Chapter XXVI
The Temperance Work 

The Early Temperance Work in Jefferson County - The First Workers for the Cause - The Good Templars - Prohibition - The Temperance Alliance - The Murphy Movement - The Work of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union

The first record of temperance work that we find is a call for a temperance meeting to be held in the court-house, on the evening of the 4th of December, 1837, to be addressed by Rev. Mr. Hill. The call for this meeting, which appears in the Brookville Republican of November 29, 1837, is signed by J.P. McGinity, recording secretary of the Jefferson County Temperance Society. Then, in 1841, Rt. Rev. Bishop Patrick Francis Kenrick, on his way from St. Mary’s to Red Bank, delivered a temperance address to a large audience in the court-house in Brookville. From that time there appears to have been all over the county, at different times, societies organized for the purpose of putting down intemperance. In 1843 the Washingtonian Society of Brookville organized temperance societies throughout the county, one of which, at Beechwoods, was organized by Colonel Hugh Brady and S.B. Bishop, esq. In 1849 the Temperance League of Brookville put forth strong efforts to crush the liquor traffic. One of their public meetings, held in the court-house, May 19, 1849, was addressed by Captain W.W. Wise, and on the 18th of February, following, Dr. C.P. Cummins delivered a lecture in the same place under the same auspices, on physiology, anatomy and temperance, with especial reference to show the effects of alcohol on the human system.

July 1, 1854, a temperance convention was held in the court house, and an address published to the people of the county which was signed by R. Arthurs, chairman, and W.W. Wise, G.W. Andrews and D.S. Johnson, committee. The result of this movement was the following official vote at the October election, 1854: For prohibition, 1,385; against prohibition, 1,015. Majority in favor of prohibition, 370. At the February term of court, 1854, no licenses were granted in the county, and at the May term, following, there were no Commonwealth cases. A great many temperance societies have been organized, accomplished their work and sunk into oblivion, while others, with new life infused into their veins, would fill the gap caused by their death. Among the most prominent and longest-lived of these was the Independent Order of Good Templars, which was organized in Brookville, February 12, 1857, by Philip Clover, of Strattanville, D.D., G.W.C.T. L.A. Dodd was elected and installed worthy chief templar; Frank Crandall, worthy vice-templar; J.P. Miller, worthy secretary; Charles Matson, worthy treasurer; Thomas J. Heckendorn, worthy inside guard, and Myron Pearsall, worthy outside guard. This order prospered and did good work for the cause of temperance until the war broke out, and so many of its members enlisting it was for a time broken up, but in February, 1866, with the following officers: worthy chief templar, Daniel Fogle; worthy vice templar, Ellen Guffey; worthy secretary, John Scott; worthy treasurer, Sarah Truby; worthy inside guard, Carrie A. Scott; worthy outside guard, James B. McLain; worthy chaplain, James E. Long; worthy assistant secretary, John W. Walker; worthy financial secretary, John McMurray; worthy marshal, Myron M. Pearsall; worthy deputy marshal, Kate M. Scott; worthy right hand supporter, Mrs. L. Pearsall; worthy left hand supporter, Mary J. Matson, the order was revived and started out with fifty members, and for a number of years did a good temperance work in Brookville and its vicinity, besides exercising a great moral and social influence. It finally succumbed to circumstances and its place was filled by some other society. A temperance convention, called by the Good Templars, was held in the Methodist church, May 14, 1868. There have been numerous other temperance societies and organizations working for the cause of temperance, at various times, in the county, notably, the Sons of Temperance, Washingtonians and Temperance Alliance. The latter, of which Dr. G.C. Vincent, then pastor of the United Presbyterian church of Brookville, was a prominent mover, did much to agitate the question in the county and prepare the way for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which is now becoming a "power in the land."

The local option law for the State of Pennsylvania, allowing counties to vote on the question, was passed March 27, 1872, and repealed April 12, 1875. At the election held in Jefferson county, March 3, 1873, there was almost nine hundred majority for local option. April 16, 1877, the great Murphy movement was inaugurated in Brookville, in a largely attended meeting at the Presbyterian church. This meeting was conducted by Mr. Joseph Dilworth, of Pittsburgh, and was addressed by J.D. Brooks, esq., of Pittsburgh, and Dr. J.M. Davies, of Parker City, Pa. Two hundred and twenty-five persons signed the pledge. This meeting was followed by others, conducted by T. Benton Dalley, esq., of Blairsville, and so much enthusiasm was infused into the meetings that over one thousand signed the Murphy pledge in Brookville, while the work spread all over the county, until over three thousand were enrolled under the "blue ribbon" banner of temperance. Of these, some were totally reclaimed, while a great many yielded again to temptation; but the impress of this movement has never been effaced, and its effects are still felt. Later, Francis Murphy, the great apostle of temperance, visited Brookville, and held rousing meetings in the court-house. In answer to a call made by the ministers of the different denominations, a convention was held in the Presbyterian church, July 14, 1885, to take into consideration the purpose of organizing a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Mrs. Eva Thompson, of Indiana county, gave an explanation of the plan of the union and read the constitution, which had been adopted. It was then decided to form a county union, and the following officers were elected: President, Mrs. D.E. Taylor, of Brookville; vice-president, Mrs. V.S. Blood, of Brookville; treasurer, Mrs. Georgiana Wray, of Brockwayville; recording secretary, Mrs. Louie Gates, of Brookville; corresponding secretary, Miss Agnes Thompson, of Punxsutawney.

This union at once went to work, commencing an aggressive warfare upon the liquor traffic. Local unions were organized in different parts of the county of which there are now sixteen, viz.: Corsica, Punxsutawney, Frostburg, Brookville, Reynoldsville, Troy, Warsaw, Belleview, Richardsville, Cool Spring, Pleasant Hill, Baxter, Brockwayville, Sandy Valley, Beechtree and Mount Pleasant. The first license court held in the county after the Woman’s Christian Union was organized, was the February term, 1886. It was a well-known fact that every one engaged in selling liquor was violating the license law, and evidence enough was found by the union to close the nine bars in the town of Brookville, and out of thirty petitions presented at this court from the county, fifteen were refused on evidence.

After this victory the W.C.T.U. turned its attention to the Legislature, and in order to find out the temperance status of the different candidates for that position, addressed the following open letter to them:

An open letter to Dr. William Altman, nominee of the Republican party, and C. Miller, nominee of the Democratic party, for State Legislature:

Gentlemen: - We, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, assembled in county convention at Reynoldsville, this the 16th day of July, 1886, respectfully submit to each of you the following questions:

Will you, if elected, give your vote and use your influence to procure the passage of a bill, submitting to the vote of the people, at the earliest day practicable, an amendment to the State constitution, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage?

Please give us your answer through the Brookville Republican and the Brookville Democrat. By order of convention.

MRS. D.E. TAYLOR, President.

To this Dr. Altman returned the following reply:

To the Editor of the Brookville Republican: - In response to an open letter published in your issue of July 21, from the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, assembled in county convention at Reynoldsville, on the 16th day of July, inst., asking me to define my position, I would most respectfully say that, believing in democratic principles, free government, and the freedom of speech, with the right to exercise conscientious convictions on all subjects, especially of a legislative character, I feel it is the inherent right of all or any part of the citizens of the State to ask the privilege to be heard through the ballot box. Should I be elected as representative of Jefferson county, I will vote for and aid in securing a constitutional amendment, giving the citizens a right to vote on prohibition, maintaining and believing in an old established question, that the majority should rule. Respectfully submitted,


PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa., July 27, 1886.

Mr. Miller, the candidate of the Democratic party, did not make any reply to the letter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The result of the election for Legislature, in Jefferson county, was the election of Dr. Altman by a majority of three hundred and thirteen.

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is gaining in strength steadily, and is well organized. The officers of the county union are the same as when first organized with the exception that Mrs. Emma J. Arnold, of Reynoldsville, has taken the place of Mrs. Louie Gates as recording secretary, the latter having removed from the county.

The work to be done by the union has been systematized and each department placed under a superintendent. Those having charge of these departments are: Scientific instruction, Mrs. E.D. Bovard, Reynoldsville; Hygiene heredity, Mrs. V.S. Blood, Brookville; Sabbath observance, Miss Mary J. Stewart, Brookville; Mothers’ work, Mrs. M.J. Campbell, Baxter; Evangelistic work, Mrs. Joseph McFarland, Belleview; Fair work, Mrs. Sarah H. Hunter, Pleasant Hill; Press and Literature, Miss Agnes Thompson, Punxsutawney; Prison and Jail work, Mrs. Martha Hall, Brookville; Lumbermen and Miners’ work, Mrs. Mary Graffins, Punxsutawney; Foreigners’ work, Mrs. Georgiana Wray, Brockwayville; Sunday-school work, Mrs. Torrence, Punxsutawney; Unfermented Wine for Sacramental purposes, Mrs. Ellen Allsehouse, Belleview; Legislative work, Mrs. C.C. Benscoter, Brookville; Young Women’s work, Mrs. Ada Green, Brockwayville.


The Young Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which is designed to work among the young people of the community, was organized in Brookville, in February, 1887, by Miss M.I. Reno, of Rochester, Pa., State organizer. The officers are taken from the different churches and are as follows: President, Miss Ella Van Vliet; vice-presidents, Misses Essie Calvin, Margery Thompson, Carrie B. Jenks and Mrs. Ada Diveler; recording secretary, Miss Nannie McKinney; corresponding secretary, Miss Phoebe Keck; treasurer, Miss Mary Kimball; librarian, Miss Maud Bishop. This society is in a prosperous condition; has about thirty-two members, with over forty dollars in the treasury. It meets on the first and third Monday evenings of each month. The work done thus far has been principally in furnishing and distributing temperance literature. The Y.W.C.T.U. will prove a valuable auxiliary to the parent society, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, as it infuses young blood into the temperance work.

Source:  Page(s) 326-330, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

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