Vienna Temperance Association

The Vienna Temperance Association (sometimes called the Vienna Temperance Society), founded in 1867, advocated abstinence from the consumption of alcohol. Founded during the post-Civil War coal boom, the Association was but one of at least four organizations established to combat the growth of saloons and taverns in the Township. Its establishment and activities mirrored the larger temperance movement in Trumbull County, the State of Ohio, and the United States in the years after the Civil War. This movement would eventually work to outlaw the production and sale of alcohol in the nation through the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. This "Prohibition Era" lasted from 1919 to 1933.

Origins
In answer to a public call for participation, Vienna Township residents met at the Vienna Methodist Church and established a temperance society.

The meeting was called to order by Vienna Presbyterian Church minister Xenophon Betts, who then moved to elect Reverend A. Falkner as chairman and Sidney C. Treat as secretary. The church choir offered songs, followed by a prayer by Reverend Falkner. Reverend Betts then offered an address on temperance. A constitution and by-laws, written by Dr. R. P. Hayes, was adopted. Seventy-three members--men and women--of this new organization were given copies of the temperance pledge.

The officers for 1867 were then elected:

President: Dr. R. P. Hayes
Vice President: N. S. Pratt
Secretary: S. C. Treat
Corresponding Secretary: R. J. Stewart
Treasurer: G. A. Treat
Executive Committee: R. W. Bacon, Robert Stranahan, J. H. Humason

The establishment of this organization appears to be in response to the death of Silas Alderman in December 1866. Reverend Betts published a letter about Alderman, the perils of alcohol, and the problems of alcohol sellers in the Western Reserve Chronicle on February 13, 1867. Reverend Betts recounted the last days of Silas Alderman, who had been drinking at a hotel at Vienna Center as well as at a grocery (a shop that sold both food and alcohol) on Warren-Sharon Road. This occurred in December 1866. The homeless Alderman was last seen north of Vienna Center, but a month passed before several individuals thought to investigate his whereabouts. Alderman's snow-covered body was found, in a hog pen. Reverend Betts used this sad case as an example: "Here is another victim of whiskey and whiskey sellers." The minister also expressed concern that among the members of the inquest jury were the "senior keeper" of the hotel and and a relative of one of the the grocery owners. He wrote: "It is not all in the unfortunate inebriate; but a heavier guilt lies at the door of those, who, know his weakness, will still furnish him the poisonous drink. A great crime has been committed."[1]

Within a year, the Association boasted 175 members, who sought "to enliven and help sustain the interest of the society" by hosting "Lectures, essays, debates and other literary performances."[2]

Activities
The Vienna Temperance Association sponsored lectures, such as that offered by the Reverend George Pierce on June 2, 1868, and advertised in the Western Reserve Chronicle. Its members also promoted its mission by taking on the organization of the Township's civic events, such as the celebration of the Fourth of July. In the nineteenth century Independence Day was not only a day of patriotic pride but also an opportunity for drunken revelry. On June 18, 1867, the Western Reserve Chronicle reported that the Association had made arrangements "to have a grand, good time."

Orations will be delivered by L.C. Woodworth Esq., of Youngstown, and Rev. W. M. Miller of Bazetta. The speaking to commence at ten o'clock in the forenoon. The programme embraces national salutes, prayer by Rev. X. Betts, Chaplain; Music by the band; reading of the Declaration of Independence by J. M. Lyon; orations, pic-nic, toasts and responses.

Prohibition--the complete ban of alcohol production, sales, and consumption--was an important issue in the presidential election of 1872. Reverend John Russell, a Methodist minister from Detroit, Michigan, who had organized a Prohibition Party in 1869, ran for vice-president in 1872. He spoke at Mackey's Grove in Vienna on September 20, 1872, and by an announcement of this event in the Western Reserve Chronicle we learn Vienna resident Robert Stranahan was involved in the Prohibition Party.

Ten days later, T. J. McLain, Jr., spoke to supporters of Ulysses S. Grant at Vienna Township Hall. Members of the Prohibition Party also attended. A series of letters published in the Western Reserve Chronicle reveal the contentious relationship between the Republicans, Prohibitionists, and Democrats. Keeping with the later observation that all politics are local, these letters contain information not only about political arguments. An Election Day altercation between a billiard saloon keeper named Terry and a temperance advocate named Murray in front of the Township Hall supplied ample fodder for temperance advocates' work to rid the Vienna of saloons, hotel bar rooms, and taverns. It appears Vienna's temperance people had been policing these places and swearing out complaints to the local magistrate. As one letter writer, "Justice," declared: "What we want is to have it understood that the difficulty all grew out of an old grudge which the saloonkeepers and their customers have against the temperance people here, and especially those that have taken any part in sending them in Court."[3]

On June 20, 1873, the petition of Association president R. P. Hayes and 177 Vienna residents was read to the third constitutional convention of Ohio. It called for a provision in the Ohio Constitution "prohibiting the manufacture, importation, and sale of intoxicating liquors in the State of Ohio."[4]

Contributor: Shirley T. Wajda


[1] Several particulars of Reverend Betts's letter were challenged in a letter by N. M. Sanford published in the February 27, 1867, issue of the Western Reserve Chronicle. Sanford served on the jury.
[2] "From Vienna," Western Reserve Chronicle, December 25, 1867, p. 3.
[3] The letters appear in the November 13, 1872and November 20, 1872 issues of the Western Reserve Chronicle. "Justice"'s quotation appeared in the latter issue.
[4] Official Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the Third Constitutional Convention of Ohio, Assembled in the City of Columbus, on Tuesday, May 13, 1873, Volume I (Cleveland: W. S. Robison & Co., 1873), p. 447.