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THE WOMEN'S ANTI-LIQUOR CRUSADE.


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Transcription contributed by Martie Callihan 22 December 2004

Sources:
The History of Warren County Ohio
Part IV Township Histories
Turtle Creek Township
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)

Page
505

This movement was attended with more intense popular excitement than any other moral or religious work in the history of Lebanon and Turtle Creek Township, except, perhaps, the great religious revival of 1801, 1802 and 1803. A true history of the rise, culmination, decline and fall of the movement will be of interest and value. During its progress, the writer regarding it as a remarkable instance of an epidemical fever-heat of popular feeling, and believing that, like all movements depending on intense popular emotion, it would soon be numbered among the things of the past, preserved the materials for a full history of the work in Lebanon. Only a small part of the materials thus collected can be here given.

Dr. Dio Lewis, of Boston, the apostle of the method of suppressing intemperance by means of praying bands of women, lectured in Lebanon on the evening of February 12, 1874. He was accompanied by J. C. Van Pelt, of New Vienna, Ohio, who then claimed to be a reformed saloon-keeper. The lecture was attended by such numbers that it was a financial success, and, after the payment of Dr. Lewis and Van Pelt, a clear profit remained to the committee under whose auspices the lecture was delivered. On the following morning, Dr. Lewis addressed the friends of the new method at the Congregational Church, where the work of organizing a plan of operations in Lebanon was begun.

At this time, there were one saloon-keeper and three druggists engaged in the sale of liquor in Lebanon. The crusaders determined to demand that the saloon-keeper should at once entirely abandon his business, and that the druggists should sign a pledge "not to sell or give away under any circumstances, any intoxicating liquors, except for mechanical or medicinal purposes" and "to keep in a book set apart for that purpose a register of all liquors sold, showing when, to whom, and in what quantity and for what purpose each sale is made, and such register shall be kept open to the inspection of the committee of the Womans' Temperance Association of this town." Those who refused to comply with this demand were to be subjected to the annoyance of the praying bands of women until they did comply. Nate Wood, the saloon-keeper, declined to abandon his business. The drug firm of Florer & Babbitt signed the pledge as requested. West Glenny and Dr. John McCowan declined to comply with the demands of the crusaders. Street work by the praying bands was begun on February 14, in front of the saloon of Nate Wood, whose doors were locked to prevent the entrance of the women. The drug stores of the two non-complying druggists were afterward visited.

At the commencement of the crusade, probably only a small minority of the citizens of Lebanon indorsed the new method of suppressing intemperance. Rev. F. A. Douglass, of the East Baptist Church, and Rev. E. B. Burrows, of the Congregational Church, were its leading advocates. Nearly all the other ministers of the town soon gave the work their approval. A number of lay gentlemen were conspicuous in their efforts to forward the movement. An advisory committee, consisting of five men, met and counseled with the Women's Association. Although the crusade was known as a woman's movement, it was planned, organized, directed and carried forward by men. The street work was distasteful to a large proportion of the ladies who were ardent friends of the temperance cause. Many were with great difficulty induced to engage in the work.

Evening mass-meetings were held twice a week. The first of these was held at the Congregational Church on Tuesday evening, February 17: The officers were: J. P. Gilchrist, President; Dr. S. S. Scoville, Secretary; Robert

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Boake, George W. Hunt, William C. Lewis, H. Doebler, William C. Monfort, William W. Wilson and John E. Smith, Vice Presidents. After prayer by Rev. J. P. Sprowls, remarks were made by G. N. Carruthers, J. B. Graham, Mrs. Dr. Scoville, Mrs. Ashmore and Rev. J. Murray. The venerable A. H. Dunlevy offered a series of resolutions approving the methods of the crusaders, which were unanimously adopted. Ex-Probate Judge William W. Wilson read from proof sheets an article afterward published in the Star, of which he was then editor, giving a summary of what had already been accomplished in Ohio by "the movement so auspiciously begun at Washington C. H." "In the present movement,'' he said, "it is evident that the most effective method ever devised has been resorted to."

The following dispatch was sent to the Cincinnati Gazette, dated Lebanon, February 17, 1874:

"A mass temperance meeting has just been held in the Congregational Church. Such a meeting was never before known in Lebanon. The house was packed. The enthusiasm was fervent. The pledge was circulated and received over 300 signatures. The best citizens are thoroughly identified with the movement, and everything bids fair for success."

From this time forward, every means was taken to increase the excitement and silence all opposition. According to Dio Lewis, "a white-heat" was essential to the success of this method. Plans were devised to arouse an epidemical frenzy. The bells of the churches and public buildings were sometimes rung in concert. A large bell placed in a two-horse wagon was drawn through the streets and tolled. Telegrams were received from neighboring towns announcing victories by the women. The new movement was pronounced ' God's work,' and human laws were spoken of in terms of contempt and distrust. Committees of women visited business places and private houses to obtain signatures to the total abstinence pledge. The divine origin of the crusade and the certainty of its final success were expressed in the public meetings in the strongest terms. "It came right from God," said one, "and it is bound to conquer from its very nature." Said another: "This is God's work; I believe it will triumph. I know it will. I am no prophet, but no man who seeks votes through grog-shops shall ever be elected to office again in this county." Another: "Every spout through which a rill of whisky now trickles within this corporation shall be so tightly sealed, that this will be one of the driest places in the United States." A tyrannizing system of proscription and denunciation of every man and woman who would not indorse the movement was practiced. These means seemed for a time to succeed in their object. During the second and third weeks of the crusade, the writer knew of hardly half a dozen men of temperate habits in the town who were outspoken in their opposition.

The religious exercises on the street in front of the saloon and drug stores consisted usually of prayer and singing; at times, an address. These exercises at first collected a considerable crowd of spectators. They were sometimes conducted in the rain or snow. Street-praying proving ineffectual, was abandoned the last week in April, and picketing the front and rear entrances of the saloon was substituted. Two or more ladies took their places at or near the doors provided with note-books and pencils for the purpose of taking down the names of all persons entering the saloon. This was continued from early in the morning until late at night for two or more weeks, and proved a great annoyance to the proprietor.

On the morning of May 12, an old colored woman, known as "Old Black Jane," took a chair and seated herself among the ladies guarding the door of the saloon. It subsequently appeared that she was paid for this work by the

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opponents of the crusade. She, too, was supplied with a note-book and pencil. She admitted that she could not write, but she said she made a black mark whenever a colored man entered the saloon—a long mark for a tall man and a short mark for a man of low stature. For awhile, there was some indignation among the crusade leaders, but it was soon found that people were laughing in all portions of the town. That laugh brought to an end the Dio Lewis plan of enforcing total abstinence in Lebanon. The pickets were withdrawn, and the crusade ended May 15, 1874.

Saloon and drug stores sold liquor as before. Within a few months, there were six saloons in Lebanon. At a special election for Councilman, Nate Wood was elected over one of the leaders of the late crusade. J. C. Van Pelt resumed the saloon business and afterward was sent to the penitentiary. The crusade left behind it family alienations, neighborhood feuds and a general ill-feeling which were long in subsiding.


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