Select Page

This Den of Vice

June 6, 1900 — Dobson Saloon, Kiowa KA


I said: “Mr. Dobson, I told you last spring, when I held my county convention here, (I was W.C.T.U. president of Barber County,) to close this place, and you didn’t do it. Now I have come with another remonstrance. Get out of the way. I don’t want to strike you, but I am going to break tip this den of vice.”

I began to throw at the mirror and the bottles below the mirror. Mr. Dobson and his companion jumped into a corner, seemed very much terrified. From that I went to another saloon, until I had destroyed three, breaking some of the windows in the front of the building. In the last place, kept by Lewis, there was quite a young man behind the bar. I said to him: “Young man, come from behind that bar, your mother did not raise you for such a place.” I threw a brick at the mirror, which was a very heavy one, and it did not break, but the brick fell and broke everything in its way. I began to look around for something that would break it. I was standing by a billiard table on which there was one ball. I said: “Thank God,” and picked it up, threw it, and it made a hole in the mirror. While I was throwing these rocks at the dives in Kiowa, there was a picture before my eyes of Mr. McKinley, the President, sitting in an old arm chair and as I threw, the chair would fall to pieces.

The other dive keepers closed up, stood in front of their places and would not let me come in. By this time, the streets were crowded with people; most of them seemed to look puzzled. There was one boy about fifteen years old who seemed perfectly wild with joy, and he jumped, skipped and yelled with delight. I have since thought of that as being a significant sign. For to smash saloons will save the boy.

I stood in the middle of the street and spoke in this way: “I have destroyed three of your places of business, and if I have broken a statute of Kansas, put me in jail; if I am not a law-breaker your mayor and councilmen are. You must arrest one of us, for if I am not a criminal, they are.”

One of the councilmen, who was a butcher, said: “Don’t you think we can attend to our business?”

“Yes,” I said, “You can, but you won’t. As Jail Evangelist of Medicine Lodge, I know you have manufactured many criminals and this county is burdened down with taxes to prosecute the results of these dives. Two murders have been committed in the last five years in this county, one in a dive I have just destroyed. You are a butcher of hogs and cattle, but they are butchering men, women and children, positively contrary to the laws of God and man, and the mayor and councilmen are more to blame than the jointist, and now if I have done wrong in any particular, arrest me.” When I was through with my speech I got in my buggy and said: “I’ll go home.”

The marshal held my horse and said: “Not yet; the mayor wishes to see you.”

I drove up where he was, and the man who owned one of the dive-buildings I had smashed was standing by Dr. Korn, the mayor, and said: “I want you to pay for the front windows you broke of my building.”

I said: “No, you are a partner of the dive-keeper and the statutes hold your building responsible. The man that rents the building for any business is no better than the man who carries on the business, and you are “particepts criminus” or party to the crime.” They ran back and forward to the city attorney several times. At last they came and told me I could go. As I drove through the streets the reins fell out of my hands and I, standing up in my buggy; lifted my hands twice, saying: “Peace on earth, good will to men.” This action I know was done through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “Peace on earth, good will to men” being the result of the destruction of saloons and the motive for destroying them.

When I reached Medicine Lodge the town was in quite an excitement, the news having been telegraphed ahead. I drove through the streets and told the people I would be at the postoffice corner to tell why I had done this. A great crowd had gathered and I began to tell them of my work in the jail here, and the young men’s lives that had been ruined, and the broken hearted mothers, the taxation that had been brought on the county, and other wrongs of the dives of Kiowa; of how I had been to the sheriff, Mr. Gano, and the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Griffin; how I had written to the state’s attorney-general Mr. Godard, and I saw there was a conspiracy with the party in power to violate their oaths, and refuse to enforce the constitution of Kansas, and I did only what they swore they would do. I had a letter from a Mr. Long, of Kiowa, saying that Mr. Griffin, the prosecuting attorney, was taking bribes, and that he and the sheriff were drinking and gambling in the dives at Kiowa.

This smashing aroused the people of the county to this outrage and these dive-keepers were arrested, although we did not ask the prosecuting attorney to get out a warrant, or sheriff to make an arrest. Neither did we take the case before any justice of the peace in Kiowa or Medicine Lodge, for they belong to the republican party and would prevent the prosecution. The cases were taken out in the country several miles from Kiowa before Moses E. Wright, a Free Methodist and a justice of the peace of Moore township.

The men were found guilty, and for the first time in the history of Barber County, all dives were closed. Of course it took two or three months to accomplish this and not a word was said about suing me for slander, until after the dives were closed. Then I began to hear that Sam Griffin was going to sue me for slander, because I said he took bribes. The papers were served on me, but I was not at all alarmed, for I thought it would give me an opportunity to bring out the facts of the case. I knew little about the tricks of lawyers, and the unfair rulings of judges.

I will speak of the attitude of some of the W.C.T.U. concerning the smashing. Most of this grand body of grand women endorsed me from the first. A few weeks after the Kiowa raid, I held a convention in Medicine Lodge. I got letters from various W.C.T.U. workers of the state that they would hold my convention for me. I said: “No, I will hold my own convention.”

Up to this time, no one had ever offered to hold my convention, and I fully understood, although I did not say anything, that the W.C.T.U. did not want it to go out that they endorsed me in my work at Kiowa. The state president came to my home the first day of the convention. I believe this was done, thinking I would ask her to preside at the meeting, or convention. I was glad to see her and asked her to conduct a parliamentary drill. She came to me privately and asked me to state to the convention that the W.C.T.U. knew nothing about the smashing at Kiowa and was not responsible for this act of mine. I did so, saying the “honor of smashing the saloons at Kiowa would have to be ascribed to myself alone, as the W.C.T.U. did not wish any of it. So far as Sister Hutchinson, who is, and has been the president for some time, is concerned, I believe her to be a conscientious woman, and whose heart is in the right place. She and I have been the best of friends and love each other, and she has often defended me and spoken well of my work. But I think the W.C.T.U. would be much more effective under her management, if she had understood that Stanley, the republican governor, wished to handicap her in her prohibition work when he appointed her husband as physician in the reformatory at Hutchinson, Kansas. Be it said to the credit of this christian physician he never used alcohol in his practice. And perhaps other bearings have prevented her from seeing that the republican pressure has injured our work more than anything else in Kansas. Many of the wives of these political wire-pullers are prominent in the Union. A W.C.T.U. must of necessity be a prohibitionist, for her pledge is a prohibition pledge, not a temperance one.

The Free Methodists, although few in number, and considered a church of but small influence, have been a great power in reform. They were the abolitionists of negro slavery to a man, and now they are the abolitionists of the liquor curse to a man. They were also my friends in this smashing. Father Wright and Brother Atwood were at the convention I speak of. Father Wright, who has been an old soldier for the defence of Truth for many years, said to me: “Never mind, Sister Nation, when they see the way the cat jumps, you will have plenty of friends.” The ministers were also my friends and approved of the smashing. Bro. McClain, of the Christian church, was at the convention, and he was trying to apologize for the smashing and defend me at the same time, he said: “We all make mistakes and crooked paths, and Sister Nation we all know, tries to do right, and even if she did some crooked things, all the rest of us do the same thing.”

I appreciated his motive, but for the sake of others, I replied: “I could not see that the term ‘crooked’ should be used. I rolled up the rocks as straight as I could, I placed them straight in the box, hitched up my horse straight, drove straight to Kiowa, walked straight in the saloon, threw straight and broke them up in the straightest manner, drove home straight and I did not make a crooked step in smashing.” This of course was pleasantry, but it was the way I took to justify myself, as but few seemed to see the merit or result of this crusade.

I never explained to the people that God told me to do this for some months, for I tried to shield myself from the almost universal opinion that I was partially insane.



Source: The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation, Written by Herself, by Carry Amelia Nation (Topeka, KS: F.M. Steves & Sons), 1905.