Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Hatchet-Wielding Saloon Smasher Visited, Stayed in Arkansas

A woman infamous for using a hatchet to smash up saloons nationwide visited Arkansas in 1904, then temporarily settled in Eureka Springs.

Carrie Nation and students stand outside "Hatchet Hall," 1910.
Carry Moore, later Carrie Nation, was born Nov. 25, 1846, in Kentucky. She married Charles Gloyd, an abusive alcoholic in 1867. The pair divorced after about a year, and she married David Nation in 1874. Her new husband also seemed fond of alcohol.

Nation became a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an organization partially devoted to ending the consumption of alcohol in America. Nation and her husband often quarreled.
In 1901, he divorced her by citing “neglect of duty.” It seemed her temperance work kept her on the lecture circuit too much. Nation decided lecturing alone was not enough, and after a time of prayer, she said she had a vision from God to adopt a more militant tactic. Nation began going into saloons and smashing furniture, beer kegs and whiskey bottles with a hatchet while singing hymns and declaring God’s judgment against alcohol. She became a nationally recognized temperance figure.

After a couple of years, and a few stays in jail for disturbing the peace, Nation’s saloon smashing days were largely over. She traveled throughout the Midwest lecturing audiences about temperance and encouraging them to take action against the sale and consumption of alcohol. She hoped her lectures inspired others to take part in her crusade. She carried a trunk of souvenir hatchets to sell to her audiences. 

Her lecture tours brought her to Arkansas in 1904. When she arrived in Mena, a growing mob greeted her with alternating jeers and cheers. As she traveled, Nation often stopped in front of saloons to lecture to bar patrons. During an Arkansas tour in 1906, Nation stopped in Little Rock and made a point to stand in front of the Hamel Saloon. She shook her fist and shouted, “Get out of there, you are all going to the devil!” She demanded Little Rock’s officials shut down the saloons. “I don’t want to find this same condition when I come back,” Nation said.

Nation went to Hot Springs where she started a fight with a pool-hall owner, which led to her being jailed for assaulting a police officer.

Years later, Nation decided she liked Arkansas. She took the large sum of money she made from selling souvenir hatchets and bought a farm in Eureka Springs in 1909. She seemed content to settle down and raise pigs, chickens and apples. Nation started the National College of Eureka Springs in 1910 to train temperance workers and speakers.

But, her time in Eureka Springs was short. She collapsed Jan. 13, 1911 in Eureka Springs, and her friends took her to a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. After a short stay in Kansas City, Nation settled in Leavenworth, Kansas, where she died June 9, 1911. 

Her home on 35 Steele St. in Eureka Springs still stands. Locals refer to the house as “Hatchet Hall” because of its connection to Nation. A spring named after Nation is located nearby.

Information about Nation and other important historical figures connected to Arkansas is available at the Arkansas State Archives at 1 Capitol Mall, suite 215, or online at http://archives.arkansas.gov.