Although the 1956 ProJo article does not name the featured bootlegger, it has been commonly acknowledged that he was Herb Cavaca, owner of the pictured farmhouse that was sold to Alex Taber, Senior, in 1944. Anna Taber gave us the article in 1970. Mr. Cavaca was a local legend and some of his colorful antics were described in his obituary.
The undated article, below, appeared in an unidentified local (i.e. Fall River, MA; Providence, RI; Bristol, RI) newspaper. A handwritten note from a family album dates it “1970” .
H. Cavaca Dies, Ex-Rum Runner
Herbert J. Cavaca of Tiverton, who spent his younger days running rum and getting caught or dodging bullets and getting shot, died Friday in Union Hospital at Fall River. He was 71 years old.
Cavaca, whose luck saw him through two gun battles with hijackers and brought him safely through numerous quahauging escapades in a later career, died after a short illness. He not only survived five bullets, fired into him at close range by an “expert marksman” but sued the man's estate after the man died in jail a short time later.
Both in and out of court Cavaca would sometimes speak freely and joke about his various activities.
Cavaca was once reported as suffering 65 bird shot wounds while he, two brothers and two friends fought off a band of 16 hijackers on his farm in 1928, but a brother last night said this was “a big exaggeration.” Cavaca was frequently before Rhode Island courts on rum running and illegal quahauging charges. During one quahauging expedition, Cavaca was caught in what was described as a perilous ice jam on the Sakonnet River off Tiverton.
George Cavaca, a brother, said that since 1967 Cavaca had been “puttering around the water.” Testifying at one time in connection with his rum running activities, Cavaca told how he was threatened by hijackers on the morning before the gun battle he had received a message advising him to “expect visitors.” Cavaca added that he prepared for his unwanted visitors “by getting some more guns and ammunition at the place.”
In outlining the state's case in the trial of the hijackers, the assistant attorney general said that on June 24, 1928, a load of liquor was landed in Tiverton and stored on the farm – a load that included 630 cases of champagne, Scotch and rye.
The assistant attorney general noted that one of the defendants “ . . . and others were aware of this and having previous knowledge of its arrival and knowing it to be contraband liquor, conceived the idea that it would be proper for him and his associates to, using a street term, knock off the load.” Cavaca said that the hijackers, before the gun battle, had demanded that he pay money he owed them. The hijacking trial eventually resulted in indictments of an acting chief raiding officer of the “Federal dry forces.”
Nonpayment of a debt also was the reported reason for more gunfire directed at Cavaca nine years later. He was shot five times by a 74-year-old poultry farmer as he sat reading a paper in his car that was parked near the Stone Bridge in Tiverton.
After staggering out of his car and falling against the bumper, he ordered friends to “get me to a hospital quick.” On the way to the hospital, Cavaca reportedly laughed and joked about wounds he received in the hijacking battle.
“I can weather these,” he is reported to have said as he pointed to four of the bullet holes, “but I'm afraid this one may get me,” he said, pointing to the hole in his abdomen.
Cavaca once tried to talk his way out of an illegal quahauging conviction by attempting to convince the judge that his fishing experiences had made it clear to him that certain kinds of quahaugs can weight as much as 140 pounds per bushel. Therefore, he explained, the 4,000 pounds of quahaugs did not exceed the 30 bushel limit. The judge, however, found Cavaca guilty and fined him $80.
Born in Tiverton, son of the late Manuel and Helen (Soares) Cavaca, he retired as a fisherman in 1967. He was the husband of Marjorie (Brow) Cavaca.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Mrs. William J. Borges of Tiverton; three brothers, Manuel, Frank and George Cavaca, all of Portsmouth; three sisters, Mrs. Mabel Reed of Portsmouth, Mrs. Arthur Camara of Tiverton and Mrs. Manuel Barella of Newport; two grandchildren and a great grandson.
A funeral service will be held tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Potter Funeral Home, Westport. Burial will be at the Hillside Cemetery, Tiverton.
As a matter of information for non-local residents, a quahaug or quahog, is a type of clam used to make chowder or “stuffies.”