In this paper I shall speak of the saloon days of Smithville. The town was incorporated in 1843. How long this
incorporation continued, I can not say, however, I feel sure she gave up her charter to secure the benefits of
the four-mile law. Af ter the Civil War she re-incorporated. Many saloons were licensed. I am willing to charge
much of the lawlessness of the time to war for it has always been followed by excesses of all kinds, but the saloon
as the major contributor to lawlessness and vio lence in Smithville around 1870 is easily recognized. Of course,
as always, there was that rather large and respectable element in her population made up of a few teetotalers,
more, occasional drinkers, and quite a number of tipplers, always under alcoho l's influence, but claiming never
to be drunk. Then there was that large contingent who invariably ended indulgence with intoxication and often violence.
I desire just here to say that I hate liquor with all the energy of my soul. I ought to do so when it has been
a curse to all my people on both sides of the family tree - Fosters and Spurlocks nearly without exception, having
paid tribute to Baccus. I have not a trace of the fanatic about me. I am not prejudiced. I can be fair. I wish
to re-count just here the usual events of a Saturday afternoon in Smithville in the early seventies. Three o'clock
has arrived and I, just like every red-bloodied boy of twelve, like to see things in action. It is about time I
should get up to Bob West's corner if I am to see what happens at Capshaw's saloon. Arrived, I take a seat on the
horse-block and await proceedings. I hear a great commotion in the saloon, loud bandying of words, then I see two
men, bare-headed, rapidly getting off coats as they dash out an d run to a vacant lot near the horse rack at the
east end of the saloon. L. and H. go at each other. H. who is the larger man draws L. up close in a kind of bear-hug
and instantly I see the flash of a knife and L. is being stabbed repeatedly in the back . They were separated.
L. recovered after a time. On another occasion, poor old man T. was induced by H. and F. who pretended to have
a very high regard for him, to drink seventeen bar-glasses of liquor, meanwhile they drank water. Of course, the
old man went into a great stupor, fell on the floor, and was laid out by these two drunken fellows as though he
were dead, almost which he certainly was. On an improvised cooling board, with cheeks of tobacco on his eyes and
an apple core in his mouth, they placed the old man, whose only sign of life was a slow, stertorous breathing.
He remained there, as I am impressed, until Monday morning, staggered out, betook himself to his little home on
Judge Crowley's place east of town, where a year later one eveni ng as the sun was going down the old man fell
out of a chair while he rested in the door, dead. I wonder if that drunk was in it.
Smithville was provided with a race track south of town back in those days. Taylor's bay and Shores sorrel
were chief contenders. Things ran along rather smoothly till one day a race was run and a squabble ensued, when
a rather large purse was up. Bad faith was charged, and the stake holder refused to pass the money ( he later hid
out ) for benefit of his nerves. The scene shifted to town. With four or five saloons in full blast the two factions
tanked up liberally. When all were well satur ated, argument resumed and what started as a horse race was resolved
into a rock fight. Men, whiskey, and rocks made a Concoction with a "kick in it", to borrow a present
day term. Doctors did a land-office business that night sewing up cuts and dispens ing porous plaster. Next morning
- Sunday - I was sitting on the courthouse fence by the side of J. E. whose prowess I always admired, when C. with
his head bandaged, walked straight up to J. E. and after a mutual passing of that short, incisive Anglo-Sa xon
word of three letters, he and J. E. were in action. The sharp bark of a "22" rang out and J. E. was bleeding
at the forehead. It looked like doom had struck for him but Dr. Harrison removed the flattened bullet from the
top of his head a month later . Anyway, everything seemed drunk but the race horses. The excitement was over- racing
declined. Will the saloon ever come back? Never! Under the "region of the bootlegger" of which a few
talk so glibly, have you ever seen anything to be classed wit h conduct I have described in this paper? The return
of the saloon is morally, socially, and economically impossible and unthinkable. With 25,000,000 automobiles running
in the United States and a death rate of 22,400 directly chargeable to them last ye ar - one person killed every
twenty minutes - what would be the fatality with open saloons and the consequent increase of drunken drivers of
cars? It would be appalling. The American public will never stand for it.
No amendment to the constitution has ever been repealed. We were one hundred years getting this one and it
will stand. When you hear a "wet" bewailing, just remember that he wants it for personal use or for profit
of the sale.
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May 19, 1927
REMINISCENCE No. 11
by W.T. Foster
In this paper I wish to speak of the preachers that came to Smithville around the seventies. Some of them of national
note, some, more circumscribed
Since leaving Smithville in 1876 I have heard many celebrated preachers, among them Talmage, Moody, Bishop
Galloway, Sam Jones, Bishop Candles, George Truett, and many others, but I am sure Bishop Marvin whom I heard in
the old Methodist brick ch urch whose walls later fell down in the seventies, was as powerful as any of them. I
doubt so great a preacher's ever having been in Smithville before or since. He was a wonderful man, a grand spirit,
a self-made man. Tall, black hair, bearded, pale fr om disease, the eyes deep-set, consecrated far above the average
Christian, humble, sweet-spirited, came Bishop Enoch M. Marvin of St. Louis to preside over the district conference.
In a poll of the clergy of America conducted a year or two ago, George T ruett of Texas was voted one of the twenty
great preachers of the country. Having heard him a number of times I can see why he was in the list. He is a dynamo
of spiritual power, a man with a wonderful reserve force. At this distance I know I may be at a little disadvantage
in comparing them, but for spiritual power and convincing force Bishop Marvin was his equal. I see him now as pale
and emaciated, his coat collar turned up and fitted close to his neck for he was not well, he sat on the little
wood en seat made into the wall at back of the pulpit and gazed abstractedly out and above the congregation as
though looking into infinity - which I think he was - the audience all the while being absolutely quiet, then in
a voice subdued and heavenly as thou gh he were looking into the Holy City he sang:
I shall never forget the effect which fell upon that crowded church. We all felt heaven was close by and it
was. He took us to the very gate. Then he arose and said: "next November I shall be on the ocean sailing for
China to ordain some nati ve Chinese preachers. I have often thought that God may call me home from the bosom of
the briny deep. If so, it will be all right for I would as soon go to Him from the ocean as from the land."
He went and returned then he went to his "immortal home," this prince in Israel.
|"My latest sun is sinking fast,
My race is nearly run, etc."
|till the four line stanza was completed, then with arms folded and voice swelling with emotion he took up the chorus:
|"O, come angel band,
Come and around me stand,
O bear me away on your snowy winds, etc."
Bishop McIntire, famous for his splendid financial ability in the affairs of the Kingdom, preached in Smithville.
The subject of his sermon was usury. He was entirely different in type from Marvin, however, a very strong character.
Few men better loved than J. M. Kidwell ever lived in Smithville. He built up the Christian church into a powerful
body of communicants. He was a persistent worker, an able exponent of the tenets of his churches, sincere, informed
and couraged, he was a good man and a good citizen, gentleman.
Ben Turner was the most familiar with the Scriptures perhaps of all preachers who ever preached in Smithville.
I am not saying he was a theologian, he was a vessel which contained the memorized Scriptures and the chapter and
verse where they could be found. He was a wonder - no doubt about it, and he could put up a stiff defense of any
premises he might lay down. He was interestingly argumentative, speaking directly to Bible authorities as though
they were present.
Jerry Cullom was a brother greatly beloved by everyone. He came as presiding elder, always preached, and just
before preaching he would sing a new song - one that the congregation had never heard. He usually sat on the little
wooden seat when he san g his song. I shall never forget lone sweet little song that he brought us and which was
very popular for a long time after. I wonder if anyone who reads these words has sung that song in a decade? I
will quote just enough of it to let you peer through the thick dust of fifty years.
I chose this article wondering if any reader remembers the sermon preached by Rev. Hurley, the Negro preacher
from Oberlin, Oh. in the old courthouse, the white folk occupying the seats outside the bar. He was by far the
ablest Negro that ever p reached in Smithville.
| " I am so glad that our Father in heaven,
Tells of his love in the book he has given.
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
But this is the dearest, that Jesus loves me."
I am so glad that Jesus loves me, ect.
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