This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.
Mark down June 3, 1874, on your calendars as the day the good clergymen of Moline reaped what they had sowed, and found it very dry food indeed. They discovered, much to their horror, that the women in their congregations had actually been listening to those sermons calling for a war on the saloons and were acting on those calls.
"We have enlisted for three years or the duration of the war," said the patrol of a dozen members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union who appeared outside Schrader's Saloon at 7 a.m. on the morning of June 3, and began writing down the names of every man who attempted to enter.
The saloon keepers had no army, but they were well armed with kegs of beer, which they rolled out into the streets, tapped, and offered free to all the factory and millworkers as they came by. There were hearty speeches in defense of beer, but the ladies held their ground. Every two hours, a new patrol of women relieved those on duty, taking down the names of wandering men, who, as glass after glass of beer took hold, wandered even more. There seemed to be an endless supply of both kegs and women.
For a week, the streets of Moline became a battlefield in a civil war. Until eleven each evening, patrols of women took down names of those entering the saloons, and also of those seen drinking from the free kegs on the streets.
A few war correspondents from local newspapers braved the front lines to cover the battles as completely and objectively as possible, even to pointing out which temperance ladies had been associated with the disappearance of which Baptist ministers.
In the end, as you might expect, the ladies won the war. Within two weeks, there were almost no men entering Moline saloons, and no names to write down. The ladies went back to their laundry and children. "Moline, the proud and self-important Moline is subdued," said the newspaper headlines.
And the men? They had all crossed the river to Davenport and its even more plentiful saloons for some R and R and a good stiff drink. Except for the good clergymen who had "urged the women on until they were beyond control." I suspect they retreated to their studies to pray for less powerful sermons.
Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.