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The Demon ‘Rum' in Yarmouth County

Jackson Ricker writes, in his book ‘Historical Sketches of Glenwood and the Argyles', that the rise of the temperance movement in that area should not be blamed on the moral weakness among the New England settlers who moved there.   Rather,   he charges the opening of trade with the West Indies and with Halifax and other ports "where merchants carried liquors, particularly rum, as one of their staples."   He points out that the rum jug had an honoured place at all gatherings of men.  "It was present", he says, "on holydays such as Christmas, Easter, etc.; on militia training grounds; at launchings, and house raisings; and no election could be held without grog."  Ricker himself remembers, as a boy (in the 1880s), seeing "the decanter of rum on a table where any certain candidate entertained the men who voted for him.   The custom then observed at elections required each candidate to have what was termed an ‘open house' where a barrel of pilot bread, a ham, a cheese, with coffee and tea and a decanter of liquor constituted ‘the feed'."  Even worse, he notes that "men who had as a freehold nearly one-half of the land in Glenwood. . . poured it all through the bung-hole of a rum barrel."  Thus was born the need for a temperance movement.

As early as 1831 the Beaver River Total Abstinence Society was formed,   claimed to be the first of its kind to support the prohibition of alcohol.   An American Free Will Baptist minister,   Rev. William Washington Ashley, was a leading light, joining with other churchmen in Yarmouth and Shelburne Counties in organizing temperance societies.  Later, when the Sons of Temperance were introduced to Nova Scotia,   Mr. Ashley helped organize Divisions in Barrington and other places.  These were followed by British Templars and the International Order of Good Templars.

Granite Lodge of British Templars was organized in 1865, meeting at the Roberts Island school house.  Rituals, secret signs, pass-words and elaborate constitutions,   bringing Freemasonry to mind,  were instituted by the members.   The name was changed to the Independent Order of Good Templars,   taking the name De la Tour.   The De la Tour Lodge needed a suitable meeting place and in 1870 started building Hillside Hall at Glenwood.     Drawing on residents of Glenwood and Argyle,   its membership totalled over 70 good men and true.  Later Le Public Lodge was built at Argyle Head,  and Central Lodge at Central Argyle.  Yet another Division of The Sons of Temperance was established at Lower Argyle,   called the Mariners' Guide Division.  

As these lodges declined, a new movement emerged:   The Great Dutcher Temperance Reform.  From Massachusetts in 1877 Mr. George M. Dutcher carried the banner and rallied the citizens to his cause.   He was a reformed alcoholic and an eloquent speaker, and he soon signed up 4200 adherents in Yarmouth Town.  The message spread.   Within months Argyle had a Dutcher Reform Club with Matthew Jeffery as President and Dr. Bent as Vice President.  Occasionally the doctor brought alcohol to the meetings and burned it in a tin pan to demonstrate to the young people the inflammable nature and effect of ‘the drink' on the stomach.  The fervour of the movement was short lived, however; when the great reformer, George Dutcher,  fell from grace, overcome by his old enemy, the demon rum.  

Years passed with no organized temperance group, and then, in 1927 the Anna R. Baedor Division of the Sons of Temperance was organized in Glenwood.  The group carried the name of the Most Worthy Patriarch of North America,   Mrs. Anna Baedor.  It had a Band of Hope connected to it for the education of children and for many years - with certain rises and falls in interest - it survived.

Ricker maintains that,   despite the closing down of so many of these Temperance Lodges,   the fruit of their work remains.   He says that "the rising generation  [of the 1940s]  is taking higher ground than was held by their fathers.  Argyle," he states, "has a stronger force of men and women old and young who never have and we have reason to believe never will drink intoxicating liquors."  He supports his case with the evidence of the first plebiscite vote on the question of Prohibition in Nova Scotia [undated by Ricker].    "The result was, For, 79, Against, 2.   And it was learned that one at least of the two ‘against' votes was the result of a mistake in marking the ballot."

(Jackson Ricker's "Historical Sketches of Glenwood and the Argyles, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia" was published in 1941 by Truro Printing & Publishing Co. Ltd. , now closed.   Reprints of the book are, however, available by writing to the Argyle Township Court House, P.O. Box 101, Tusket, N.S.  B0W 3M0. )


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