“I was awakened by a voice which seemed to me speaking in my heart, these words, ‘GO TO KIOWA,’ and my hands were lifted and thrown down and the words, ‘I’LL STAND BY YOU.’ The words, ‘Go to Kiowa,’ were spoken in a murmuring, musical tone, low and soft, but ‘I’ll stand by you,’ was very clear, positive and emphatic. I was impressed with a great inspiration, the interpretation was very plain, it was this: ‘Take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them.’ “
This was how Carrie Nation described the heaven-sent vision that sent her into countless bars and saloons across the United States wielding a hatchet to smash the evil demon of alcohol. And she began the hatchet phase of her career on today’s date, Dec. 28, 1900 at the Hotel Carey saloon in Wichita, Kansas.
Carrie Nation Grows Up HATING Booze!!
Standing at nearly 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds, Carry Amelia Moore Nation, Carrie Nation, as she came to be known, cut an imposing figure. She had been born on November 25, 1846 in Garrard County, Kentucky, to slave owners George and Mary Campbell Moore. For most of her early life she was in poor health and her family experienced financial setbacks, moving several times and finally settling in Belton, Missouri in Cass County.
In 1867 she married Dr.Charles Gloyd, who had a severe drinking problem. They had one child, a daughter, before separating in 1868. Gloyd died a year later, and Carrie attributed her strong anti-liquor sentiments to this poor first marriage. Miss Carrie married David A. Nation, nineteen years her senior—an attorney, minister, and newspaper editor with children, in 1874. The Nations moved to in Medicine Lodge, Kansas wherein he worked as a minister at a local church while Carrie ran a successful hotel. (Above, Nation, circa 1874) Nation started a local branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and campaigned for the enforcement of Kansas’s ban on the sales of liquor. Her ways of campaigning ranged from from simple protests to singing to saloon patrons hymns accompanied by a hand organ, to yelling to bartenders with such clarion calls as, “Good morning, destroyer of men’s souls.” But she got poor results from this sort of thing. So she prayed to God for guidance and in 1899 had the epiphany which she described above.
Carrie Has an Ax or a Hatchet to Grind
Nation gathered several rocks – “smashers”, in her dry parlance – and went to Dobson’s Saloon on June 7. Crying out “Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard’s fate,” she started wrecking the saloon’s stock with her rocks. She smashed two other saloons in Kiowa, after which a tornado hit eastern Kansas. She took this as as divine approval of her actions. And subsequently switched over to a hand held hatchet as her chosen method of dispensing God’s wrath. And her first foray into axing the drinks came today in Wichita, wherein she also smashed up a titillating picture of Cleopatra behind the bar. Between 1900 and
1910 she went on a national tear, and was arrested some 30 times after leading her followers in the destruction one watering hole after another while shouting “Smash, ladies, smash!” to her confederates. Saloons took to posting signs saying “All nations welcome except Carrie”. Prize-fighter John L. Sullivan was said to have run and hid when Nation burst into his New York City saloon. Self-righteous and formidable, Nation mocked her opponents as “rum-soaked, whiskey-swilled, saturn-faced rummies.” All the time she referred to herself as “a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.” Author Herbert Asbury in his 1929 book “Christs Bulldog” called her “the most industrious meddler and busy-body that even the Middle West, hotbed of the bizarre and the fanatical, has ever produced.”
Carrie Nation’s Bottle Crushing Legacy
Although Nation’s campaign of saloon wrecking won her national prominence, the immediate results were not what she had hoped. She succeeded in pressuring Kansas into enforcing its prohibition laws more aggressively, but most of the country still sanctioned the sale of alcohol. Towards the end of her life Nation resided in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where she founded the home known as Hatchet Hall. Having deteriorated both mentally and physically, she collapsed during a speech in a Eureka Springs park, and was taken to a hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas. She died there on June 9, 1911,and was buried in an unmarked grave in Belton City Cemetery in Belton, Missouri. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union later erected a stone inscribed “Faithful to the Cause of Prohibition, She Hath Done What She Could” and the name “Carry A. Nation”. Ironically, by the time the U.S. actually did adopt prohibition in 1920, Nation was largely forgotten–but the hatchet-waving Kansas reformer unquestionably helped lay the foundation for America’s ill-fated experiment with with a dry society.
Carrie Stops by the Queen City…
Incidentally, Miss Carrie brought her hatcheting crusade to my very own native town of Cincinnati at one point. According to the book “Yesterday’s Cincinnati”, she took one look at all of the Saloons lining Vine Street and immediately gave up. “I would have dropped from exhaustion before I had gone one block!!”
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by Luke Feck, E.A. Seemann Publishing Inc., Miami, Fla. 1975.