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Temperance Movement


Capt. Ebenezer and Mary Greene Battelle and the beginning of the Temperance Movement.

[This story was later refuted by the Battelle's son, Rev. Cornelius Durant Battelle. Still, the Women's Christian Temperance Union was a strong and active organization for many years in Newport.]

Temperance reform may be said to have had its origin in Washington County early in 1828. A number of good Methodist were assembled some time during that year at a quarterly meeting held at Ebenezer Battelle’s in Newport, which was one of the best settlements in that part of the county. Any host or hostess, who did not offer his or her guest liquor, in those days, was regarded as inhospitable, mean and niggardly. On this occasion the liquor happened to be a most excellent and powerful article of peach brandy. The little company, among who were several church dignitaries, drank their brandy to the health of Deacon Battelle, and followed with a health to some minister who was present. They drank copious draughts from large glasses, refilled from am great decanter, which was passed around with such rapidly increasing frequency that it had in turn soon to be refilled from the cask. The party became more merry, and with the recklessness born of incipient intoxication, drank oftener than before. All this was while Mrs. Battelle was making ready a substantial dinner for the assembled brethren, When dinner was announced they took one drink more and at the table another. And now the effects of the potations began to appear. Several of the pious brothers who sat down to partake of the steaming dinner were unable to eat, and left the table. Nearly all were visibly affected by the liquor, and several were decidedly drunk. Only a few being able to attend the meeting which had been arranged for in the afternoon, it was postponed. All were ashamed of there over-indulgence, but Mrs. Battelle was sorrowful and indignant. She was a woman of fine sensibilities, great strength of character, and deep convictions. Seeing clearly the great evil to which the use of liquor led, and that it was a reproach to the cause of religion, she resolved that nevermore should the temptation be placed before her guests. Her husband agreed with her, and the next day, in meeting, speaking sorrowfully of what had occurred, expressed his conviction that the custom of drinking was unbecoming to a Christian people, and made known the decision that had been arrived at rewarding the banishment of liquor from his board. The sentiment was endorsed by nearly all or perhaps quite all of the people present, many of whom were smarting under their influence with others to do the same. There was much earnest talk upon the subject, and feeling of meeting adjourned, but each man, going to his home, carried with him the determination to so all in his power to promote that principle of total abstinence among the people in his neighborhood.

History of Washington County, H. Z. Williams, pgs. 444 -445