Holly Carry Nation Festival

History of Carry Nation

Carry Nation

People everywhere still debate the wisdom of Carry A. Nation’s
violence in attacking the liquor evil in the early 1900’s, but it is agreed
her colorful ear with the satchel of rocks and the hatchet gave the city
more notoriety than any other single resident ever was able to do.
Carry, daughter of George Moore and Mary Campbell, was born in
Garrard County, Kentucky, on November 25, 1846.
Her father was at one time a prosperous man, but through bad investments
he eventually became impoverished. He was a wanderer and consequently
Carry’s education was badly neglected. She was an invalid much of the time
from her ninth to fifthteenth years, and was unable to participate in the normal
pastimes of childhood.
During this time she had little to engage either her mind or body. Her thoughts
became weak and depressing, and she turned more to the reading of the Bible.
In 1865 Carry fell in love with Dr. Charles Gloyd, a young physician, and on
November 21, 1867, they were married in Belton, Mo. However, after a brief
period of marriage she was forced to leave her husband because of his drinking
and failure to make a living. Six months afterward, he died a drunkard’s death.
After this, Carry went back to Belton to make a home for herself, her little
daughter, and Dr. Gloyd’s widowed mother. Her funds were soon exhausted,
so she went to Warrensburg, Mo., and entered the state normal school where
she prepared herself for a teaching career. She then taught the primary grade
in Holden Public School for four years, but at length was dismissed because
she could not pronounce her words with perfect accent.
She then decided her best chance for a living was to marry again.
In 1877, she wed David Nation, a lawyer, minister of the Christian church,
Union veteran of the Civil War, and editor of the Warrensburg Journal.
Carry lived with David Nation for 24 years, but it was a period of quarrels
and strife, for they did not love each other and had few things in common.
The greatest bone of contention, it is said, was her excessive dominating
belief in religion, and he viewed with great disgust her plans for changing
mankind. The years just following that marriage were particularly hard.
They moved often, and lived in actual hunger many times. The daughter
was ill a great deal of the time and was always a worry to Carry. The daughter
partially recovered and was later married to a likable man who owned several
saloons in Texas, and often sent money to Carry when she was in need.
About 1890, the Nations traded their hotel property in Richmond, Tex., for
the T.A. McCleary property in Medicine Lodge, where they moved. Here
Nation became pastor of the Christian Church, but resigned within a few
months to accept a pastorate in Holton, KS.
Carry was glad to leave Richmond and escape the hard work of the hotel,
but she was not pleased to see her husband preaching again, for she did
not believe that he had ever been converted, or had ever been called to
SSSS preach. She therefore decided to guide and instruct his work. Not only
did she tell him what text to use, but she sometimes wrote his sermons,
including in them attacks on tobacco and liquor and other iniquities.
While he preached, she sat in a front row and acted as helper, instructing
him to raise or lower his voice, to speak slower or faster, and to make
proper facial motions. When she decided he had exhausted his subject, she
might step into the aisle and declare: “That will be about all for today, David!”
Sometimes he would fail to quit speaking whereupon she would walk to
the pulpit, shut his Bible, hand him his hat and tell him to go home.
She followed this procedure in Holton, and as a result the church board asked
him to hand in his resignation – which he did gladly, and the Nations moved
back to Medicine Lodge. David Nation never again took charge of a church,
but resumed the practice of law, this time with considerable success.
Mrs. Nation often used him to prosecute the liquor interests.
Carry continued to attend the Christian Church. One day when the pastor
was delivering a sermon on the proper conduct of people, Carry got up out
of her seat and defied the minister to prove certain statements. At this, the
reverend replied, “After the sermon, we will settle your case.”
Mrs. Nation retorted: “Do your worst and do your best.”
The elders met and asked her to leave the church because she was a “stumbling
block” and a “disturber of the peace.” She hated this, since her family had been
Christians for many years. But she continued to attend services as if nothing
had happened.
The voters of Kansas in 1880 adopted a constitutional amendment whereby
the manufacture and sale of intoxicating beverages became illegal, except
for medical, scientific and industrial purposes, and the Murray enforcement
act, passed a year later by the legislature, was upheld in 1883 by the state
supreme court. During her residence in the southwest, Carry had heard
glowing reports of the benefits of the Kansas enforcement, and when she
moved to Medicine Lodge she expected to live in a city where whiskey was despised.
To her surprise, she discovered as much drinking as she had seen in Missouri
and Texas. There were seven places in the Barber county seat where liquor
was sold. For several years she did not make any move to disturb them. She
was content to make speeches and aid in the work of the Women’s Christian
Temperance Union, of which she and Mrs. Wesley Chain, wife of the Baptist
minister, organized a chapter in Medicine Lodge during the 1890’s.
Being jail evangelist of the organization, it was Carry Nation’s duty to visit the
people in jail and tell them the evils of drunkenness. Many prisoners told her that
drink was responsible for their incarceration. She began to trouble the saloon
keepers. She often rose in church and prayer meetings and recited their names
and asked why the city and county officials permitted them to operate in violation
of the state prohibition. But they did not close, and it was not popular in those
days for the town officials to enforce the prohibitory law.
Carry Nation decided that something must be done. It was on one afternoon
in 1899 that, after a day of prayer, she and Mrs. Cain put on their best dresses
and bonnets and started out. Men, women and children promptly fell in behind
the crusaders to see what was going to happen, and when they reached Mort Strong’s

saloon, they were surrounded by more than 200 persons.
As Carry started to go inside, the town constable stepped up and said,
“I wish I could take you off the streets.”
“Yes,” she replied, “you want to take, me a woman whose heart is breaking
to see the ruin of these men, the desolate homes and broken laws – and you,
a constable, oath-bound to close this man’s unlawful business!”
Carry stepped forward, pushed aside the swinging doors and strode into
the saloon. She had gone no farther than the front room when Strong hurried
from the bar, took her by the shoulders, turned her around and regardless of
her shrieks, pushed her back into the street.
With tears streaming from her eyes, Carry Nation continued alternately to
sing and hurl curses at the saloon keeper, and Mrs. Cain and half dozen other
women joined in the song. Their shrill voices carried over town, and soon the
crowd about the saloon numbered some 500. Some encouraged her, while
others shouted defiance.
After several more unsuccessful attempts to enter the saloon, Mrs. Nation
started off toward home, singing. Behind her came Mrs. Cain, and an ever
increasing stream of women. At Carry’s home, throughout the remainder of the
afternoon, the excited women sang, prayed and rejoiced over the downfall of the
saloon, while a crowd hung about outside and called for more action.
That evening, there was great excitement throughout town and finally the rumor
was passed about that Strong had horsewhipped a woman. Finally, about midnight,
the mayor and several councilmen went in a body to Strong’s place and expressed
surprise and indignation at finding beer and whisky on the premises. They
sternly told Strong that he must leave town at once or take the consequences. He
left next morning, and Carry Nation rejoiced that there were only six saloons
remaining in her town.
Her next attack was on Henry Durst’s, but this time she changed her methods. She
made no attempt to enter the saloon, but knelt in front of the door and began to
pray. Durst, curious to see what was occurring and amazed that she had not tried
his door, made the mistake of going into the street. Mrs. Nation immediately
attacked him, and catching his coat lapels, screamed that he would go to hell
unless he closed his saloon.
Durst twisted away and ran back into his barroom, where he locked and barred the
door. But he heard Carry shout to the crowd that if the joint were not closed
within three days she would hold prayer meetings before the entrance twice a day
until the saloon keeper saw the error of his ways, or until God smote him with
suffering and disaster. It seemed to beg a chance to take, so before the time
had expired, Durst abandoned his business and left Medicine Lodge.
One by one, four more of the remaining joints in Medicine Lodge closed, three at
the request of the annoyed city and county officials. Then Carry Nation joyfully
concentrated her attention upon O.L. Day, a druggist, who had no permit to sell
liquor, but whose store, nevertheless, had become a popular loafing place for
known drinkers.
On February 16, 1900, Mrs. Nation learned that the druggist had just received a
suspicious looking keg, and she promptly called meeting of the W.C.T.U.A. A
group of women left the meeting and hastened to the drug counter. Carry turned
it over and rolled it into the front room and then into the street. Here she
smashed the side of the keg with a huge sledge hammer obtained from a blacksmith
across the street, poured the contents into the gutter and set it afire.
Later a trial was held and a doctor swore that the drink was California Brandy,
and that he had given Day a permit to sell it. Within a month, Day sold out and
left town – and for the first time since Kansas had voted prohibition, Medicine
Lodge was a place where one could not buy a drink.
Surging with success, Carry Nation embarked on her noted saloon-smashing career
and temperance crusade which was to take her thousands of miles – even to
foreign countries. Before it ended, she had been martyred by jail, beatings,
insults – and had gone to the extreme of asking Britain’s to forego their tea
It was June 6, 1899, that Carry Nation felt that she had a divine call to go to
Kiowa, in southern Barber County, and smash the saloons there. She secured a
great pile of stones, hitched up her buggy and drove to Kiowa, where she created
havoc at the bars. Standing amid the rubble of her damage, she dared the city
officials to arrest her, but they declined.
So she returned gleefully to Medicine Lodge, where the details of her successful
defiance of the Kiowa officials had been telegraphed ahead. She was met by a
large crowd of supporters.
A few days later she made a speech in front of the local post office in which
she charged that Samuel Griffin, the county attorney, was taking bribes of $5.00
per month from each of the saloon keepers in Kiowa. Griffin countered promptly
with a slander suit for $5,000.00 damages. Griffin won the case, Carry Nation
being fined $1.00 and costs of the action which amounted to $113.65.
She failed to pay the costs of the trial and in September, 1901, an order of
sale against her property was issued. Later she paid the costs by selling
souvenir hatchets.
For several years, up to the time of Carry Nation’s crusade with the stones and
then the hatchet, the W.C.T.U. and other antiliquor organizations had more or
less concentrated their efforts upon Wichita, for it was recognized that that
town was a mainspring in the entire liquor question and that if the saloons and
warehouses there could be put out of order, many counties in Kansas would be dry

  • at least until new distributing channels had been made.
    So Carry Nation descended upon Wichita. There she went to the gaudy saloon in
    the Hotel Carey and smashed everything in view with a rod and cane she had
    concealed beneath her cape, and some large stones. She was immediately arrested
    and lodged in jail.
    January 21, 1901, was a notable date in the Carry Nation career, for it marked
    her first use of the hatchet which was ever afterward so closely identified with
    her activities. The hatchet was first used when she, with three others, attacked
    the saloon of James Burnes. From there, they went to John Hereg’s Palace cafe
    and were arrested again. They were released on bail of $1,000 each, which was
    made several hours later by a member of the W.C.T.U.
    By this time, Carry was receiving letters from people in other cities of Kansas
    to come and free their towns of the saloons. So from then on her time was spent
    traveling, lecturing and smashing saloons. From Wichita she went to Enterprise,
    then Topeka, into southwestern Iowa, Chicago, Peoria, St. Louis, Cincinnati,
    Kansas City, Terre Haute, New York, out to California, and to almost every other
    important city in the United States.
    She was in Columbus, Ohio, when she heard that David Nation had brought suit for
    divorce. She had refused to let him go with her on her travels. He was granted
    the divorce and died October 13, 1903.
    Carry Nation visited Holly, Michigan on August 29, 1908, and spoke at Baird’s
    Opera House on Broad Street.
    Carry Nation’s travels and adventures during the remainder of her life were
    about the same as those of the other years. She continued to attack Masonry, to
    grab cigarettes and cigars from smokers, to make fun of people with fine
    clothing, to advocate women’s suffrage, and to fight the liquor interests.

Her later onslaughts upon the saloon, however, were mainly verbal, but wherever she
went and whatever she did, she stirred up excitement and commotion. Before the
infirmities of old age had compelled her to retire to her farm in Arkansas, and
thereafter to make only occasional public appearances, she had been beaten by
many saloon keepers, been arrested principally for causing unruly crowds to
collect, and had made trips to England and Canada.

Many thanks to the Medicine Lodge, Kansas website for this information.