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The Anti-Saloon Conflict

The Oberlin Campaign

Written for Our Day

By Howard H. Russell

"Oberlin has been something more and something better than an institution of learning. It has been a school of patriotism, and a school which has stood steadfastly, in peace and in war in the front rank of those who were fighting for the brotherhood of man." In these words, in the year 1883, ex­President Hayes spoke justly of Ohio's oldest and largest college. When Shipherd and Stewart, fifty years before, knelt beneath the historic elm, they dedicated themselves, and the school which they founded, to the betterment of mankind, socially and morally as well as intellectually. The spirit of civic revolution rang out with trumpet tones in the preaching or President Finney and Professor Morgan, and touched human affairs in practical ways by the adoption of reform methods in college administration far in advance of other schools.

The courage of conviction upon the part of Oberlin patriots defied unpopularity as they opened wide the doors of welcome to colored students and to women, and thus became the pioneer in these methods of scholastic emancipation. The infamous fugitive slave law was pronounced void and disobeyed, as they kept the station whose trains ran northward at night, as they rescued the negro boy, John Price, from his captors at Wellington and by the three months' imprisonment of professors, students and citizens in the Cleveland jail, they stimulated the gathering storm of opposition to slavery. The soldier's monument now standing near the chapel bears testimony, that when Lincoln's call came for volunteers, Oberlin was prompt to give her offering of choice sons to free the slaves and save the Union. Such was the record of grace and grit in Oberlin's early career.

Soon after the war this militant college found itself confronted with another serious problem. One which today disturbs other communities everywhere. As in the antislavery, so in the anti­saloon reform, Oberlin has been a pioneer. What was achieved there, is likewise possible, friend, in your village or city. Intemperance and its treatment is largely a local question. The problem is, how shall we keep men from drink and drink from men in each locality. Whatever may be done in legislation in nation or state, the keeping of men and alcohol apart must be, in final analysis, the task of each separate community. It is to invite your attention, to the campaign in Oberlin, and the wider Anti­Saloon organization there begun, and the principles and methods involved in successful warfare against saloons, that this and succeeding articles are prepared.

After some protests against reckless sales by druggists, the first open bar was set running by one Nichols, in April, 1875. The brewers' association, in their well known zeal to stamp out temperance sentiment, agreed to supply beer free of charge to Nichols for one year if he would keep a saloon in Oberlin. Before a week had passed a great mass gathering was held at the First Congregational Church and a separate business men's meeting attended by over seventy, who joined their protest to that of the Faculty and citizens generally. A committee was appointed who immediately waited upon the saloonist and in plain and unambiguous Anglo­Saxon he was informed of the sentiments of the community, of the difficulties and opposition he would encounter, and that his business would not be tolerated in Oberlin. After several conferences with the committee, Nichols became convinced that he would never make a success of the venture, and as the citizens at that time had no direct legal remedy, and in consideration of his discreet and prompt removal of his wares, a sum of money was paid to Nichols to meet incidental expenses, and he closed the saloon. Soon after, it was found that three places selling hard cider were causing drunkenness and disorder and they were dealt with by a committee and the mischief suppressed. Another case of hard cider nuisance was with more difficulty abated. One Jenkins insisted upon his right to sell cider under an exception granted by the law from its prohibitions, and it took unceasing effort for two years to overcome this intrusion. A direct violation of law was detected and Jenkins, after pondering the question in jail, gave up his rebellion. The drug store again, after a time, gave the community much concern. The proprietors were visited by committees and urged not to sell except for strictly medicinal purposes. This they all promised. Many citizens were still dissatisfied with the character of sales made by the druggists and the question was still discussed. In 1876 a remarkable pledge was drawn up and signed by all the druggists. As an illustration of the strength of public sentiment upon the question and the length to which both the people and the drug keepers were willing to go, it wild be interesting to read the provisions of that pledge which, when signed, was received by the Temperance Alliance with a unanimous vote of thanks:

'In view of the great evil resulting from the sale of liquor, and not having the desire or the intention to promote intemperance in this community, and disgusted with the trouble we are constantly having from the sale of intoxicating liquors, we propose and hereby promise never to sell or give away another drop of anything of the kind while we reside in Oberlin.'

Signed: By the four Druggists.

Under this voluntary agreement upon the part of the druggists it became impossible for several years to purchase any intoxicating liquors. The physicians dispensed liquors directly to a moderate extent in their practice, and after some committee work and a better understanding with one or two of the doctors, the situation was generally acceptable to the people. In 188l a concerted attack was again made upon the anti­saloon forces. Four places opened simultaneously in various parts of town. Again the people rallied and committees were appointed to call upon and remonstrate with the proprietors. Prayer meetings were held and a series of mass temperance meetings, and the entire citizenship aroused. Entreaty having failed with the keepers, the customers were appealed to. Volunteers were mustered, and details of both ladies and gentlemen, members of the Faculty and citizens were appointed to visit and tarry in the saloons and about the saloon doors and all customers were pleaded with to refrain from drinking and from all patronage of the saloons. This effort was rewarded with success, and one by one the beer sellers yielded to the consecrated persistency of the Oberlin citizens. A little later on a liquor dealer of Cleveland rented a store room in which he proposed to open a wholesale liquor store and bottling works. This purpose met the same aggressive opposition. A committee of five leading citizens called upon the Cleveland man and laid the matter so clearly before him, that after some further consideration he gave up the project. After some few other incidents of a like character, the most noteworthy issue of all, and what has proved to be the final battle, took place in 1883. It attracted wide attention at the time, since it involved a talented and honored Oberlin pastor, the Rev. James Brand, D. D.

One of the druggists who had pledged his honor not to sell intoxicating liquor, sold or pretended to sell his drug store to an outsider, one Bronson, who at once began a promiscuous sale of liquor. The temperance people promptly rallied, and in the course of the agitation Doctor Brand preached a most vigorous phillipic from the pulpit of the old First Church against both the sales and the seller Among other things, Dr. Brand said:

'There is but one issue between the temperance people of this place and the liquor traffic today. It is this: shall we have in this town the worst possible form of a whisky shop under the guise of a drug store, and kept by an utterly unprincipled man, or shall we not? This drug store has become the worst possible form of a rumshop, where, at times at least, whisky has been sold at the rate of a barrel a week, and with such a system of secrecy, hypocrisy and falsehood as shows the proprietor to have been perfectly rotten in character. He has insulted and slandered the business men of Oberlin; he has twice laid his ruffian hands on one delicate Christian woman and pushed her with violence out of the door, simply for distributing in a quiet way temperance literature to the poor boys and men who had become his willing victims. He is a corruptor of youth.'

This sermon, published after delivery in the Oberlin News, was made the foundation for a libel damage suit, the alleged libelous matter being included in the foregoing extracts.

Knowing the suit would not be successful in Lorain county, the plaintiff served a summons upon Dr. Brand when passing through Cleveland, and the case was three times in that county. In each case the jury disagreed, and it was finally dismissed by the plaintiff. The defendant's costs for attorney fees and other expenses were promptly assumed by the Temperance A1liance of Oberlin, and the results of the suit, under all the circumstances, have been regarded as a final and emphatic triumph for the temperance cause. There have never been since that time any open and notorious violations of the law. It may be stated with certainty that there are today no more frequent infringements of the prohibitory ordinance now in force in Oberlin than of other penal laws. While liquor is freely sold in neighboring: towns and cities, and vigilance will always be necessary, the long campaign against the liquor traffic in Oberlin may be said to lie crowned with signal success.

President Fairchild

There is one chief essential to a winning warfare against local saloons. It is the deliberate and persistent determination that at all hazards, and at any cost of time, labor and money, the open public drinking places shall not be tolerated. This determination has been manifest at all times at Oberlin. President Fairchild once said in a public address:

'We are not fanatics, but we are in earnest, and it is only by this earnestness that the enemy has been kept at bay. Towns around us with a population no larger than that of Oberlin have from ten to twenty saloons each. We propose to have neither a saloon nor a dubious drug store. This result can be obtained only by a free use of consecrated public sentiment. We propose nothing illegal nor un­Christian, but we cannot afford to consult either our ease or our dignity. We propose to use such laws as we have, however inadequate, and to address ourselves to that principle of human nature brought out in the parable of the judge who feared not God nor regarded man, but who, by a continual coming, could be troubled and wearied into a practice of righteousness.'

Rev. Brand

Another essential to success is the unity of the people in favor of the thing to be done and the way to do it. This unity has always characterized the effort at Oberlin. As one reverently expressed it: "The Spirit of the Lord came among us and united us on this platform. We will have no liquor sold in Oberlin." And beside absolute determination and thorough unity of purpose, there must be much wisdom as to the methods used. An aggressive organization was at all times maintained. The most prominent men and women in the community were enlisted with their time, talents and personal influence to inspire and direct the forces. Among the leaders nary be named President J. H. Fairchild, who was for years the president of the Temperance Alliance; Professor J. M. Ellis -- now deceased -- a man of strong intellect, tender heart, and unusual executive talent; Professor James Monroe, for some time a member of congress, in recent years professor of Political Economy; Professor G. W. Shurtliff, who led a company to the war in 1861 and returned a general, and has kept his fighting qualities alert to the present time in this local conflict, and the Rev. James Brand, D. D., whose activity by pen and voice has made him widely known as an anti­saloon advocate. Mrs. Marianne Dascomb, who was for forty­five years a teacher and principal of the ladies department, and Mrs. M. A. Keep, who still abides as a devoted mother in Israel, may be named as types of the many consecrated women who have done their part in the conflict. The most useful general work of the organization has been the unceasing and united agitation of the question. Regular union meetings have been held and the general and special phases of the issue have been kept warm upon the consciences and wills of the people. The local press has always been in hearty sympathy, and the types have clicked in harmony with platform and pulpit. Prayer meetings were held upon election days when the question in any form was before the voters. The circulation of temperance literature was a part of the regular work, and young and old were pledged to total abstinence. Thus the public interest has never been allowed to flag. Public sentiment thus stimulated is invincible. While in no sense justifiable, it is not surprising, that when at one time a saloon was built just outside the town, and there was no law to suppress it, it was taken down piece­meal in the night, and fragments of it were found long afterward at three different and distant points in the county. A winning battle costs money also, and the sinews of war have always been promptly furnished. A committee on finance has districted the town and canvassed annually for subscriptions. At one time an assessable fund of $60,000 was pledged. Not less than $5,000 has been expended in the past twenty years.

Strong conviction, invincible determination, tireless vigilance, thorough and united organization, unceasing agitation, self­sacrificing contributions of time and money -- these are the elements of the successful anti-saloon conflict at Oberlin. The citizens today deem their victory well worth its cost, and their veteran experience has made them forceful pioneers in the wider Anti­Saloon campaigm now under way throughout Ohio and America.


At the opening of the revolutionary war, the pastor of the village church in Woodstock, Va., preached a thrilling reunion to his people on behalf of liberty. Throwing off his pulpit gown he disclosed the full uniform of a Continental captain; summoning the men of his congregation, he mustered them into a company, and acting loath as their captain and chaplain, he led them forth to a share in the battles and final victory. The hour has 1ikewise come in Ohio when the pastors of our churches are leading forth their people to a part in the new conflict against a more baneful foe than the red­coats of the revolution. It is a just cause for thanksgiving to God that the churches of Ohio are now thoroughly and effectively marshaled in battle array against the Ohio saloons.

The Ohio Anti­Saloon League was organized in September, 1893, at the First Congregational Church, in Oberlin. The constitution of the League proposed at the outset "to combine and concentrate the various churches, temperance organizations and individuals of the state along such lines of work as all can unite upon" against the saloon traffic in the state of Ohio. It was proposed to make the organization inter-denominational and omni­partisan. The political purposes of the League were carefully defined in the following declaration: "The league shall form no political party. It shall seek affiliation with and aid from no political party as such, but shall endeavor to influence and secure the support of the individual members and officers of all the political organizations of the state." As the name implies, the league concentrates its operations against the saloon. A state superintendent was elected [editor's note: Russell was the first state superintendent] with the understanding that he give his whole time to the work, and a central headquarters was opened at the capitol of the state. This was in September, 1893. Amid many difficulties, arising from the apathy, cowardice and discord of the people, seventy­five organizations were formed before the next session of the state legislature, which met in January, 1894. The whole power of the new organization was then turned into legislative channels. At the adjournment of the legislature, organizing work was vigorously pushed until at the present time, two and half years from the beginning, there are now over seven hundred branches co­operating with the central organization.

Four departments of permanent work are zealously advocated and kept active by the officers of the state organization. First and foremost the agitation department. In this department we stimulate each local organization to hold regular public union anti­saloon meetings, and as far as possible the state superintendent co-operates with each local league in securing speakers to address the meetings. Each local league is visited once a year, or oftener, by one of the field secretaries. Seventeen hundred such meetings were conducted directly under the auspices of the state department the first year, and the second year over six thousand meetings were held. More than twelve thousand such meetings will be held the present year. Quartettes and solo singers have sometimes accompanied the speakers to add variety to the meetings. Anti­Saloon Sunday is one of the special features of our work in the agitation department. This means that on a given Sunday all the churches in a locality set apart one of the services of the day as an anti­saloon anniversary, and the address or sermon is delivered by one of the salaried or volunteer speakers for the league. The anti­saloon medal contest, similar to the Demorest contest, except that non­partisan selections are spoken, is also doing valuable agitation work. Over three tons of tracts have been purchased and are being circulated throughout the state. The sixteen page monthly paper of the league, "The American Issue," has now reached a circulation of 25,000 subscribers. The aim of the league is by aggressive and persistent and united agitation to arouse and keep alive a vigorous public sentiment against the liquor habit and traffic.. In this way the league aims to secure both the enactment and enforcement of law through a stern and steady public demand.

Our second department is the department of law enforcement. In the enforcement of law the Anti­Saloon League does not make use of the Law and Order League methods. No detectives nor lawyers are employed, as a rule. The theory of the league is that the executive and police officers of the town or city have been elected, sworn in, and are being paid to strictly enforce the laws of the state and local ordinances. By the federation of all lawabiding citizens we have been able in more than two hundred cities and towns of Ohio to secure a greatly improved enforcement of law by the municipal officers; or, in case of their refusal or neglect to enforce law, we have defeated them at the primaries or polls and secured the election of officers who would perform their duty.

There is also the department of legislation. In the last two General Assemblies of Ohio our organization took an active and forceful part. We have been able to prevent the friends of the liquor dealers securing any legislation to the advantage of the saloons, although ten different bills have been introduced in their interest. We have secured the enactment of three wholesome laws of decided advantage to the cause of temperance. The most important measure championed by our league was introduced by Mr. Haskell, of Lorain county, in the 71st, and by Mr. Harris, of Ashtabula county, in the 72d Assembly. This bill provides for local option for counties, cities, wards of cities and incorporated villages and townships, with a vote recurring every two years upon the Australian ballot. When this bill is enacted into law, it is anticipated that nearly two­thirds of the geographic territory of the state will be placed under prohibition at the first vote. The house was forced to vote upon the bill in 1894, and thirty­six votes were secured. In 1896 the bill received fifty votes, and we push on hopefully toward the next Assembly which convenes in January, 1898. We believe Ohio will at that time take her place in the honorable list of such states as Georgia, Mississippi and Arkansas, where the reform has been pushed rapidly forward through similar methods of legal treatment.

Our financial department has been systematically and successfully conducted. The league is supported by voluntary subscriptions of its members in all parts of the state. Monthly subscriptions payable quarterly for a year, are given in public meetings of the league, and are collected by local collectors, who receive a small percent for their services. Some generous subscriptions have been made by level headed business men, who have recognized the common sense method and business system of our league. Several thousand persons have given smaller sums. The first year an aggregate of $8,000 was raised, and the second year, closing September 30, 1895, an aggregate of about $24,000 was received and disbursed by the state treasurer. The state finance committee is appealing successfully to the people of the state for $40,000 for the support of the work the present year.

The various departments of work of the league have been carried forward by able men, who have been called, one after another, to serve as field secretaries, until we now have twenty­two salaried workers in the headquarters' offices and in the field giving their whole time to the work. Several of them are successful ministers, nearly all are college­bred men, and the anti­saloon cause has been dignified by thus systemizing the work and carefully choosing reputable and talented men to carry it on.

The results of the work of the league have in every way accorded with the hopes of its projectors. Over fourteen hundred saloons-two miles frontage of saloons-have been thus far closed by the direct work of the league, and many more have been closed or compelled to observe the restrictions of the law through the better enforcement of the statutes throughout the state. In 1893, when the league was organized, there had been an increase in the state year by year, for five years preceding, of over four hundred saloons per year. Not only has this rapid increase been checked, but there has been an actual reduction in the number of saloons of over 1,400 since the league was formed. This prohibition of saloons has been brought to pass in various townships and municipal corporations of the state by the use of the present prohibitory statutes- the township local option law and the "council" feature of the Dow Law. The Ohio State Liquor League-of saloon keepers-held its annual convention for 1895 at the city of Springfield. The president's address was devoted chiefly to sounding an alarm to the trade. An organization of Ohio brewers has recently been formed. Two weekly papers have been started by "the trade" during the past year. Large sums of money were raised by the liquor men to defeat the Harris Bill last winter. The liquor dealers of Ohio are now thoroughly alarmed.

The good effects of the work of our organization would have been utterly impossible without the federation of the anti-saloon forces of the state. Such a federation would have been impossible at the present time upon any other basis of action than that contemplated by the constitution of our league. We enlist our members without regard to their political relations. Our State Board of Trustees, and every local executive committee, is made up of the members of all the various political parties -anti­saloon Republicans, Democrats, Populists and Prohibitionists work side by side against their common foe. A most blessed fellowship has been formed of the members of the various conflicting faiths of Christendom. Catholics, Jews and Protestants are mustered together in a common warfare. Leading men of all the Protestant denominations are warmly co­operating in the local and state management. Within the past year the three prelates of the Catholic Church in Ohio, Most Rev. Archbishop Elder, of Cincinnati, Bishop Watterson, of Columbus, and Bishop Horstmann, of Cleveland, have all heartily endorsed the methods of the league and the principles of the Haskell Local Option Bill, and have consented to co­operate in the work. Bishop Watterson has made several very strong addresses in the largest cities of the state, and many of the leading priests have joined heartily in our meetings upon the same program with Protestant ministers, appealing to the people of any religious faiths to support our league and legislative bill. At the annual state meeting of the Catholic Total Abstinence Society, the state superintendent of our league was unanimously elected a fraternal delegate and invited to a part in the discussion of the body-an unprecedented but hope­bearing incident. The political assimilation of the members of the various political parties is well attested by the fact that recently an appeal, on behalf of the Anti­Saloon League, was made by the presiding elders of the Methodist Church to the pastors and members of that denomination in their districts, and this appeal was signed by every white, colored and German presiding elder in the state. The state conventions of the league have been the grandest temperance demonstrations ever seen in Ohio.

Our federation of the forces of good citizenship against the saloon is no longer an experiment. It is already a demonstration. As speedily as at all possible, in this sadly rum­ridden state, this most important of the reforms of today is gathering momentum and making headway. Let such an aggressive combination be formed in every state; let the tocsin of our League, "The saloon must go," ring out in a national unison, and a better day for temperance will be speeded throughout the land. Under the blessing of Almighty God, unity and persistency will bring victory!"