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Carry Nation

 

(November 25, 1846 - June 9, 1911)

 

In the late 1850s, the Moore family moved to Cass County, Missouri, from their native Kentucky. George Moore was an eccentric loud hollerin fellow. George's wife would ride around in a carriage with a purple robe and a crown of brass inset with pieces of colored glass. As the carriage traveled the country roads, it was led by a slave dressed in a red coat playing a trumpet. Mrs. Moore claimed she was Queen Victoria. This couple had one child. Her name was Carry Amelia Moore. She would later be known as Carry Nation.

 

The family history seems to have had its share of eccentric and insane people. Rumor says Carry's grandmother became "insane" and was confined to a room sometimes with handcuffs. Carry stated "my grandmother was an invalid and kept in her room."

 

On the family's journey from Kentucky to Missouri, Carry became very sick and was known as a "delicate" child for many years after. She began to attend a Bible School run by the Campbellites. At one particular church service, Carry was overcome with emotion, began to cry and felt compelled to move and sit on the front bench. She believed she would end up in the "Bad Place" because she had "stolen" ribbons and laces from her Aunts to make dolls. This obsessive religious view would mold the rest of Carry's life

 

The Moores moved to Texas for a few years, but returned to Missouri. A young man named Dr. Charlie Gloyd arrived and though he called himself Doctor, he was not a physician or Dentist. They married and moved in with Charlie's parents in Holden, MO. However, Charlie drank so much he would routinely fall asleep. Carry stated "I learned drink causes much enmity between the sexes. Drinking men neglect their wives." Charlie was also a Freemason and would visit the lodge frequently - mainly to drink. Charlie's neglect of Carry due to his drinking and association with the Masons influenced the young woman.

 

A pregnant Carry left Dr. Gloyd and she returned home where she had a daughter. From the beginning it could be seen the daughter was "defective" (mental illness). Carry blamed the condition on Charlie Gloyd's drinking and Masonic "devil-worship" not on the family history of similar conditions. Dr. Gloyd died shortly after the birth.

 

The sad story of the delusional Carry continued to spiral. At Warrensburg, MO, she met David Nation. He was a handsome man who ran a newspaper, was a Campbellite preacher and had several children of his own, but was 20 years her elder. The marriage was not a happy one due to differences in religious beliefs.

 

They separated and Carry moved all the children to another town where she opened a hotel. During this time, Carry's daughter became ill. She stated "her right cheek was much swollen and on examination we found eating sores inside her cheek. This kept up in spite of all the remedies and at last her whole right cheek fell out leaving the teeth bare." The child was taken to Philadelphia where "plastic surgery" repaired the damage. Carry returned to the hotel and her daughter - Charlien - remained with Gloyd's relatives.

 

In 1884, while attending a local Methodist service, Carry Nation had a seizure. She declared it a religious experience and the obsession grew. At the hotel she would try to heal sick travelers by supernatural means, charged Jews half-price because Jesus was a Jew and used charms to protect the hotel from fire. Together with her husband David, the family moved to Medicine Lodge, Kansas.

 

Even though Kansas was technically "dry" there were places where liquor was served. This is where the Carry Nation of history begins. She began to harass these establishments by entering the building, falling to her knees, sing hymns and pray at the top of her lungs. She would condemn each patron individually claiming there were neglecting their wife and children. In one embarrasing moment, she did the same to a bachelor. Gathering wives of many patrons, the group would keel on the sidewalk outside the "saloon", open their Bibles and pray for an end to the "Devil Rum".

 

It was legal in Kansas for stores to sell liquor for "medicinal" purposes, but this did not stop Carry Nation. In her first violent episode, the "Nation gang" of women entered a store where she grabbed a barrel of whiskey and began to roll it into the street. She was temporarily stopped by the marshal, but her women companions overtook the lawman. She rolled it into the street, called for an axe, but was handed a sledgehammer. Carry stated "I struck with all my might and the whiskey flew into the air. Then we poured it out and set it afire. I fell on my knees and thanked God for the victory."

 

The next town to feel the wrath was Kiowa, Kansas. Wrapping rocks and bricks in newspapers, she headed down the road. About half way, Carry had a "vision." "I saw perhaps a dozen or so creatures in the forms of men leaning toward the buggy as if against a rope which prevented them from coming nearer. Their faces were those of demons....". In Kiowa she grabbed her wrapped items, stormed a saloon and began to throw them at anything that would break. Inspired by her success, Carry visited two more saloons breaking everything in sight including the front windows. At one saloon and with one projectile left, she hurled the rock at a large mirror which did not break. She ran to the billiard table, grabbed a ball and screamed "Thank God" as the mirror smashed.

 

The assault on Kiowa reached the newspapers as Carry declared the politicians were taking money from these saloon owners. In a libel suit, she was fined $200 and David Nation began to keep a tight hand on Carry. She slipped away to Wichita where she used a cane with a heavy metal bar on the end to attack the hotel barroom smashing everything she could. She paid particular attention to a painting of a nude woman over the bar.

 

Next to Enterprise, Kansas, where she broke into a saloon and smashed all the bottles of beer. With a number of local supportive women, they paraded down the street toward another saloon. They encountered a group of women opposed to the idea and a battle began. Carry was knocked down and badly beaten with some of her hair being pulled out.

 

In Topeka, she would use her first hatchet. As she described the saloon incident "I ran behind the bar smashed the mirror and all the bottles behind it. I picked up the cash register and threw it down; then broke the faucets of the refrigerator, opened the door and cut the rubber tubes which conducted the beer. It began to fly all over the house."

 

All the publicity attracted offers from sideshows and traveling circuses. She obtained an agent from New York who sent her on a speaking tour throughout the country. The audience went to see the "hatchet woman" rather than absorb her speeches against liquor and crooked politicians. She toured the east coast, the middle west and finally England. While she would enter saloons and create havoc, Carry did little destructive persuading during this time. Even those limited engagements were probably at the request of her manager to heighten her visibility.

 

As her life winded down, she retired to the backwoods of Arkansas. She died in 1911 at Leavenworth, KS. Her body was taken back to Cass County, Missouri, and buried without a marker until 1924.

 

Carry Nation is buried in the Belton Cemetery in Belton, MO. The inscription on her marker says "Faithful to the Cause of Prohibition - She Hath Done What She Could."

 

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org