of their counterparts in other parts of the province.

      Others saw an opportunity. While in Ontario it was still legal to produce booze for export or for medical purposes, just across the border in the United States, Prohibition demanded an all-out ban.

      There was, if you were entrepreneurial enough, money to be made.

      Zinkann and his men complained that illegal shipments were being snuck out of the Seagram's plant on a daily basis. For bootleggers, it had become a game. Trucks loaded with empty cases as decoys were used to draw away the inspectors, and smugglers bought customized cars that could outpace the police.

      At the time, Waterloo was still a small town, with just two police officers to patrol the entire community. But booze was big business \emdash J. E. Seagram and Son's distillery and Kuntz Brewery, just down the road on King Street, were big employers and among the largest producers in North America.

      Local bar owners were dragged before the courts, accused of selling beer above the allowed two per cent alcohol. Authorities tried to revoke the brewing licence of Lion Brewing \emdash Waterloo's first brewery, which still operates today \emdash because it was accused of making suds that were too strong.

      Large stashes of contraband booze, much of it straight from the Seagram's distillery, were seized from barns and homes around the region. Just a few weeks after he shot up Erb Street in broad daylight, Zinkann raided a house on Homewood Avenue in Kitchener and nabbed 53 cases of local whisky and 45 ten-gallon kegs of rye.

      The booze was destined to an address in St. Clair Beach, a short boat ride across the river from Detroit, according to Waterloo's Chronicle-Telegraph newspaper.

      Zinkann and his men were not warmly welcomed wherever they went. At a home on Guelph Street where a barrel of mash, used to make whisky, was found, he had his glasses broken by an axe-wielding housewife and bricks tossed his way.


      Occasionally, the "game" got even more dangerous.

      On April 24, 1919, a gunfight erupted between police and four men who tried to off-load $10,000 worth of liquor from a railcar sent from Montreal.

      Two officers sprang a trap on the men as they crept into the Grand Trunk rail yard just before midnight. Shots were exchanged and three of the four escaped. One man, a Bulgarian named Nichol Evanoff, was thrown in jail on $200 bail.

      One the oldest hotels in Waterloo, the Huether, had a cold cellar in the basement that bootleggers reportedly used to store beer. An underground tunnel, filled in by city workers in the 1960s, led across the street to the Waterloo Garage at the corner of King and Princess streets.

      The busy auto shop was rumoured to be a hub for some armed, well-dressed men who worked unusual hours. Allan Buehler, a local Mennonite man, wrote in his memoirs that he was a night watchman at the garage and said it was crawling with gangsters.

      Buehler claimed "a branch of the Al Capone gang" set up shop in the garage's basement, and would make nightly shipments of liquor from the Seagram's distillery on Erb Street to a hidden warehouse somewhere north of Elmira.

      "These were no petty bootleggers, but professional gangsters, and they all carried revolvers," he wrote. "It was my job to open the doors and let them in. Many times I saw bullet holes in the back and sides of the truck where the police had tried to stop them."

      Others backed up his story. Decades later, a pub owner renovating the former garage found bullet holes in vintage car parts buried underneath his patio. Kelly Adlys, owner of the Huether Hotel, says there were also the scars from bullets found in the hidden tunnel door that led to his business.

      "We were dealing with some pretty big mobsters, right here in small-town Waterloo," said Karen Vandenbrink, manager of heritage services at the City of Waterloo.

      Seagram's worked to distance itself from these unsavoury connections to prohibition and organized crime. Oddly, the company declared no profits between 1920 and 1927, and yet shareholders were reaping mysterious dividends.

      A rum runner's game

      To find out how Seagram's whisky and Kuntz beer ended up in the throats of thirsty Americans during Prohibition, you can start by looking at an outfit called the Erie Transit Company.

      The shell company owned a warehouse on the shoreline in Windsor, and used a system of fraudulent export papers, extensive bribery of customs officials and switching railroad cars to smuggle millions of dollars worth of liquor into the U.S.

      The operation was run by Harry Low, at the time one of Windsor's most notorious booze barons. He started as a low-grade bootlegger, canoeing boxes of liquor across the Detroit River to Michigan, but soon developed an empire that made him immensely wealthy and a close associate with American gangsters.

      The economics of Low's smuggling business were simple. The same bottle of Seagram's whisky that would fetch $2.50 in Windsor was worth $10 just across the water in Michigan. A case of Seagram's whisky that cost $35 in Waterloo, including $14 in excise tax, would fetch about $150 in New York City.

      Waterloo had the booze. America had the customers. Plenty of middlemen helped connect the two, but perhaps none more than Hamilton's Rocco Perri Susino, the leader of a small Calabrian mob who worked under the guise of a macaroni salesman.

      Authors James Dubro and Robin Rowland, writing in their 1988 book "King of the Mob," say Waterloo Region was the apex of a "bootleg triangle" that stretched from Hamilton to Toronto which Perri and other gangsters used to run a sophisticated smuggling outfit.

      Perri's gang had a huge \emdash and extremely profitable \emdash operation buying alcohol from Waterloo's Kuntz Brewery and Seagram's, creating fake export papers showing the liquor was being shipped to far-flung places like Cuba. Since it was perfectly legal to export alcohol to countries where there wasn't prohibition, Canadian officials looked the other way.

      Of course, Waterloo's whisky and beer was not headed for Cuba. Instead, Perri and his cohorts used rail lines to ship liquor to the U.S., often disguised as shipments of sugar, turnips, hay, paper or leather.

      Whole boxcar loads of beer were being sold right out the backdoor of the brewery, to anyone paying with cash, and no sales records were kept on the company books.

      Richard Joyce, an American consul in Hamilton, was suspicious of all these shipments. He and a U.S. special agent staked out the Waterloo rail yard where barrels of beer from the nearby Kuntz Brewery were being loaded onto trains.

      The beer was shipped to London, Ont., where it was given documents that claimed the boxcar contained scrap leather from the Kitchener Rag & Metal Company, bound for a company called American Tanners in Pittsburg.

      American Tanners didn't exist. Instead, when police raided the boxcar in the Pittsburg rail yard, inside they found 278 barrels each containing 30 bottles of beer, all made in Waterloo.

      A federal audit that followed found that a full quarter of the beer being produced by Kuntz Brewery during Prohibition had gone missing. Paid for in cash by men who showed up at the brewery, the beer simply vanished \emdash snuck away by rail and straight into the bellies of Americans across the border.

      "It was unaccounted for. Basically, they loaded it onto boxcars, it was added to a train, and it would disappear," Rowland said. "They were laundering in boxcars."

      Government investigators from a royal commission found that the Waterloo brewery was the largest exporter of beer into the U.S. during Prohibition, shipping an average of 630 cases a day. Many uncomfortable questions were asked about phone records showing Herb Kuntz, the brewery's owner, talked regularly with Perri.

      "Based on evidence at the royal commission, (Perri) was probably on personal terms with Seagram's until it was sold, and the Kuntz brewery people," Rowland said.

      In 1927, Perri was convicted of perjury, and was given six months at the provincial jail in Guelph. His testimony helped the government pursue $79,900 in back taxes from Seagram's and $124,000 from Kuntz Brewery.

      Ottawa later sued the brewery for unpaid excise taxes, then the Depression hit, which ultimately meant the beginning of the end for Kuntz. The brewery was sold in 1929, and eventually demolished in 1993. One of the original buildings from the King Street site is now part of the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home.

      A westward funnel


      For years, both Seagram's and Kuntz enjoyed their slice of the booming bootleg industry. As Americans clamoured for a drink, neither were about to let their competitors make all the money.

      "Every brewery and distillery in Ontario was involved in some way or another," said Marty Gervais, a Windsor-based journalist and author of "Rumrunners, a Prohibition Scrapbook."

      Often it was French-Canadians in small towns around Chatham, Ont., who received the liquor at rural drop-off spots and trucked it to the riverfront near Windsor, Gervais said.

      Windsor was a well-lubricated pipeline for bootlegging. In the first seven months of 1920, at the start of Prohibition, Canadian customs officials recorded about 900,000 cases of liquor shipped into the city for supposed "private consumption."

      A young farmhand during Prohibition told Gervais that Seagram's whisky used to arrive at his father's farmhouse at Amherstburg, Ont., in the trunks of Reo Speed Wagons and "Whiskey Six" Studebakers. The men who brought it carried guns, and would load the booze into boats in nearby canals to be spirited across the river.

      On the other side of the border, Detroit and its gang-controlled speakeasies and blind pigs had an unending appetite for Canadian-made alcohol. Seagram's, like most other distilleries, didn't ask too many questions about where their whisky was ending up.

      "Four-fifths of all the liquor that went into the United States came through here. Seagram's was doing business here. They were doing business with Al Capone," Gervais said. "They weren't doing anything illegal, but the people taking the liquor were doing something illegal with it."

      Americans had no trouble finding alcohol brought by legions of bootleggers who exploited loopholes that allowed Ontario's hooch to sneak across the border. Under the law, it was legal to export liquor from Canada to any country that didn't have prohibition \emdash so rum runners simply made up fake destinations.

      "It was very easy to get Canadian liquor. If it was summer, you'd take your rowboat over to Windsor, buy your beer, and tell customs you were taking it to Cuba," said Mickey Lyons, a Detroit historian and tour manager for the Detroit Bus Company, which runs a popular series of Prohibition tours.

      "It was almost a game because there was no enforcement."

      At its peak, Detroit was estimated to have as many as 15,000 speakeasies, or underground bars, where you could easily get a highball cocktail made with Seagram's or a cold Kuntz beer.

      As a steady stream of beer and whisky flowed out of Waterloo, occasionally the police would catch a bootlegger and the story would be splashed across the front page.

      "Hot chase thru streets of city ends in arrest of two swift beer runners," barked the headline in The Record on May 7, 1927, after police had a high-speed chase with two Hamilton men that wound through Victoria Park and down Courtland Avenue.

      Needing a drink

      Ontario's Temperance Act, which banned the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants within the province, was far from an all-out ban on booze.

      People in Waterloo Region could easily order alcohol for "home use" or a get a doctor's prescription for it, according to Vandenbrink.

      "There were so many loopholes with temperance that it made it quite easy for the distilleries to operate," she said. "The factories worked within the parameters of the law."

      Both Seagram's and Kuntz used mail-order services based in Quebec to get around the temperance bans. Customers sent off their money to an address in Montreal, and had Waterloo-made beer and whisky delivered right to their door.

      If you were lucky enough, you could even get an export licence, and pick up cases of whisky right at Seagram's distillery. What happened to it after that was your business.

      By 1927, many people in Waterloo Region were celebrating the end of restrictions on alcohol in Ontario, Vandenbrink said. Kitchener soon had its first LCBO, and residents could once again legally buy booze and carry it in public.

      But the smuggling of alcohol into the U.S. continued to be a lucrative, and increasingly dangerous, business until American Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Seagram's and Kuntz were no different than many other Canadian liquor companies who supplied the massive, underground operations.

      Seagram's made an effort to publicly distance itself from illegal trafficking, but were at a loss to explain revenues that weren't recorded in their books. In 1927, a federal audit found the Waterloo distiller had avoided $156,600 in taxes and duties.

      In 1928, the company "wanted to get out of what was becoming an unsavoury business," according to a history of temperance in Waterloo Region written by James Doyle. It sold to Samuel Bronfman, making Seagram's part of the largest liquor company in the world.

      Bronfman took the smuggling business to new heights. By 1930, the company was using the island of St. Pierre as its distribution centre for American bootleggers, an arrangement that stockpiled millions in offshore accounts.

      Thanks to an elaborate smuggling system, complete with shell companies, forged customs papers, bribed officials and extensive money laundering that hid enormous profits, whiskies made in Waterloo were becoming some of the most popular brands in dry U.S.

      When Prohibition ended, the Bronfmans were investigated, arrested and eventually tried in court. But the judge threw the case out because key shipping records had gone missing. The company managed to walk the thin line between both sides of the law.

      But for Seagram's and Kuntz Brewery, the party was already long over, anyway.



      When bootleggers reigned, bullets flew over Waterloo. (2014). Retrieved 22 August 2020, from https://www.therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/2014/12/19/when-bootleggers-reigned-bullets-flew-over-waterloo.html

  • Sources 
    1. [S160] Census - ON, Waterloo, Wellesley Twp. - 1901, Wellesley E-6 page 21.

    2. [S340] Census - ON, Waterloo, Berlin - 1911, Div. 37 Page 6.

    3. [S2264] Census - ON, Waterloo, Kitchener - 1921, Sub Dist. 27 Page 10.

    4. [S2491] aaa Vit - ON - Death Registration, death certificate 014365 (1944).
      Name:Ephraim Zinkann Gender:Male Age:77 Birth Date:17 Dec 1866 Birth Place:Ontario, Canada Death Date:26 Feb 1944 Death Place:Kitchener, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada Father:John N. Zinkann Mother:Maria Zinkann Spouse:Emily Kane

    5. [S2488] aaa Vit - ON - Marriage Registration, marriage certificate 004668 (1911).
      Name:Ephraim Zinkann Age:44 Birth Year:abt 1867 Marriage Date:29 Jun 1911 Marriage Place:Frontenac, Ontario, Canada Father:John Nahrgang Zinkann Mother:Maria Schmidt Spouse:Emily Kane

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 16 Dec 1866 - , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Clerk - 1901 - Wellesley Twp., Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Traveller, White Wear - 1911 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - New Jerusalem - 1911 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 29 Jun 1911 - Kingston, Frontenac Co., Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - License Inspector, Government - 1921 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - New Jerusalem - 1921 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - Cause: Cause: Carcinoma of Pancreas - 25 Feb 1944 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - 29 Feb 1944 - Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth