Prohibitionist Carrie Nation brings her hatchet to Glenwood
Frontier Historical Society
Editor’s note: This column ran in the Post Independent in 1999.
A female passenger got off the eastbound Denver & Rio Grande train at Glenwood Springs on April 7, 1903. The woman was 56 years of age, 6 feet tall and weighed about 175 pounds. She wore a long black dress, and a white scarf was tied around her neck. Her dress appeared to have a clerical connotation, but the image was discouraged by the hatchet that hung from her belt. She was prohibitionist Carry A. Nation. The delay of her train would allow her a tour of the Glenwood Springs business district and a view of the saloons therein.
In Glenwood Springs, there was never a shortage of saloons. In 1888, no less than 22 establishments were listed as saloons, wholesale liquor distributors and businesses that sold spirits.
Carry Nation was born Carry Amelia Moore in Kentucky in 1846 to a religious and financially well-off family. In 1867, Carry married Dr. Charles Gloyd, a well-educated physician. Dr. Gloyd, however, drank heavily, and by 1869 the effect of alcohol killed him, leaving Carry a widow with a young daughter to raise. The experience inspired Carry to campaign against tobacco, alcohol and fraternal organizations, all of which Carry blamed for her husband’s early death. She married David Nation in 1877, but Carry’s religious zeal and dedication to her cause would end her second marriage in divorce.
In the late 1890s, Carry’s voice would be heard speaking out about the issues she saw as society’s ills, with alcoholic beverages receiving most of her attention. The ardent prohibitionist felt that words were not enough and in 1899 decided to take action. Kansas, her state of residence, prohibited the sale of liquor, but bootlegging was quite common. It was in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, that Carry Nation and her supporters first wielded their hatchets, destroying the interiors of saloons, closing the businesses and forcing the saloon owners to flee the state. Well into the 20th century, Carry Nation would use her hatchets, which she named “Faith,” “Hope” and “Charity,” on saloons throughout the United States. She suffered the punishment of imprisonment for her actions and at times suffered bodily harm.
It was no wonder that some residents of Glenwood drew a quick breath that spring day in 1903 when they found the famous Mrs. Nation inspecting their streets. However, some would feel that luck was with them on that day as Tuesday, April 7, was Election Day and, by law, the saloons were closed. She tried to gain entrance to a saloon owned by Jim Mangnall, believing she had seen men within the building, but when there was no response to her orders to allow her in, she returned to the depot.
Word spread quickly that Carry Nation was in town. A crowd began to gather at the D&RGW depot located at the end of Seventh Street and Pitkin Avenue. Instead of smashing saloons, Mrs. Nation delivered a speech about the evils of alcohol and smoking. The Avalanche Echo reported that “to the great surprise of many, she not only spoke well but temperately, and there were not a few who remarked afterwards that she had simply given them some cold hard facts.” Nation’s words were apparently well-received, for many in her audience purchased souvenir pins shaped like hatchets from her and her manager. The proceeds from the sale of the pins would help Nation finance her cause.
The actions of Carry Nation and temperance organizations would lead to the passage of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, making prohibition the law for over a decade.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary,” which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Fall, winter and spring hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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