Prohibition In Benton County

By Nell Morisette
Camden, Tennessee

On March 16, 1889 the January 12, 1838, and November 8, 1847, Camden Charters were abolished by the legislature, to take effect July 1, 1889. Townsmen could not agree until a Mayor and five Aldermen were elected by Benton County citizen. This was organized and passed the legislature on May 7, 1895. This game them the right to regulate the town strictly including "detention of all suspicious persons found loitering about" for prohibiting gambling and to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors. It was too strong for the pro-saloon, and not rigid enough for the anti-saloon.

This charter was repealed on February 12, 1897. The state legislature allowed Camden in similar charter to the one repealed on March 27, 1899. The anti-saloonists won out. A charter on April 11, 1903, passed allowing the thorough prohibition of saloons in Camden.

There was an article published June 5, 1903, in the Camden Chronicle entitled, "Passing of the Saloon."

In a October 23, 1923, issue of the paper the activity of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was mentioned. It was active for many years. This organization fought against liquor. It did a lot of good in getting rid of saloons. They believed a saloon encouraged drunkenness, it was a place of crime and violence, it ignored the law, and was part of the cause of prostitution.

"The House That Whiskey Built" was a two story frame residence built by J.F. Beaton. Beaton was a saloon keeper and did quite well, financially, until the anti saloon legislature drove him out of Camden in 1903. The Lashlees lived there, then Camden Funeral Home, and Frank Lashlee had an insurance company there. Chief James Woodard of the Camden Police department resides there now.

Parts of the above were taken from Benton County, Tennessee, pages 27-28 and Selective Gleanings from Camden Newspapers 1882 - 1932 by Mr. Jonathan K.T. Smith, who has done a great job in preserving Benton County History.

In 1917, Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution which prohibited the export, import, manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United State. By January of 1919, three fourths of the states had approved the amendment, and in 1920 it went into effect. This new law is believed to have had the greatest effect on the twenties, creating a feeling of rebellion and wild behavior. May people of the twenties believed that this law violated their right to live by their own standards and do what they wanted to do. The Volstead Act passed by congress set up penalties to all violators of the Eighteenth Amendment and led to illegal distribution of alcohol by gangs. Men like gangsters Al Capone fought over the liquor trade and full-fledged gang wars developed.

Homemade liquor was soon being made and speakeasies were set up to distribute alcohol. As a result of these speakeasies young woman of the twenties began to drink and participate in wild behavior. The wild "floppers" were now created and as the result of prohibition the "Roaring Twenties" was created.

The carefree lifestyle and feelings of rebellion and invincibility can all be connected to prohibition. This law caused rebellion by people who thought they could not be held down and created gangs that thought they were above the law and invincible. Prohibition created the lifestyle of that era. It contributed to the growth of jazz and nightclubs and helped start the rebellious period of the twenties.

The repeal of prohibition can best be connected with the twenties as an end to the rebellious behavior and carefree attitudes. Flappers, speakeasies, gangs, and moonshine began to all die out along with all the things which symbolized the decade.

It was stated in the census, saloon keeper as an occupation, , in 1880, on page 93, Town of Camden District, James Moses, on page 95, Joseph Hudson and Aaron Arnold (closed of April of 1887), and Andrew Saunders. In the 1900 census house number 35, Henry Anderson and Joseph M. Gillispie. There were probably others but they were not listed.

In Benton County today there are approximately ten establishments which sell open beer according to Jeff Arnold of the Sheriff's Department, whom I spoke with on October 29th.

Thought for this week

Whatever you attempt go at it with spirit. Put some in. If you want to reach the stars, it's all about attitude.


If you have suggestions and/ or additions for these pages, please feel free to write County Host

Brian Nichols

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