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 5


The opening of the temperance Campmeeting was a loudly-heralded affair. Gov. St. John made the address of welcome. There were speakers from many states: George W. Bain of Kentucky, a widely known temperance speaker; A. B. Campbell, then of Illinois, later of Kansas; Rev. J. E. Tilton and J. J. Hickman of Kentucky, Elias Johnson of Brooklyn, N. Y., J. E. Letton of Louisville, Dr. Gibbons of Colorado, Mrs. J. Ellen Poster of Iowa, and Ada Van Pelt of Nebraska. Besides all these was the great stellar attraction Francis Murphy, who was accompanied by his son, a prepossessing youth and already developing powers of oratory not unlike his father. They were just back from a great campaign in California. Of local speakers there were Miss Amanda Way, a woman of very pleasing address, a friend of Drusilla Wilson, and like her, a power for temperance work; Gen. J. H. Rice another well known worker, a newspaper man and a vigorous speaker. As a special feature four Indians were brought from their reservation in the Indian Territory, and spoke at one of the meetings.

The great day at the Campmeeting was August 26th, when the attendance was estimated at 25,000 people, and when they were obliged to take turns at listening to the speakers. Much had been done to make Bismarck Grove, attractive fountains had been put in, a great tabernacle built capable of seating 5,000 persons, and lighted with gas made on the grounds from the "new automatic Batty process." At that time the Grove was under the management of the Kansas Pacific Railway Company, and was a popular resort.

The music was a special feature of the Campmeeting, some of the finest bands in the state were there. The Rev. Robert Brown of the Leavenworth Conservatory of Music had prepared a singing book of a hundred pages for use. He was in charge of the music and he took with him his entire choir from Leavenworth and had as an assistant Prof. A. B. Brown of the Springfield (Mo.) Conservatory of Music.

A Military Day was held during the progress of the Campmeeting and military companies from over the state were in attendance. Special excursions were run to Bismark Grove from various points and everything possible for the success of the meeting was done. Some newspapers kept special representatives in tents on the grounds, while others were content to write up the meetings at long distance and headed their descriptions "Whaling Whisky."

A church encampment followed the Temperance Campmeeting at Bismarck and many of the prominent speakers remained to make temperance speeches there, and to later fill dates in the smaller towns and outlying country districts of the state.

The result of such a temperance meeting as that held at Bismarck would essentially give a great impetus to the work and to the temperance sentiment. Enthusiasts were raised to a plain of exaltation; the indifferent were impressed by the earnestness of the workers and were influenced unconsciously. While into the minds of the anti-prohibitionists, still scoffing, there began to enter a certain fear. The "Anti" papers showed it by taking on a vindictive, and even threatening tone, and personalities began to be indulged in.

The State Temperance Union held its annual meeting in September in Topeka, and was well attended. Officers were elected and the committee on campaign work presented its plan of activity. It was decided to maintain a central office, where lectures could be arranged for, literature kept for distribution and where reports were to be sent in from workers over the state, who were to tell of their successes and of the obstacles most in their way. A good financial plan was to be evolved by the executive committee so that funds might be available to push the work efficiently during the ensuing winter. The executive committee was likewise to see that within the next three months there was an organization in each county in the state.

All temperance societies, churches and organizations interested in temperance had been requested to send two or more delegates to this convention to "prepare for this great work."

Prohibition clubs began to be formed and from all over the state came notices of temperance picnics and campmeetings. Temperance campaigns were carried on in towns known to be liquor strongholds, in one or two places it was necessary to erect a temporary building in which to hold meetings, so strong was the town sentiment.

Literary societies became impressed with the popular topic, and debates were held. "Resolved, That intemperance has caused more suffering than war," and kindred thoughts were hurled at listening audiences. The subject was unlimited and the debates found great favor in the country school houses.

At the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars, Mr. Detwiler, the Chief Templar, said in his report: "In view of the fact that the measure, (the prohibitory amendment) was originated and has been thus far carried forward by our Order, I respectfully recommend that you make ample provisions at this session for a vigorous campaign that will result in placing one of the great principles of our Order in the organic law of the State. And place our State in the front rank of advancing civilization. In mapping out our campaign I would call your attention to the importance of a liberal use of printer's ink. . . . I would also recommend the holding of campmeetings in as many different parts of the State as your funds will warrant. . . . That each lodge be requested to hold some public entertainment, and the net proceeds of such be forwarded to your Executive Committee as a special campaign fund, and used to defray the expenses of the campaign." It is interesting to note that most of the prominent out-of-state speakers at the Bismarck campmeeting were members of the Order of Good Templars, as were also most of the temperance workers residing in the state.

In November there began to be circulated through the newspapers the "story" that the proposed prohibition amendment was "bogus." That it was introduced and supported by the whisky element in the legislature to kill a certain temperance law. That portion excepting the sale of intoxicating liquors for medical, mechanical and scientific purposes was seized upon and exploited. One paper that led in denominating the amendment "bogus" says: "That legalizes the sale for medical, for scientific, and for mechanical purposes. It puts it beyond legislative prohibition, if not legislative control, for these purposes. It means free whisky. . . . That amendment is bogus, will make Kansas sickly; it will stimulate the drug business. Whisky for the toothache. To prevent measles. . . . Boys will use it to study astronomy. . . . Men will be unable to set out a cabbage plant without it. No we are not for the constitutional amendment."

Another paper in reply to the charge that the prohibition amendment and the amendment repealing the $200 tax exemption were put through by combination makes the following statement: "The truth is that the prohibition amendment originated with the enemies of temperance in the Senate, where it was passed as a substitute for the legislation asked for by the friends of the cause. When it went to the House the temperance men finally concluded to accept it, and make their fight on that line before the public. Finding it was that or nothing, they concluded to take what they could get. Thereupon the whisky men turned round and undertook to defeat the amendment also, but failed. There was no combination in the matter at all. The proposed amendments were passed separately, and each on its own supposed merits."

The New Year brought an increased activity among temperance workers, meetings were held in every village and hamlet, distinguished lecturers were in the field and the campaign was in full swing. Newspapers were discussing every phase of the proposed amendment. Politics were entering into the fight. St. John was called a "meddlesome governor" and the attacks upon him were continuous. In the minds of many people the governor and the prohibitory amendment meant almost the same thing. In spite of repeated denials the opposition papers continually harped on the effort that was being made to put a prohibition plank into the Republican platform, and make it a party issue. The prohibition papers were quite as unreasonable, anyone who was not in favor of the amendment was a "whiskyite" and a "gin-slinger," and there was no truth in him; he was a menace to society and had no place in the state body politic. Friends of the cause were called upon to see to his political downfall. By the latter part of January public sentiment had been lashed to a high degree of feeling.

On January 21st the liquor dealers inaugurated a public campaign by organizing the People's Grand Protective Union of Kansas. The meeting was attended "by a body of men, who taken as a whole, are not to be exceeded in respectability of character and material responsibility by any other voluntary organization in the whole State; men who knowing their rights dare, and have the ability to maintain them; men of large stake in the country, and therefore the most desirous of preserving constitutional order . . . they come from all parts of the state and will exercise their individual as well as their collective influence in their several localities."

There were present at this meeting 125 delegates from over the state, many interested in the cause. The resolutions adopted were as follows:

Resolved - That the Prohibition Amendment of the constitution of the State of Kansas, if adopted, would be a law, in its practical application, far beyond the public sentiment of the people, and would be inoperative, that its adoption would take the whole subject of Temperance out of the power of the Legislature, leaving the people without remedy. Laws so stringent that they cannot be enforced, are destructive of all good, because they teach men not to respect the restraining power of the law. The laws now upon the Statutes of the State, are as stringent as can be enforced, and may be amended or repealed as public interest or public sentiment shall demand. The amendment if adopted, would do what no Constitution of any state in this Union now does; it would legalize the manufacture and sale of liquor, unrestrained by law, and the liquor once purchased and in the hands of the purchaser, its use cannot be controlled; thereby offering a premium to falsehood, perjury and intemperance.

Interviews were given out by prominent liquor dealers of Leavenworth and elsewhere in which it was stated that the People's Grand Protective Union had money to spend on the campaign to defeat St. John and the prohibitory amendment. It was claimed that the governor was using the amendment to carry himself into a second term.

Subordinate Unions of the People's Protective Union had been organized and the opposition papers were filled with encouraging reports from every Union. The central committee of the Union, with offices in Topeka, sent out statements of the flourishing condition of the emaciation. Of their financial backing, and of the "Numerous letters and telegraphic dispatches received, full of encouragement, from friends of equal rights in other states, breathing the true spirit of loyalty to the Nation and to its constitutional and free government, and extending the best sympathy of the writers to the Union, in the struggle now before it." Similar letters and dispatches were received from "individuals of known reputation for private and public worth, pledging their support in most encouraging terms." Every public meeting of the central committee of the Union brought forth an outburst of rhetoric from its supporting newspapers. The high moral tone of its platitudes spread over the state. Its sympathizers demanded a slaughter of all temperance candidates. Tabulations were published showing the amount of grain used by distilleries, the number of men employed, the cost of labor, and the taxes paid to the government. It was repeatedly published of the Union that it was "a strong organization, and meant business." All of which was true, but its "organization" was late in the field, and it underestimated public sentiment.

The Kansas State Journal, George W. Reed, editor, was the organ of the liquor dealers while the Topeka Daily Capital under Maj. Hudson was the staunch supporter of the prohibitionists. Each accused the other in furious editorials, and indulged in the bitterest personalities. It was claimed that money was being sent into the state from Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa with which to buy up newspapers and conventions in order to defeat the prohibition amendment. A return charge was that the State Temperance Union was using money for St. John's campaign that had been sent to help carry the amendment. The following purported to have been copied from the New York Independent, of date some time during July or August, 1880: "Ye who have money to spare, hear the voices from Kansas that cry for help, and draw your checks at sight, forwarding the same to Gov. St. John or Rev. A. M. Richardson, of Lawrence, the first president, and the second the secretary of the war department that carries on the battle. How a few thousand dollars would brace them for a harder fight."

A temperance paper at Newton claimed that it had received an anonymous letter "threatening us with dire destruction of property and maltreatment of person if we don't mind our own business and let the whisky interests alone. "


Topeka was said to be the headquarters of the "whisky ring" and papers over the state were placing nearly every candidate under suspicion from one side or the other. Speakers were hurried here and there, and debates were the order of the moment. Gov. St. John, Sidney Clarke and others were prominent on the affirmative side, while ex-Governor Charles Robinson and S. N. Wood were the leaders of the negative.

In a debate at the Bismarck meeting Gov. Robinson spoke of his own record and of the practical temperance of his life. He said that he felt this ought to insure him freedom from the attacks of the temperance people. He made the usual points that the exceptions in the amendment would make the liquor traffic free - that local option was the best preventive of drunkenness. John B. Finch of Nebraska replied to him. After these two speeches the meeting resolved that its faith in the wisdom and efficacy of "our" contemplated prohibitory "experiment" was unshaken, rather "materially strengthened" and they also reaffirmed their implicit confidence in the personal and official integrity of Gov. John P. St. John.

The National Christian Temperance Union met at Bismarck Grove, August 26 and 27, "it is the solemn duty of every temperance advocate from every state and territory to flock to the standard and lend assistance during the momentous crisis. . . . (Kansas) will be a beacon light leading her sister states to the same harbor of safety and sunshine," was the admonition to temperance workers. This meeting brought into the state Frances Willard, J. Ellen Foster, Miss Youmans, Maj. George Woodford, and many more prominent temperance speakers. After the meeting they made a round of speeches through the state contributing much to the brilliancy of the campaigns.

Meanwhile the State conventions of the parties were being held and prohibition and anti-prohibition lines were being more closely drawn. The Republican party refused to incorporate the prohibitory amendment as a party measure in its platform. The Capital in commenting on it says: "An entirely unnecessary omission . . . and one that has created much unfavorable comment, is the absence of a plank on temperance. . . . Whatever may have been the motive, or whether there was any motive at all, . . . the impression that goes abroad is that the issue was dodged - that like the late Greenback and Democratic conventions, the Republicans were afraid to take the bull by the horns." Col. Jennison tried to force a resolution through the Republican State convention after the nomination of St. John, pledging the party to an enthusiastic support of its nominee "because of his devotion to the cause of temperance and prohibition," and because his "nomination is due to his vigorous opposition to the traffic in intoxicating drinks." No action was taken on the suggestion, however.

As election day drew nearer more aggressive work than ever was done by the temperance element. At the other extreme was a surprising inertness on the part of the liquor dealers. Whether they were lulled to a false security by the action of the Republicans in refusing to endorse the amendment or whether their money gave out, is hard to prove. But soon after the Republican convention, which was September 3rd, their own newspapers ceased publishing vituperative editorials, and open letters were no longer to be read on their sheets. However the evening before the election they circulated at Topeka a circular addressed "to the Voters of Kansas" saying that "The falsely so-called 'Temperance Party' or 'St. Johnites,' have presented the question of a prohibitory amendment to the State Constitution, forever outlawing the manufacture and use as a beverage, of alcoholic liquors. Let the voters of Kansas stop and reflect upon the effect of the passage of this amendment." The arguments used in the body of the circular were those which they invariably used. The law was an innovation, derogatory to public liberty, it was "sumptuary and gustatory," it would retard immigration, depreciate farm values, and engender bitterness and contention and finally it would involve an endless and expensive litigation. The temperance people did not abate their activity a particle. Clergymen were asked to deliver on the Sunday before election, sermons on prohibition, and there was a very general response to the request. In some churches it was almost a day of prayer and fasting. The last issues of the temperance newspapers, especially those established for work during the campaign, were full of warnings and advice. The Lawrence Palladium said, "Don't hesitate to scratch every doubtful name - vote for no one whose record on this question is not beyond dispute - pay little attention to mere party lines. Be sure of your men, no matter to what party they belong! The other side will vote their principles regardless of party. . . . So far as our state election is concerned, it is a square fight between the prohibitionists and the anti-prohibitionists."

Mrs. Carrie A. Nation


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


The day of reckoning was at last at hand, the votes were cast and when the returns were made up it was found that the vote for the amendment was 92,302, while the vote against was 84,304; it had carried by 7,998 votes. The first battle had been won and it now remained for the newly elected Legislature to justify the faith of its constituents and crystallize into law the spiritual force that had swept the state.


As a farewell the Temperance Banner, a paper established at Osage Mission in the interest of the prohibition movement, published the following editorial in its last issue, November 11, 1880:


Over two years ago we started the BANNER in the interest of Constitutional Prohibition, and have urged the measure in our weakness with all the energy we possessed. The battle has been fought, and the result is before our readers.

We had a single purpose in view when we embarked in the newspaper business. Our eye has been steadily fixed upon that object. Our readers can judge how nearly we hit the mark.

If the BANNER has added a blessing to any home, or benefited our fellow man, we have our reward. If it has not, we rest content in the consciousness of having performed our duty according to the light we had. That we have made mistakes, is evidence of our humanity.

We are grateful to the editorial fraternity for the courtesy extended to us and shall ever look upon the past two years of our life with pleasant memories. While we verily believe that we have given a valuable consideration for all we received, yet we extend our hearty thanks to all our patrons for favors they have so liberally bestowed upon us, and while the newspaper enterprise has not paid us a financial consideration, the experience has been a valuable schooling for us. We have learned something of the blackest and brightest phases of human character. We have come in contact with men whose souls have been steeped in avaricious selfishness until they are withered and shriveled up so small that they could fly through the eye of a cambric needle four-abreast. We have met others whose hearts swelled with philanthropic sentiments and sent forth an electric current of human kindness that inspired us with new hopes, new desires and grander purposes.

We fold our tent in peace, camp on the field, rest on our arms, sleep in security, to be awakened at the first sound of Gabriel's trumpet.

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