Rev. Joseph Oswald Leslie Spracklin

Joseph Oswald Leslie Spracklin was born December 4th, 1886 in Woodstock, Ontario. He gained notoriety in November 1920 when he shot and killed a man in Sandwich who was engaged in illegal liquor sales. He would be acquitted of the man’s murder the following year in a trial that gained national attention.

Spracklin moved to Sandwich with his parents and three brothers in the mid-1890s. The course of his life changed when his older brother Willie was killed in a hunting accident. It Rev. Joseph Oswald Leslie Spracklinwas suspected that alcohol had played a role in tragedy. For the rest of his life, Leslie Spracklin was a fervent and active crusader for the cause of prohibition. He became an ordained Methodist minister and took charge of the Sandwich Methodist Church in 1918. Two years later, Spracklin was hired as a liquor license inspector to enforce the provincial government’s ban on alcohol. The minister and the handful of men he lead acquired a reputation for questionable methods in their attempts to stamp out the illicit liquor trade in the Border Cities area. The situation between the bootleggers and Reverend Spracklin continued to escalate through the summer and fall of 1920 until Halloween night when Spracklin’s home was riddled with bullets. His wife narrowly escaped being shot. A week later, Spracklin shot and killed hotel owner Beverly Trimble. At his trial, the minister claimed Trumble had a gun and that he had shot him in self-defense. The jury believed him and Spracklin was acquitted.

Following his acquittal, Reverend Spracklin resigned as pastor of the Sandwich Methodist Church. He moved to the U.S in 1922 were he settled in Bay City, Michigan. He continued campaigning for the prohibition of alcohol, working as a travelling guest speaker for the Anti-Saloon League. He died in May 1960.


Brode, Patrick Dying for a Drink, Biblioasis, 2018 (

Border Cities Star, June 2, 1916; November 1, 1920; November 8, 1920; February 24, 1921

Keefe, Rose, The Fighting Parson: The Life of Reverend Leslie Spracklin, Absolute Crime, 2014

Southwestern Ontario Digital History