Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

The Temperance Movement
Produced by Ted and Carole Miller.

Part 1:
The Temperance Movement | The Temple of Honor
Part 2:
The Red Ribbon Movement | Legislative | The Temperance Press

Part 1



THE first temperance organization in this State was that of the Independent Order of Good Templars, which became established, as a State body, on July 9, 1867, at Nebraska City. The convention of which the Grand Lodge was formed was composed of thirty-six delegates, from thirteen subordinate lodges, located in the counties of Nemaha, Otoe, Cass and Douglas. The assembly was called to order by W. S. Peterson, Deputy Right Worthy Grand Templar, of Des Moines, Iowa, who had been commissioned by the Right Worthy Grand Lodge to institute a Grand Lodge for this State. The organization was duly perfected by the election of the following officers, namely: Grand Worthy Chief Templar, Rev. J. M. Taggart; Grand Worthy Chief, Frank G. P------; Grand Worthy Vice Templar, Julia Ensign; Grand Worthy Secretary, A. F. Harvey; Grand Worthy Treasurer, J. W. Barnes; Grand Worthy Master, S. S. Alley, who, with their appointed associates, were regularly installed by Mr. Peterson. The report of the Committee on the state of the Order showed that on May 1, 1866, three subordinate lodges existed in the State, and that at this date, July 9, 1867, there were fourteen lodges, with a membership of 1,172. The Temperance Platform, a newspaper published at Des Moines, Iowa, was adopted as the official organ of the Grand Lodge. The lodge then adjourned to meet in the city of Omaha, on the third Thursday of June, 1868, of which meeting, if ever held, no record has been preserved.

   We next find them in their third annual session in the city of Plattsmouth, on June 16, 1869, with seventeen representatives from nine lodges in attendance, the Rev. J. M. Taggart, Grand Worthy Chief Templar. From the report of the Grand Secretary there were thirty-five working lodges in the State, with an aggregate membership of 1,439. The on Treasurer reported receipts of $1,140.22, and expenditures of $988.37, leaving a balance on hand of $151.85.

   The main object of the organization was to harmonize action, and also to instigate and mature general plans for campaign work, and to determine upon the best methods of attacking the fortifications and strongholds of the enemy. With this end in view, a committee on political action was appointed, which submitted the following report, and it was adopted by the lodge:

   Resolved, That this Grand Lodge does not deem it policy to propose the organization of a Temperance party at this time, or to allow subordinate lodges to begin any such aggressive movement against intemperance as looks to the adoption of local laws in contradiction to the laws of the State.

   G. Stevenson was elected Grand Worthy Chief Templar; J. Q. Gass, Grand Worthy Secretary, and F. P. Todd, Grand Worthy Treasurer. This session closed its labors and adjourned to meet at Lincoln, June 15, 1870, at which time they assembled with sixteen representatives present, representing ten subordinate lodges. Among the representatives present were such men as John M. Thurston, of Omaha; J. E. Philpot, of Lincoln; R. B. Windham, of Plattsmouth, all of whom have since gained State reputations at the bar--legal bar--though a part of them have not always proved true to their faith. Owing to the absence of the Grand Secretary, J. Q. Gass, there was no statistical report of the strength of the Order in the State. Grand Worthy Chief Templar in his report called attention to the necessity of political action on the part of the friends of temperance, in strong and forcible language. A resolution was introduced by Col. J. E. Philpot, advocating the petitioning the Legislature to abolish the license system and enact in lieu thereof a law making the sale of intoxicating liquors a felony punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary. The resolution was referred to a committee which subsequently reported a substitute calling upon all temperance men in the State to repeal the license laws and enact a local option prohibitory law in lieu thereof which was adopted by the Grand Lodge. A petition of the sort was afterward prepared and numerously signed throughout the State, and presented to the next sitting of the Legislature, where it received contemptuous treatment, being on motion referred to the Committee on Highways, Bridges and Ferries, with instruction to "ferry it out of the State."

   A plan of organization for work among the children was perfected at this meeting, whereby those too young to become members of this order could be trained in strong temperance principles, and the work was placed in the hands of the Grand Worthy Chief Templar.

   The lodge then elected W. D. Blackburn Grand Worthy Chief Templar, and W. P. Roberts Grand Worthy Treasurer, and other officers, after which it adjourned to meet in Omaha in June, 1871. The lodge met as determined the last session, and numbered thirty-nine delegates, representing twenty-three subordinate lodges. At the last meeting, a spirit of discouragement seemed to prevail among the members, the work appearing to make slow progress, and prospects somewhat clouded. During the year, however, much effective work had been done throughout the State, through the instrumentality of a number of public lecturers, prominent among whom were W. F. Carron, of Iowa; Mellissa Emery, of Illinois, and Rev. George S. Alexander, of this State, and the workers became inspired with renewed zeal. There were twenty-two new subordinate organizations effected during this period, and five lodges re-established, and one Degree Temple instituted. There was, also, established during the year, a Grand Division of the Sons of Temperance, under the direction of W. F. Carron, which served for a time to stimulate and give strength to the entire order, but of its further existence and history nothing appears.

   As shown by the official reports, the condition of the movement was in stronger and better condition than at any previous time. Large accessions had been made during the past year, numbering some 1,700 members, and for the quarter ending April 30, 1871, reports were received from thirty-two lodges, aggregating a membership of 1,579, as against the returns made by only five lodges with a total membership of 352, for the same time in 1870.

   Although hitherto unsuccessful in obtaining aid from the Legislature, which they had so frequently presented with numerous petitions, the members of the lodge were by no means disheartened on this account, or deterred in making still further attempts in this direction, and an effort was determined upon to secure the incorporation of the principles of prohibition in the organic law of the State. In furtherance of this design, a resolution was presented to and adopted by the lodge, requiring the appointment of a committee of three to draft a memorial and petition to the Constitutional Convention then being held in the city of Lincoln, asking that body to incorporate in the new Constitution a clause prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors. Those named on this Committee were John M. Thurston, A. J. Harding and Oscar Holden. The Committee met and following the preamble, setting forth the grievances, drew up the following, which was voted the sense of the entire lodge:

   Now, therefore, we most earnestly petition your honorable body to incorporate in the new Constitution of the State of Nebraska a provision providing that a majority of the legal voters in each county shall have the power, by vote, within their respective counties, to restrict and prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage.

   During the year, the Grand Lodge was incorporated under the laws of Nebraska as a State institution.

   An amendment to the Constitution of the lodge was made, changing the time of the meeting of its sessions, and fixing the time on the third Wednesday of January, of each year.

   The officers elected were John M. Thurston, Grand Worthy Chief Templar; W. P. Roberts, Grand Worthy Secretary, and Rev. J. M. Yearnshaw, Grand Worthy Treasurer. With the completion of its business, the lodge adjourned, and met again in Lincoln, on January 17, 1872. The reports continued to show considerable progress made, and that the work had been faithfully prosecuted among the auxiliary orders. The statistics show the numerical strength to be 2,226, and of this number 1,873 were received into membership during the year, while the losses, from withdrawals, expulsions, deaths, etc., amounted to 1,818.

   The financial status of the order was in healthy condition. The disbursements for the year amounted to $1,225, and the receipts from various sources were $1,326.20, leaving a balance in the treasury of $101.20. In addition to this cash balance, the supplies on hand, furniture, etc., amounted to $346.75, making the total assets of $447.95, with only $42.30 of liabilities, leaving an excess of assets of $405.65. The lodge was represented by J. M. Yearnshaw in the Right Worthy Grand Lodge, which assembled in the city of London in July of that year.

   It was deemed policy on the part of the lodge to look to and seek aid from a "higher power." Accordingly, a petition to Congress was made up and sent to the proper authorities for presentation to that body, asking that a Commission of Inquiry be constituted to examine into and ascertain the results and effects of such liquor laws as then existed. Little hope, however, was entertained of its recognition by the power, the main object being to keep the subject fresh in the minds of legislators. A bill asking for such Commission was introduced into the House at that time, as also at various times since, but which seem to have become submerged in the mass of "unfinished business," since nothing is heard of them after their introduction. A similar bill was introduced into the Senate of the Forty-seventh Congress, which passed that body and is now pending in the House of Representatives.

   The lodge elected J. A. Fairbanks Grand Worthy Chief Templar; F. G. Keens, Grand Worthy Secretary, and W. P. Roberta, Grand Worthy Treasurer, as its officers for the ensuing year. The assembly of the ninth annual session of the lodge was held in the city of Lincoln, on the 20th of January, 1875. As usual, the official reports of the temperance work exhibited large and favorable increase throughout the State. Sixty-seven lodges were instituted during the year, making a total of 128 lodges in the State, with an aggregate membership of 3,419, being a net gain over the year 1874 of 1,193 members. Two Juvenile Temples were also organized, both in Dodge County, and initiatory steps taken for the establishment of several others.

   Reports from various lodges in different parts of the State evidenced gratifying prosperity and a feeling of enthusiasm prevailing among members generally. After electing David McCasland Grand Worthy Chief Templar, J. W. Albright, Grand Worthy Treasurer, and F. G. Keene, Grand Worthy Secretary, the lodge adjourned and assembled the following year at Tecumseh. At this meeting there were present fifty-two delegates from forty-three lodges.

   The state of the movement did not exhibit the same increase and progress as in previous years. For this year, 1876, there were reported 2,320 members in good standing as against the 3,419 reported the year previous, or a falling off of 1,099. This diminution, however, may be accounted for in many instances, from the financial embarrassment attending many of the people of the State, by reason of the failure of crops, the grasshopper plague and other disasters, and, in certain localities, whole lodges were disbanded for want of the necessary means to carry them on and pay their dues, and others seriously crippled in their usefulness in carrying forward the relentless warfare, and to this cause the falling off is due, rather than to any want of sympathy or devotion to the cause of temperance. The officers elected by this session of the Grand Lodge were: Rev. D. B. Lake, Grand Worthy Chief Templar; F. G. Keens, Grand Worthy Secretary, and J. W. Albright, Grand Worthy Treasurer. The convening of the eleventh annual session of the Grand Lodge took place at Lincoln, January 17, 1877. Upon the assembly of the lodge, the Hon. S. D. Hastings, of Wisconsin, was introduced, and, on motion, was invited to preside. The order was also honored by the presence of ex-Vice President Schuyler Colfax, and entertained by one of his eloquent speeches.

   This year there were reported ninety-one lodges, numbering 2,480 members, and, although the number of members was still far short of what it was in 1875, yet it was highly encouraging to the friends of the movement to realize that their numbers began again to swell after having passed through the "dead sea" of the grasshopper plague of 1876. This backset of the order incited the leaders to still greater efforts, and during the year much valuable and effective work had been done both in organizing and also in developing a temperance sentiment by the delivery of public lectures. Prominent among those to engage in this work was Hon. S. D. Hastings, whose valuable influence and assistance did much toward the advancement of the cause in the State. It was during this year, also, that the hosts of rum were met upon their own threshold by that mighty warrior and champion in the cause, John B. Finch, whose glittering poniard pierced with death-dealing wounds and made the monster writhe in the tortures of pain. The combat was hotly pressed. Stab after stab mutilated the horrid form of this demon of hell, whose hideous howls bespoke the power of his antagonist and indicated his willingness to withdraw from the deadly onslaught. A spirit of enthusiasm was aroused and the strength of the order grew with surprising rapidity. Phalanx upon phalanx hurried to arms, and the solid ranks of the temperance forces were swollen by numerous recruits and myriad enlistments. The statistical reports for the years 1878, 1879 and 1880 show a remarkable increase, from year to year, both in the organization of lodges and in membership. For the year 1878, there were reported 100 lodges in the State, with a membership aggregating 3,536; for 1879, 130 lodges and 5,152 members; for 1880, 158 lodges and 6,232 members, or nearly double what it was two years previous.

   In 1881, the movement witnessed a retrograde action to some extent. The number of organized lodges had fallen to 113 and the membership was reduced to 5,054, and of this number 3,831 were members that had been newly initiated during the year. The grand total of those who had identified themselves with the various lodges from the beginning of the movement, in the State, up to this time, is 10, 572, including, also, those who were, but are not now, members.

   Financially, the order fared favorably, always being able to keep the receipts more or less in excess of the liabilities, until recently, when the liabilities are greater than the cash receipts. The Treasurer's report for 1881 shows the total receipts to be $2,744, while the expenditures were $2,963.10, with assets amounting to $230.24 and liabilities of $1,243.76, which makes a present indebtedness of $794.42. At this session, the lodge elected Ada Van Pelt, Grand Worthy Chief Templar; F. G. Keens, Grand Worthy Chief Secretary, and Eva Ransom, Grand Worthy Treasurer. The next meeting was held at Lincoln, January 15, 1879, lasting three days. There were in attendance ninety-five delegates from sixty-eight lodges. The time was mostly spent in the transaction of formal business and hearing reports, among which was the report of the representatives to the Right Worthy Grand Lodge, which was held during the year then passed in Minneapolis, Minn., the delegates from this lodge being F. G. Keens, Ada Van Pelt and John B. Finch. After electing as its officers Ada Van Pelt, Grand Worthy Chief Templar; F. G. Keens, Grand Worthy Secretary, and Ella Keens, Grand Worthy Treasurer, the lodge adjourned.

   The fourteenth annual session was held at Lincoln, January 21, 1880; present, 105 delegates, representing eighty-one subordinate lodges. Officers elected were: John B. Finch, Grand Worthy Chief Templar; Ada Van Pelt, Grand Worthy Secretary, and F. G. Keens, Grand Worthy Treasurer. The fifteenth annual session, at Lincoln, January 19, 1881, was composed of 107 delegates from sixty-nine lodges. The following were elected officers for the Grand Lodge for the ensuing year: John B. Finch, Grand Worthy Chief Templar; Philip Crother, Grand Worthy Secretary, and F. G. Keens, Grand Worthy Treasurer. The sixteenth annual session of the Grand Lodge was held at Hastings, in January, 1882, and elected as its officers for the ensuing year John B. Minnick, Grand Worthy Chief Templar; Philip Crother, Grand Worthy Secretary, and T. B. Dawson, Grand Worthy Treasurer.

   In recapitulation, the following table shows the condition and strength of the order for the different years from its beginning down to the year 1881, both as to the number of lodges and membership:


No. of Lodges

No of Members.





























































   Not being able to obtain the report of the last meeting of the Grand Lodge, in January, 1882, the condition of the order cannot be given, although, it may be added, that, during the year previous to that time, the movement suffered material retrogression.


   Next to the Good Templar organization, the Temple of Honor stands as a power in this State, or rather, we should say did stand, for of late this order has been doing but little aggressive work in the State. This order was organized and commenced work here on the 7th day of March, 1877, on which date Lincoln Temple, No. 1, was organized by Deputy Most Worthy Templar J. A. Watrous, of Wisconsin, who had been sent to this State for that purpose by the national organization, known as the "Supreme Council of Templars of Honor and Temperance," and whose chief officer was at that time John N. Stearns, of New York. Lincoln Temple was, at its organization, composed chiefly of reformed men, and, at the time of the organization, numbered about 200 members. This organization was followed by similar organizations in Pawnee City, Hastings, Beatrice, Crete, Sutton, Seward, Bennet, Juniata, York, Nebraska City, Fairbury, Falls City, Plattsmouth, St. Edwards, David City and Fairmont, with an aggregate membership of 1,245. In January, 1878, the different temples called a convention of representatives from each temple to meet at Lincoln on the 27th of February, 1878, for the purpose of organizing a Grand Temple for this State, the several subordinate temples then being under the immediate jurisdiction of the Supreme Council. On the 27th of February, pursuant to said call, representatives from the several subordinate temples met in the hall of Lincoln Temple, at the city of Lincoln, and Col. J. A. Watrous, who was present representing the Supreme Council as a Deputy, instituted the Grand Temple of Templars of Honor and Temperance for Nebraska with the following officers, who had been elected by said convention, viz.: Grand Worthy Templar, A. H. Bowen, of Juniata; Grand Worthy Vice Templar, L. W. Billingsby, of Lincoln; Grand Worthy Recorder, D. H. Wheeler, of Plattsmouth; Grand Worthy Treasurer, C. W. Barkley, Seward; Grand Worthy Chaplain, J. L. Edwards, Pawnee City; Grand Worthy Usher, George E. Brown, York; Grand Worthy Guard, C. J. Heffly, Bennet; Past Grand Worthy Templar, J. B. Sorter, Seward.

   After installation of officers and the transaction of some routine business, the Grand Temple adjourned to meet at Lincoln, in annual session on the 21st of May, 1878, at which time and place they accordingly convened. The reports of officers showed the organization of new temples at Syracuse, Fairfield, Peru and Dewitt, with 126 members, making the aggregate membership in the State 1,371. The G. W. T., G. W. O. T. and G. W. R. were re-elected and installed, and, after the transaction of the usual business, adjourned to meet on the 20th day of May, 1879, at Lincoln, on which day the Grand Temple assembled with representatives present from fourteen temples. The report of the Grand Worthy Templar showed twelve new temples organized during the year, and the temple work generally prosperous throughout the State. Four temples were reported as having ceased to work, viz., Kearney, Pawnee City, Hastings and Sutton, and their charters were declared forfeited. The following officers were elected at this session: A. H. Bowen, G. W. T.; L. D. May, G. W. V. T.; D. H. Wheeler, G. W. Recorder. This session lasted three days and was harmonious and pleasant, and much important work was done. Final adjournment took place on the 22d of May, to meet in Omaha on May 18, 1880, at which time and place we find them with representatives present from fifteen temples. The report of the Grand Templar showed six new temples organized and three re-organized, with one suspended. The report of the Grand Recorder showed a membership in good standing of 1,471--twenty-seven live and active temples. A. H. Bowen refusing longer to serve as Grand Worthy Templar, W. A. Hosford was elected to that office, with D. H. Wheeler, Grand Worthy Vice Templar, and A. H. Bowen, Grand Worthy Recorder. The Grand Temple remained in session until the evening of the 19th, when it adjourned, to meet at Lincoln on June 14, 1881, where we find them with representatives present from but four temples. The report of officers showed a great falling off in both temples and membership. Sickness in the family of the Grand Templar, coupled with financial embarrassments, had prevented his giving that personal attention to the order that was necessary to keep alive an interest that was already waning, owing largely to the wearing away of the novelty that had surrounded the order in the earlier days of its history. But little was done at this session other than to bewail the past and try to shift the responsibilities of our rapid decline from the shoulders of those directly responsible therefor, to others who were in no way to blame. We think, however, that all who were present at that session have by this time come to the conclusion that it is impossible for an order having so much machinery connected with it as this order has, to live and thrive in the West without hard work and a personal supervision of some one competent to keep it moving. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year, ending June 13, 1882: J. E. Morrison, Grand Worthy Templar; E. M. Buswell, Grand Worthy Vice Templar; A. H. Bowen, Grand Worthy Recorder.

Top of Page    Next

County Index    Contents    Kansas Collection