On December 27th, 1900, a dour-faced woman stood before the saloon doors in the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas. Intimidating at almost six feet tall and 185 pounds, Carrie Nation marched in with a hatchet and began smashing the place—the tables and chairs, the bottles and the mirror behind the bar, until the law arrived and arrested her.
Born Carrie Amelia Moore in November of 1846, to parents George and Mary Campbell Moore of Kentucky—slaveowners—she had little education due to the family’s financial troubles that brought about several moves until settling in Missouri. During the War of Rebellion, she nursed soldiers to health and then married a physician, Dr. Charles Gloyd, who had served with the Union Army. Her husband was also an alcoholic—not unusual, given the culture of the day when babies were given whiskey to quiet them, or worse. Carrie and Charles decided the marriage wasn’t working before they had a daughter, Charlien, on September 27, 1868. Carrie had no need for a divorce, since her husband died the following year.
Carrie married for the second time in 1874. David Nation was an attorney, newspaperman and a minister and almost twenty years older. Together they moved to a cotton plantation in Texas but failed to proper. David began to practice law, and in 1880 Carrie ran a hotel in Columbia owned by the Park family. She attended the Methodist Church and lived at the hotel with her daughter Charlien, her first mother-in-law and her husband’s daughter. David also owned a saddle shop near the hotel, but the family chose to move to Richmond, Texas, to run another hotel. Due to her husband’s involvement in a political feud, they moved to Kansas. David began preaching and Carrie took on another hotel to run. But Kansas also had enacted a ban on liquor—with plenty of trouble enforcing the law.
Although Carrie started a chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the group seemed to have little effect on the problem. So Carrie took a personal interest, first using rocks to smash bottles in saloons to protest the lack of enforcement, or singing hymns to patrons going in and out of places serving liquor. She often greeted saloon keepers as “destroyers of men’s souls,” or as “swill-faced, beak-nosed bed mates of Satan.” By 1899 Carrie felt God had called her to step up the work – taking her husband’s advice to use a hatchet for better effect.
Carrie divorced David in 1901, having never had children with him, and continued her campaign either accompanied by other WCTU members or alone. She was often arrested, and her fame grew through her “hatchetations.” She undertook lecture tours and sold small souvenir hatchets for another ten years until her death on June 9, 1911. The WCTU erected a stone to honor her near the unmarked grave in Missouri, with her name spelled as “Carry A. Nation” and “Faithful to the Cause of Prohibition, She Hath Done What She Could.”
Meg Mims is an award-winning author with two western mysteries under her Eastern belt. She lives in Michigan, where the hills are like driveway slopes and trees block any type of prairie winds. LIKE her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or check out her books on her website. Double Crossing won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel and Double or Nothing is the exciting sequel. Her story, "A Savior Is Born," is included in A Wolf Creek Christmas published by Western Fictioneers.