Carry Nation, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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Carry A. Nation

also known as

Carrie Amelia Nation

Carry A. Nation

also known as

Carrie Amelia Nation
At left:
Carry A. Nation
Carrie Amelia Nation

Carrie Amelia Nation (November 25, 1846 - June 9, 1911) was perhaps the most famous person to emerge from the temperance movement - the battles against alcohol in pre-Prohibition America - due to her habit of attacking saloons with a hatchet while calling herself Carry Nation. She has been the topic of numerous books, articles and even a 1966 opera at the University of Kansas.

Born Carrie Moore in Garrard County, Kentucky, Nation attributed her passion for fighting liquor to a failed first marriage to an alcoholic. She got her myth-making last name from her second husband, David Nation.

The spelling of her first name is ambiguous; both "Carrie" and "Carry" are considered correct. Official records list the former, and she herself used that spelling most of her life; the latter was used by her father in the family Bible. Upon beginning her campaign against liquor in the early 20th century, she adopted the name Carry A. Nation mainly for its value as a slogan, and had it registered as a trademark in the state of Kansas.

She grew up in what most would consider trying circumstances. She was in ill health much of the time; her family experienced a number of financial setbacks and moved several times, finally settling in Belton, Missouri. Some sources indicate that her mother went through periods where she had delusions of being Queen Victoria, and that young Carrie was often tended to in the slave quarters as a result.

In 1865 she met Dr. Charles Gloyd, and they were married on November 21, 1867. Gloyd was, by all accounts, a severe alcoholic; they separated shortly before the birth of their daughter, Charlien, and he died less than a year later, in 1869. Nation attributed her passion for fighting liquor to her failed first marriage to heavy-drinking Gloyd.

Carrie then acquired a teaching certificate, but was unable to make ends meet in this field. She then met Dr. David A. Nation, an attorney, minister and newspaper editor, nineteen years her senior. They were married on December 27, 1877, and moved to a cotton plantation near Houston, Texas. Dr. Nation became involved in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War, and as a result was forced to move back north in 1889, this time to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, where David found work preaching at a Christian church, and Carrie ran a successful hotel. It was while in Medicine Lodge that she began her temperance work.

A large woman (nearly 6 feet tall and 175 pounds) she described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesn't like," and claimed a divine ordination to promote temperance by smashing up bars. Alone or accompanied by hymn-singing women, she would march into a bar and sing and pray, while smashing bar fixtures and stock with a hatchet. Between 1900 and 1910 she was arrested some 30 times, and paid her jail fines from lecture-tour fees and sales of souvenir hatchets. She published newsletters and later in life even appeared in vaudeville. She died after a period of hospitalization in Leavenworth, Kansas, on June 9, 1911. Nation was a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, founded in 1874, which deal with issues ranging from health and hygiene, prison reform and world peace.

The Graveyard North of Medicine Lodge, Kansas.

"I used to ride out north of Medicine Lodge past the graveyard. It was situated on an elevated place, barren of trees, for trees could not well grow where it was so dry. Grave-yards are not pleasant places at best, but to see one barren of trees or flowers, just the graves, the white marble, the sunshine, rain, and prairie grass, in sight of the pleasant yards and homes of the living, I feel a sense of reproach, as if the dead were complaining of this neglect. The only ground Abraham ever bought was a piece of ground to bury his dead and it had trees on it. I wanted to see a better condition of things. I knew this neglect was because no one would make a move. I felt I was not the one, but I wrote an article for the papers, the Index and Cresset, of Medicine Lodge, and I took it to a widow, Mrs. Young, who had recently lost a husband who was very dear to her. I told her she was the one to organize a grave-yard association. That this letter would call the ladies together. After making a few changes in the language she published the letter, and the ladies met, organized, and in a few months all was changed. One will rarely find a more attractive resting place for our beloved dead than in the cemetery of Medicine Lodge. I could not have effected what Mrs. Young did, but there are more ways of doing things than one, and when people say: "I can never carry out any plans", I know they have not tact or perseverance."

-- From The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation, by Carry A Nation, Revised edition, 1905.

Naming of the Carry A. Nation Bridge Near Medicine Lodge

"Voting started on naming big new bridge over Medicine River on U. S. 160. Names first mentioned were Bill Horn bridge, Alexander bridge, Henry M. Stanley bridge, Ayyadl-dya bridge, I-See-O bridge, Carry A. Nation bridge." -- The Barber County Index, July 4, 1935.

"Voting begins on choosing bridge name, beginning heated contest between names Bill Horn and Carry A. Nation." -- The Barber County Index, August 15, 1935.

"More than 800 votes had been cast for a name for new bridge." -- The Barber County Index, September 5, 1935.

"New bridge is named for Carry A. Nation after more than 3000 votes are cast." -- The Barber County Index, September 19, 1935.

Carry Nation Home, Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas.

Photo by Nathan Lee, October 2006.
Carry Nation Home, Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas
Highway 160, Medicine Lodge, KS 67104.   Phone: (620) 886-3908.
Photo by Nathan Lee, October 2006.

Also see:

The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation, by Carry A. Nation, Revised edition, 1905.

Obituary: Captain David Nation, The Barber County Index, October 7, 1903.

The one in Wichita, Smashed by Mrs. Nation, is Taken Out of Service.

Barber County Index, January 15, 1902.

Women's Suffrage, news articles collected and contributed by Kim Fowles.

Phoebe Rogers Gibson. "She was a faithful member of the official board many years. She was a militant member of the W.C.T.U. all through the years. She joined Carrie Nation in her raid on the Day Drug Store here in Medicine Lodge years ago when the liquor laws were being violated openly." -- from Phoebe Gibson's obituary.

Biography of Carry A. Nation, from the Handbook of Texas Online.

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