Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5 v. (lvi, 2731 p., [228] leaves of plates) : ill., maps (some fold.), ports. ; 27 cm.

1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 54 Part 4


In the meantime petitions began to drift in to the Senate and House. Mr. Detwiler, the representative of the Good Templars, arrived in Topeka with the monster petition circulated by that Order and began a bombardment of the Legislature that, up to that time, was unique. Beside presenting the petition as a whole to both branches of the Legislature, he copied and arranged the names according to legislative districts and approaching three or four members daily presented them with a petition from their own constituents asking each to examine the petition and present it to the body of the Legislature to which he belonged. Thus a perfect fusillade of petitions was kept up for a week or ten days. Having accomplished this first bit of strategy to his satisfaction, Mr. Detwiler went to the office of Judge N. C. McFarland, a zealous temperance worker, a man of state wide reputation for integrity and of no mediocre ability as a lawyer, and asked him to draft a joint resolution submitting an amendment to the constitution of the state relative to the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors. It must be an amendment that would stand the severest tests and Judge McFarland by reason of his knowledge of governmental functions, was a man eminently fitted to do the work, Two days later he gave Mr. Detwiler the resolution afterward known as Senate Joint Resolution Number 3. It was introduced on February 8 by Senator Geo. P. Hamlin, of Linn County, referred to the committee on Judiciary, reported back February 13, with the recommendation that it be referred to the Committee of the Whole and printed. Work had been done very quietly because of the strong liquor lobby fighting Senate Bill 32, a measure brought forward by the State Temperance Union and introduced by Senator Bradley, and one following closely the recommendations of the governor in his message. As the fight on this bill waxed hotter the Joint Resolution offered an escape to the harassed Senators, who were standing between the devil and the deep sea. When the Bradley bill came up for consideration in Committee of the Whole, on February 14, it was recommended and agreed to, that Joint Resolution 3 be substituted therefor. The liquor lobby, feeling certain that the measure would be killed in the House, and preferring its chances to the Bradley bill, offered not the slightest objection, and when the Resolution came up for consideration on February 21, no fight was made on it in the Senate, where it passed with a vote of 37 yeas and no nays, three absent or not voting.

As the fight over temperance legislation grew the activity of the temperance cohorts increased. Reports coming in from over Kansas show that this activity was by no means confined to the larger towns of the state. A correspondent to the Commonwealth from Salina says that "the mayor, marshal, council, police, Temperance Union and preachers are stirring up the saloonatics until you can't rest." Newspapers friendly to temperance were asked to copy notices of the different activities, reports of meetings, announcements, et cetera. The churches were sponsoring petitions praying for an amendment to the "Dram Shop Act," in accordance with the recommendation of the Governor's message. The State Temperance Union was working along the same line. In the early stages of the fight feeling was divided as to the advisability of a prohibitory amendment. By many an earnest worker in the cause, it was thought to be too radical, that the time was not ripe for so arbitrary a measure; that an amendment to the dramshop act would be much more likely to receive the sanction of all public opinion. But that was the weak spot of their reasoning. The radical measure was their one hope and the leaders saw it. The dram shop act, being apparently the most logical thing for the Legislature to undertake to strengthen, the liquor interests had concentrated their forces upon it; they had such an amendment beaten almost before it was introduced. The jump of the temperance element to a constitutional amendment looked to the liquor dealers like weakness, and in a most complacent manner they refused to take it seriously. There were two chances to defeat it after its introduction in the Senate - the House and finally the people. And the dealers put great faith in the people. The introduction of the constitutional amendment into the temperance fight was an astute political move.


The fight in the House was close and intensely bitter. Both factions were busy. The liquor dealers were active with influence, whisky and petitions, everywhere doing what they could. The temperance workers were just as industrious. The "banner temperance town of the state, Hutchinson," sent up a delegation to, according to the antinewspapers, "bulldoze the dram-shop act through the Legislature." The delegation consisted of L. A. Bigger, J. V. Clymer, Hiram Raff and Henry Hegwer, and were a decided addition to the temperance wing in the fight. Governor St. John was often seen on the floor of the House counselling with the strong, and urging the weak to support the Senate Resolution. Wives of members came from their homes to urge their husbands to vote for it, and the final victory has very properly been credited to these women, who at the last moment caused their husbands to change their votes. The Resolution was messaged to the House on February 21st; on the 26th it was reported from the committee on Temperance with the recommendation that it be passed and was read the third time and put on passage on the 5th of March. A call of the House was ordered and a stiff fight was put up by members opposed to the Resolution, but the feeling of the members in favor of it was strong enough to override all oppositions and on final roll call the vote resulted in 88 for the Resolution, 31 against, and 10 absent or not voting.


It was a tremendous victory for the temperance people, and the causes entering into it can best be realized by a brief survey of the newspapers during those days of bitter fighting. Through them a glimpse is given of the varied and continuous activities of the temperance interests. Of their concerted action and their astonishing organization, carried on through a fight of over a year and a half to the final vote of the people on the prohibition amendment in November, 1880. The aggressiveness of the liquor faction can also be followed, and one can but marvel at their loose organization and their lack of foresight and political acumen. That they did not realize in time the sincerity of the movement opposed to them, and the deep seated sentiment that actuated it, is the only conclusion to be drawn.

The churches had always been a strong influence in the temperance cause. During revivals, the week of prayer and other religious meetings temperance had had its share of discussion. As a moral issue it came well within the province of the church to aid in the regulation of the liquor traffic where possible. So it was not surprising that the churches of Kansas should strike hands with the various temperance organizations in the state and bear their part in the fight now at hand. Especially did the churches in Topeka make strenuous efforts during the legislative session of 1879. Temperance meetings were the order of the moment. At the Methodist church in Topeka, the pastor, Rev. J. E. Gilbert, on January 5th, spoke on "What ought the State Legislature to do in behalf of Temperance?" At the close of the meeting seventy-five persons remained to confer as to some mode of action. Names were given to form a nucleus for the work and it was found that all the churches in the city were represented. The newspaper account of the meeting is interesting: ". . . several ladies and gentlemen tarried to consider what might be practicable in reference to legislation on a prohibitory law. Several persons made brief remarks, and though there was not an exact agreement as to the best plan of action, there was quite a unanimity of feeling that aggressive measures should be adopted at as early a day as possible. Accordingly it was agreed that Mr. Gilbert should confer with the pastors of other churches in the city and arrange for a meeting on Thursday evening to consider this all-important subject. A committee of three was appointed to act upon the subject under consideration, and report at a meeting to be held at the M. E. Church on Sunday evening next. Rev. Mr. Gilbert stated that at that time there would probably be good speakers from abroad. It would appear from the exhibition of feeling at the meeting that vigorous efforts in the city and state in the cause of temperance are foreshadowed."

About this time there was being sent out over the state from a Chicago publishing house a little book entitled "The Blue Ribbon Workers" by James M. Hiatt, containing sketches of the lives and acts of reformed drunkards who were then in temperance work. This volume met with a good deal of success, and was calculated to bolster the weak and help along the feeble in the temperance movement; and while a small thing in itself, is indicative of the never ceasing effort of the temperance reformers.

The Woman's National Christian Temperance Union assembled in convention at Baltimore, passed a resolution suggesting that a month of prayer be held and asked that pastors in all churches be invited to preach a temperance sermon during that period. January was the month determined upon, and it was very generally observed through Kansas. Thus were the churches and other organizations already beginning to get hold of individuals and prepossess their minds in favor of any stringent temperance legislation likely to be enacted.

The Union Temperance meeting at Topeka was a successful event, and the "pastors of the various churches were present, and took an active part in the discussion of the best means of bringing about prohibition in this state." A committee was named, having as one of its members the chief justice of the state, to "consult and adopt the best method of framing a petition to the legislature in relation to changing the dram shop act." At all of these meetings, and they were held weekly thereafter, out of town speakers were present and music was a great feature.

The executive committee of the State Temperance Union met in Topeka on January 14. The resolutions adopted at the meeting embody the recommendations in Gov. St. John's message and in the form of a petition were to be presented to the Legislature, after being circulated throughout the state for signatures. The members of this committee were men of some prominence in Kansas, J. H. Rice, J. B. Abbott, Albert Griffin, W. A. H. Harris, D. Shelton and others. A committee of three was appointed to organize the temperance elements of the state for work. Temperance lecturers were to be placed in the field by the State Temperance Union, and they were to hold meetings throughout the state. Murphy Temperance clubs and Phalanxes of Temperance Volunteers were to be organized. It was also resolved to hold the annual Temperance Campmeeting and continue it 12 days, Messrs. Rice, Shelton and Harris were named as a committee on the Campmeeting.

By this time temperance was a live issue in Kansas, lecturers from out of the state were invited to address the Legislature. George Calderwood of Ohio accepted such an invitation for the evening of January 24th. An audience of 150 persons gathered in Representative Hall. A report of the meeting says: "From the great number of absent members, it is but fair to presume that they are not all in full accord with the temperance enthusiasts of the day. Mr. Calderwood is a pleasant speaker and indulges in many of the familiar expressions of the modern temperance lecturer. He is in favor of a prohibitory law, and on the adoption of such a law, favors the right of the fair sex to exercise the election franchise. . . . The lecture was well received as was evidenced by the applause."

Gen. S. F. Carey was granted the use of the hall of the House of Representatives for a temperance lecture on the evening of February 5th. Temperance mass meetings were held frequently and were, to quote from the reports, "marked with great enthusiasm."

The newspapers discussed at length the various measures before the Legislature, and in all the discussion but little space is given to bills on the subject of temperance. The activities of the temperance organizations are duly chronicled, but prospective legislation along that line is not noticed until the latter part of February, when the fight was almost won.

Early in February the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union held a meeting in Topeka; the speakers were Mrs. M. B. Smith, president of the Union in Kansas, and Mrs. Drusilla Wilson of Lawrence. Rev. Gilbert presided. This meeting was so largely attended that there was standing room only. It was held in Costa's Opera House, one of the largest halls in the town. From the beginning women took an aggressive part in the temperance campaign. A great deal of charity work was undertaken, prayer meetings and temperance meetings were held and an attempt made to establish coffee houses, but with rather an indifferent success. Many of these women had been among those who had worked in the "Woman's Crusade," who had gone into the saloons praying with the barkeepers, and the patrons. They knew the weak points in the operation of the dram-shop law, and they were aware of all the evasions in its enforcement. Such women were no mean enemies to the liquor traffic.

Mrs. Drusilla Wilson


[Copy by Willard of Portrait in Library of Kansas State Historical Society]

A word should be said in passing of a very unusual woman who did much for the temperance cause - Drusilla Wilson. With her husband, Jonathan, she settled in Lawrence in 1873, just as the "Woman's Crusade" was taking form. She became identified with the temperance workers of the town and was made the president of their local Temperance association. In her diary she says "It was undertaken with many misgivings on my part lest I might not do justice to the cause, but this Crusade was an inspiration of the Holy Ghost, sent from Heaven to arouse action in this great work." Her account of her work is of great interest, and should, but for its length, be repeated here. She was a speaker in constant demand, and with her husband traveled over the state holding mass meetings and circulating petitions. She says: "We started from home in this work the latter part of November, 1879. Completed the campaign and got home the evening before election in November, 1880. . . . We traveled in our carriage during our campaign work over 3,000 miles, held meetings for the Amendment, organized a number of Bands of Hope and gave a number of Sunday School talks. She was 64 years of age at this time. Mrs. Wilson died at Carmel, Indiana, June 9, 1908.

Late in February the Rev. J. E. Gilbert announced the prospective visit of Francis Murphy to Topeka. He says: "As he is my personal friend, I feel prompted to utter a word in his behalf to prepare the public for his proper reception." Mr. Gilbert was one of the most earnest temperance workers in Topeka. He was a brilliant man, and not a little of the success of the temperance campaign of 1879 might be attributed to his advice and work in the beginning. Other clergymen were helpful but Mr. Gilbert had in a high degree what would be called at this day, efficiency. He had great executive ability and was one of the strongest organizers in the local camp of temperance workers. He came to the Topeka M. E. Church from the east and remained a little less than three years. He was a man in advance of his time even in a broader field than Topeka, so it was not surprising that he should return to a larger conference. Never of robust health Mr. Gilbert did not live long; he died in Washington, D. C.

The days of the Legislature were by this time few and at last Senate Joint Resolution Number 3 had reached the House.

The Commonwealth of March 6th had this to say on its passage there:

The most exciting and interesting item in the House since the Senatorial election, was last night during the consideration of Senate Joint Resolution 3, proposing an amendment to the constitution relating to the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors. Requiring two thirds of all the votes of the House to pass it, its passage was stubbornly resisted; at one time the friends of the measure despaired of their ability to push it through, and began to change their votes, saving the point to move a reconsideration of the vote; but as the members slowly came in and cast their votes in the affirmative, it became apparent that it was possible to pass the resolution. Changes were again made and finally the result was announced, yeas 88, nays 34; the friends of the measure than gave way to an expression of their joy at the result, which was only suppressed by the speaker's free use of his gavel.


After the adjournment of the legislature there was a noticeable decline in temperance activities. The visit of Francis Murphy to Kansas was the only occurrence of note following immediately on the adjournment. A Topeka paper of March 11 says of him: "This wonderful man has come and gone. His first appearance in these parts was last Sunday night . . . he addressed some 1,200 people, including a large number of prominent citizens from all parts of the state. He certainly is a speaker of great force. . . . We imagine he is more like Paul of old than any man that ever ascended the rostrum since the days of that mighty apostle. We can no longer question that he will be a powerful attraction to the Grand National Campmeeting which will very likely take place at Bismark Grove (Lawrence) next September."

In the latter part of the month an excursion to Gove county under the auspices of the State Temperance Union went out over the Kansas Pacific Railway from Kansas City to Buffalo. The excursion was for the special benefit of Francis Murphy and there went with him a number of prominent people, J. H. Rice, Dr. Callahan of Leavenworth, the Gleeds, Charles and Willis, one on the Kansas City Journal the other on the Lawrence Standard, Prof. M. L. Ward, S. J. Gilmore, Mr. and Mrs. Presby, J. C. Hebbard, several clergymen, and newspaper representatives. The trip was one extended temperance jubilee, at every stop there was an address and songs. Gen. Rice was one of the most fiery speakers; he indicted the "monster rum" as the "sum of all villainies in Kansas," and he said "seed has been sown during this tour that may bear rich fruitage during the season." It is unnecessary to add that he was right.

The early summer of 1879 was spent by the temperance people in getting all in readiness for their campmeeting which was to be held at Bismarck Grove, August 15 to 27. Early in August newspapers began to publish articles and editorials against prohibition, no great degree of feeling was displayed, but it was rather made light of, none seemed to regard it seriously enough to show real excitement, the general cry was that it would be impossible to enforce any laws framed under such an article in the constitution.

The Campmeeting was advertised widely, the "cold water brigade are soon to assemble with Francis Murphy and other celebrities" was heard on all sides. On August 12th the Topeka Commonwealth published an editorial on "Temperance and Politics," it deplored the attempt to make political capital out of the approaching temperance campmeeting. It insisted that there was no intention among prominent members of any party to make prohibition or anti-prohibition a party shibboleth. The article warned Republicans that the question of the constitutional amendment must be kept out of the party platform. The Commonwealth was not in favor of prohibition but discussed the matter in a sane, quiet way. The main argument against it being that it could never be enforced, and a law not enforced was a detriment, and in some instances, a menace to the morals of a community. The editorial closed with this statement: "Gov. St. John and other state officers have a perfect right to go to the Bismarck meeting and there advocate their views, and to undertake to make political capital against those who do so, will injure those who do it." This last was called forth by anti-prohibition papers threatening all state officers who inclined to tolerate temperance views or temperance workers.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.