When Nick Drummond and Patrick Bakker bought a home in Ames, New York in September of 2019 they had heard rumors of bootleggers but considered it a tall tale.
The house, built in 1915, needed some work on the skirting of the rear mud room and as Drummond removed the rotted wood a package fell out. The package contained six bottles of whiskey packed in straw. When he discovered the stash, he realized that the rumors of a bootlegger may have been true.
According to usatoday.com, the couple had planned on renovating the old home which needed new electric service and the plumbing replaced and when the two began stripping the wallpaper they found much of the plaster needed repair as well.
Their plan was to remodel the kitchen first and enlarge the mud room. There was a secret door in the floor of the room which the two had noticed when they bought the house but had never investigated.
Under the floor in secret compartments, they found a total of one hundred bottles, some never opened, some half full and some empty.
Most were labeled Old Smuggler, a rather apropos name, and dated to the 1920s and before. The brand is a top shelf blended Scotch whiskey that has been on the market since 1835, according to thewhiskeyexchange.com and was very popular during prohibition.
The men decided to start researching the ownership of the house and found it had belonged to a self-appointed Count by the name of Adolph Humpfner.
From the newspaper article they posted on Instagram they found that Humpfner had come to the United States from Bavaria, Germany and had made his fortune in real estate. He was a quiet man who never entertained or made close friendships with the townspeople.
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His only confidante was Harry V. Barry who was with him when he suddenly took ill and Barry drove Humpfner to the hospital. When Humpfner died on October 12, 1932 with no will Barry began to make plans for the funeral when Helen R. Humpfner appeared claiming to be the widow. Helen had been declared dead as no one had seen her since 1912.
According to casetext.com Barry had been appointed administrator of the estate only three days earlier. When Helen appeared, the courts were unaware of Barry’s appointment and appointed her executor of the estate.
Barry filed suit involving a convoluted argument as to the decedents residence county and was able to get Helen’s appointment revoked. Barry went to the residence and found letters and bank books for several banks but in many of them Humpfner had used phony names.
It took several years for the titles to the properties Humpfner owned to be sorted out, even using a handwriting expert to prove the signature of Humpfner matched the ones signed by aliases. The mess became even worse when it was discovered that properties were transferred back and forth using several false names.
Barry finally succeeded in properly titling each property correctly. After that Barry decided to look for family members. He knew that two sisters still lived in Germany and went to Europe to meet with them.
They were both widows who obviously had lived a hard life so Barry came back to the United States to declare them the legal heirs of the estate. The sisters and Helen shared the fortune and Barry went back to the lumber business.
The sisters later claimed they were cheated out of the correct amount of the estate by Barry and questions were raised as to the cause of sudden death so quickly after Barry was appointed to be executor of the estate.
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According to edition.cnn.com, Drummond and Bakker have considered selling the unopened bottles of whiskey which have been valued at about one thousand dollars each except for one which they will be keeping for themselves.