WCTU of 1878: Close those saloons


Beth Mitchell - Contributing columnist



The WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) was very active in Clinton County. It was originally organized December 23, 1873 in Hillsboro and was officially declared a national organization in Cleveland in 1874.

The information for this article was gleaned from the Wilmington Journal published January 9, 1878.

Anne Wittenmeyer was the first president of the national organization and Frances Willard, a noted feminist, was the second president. This organization was active in the women’s suffrage movement and held the belief that “moderation in all things healthful and total abstinence from all things harmful” should be observed.

They are best known for their campaign against alcohol, but they also were against the use of tobacco. Each local group was called a “league.”

The annual meeting in Clinton County was held Friday, January 4, 1878 at the M.E. (Methodist) church, and church bells throughout the county “pealed for one hour prior calling for members to gather at 9 a.m.”

Devotional exercises were conducted the first hour by Mrs. M. E. Porter. Mrs. Rhonda Worthington was appointed to the Chair and Miss H. E. Moore was acting as Secretary.

It was moved and carried that the President appoint a Committee of Credentials as follows: Mrs. Caroline Nordyke and Mrs. Frances Crane were appointed as Chairs; also Mrs. Tamson Kibby, Mrs. M. E. Porter, Miss Louisa McGregor and Mrs. M. J. McKenzie from Wilmington. Mrs. Abagail Hadley and Mrs. Elizabeth A. Oliver from Clarksville were also named to the committee.

Appointments to the various committees are: Nominating Committee of Permanent Organization – Mrs. M. J. McKenzie, Mrs. Tamson Kibby, Mrs. Abigail J. Hadley, Mrs. Eva Porter, and Mrs. Alzina Barlow.

Committee on Resolution was Mrs. Caroline Nordyke, Mrs. Frances Crane, Mrs. Abigail Hadley, Mrs. Anna Hussey, Mrs. Lucinda Leeka, and Mrs. Josephine Fisher.

It was moved and carried that Mrs. Leeka and Mrs. Matthews of New Vienna, and Mrs. Rachel Bardsal of Oakland, be added to the Committee on Permanent Organization. The Committee on Credentials reported Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Leeka, Mrs. Matthews, Mrs. Ent, and Mrs. Anna R. Hussey were delegates from New Vienna.

Mrs. S. Bodkins, Mrs. J. M. Johnson, and Mrs. L. Johnson were delegates from Port William.

Membership numbers for each township were requested. Mrs. Nordyke of Wilmington reported a membership of 28 active members who held meetings every two weeks. On motion a petition to Congress was read. It was moved that the petition be circulated for signatures as early as possible.

The report for the number of saloons in the different townships were given. New Vienna reported four saloons and one drug store. Clarksville had two saloons and one drug store. Westboro, Martinsville, and Cuba prevents all attempts made to engage in the traffic.

It was afterward stated by a delegate from New Vienna that a saloon had been opened on Martinsville within the last two weeks. Port William and Chester Townships were reported as being free from the traffic. Wilmington reported 14

To begin the afternoon session the Secretary read Psalm 37 and Mrs. Mary Hadley followed with an earnest prayer.

A report from the Committee for Organization was presented. This committee presented the list of officers and representatives of each township: Mrs. Rhoda Worthington, President; Miss H. G. Moore, Secretary; Mrs. Sylva Matthews, Treasurer; Mrs. Emma Lewis, Richland Township; Mrs. Thomas Jeffs, Wayne Township; Mrs. Tamar Hill, Green Township; Mrs. Sarah F. Hurst, Clark Township; Mrs. Ruth M. Holiday, Jefferson Township; Miss Lida Bundy, Marion Township; Mrs. Abigail Hadley, Vernon Township; Mrs. Elizabeth Harvey, Adams Township; Miss Alice Wall, Chester Township; Mrs. Sarah Bodkins, Liberty Township; Mrs. Alzina Barlow, Union Township; Mrs. Mary Kibby, Washington Township; and Mrs. Louise Peale, Wilson Township.

This organization developed into an international organization working for the issues of women. More information on further local developments of this organization will be addressed in future articles.

Were any of your ancestors involved in this early movement for women’s rights?

Beth Mitchell is a longtime Clinton County History Center volunteer. She writes articles for its quarterly newsletter about a variety of past Clinton Countians and genealogy subjects.

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Beth Mitchell

Contributing columnist