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JIM: 100 years ago: Columbia Temperance Society

Wherein "Jim" illustrates, with the words of Judge Herschel Clay Baker, the long tradition and the luxurious hypocrisy Adair Countians have long enjoyed and outsiders never understood: Being legally dry, but pragmatic about indulgence -CM

By "Jim"

("...with the flavor of an old time julep under his nose, and a temperance pledge on his conscience...")

The following was penned by Judge Herschel Clay Baker (in his best editorial voice) and appeared in the December 13, 1911 News. Curiously enough, it did not appear in the series of Judge Baker's collected Sketches of Adair County that appeared across some 40 issues of the News in 1918.

An Old Minute Book

In Which are Recorded Events of Many Years Ago
The minute book of a temperance society which existed in Columbia from July, 1837, to some time in 1843, lies before us. The addresses on the occasion of its organization were delivered by Rev. George Taylor, and Rev. Daniel S. Colyan.

Daniel S. Colyan was elected President, Geo. W. McBeath, Vice President, and Junius Caldwell, Secretary. At one time it had as many as 187 members. It was first known as the "Columbia Temperance Society," and later called the "Columbia Washingtonian Society."

On its roll were the names of the Monroes, Wheats, Wagleys, Campbells, Scotts, Gaithers, Adairs, Frazers, Bells, Caldwells, Lobbans, Mosses, Winstons, Gilmers and other names of families that were leaders of society then, but now forgotten to most of our citizens.

Sam Bell Maxey, afterwards United States Senator from Texas, also Gov. Preston H. Leslie, Judge Zach Wheat, and other men who became prominent, belonged to it. When we read the list we can find an explanation that Columbia has always been a town of pronounced temperance sentiments. The men and women moulded the sentiments which come down to us as an inheritance from them.

It is true, as appears from the minutes, that all of them did not remain steadfast, for we read that expulsions and suspensions were quite frequent. When a brother pled guilty, and asked for another trial, it was always given to him. We find that on one occasion, when John C. Hardin "informed the house that he had been guilty of drinking mint julep when unwell &c., therefore by the request of said Hardin, he was excused by vote, &c."

We can understand very well that as John was unwell, he ought to have been excused. Who would not felt unwell with the flavor of an old time julep under his nose, and a temperance pledge on his conscience at such a trying time. We doubt not he felt real sick until he tried its quality.

We find the following minute on the books:"W.F. Marvin, of Danville, Ky., visited Colombia on the 21st day of January, 1843, agreeable to request, drew the Washingtonian pledge and delivered an address at 3 o'clock p.m...[in] which he pictured in the finest, richest and most expressive words and sentences the horrors of the inebriate, on the one hand, and the happiness of the reformed drunkard of the other--the one the effect of the moderate dram-drinking--the other the offspring of the Washingtonian pledges."

Marvin was a poet, and published a book of poems.* We knew him years later when we were in college at Danville, but poor fellow, the Washingtonian pledge did not suffice to save him from the blandishments of the cup. He fell as many other bright men have fallen. He used to sit on the street corners, and repeat his poems to boys who would stop and listen...

* Battle of Monterey, and Other Poems, published Danville, Ky., by A.S. M'Grorty, 1851. Mr. Marvin (1804-1879), a shoemaker by trade, was a participant of the aforementioned battle. In his declining years, he was known as "the latter-day drunken poet of Danville." The Battle of Monterey, and Other Poems has been scanned and may be read online. It was also republished in part (paperback format) in the summer of 2009.

This story was posted on 2010-12-19 03:44:32
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