Legalized Saloons "Went Hence" from Johnson City in Early 1902
On February 26, 1903, a local Johnson City newspaper posted a bold headline that read: "The Legalized Saloon Must Go Hence From Johnson City." It was followed by a four-line poem: "Down with the toddy, Up with a ham, Shoes for the baby, A dress for mam."
The much-expected news had taken place as scheduled. The temperance followers had been at work in Johnson City for years and when the opportunity presented itself "those inoculated swept everything before them."
To assist in promoting the temperance stance, Miss Carrie Lee Carter, of Missouri, national organizer and lecturer of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, lectured in Johnson City at the Christian Church on E. Main two evenings, captivating large and appreciative audiences with her "charming manner and splendid address."
Those present could safely say that Miss Carter was the finest speaker that had ever been heard in Johnson City and believed that much good would result for the temperance cause. They further alleged that "thinking people could not listen to such earnest appeals for purity of life and good government without taking a decided stance for right."
It was frequently proclaimed that Johnson City had fewer drinking men than any town in the state, but one newspaper reporter confessed that he thought there were more than 11 of them. Those individuals sustained seven saloons with what modest assistance they got from neighboring towns.
Friday was the day scheduled to pronounce sentence upon the saloons in the city and the jury did it "to the Queen's taste." The election, all of whom were men, was held at Jobes Opera House located upstairs at the intersection of E. Main and Spring streets. Each voter was requested to give his name and announce with a clear conscience his preference for "saloons" or "no saloons."
The polls opened at 9 a.m. and closed at 4 p.m. and during the day it rained almost incessantly. It was as if loved ones in Heaven were weeping for real joy at what was taking place.
In spite of the weather, 672 voters found their way to the polls and, as previously stated, only 11 voted in favor of saloons from a population of about 5000. When the result was announced, the crowd that was present sang, "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow," after which the crowd was summarily dismissed with prayer.
Church bells pealed forth throughout the city with glad tidings and several factory whistles joined in the celebration. It reminded older residents of the time when Three C's Railroad bonds were voted on, but most citizens trusted this would not prove as foolish a venture.
One of the prettiest sights of the day was the grand army of 600 school children who marched through the streets at the opening of the polls with each carrying a flag or an appropriately worded banner. Although there was "water falling on top of them, water on the right and left of them and water flowing into wet eyes, onward marched the faithful ones.
These little people thought they came to town to remove the saloons and many of them were surprised that the establishments did not leave on the evening train. They were praised for doing their duty and doing it most effectively.
Now that the election was over, it became necessary to have a special act passed that prohibited the sale of liquors within four miles of Soldiers Home before the saloons would have to "cease and decease." If for any reason this bill failed passage, the charter of the city would have been abolished and a new one granted.
This latter mode was objectionable to some of the citizenry for legal reasons. In any event, it was but a few months before Johnson City "became dry and would stay that way a long time, "suffering all the evils such towns are heir to as well as enjoying all the blessings that follow in a dry pain."