Editor’s Note: In a recent “Pursuing Our Past” monthly column by Clinton County History Center volunteer Beth Mitchell — about the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union — she asked readers, “Were any of your ancestors involved in this early movement for women’s rights?” Local historian Melinda Danenbergs has written the below column.
Early settlement of Jefferson township…almost 200 years ago…from the family “archives.”
The early history of Westboro includes a family by the name of Batson that moved into the area around 1840, purchasing a parcel of land southeast of town near a small stream called Plum Run. The land was available in tracts called military surveys.
This parcel of land was originally taken up by Samuel Jackson, a great hunter and had come to the area from Tennessee. He was greatly impressed by the natural surroundings and decided to locate on land that was to become Jefferson Township, building a log cabin in 1812; the tract of 79 acres was in Breckenridge Survey 3045.
The Batsons purchased Jackson’s land, known later (1937) as the Parr Farm, enlarging the log house, and Jackson returned to Tennessee. Ephraim and John also secured lots (#1-4) in the village. These lots were destined to become the ‘town square’ of Westborough.
They built a rather extensive frame house for the times with two stories connected to a tall porch and a kitchen in the rear forming what was called an “ell.” This townhouse was then consolidated with two other sections consisting of a store at the farther end and a hotel with a tavern in those days kept by Davey Sims.
This tavern and the Batson home housed many a traveler and people interested in the permanent establishment of the community. The family also established large stables in town, for they had many horses that were brought in from their farm during the winters.
When the railroad came through in 1852 the hotel became the hub of the town for travelers and visitors.
According to the history of Clinton County (1882), the first church organization established in the area were that of the Friends, or Quakers, about 1825. Around 1853, they built a large frame meeting house surrounded by a burying ground of one acre.
The Episcopal Methodists built a brick church situated in the village in 1854.
Temperance and drunken ducks
The women of both congregations became involved in the temperance movement.
One day, a group of several of the town’s women — mostly Quaker and numbering around 50 — marched to the saloon.
Sims was making “cherry bounce.” Sims bought the wild cherries harvested by the boys of town along the railroad bed; these boys were interested in making some extra pocket change. Sims then soaked the cherries in barrels of whiskey, perhaps manufactured just up the railroad in Lynchburg at the Frieburg-Workum Distillery, located over the county line in Highland County, only five or six miles distant by rail.
The women of Westborough descended on Davey Sims’ Saloon, with axes and hatchets, soon disposing of the barrels of “bounce” into the streets of the village.
Another landowner, Granville Haines, had a wife named Rhoda who let her animals run loose in those early days — the stock laws were not enforced in these times.
Her geese and ducks gobbled up the whiskey-soaked cherries, getting stone-cold drunk in the process, honking, squawking and flapping their wings like crazy.
In the end, the fowl were falling over on their backs, webbed feet in the air, thus ending the days of drinking “cherry bounce” in Westborough.
This incident was reported in an eyewitness account to the town historian, Louise Hook Webster, who recorded it in her speech, given at the celebration of the centennial of the founding of Westboro in the 1930s.
Aunt Ollie and Carrie Nation
Another incident concerning temperance was reported by Dusty Miller in his WNJ column. This particular day, “Aunt Ollie” — who was the WNJ correspondent from Westboro — was getting on the B&O Hillsboro Accommodation train to attend quarterly meeting in Leesburg.
As Aunt Ollie boarded the train, she found it full of passengers. Auntie was immediately taken charge of by the conductor who knew her and whispered, “That lady on the right back there is Carrie Nation; there’s a vacant seat right behind her; I thought you’d like to know you are riding with a famous person!”
So Aunt Ollie not only rode with Carrie Nation, but she heard her talk to a seatmate for about an hour.
Carrie was a radical temperance crusader who was also known as “hatchet-granny.” Carrie traveled the country speaking to audiences about the evils of liquor.
Auntie was a birth-right Friend who attended Sycamore Friends Meeting and later Westboro Friends Meeting; her father was a minister and was responsible for building the meeting house at Sycamore.
‘Greater curse than war’
In 1874: People from the Wilmington Journal were in the township canvassing the area for subscribers. They contacted two locals to take them around and to introduce them to people around the community. When all was finished, the WJ workers had obtained 60 new subscribers, with more coming.
One of their tour guides was a popular minister of the Westboro Christian Church (aka as “The New Lights”, as opposed to the “Disciples” or “Reformers”).
The Christian Church was built in the year 1868. Elder W. H. Orr was the color-bearer of his regiment in the Civil War and had, in the past year, added 366 new members to the church in Westboro.
The other guide was another popular citizen, and the assessor of the township as well as a constable, trader, farmer, veteran and candidate for sheriff, by the name of E.W. Hodson.
The people of Jefferson (township) were almost a unit in opposition to “license,” or in today’s terms, legalizing liquor sales. “The electors of Jefferson will wash their hands entirely of the business of regulating the liquor traffic. They are opposed to licensing a crime or legalizing an evil which is a greater curse to the human race than war, pestilence and famine. We trust, that all the townships of Clinton will show as good a record as Jefferson.”
This was election atmosphere of Westboro in 1874.
And with respect to women’s rights… from a short entry in my Great Aunt Ella’s Journal:
1920: Tuesday, November 2nd. Election day. First time women voted. Lib Bright and I were the 2nd and 3rd women to vote. Warren G. Harding was elected. The Methodist Episcopal Ladies served election-day dinner at Mr. Clark’s store.