Springfield, Ohio

History and Genealogy



The Woman's Crusade


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 483


By Oscar T. Martin

On the evening of November 11, 1873, twenty-six ladies of the city of Springfield went before the City Council with a petition signed by over 600 women, praying for the prohibition of ale, beer and porter houses.

The desired relief from the evils of the liquor traffic not being afforded from this quarter, on the 21st of this same month the Women's Benevolent Society passed resolutions to the effect that, as nine-tenths of the cases of poverty and distress which appealed to them for charity, and came within the province of their labor, arose either directly or indirectly from the liquor traffic, and, consequently, while it existed, could be only, in a slight measure, relieved, that they call upon the community in general and ask the co-operation of the churches in inaugurating a series of temperance meetings, to be held consecutively in the different places of worship throughout the city.

Mrs. J. R. Guy, Miss Mary Clokey and Mrs. Joseph Cathcart were appointed to a committee to meet with the Pastoral Conference of the city, and present the wishes and views of the Ladies' Benevolent Society. This being carried into effect, the conference pledged itself to a hearty co-operation with the laides, cordially approving of their action in petitioning the Council, and their plans regarding the mass meetings, and promising the use of the churches for these meetings, in order that the sanctity of religion might, as far as possible, be thrown around the movement. The temperance meetings were inaugurated December 2 in the English Lutheran Church, with Rev. M. W. Hamma presiding, and a large audience present.

An Advisory Committee, formed for the purpose of acting with and advising the ladies, who were the more prominent in the work, was formed of representative men from each church.

On the 6th of January, 1874, during the week of prayer, a Woman's Temperance Association was formed after the morning prayer meeting in the First Presbyterian Church, the volunteer rolls for signatures being circulated by Mrs. E. D. Stewart, afterward known in this country and abroad as "Mother Stewart," who had been added to the original committee.

On the 14th of January, 1874, the morning prayer meeting for the temperance cause was established, and, on the following Sunday, the Sunday afternoon prayer meeting for the same cause. These meetings continued without intermission for twenty-six weeks. So intense was the interest they produced, and so strong the feeling of religious fervor, that it was no unusual thing to see this placard on the doors of business houses: "Closed for one hour, to attend the prayer meeting." On the 16th, the vast audience attending the mass meeting requested that this meeting be held once a week hereafter, and it was so ordered. This meeting was addressed principally by ladies, whose talents as orators were developed by this work to a wonderful extent.

On February 11, an all-day prayer meeting was held in the First Presbyterian Church, Dr. Dio Lewis, of Boston, and the reformed liquor seller, J. C. Van Pelt, of New Vienna, Ohio, being present in the afternoon. Excitement was intense. From this meeting the first "praying band' went out led by "Mother Stewart" and Mrs. Cossler, and visited the Lagonda House saloon. News of their coming had preceded them. The streets were full of followers. They were jostled and crowded, but no insults were offered the women. The saloon was found locked, but the prayer meeting was held outside. From this time throughout the entire winter, these bands, having special leaders, went out daily, holding prayer meetings in, or outside of saloons, as opportunity offered. A committee was appointed for the special supervision of the street work, with Mrs. James Kinney as President, and Mrs. John C. Miller as Vice President of the committee.

These praying bands circulated the pledge, gained many signers, succeeded in reforming many drinkers, and bringing them into the church. Mr. John W. Bookwalter gave the crusaders the use of an empty building owned by him (the old Episcopal Church, which has since been demolished) for their headquarters. So satisfied were the citizens that these ladies were doing good that the different wards furnished lunch, daily, for the praying bands at this place, and here starving inebriates were often fed and warmed.

In March, 1874, began what is known as the "anti-license campaign." The new constitution which had been framed for the State of Ohio was to be voted on in August, and it contained a clause to the effect that license should be optional with the people — might be voted in or out of existence, as the people pleased.

On the 3d of April, a Clark County Temperance League was formed, with a corps of efficient officers — Mrs. J. R. Guy, Secretary, being one of the most active and energetic. The mission of this league was to hold temperance meetings in all the school districts and villages throughout the county. Much good was done by this league, and many drinkers reformed.

In the summer of this same year, the first Ohio State Temperance Convention of those interested in the crusade work convened at Springfield, and organized the entire crusade element into an association to be known as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. This union (or the women connected with it) did not prosecute liquor-sellers under the law, but left this feature of the labor to the supervision of the Advisory Committee, depending upon prayer and missionary labor for their success. "Picket duty," or the watching of those who entered saloons, by committees appointed for that purpose, was less extensively practiced in this county than in many other places.

On the 16th of February, 1877, a call was issued by many of the leading temperance ladies of the city for a series of Sunday afternoon Gospel tempereance [sic] meetings, to be held in the city hall. This was done at the suggestion of Mrs. Bishop Morris, then President of the Clark County League, and who had witnessed the good effect of such meetings among reformed men in Cincinnati.

These meetings were so well attended, and become so powerful for good, that the workers determined to put forth a still greater effort for the advancement of the cause, and, on the second week of April, 1877, Col. Richard Realf, of Pittsburgh, a convert of Francis Murphy's, came to Springfield upon invitation, and, with the aid of the ladies and the Young Men's Christian Association, inaugurated that phase of the temperance work known as the "Murphy Movement." This phase of temperance reform interested a large number of citizens. A series of Gospel temperance meetings were held nightly in the city hall, attended by vast audiences. Col. Realf remained in Springfield one week, during which time large numbers signed the pledge. The object of this movement was to win both drinker and seller by kindness, love and persuasion to forsake their career. Citizens gave liberally of their means to secure experienced workers from abroad to conduct the public services, and for many weeks, night after night, Black's Opera House was crowded "from pit to dome" with eager listeners, who came forward in vast numbers at every call and signed the pledge, each signer receiving his own pledge and carrying it away with him. During the time when the meetings were conducted by Messrs. Clancy and Smithson, also of Pittsburgh, the people would go hours beforehand, packing the lobby long before the opening of the doors. It was found necessary, also, at this time, to exclude every woman from the lower part of the building and reserve its use for the men, so anxious were they to give a full opportunity to all men who desired to be present and sign. At this time, also, a rigorous attempt was made to exclude the ladies from all participation, in order to favor the prejudices of any man who might desire to become a "Murphy," but who was opposed to the crusade, and to woman's public work in moral reforms. No entertainment ever "drew" with the magnetic force of the Murphy meetings, at which reformed men told their experiences in their own natural language, and these were often both pathetic and amusing. A choir was formed of fine singers, unequaled by any church choir in the city, and this was by no means a slight source of attraction, as their selection of music was of the most choice and affecting character.

About the middle of May, a "Murphy Club" was formed, of which Mr. A. R. Ludlow, a prominent manufacturer and well-known citizen, was made President, and this club was fully equipped for entering actively upon the work. After the departure of Messrs. Clancy and Smithson for other fields of labor, the meetings were removed once more to the city hall. All persons who would sign the pledge and the constitution of the club could become members, the men paying a small stipend weekly into the treasury, but the women were admitted free. In order to utilize and harmonize all the temperance elements, the ladies were also invited to speak from the platform, and did so with good effect. Clark County never experienced so forcible an influence as that exerted upon it during the coruse of this work. From the formation of the club, in April, 1877, to December, 1880, 15,621 persons signed the pledge, only 1,117 of whom resigned. A very large majority of these signers were adult males.