Carry A. Nation - Part 4
The Famous and Original Bar Room Smasher
Two troubled marriages, one to an alcoholic, coupled with strong religious beliefs formed Nation's view of the world. Struggles with poor health and poverty in her early years also shaped her personality.
Carry Amelia Moore was born in Garrard County, Kentucky, on November 25, 1846. Her family moved several times before settling in Cass County, Missouri. Nation said she was a selfish child who at times was sickly.
At the age of ten Nation attended a church meeting at Hickman's Mill, Missouri, where she experienced a religious conversion. A relative remarked, "Carry, I believe you know what you are doing."
"Your True Love Forever, Charley"
Nation's first love appeared at her parents' house in the form of a boarder, Dr. Charles Gloyd. Charles and Carry fell in love, but Carry's mother and father did not approve because Charles drank. Read a letter from Charles to Carry.
The couple married despite her parents' objections. Gloyd's drinking quickly worsened. Pregnant with their only child, Nation returned to her parents' home. Gloyd protested, "Pet, if you leave me, I will be a dead man in six months."
Gloyd continued to drink heavily, and his prediction came to pass. He died at the age of 29, less than two years after his marriage to Nation. He left behind a 23-year-old wife and an infant daughter.
Gloyd was not known to be a drinker before he went into the army during the Civil War. He picked up the habit, as did many other soldiers, while idle in camp. General George B. McClellan said, "No one agent so much obstructs this army . . . as the degrading vice of drunkenness." Abstinence "would be worth 50,000 men to the armies of the United States."
Nation later recalled another reason for Charles' drinking. She felt he spent too much time drinking with his fellow Masons (a fraternal organization). When she asked for their help in controlling his drinking, they ignored her request. This instilled negative feelings about the Masons that lasted a lifetime.
This cartoon (center, left) depicts Nation's intense dislike of the Masons. It appeared in her autobiography, The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation (1908). In Nation's words, the cartoon shows "the Devil with lies for his mortar is building a lodge, graft being the cornerstone, and points with a wink at 'free,' when in truth it is 'bound.' The results are divorced from Christ and their earthly guardians, their wives."
Carry had little time to mourn the death of Charles. She was now the sole support for herself, her daughter, and her mother-in-law. She turned to teaching, enrolling in courses at the Warrensburg Normal Institute in Missouri.
After four years as a teacher, Nation was forced out of her job for improper pronunciation of words. Her replacement was the niece of the man who complained about her. Finding herself once more with no job and three mouths to feed, Nation prayed that God might direct her to a second husband who could support her.
The answer to Carry's prayers appeared in the person of David Nation. A minister, lawyer, and newspaper man, David was 19 years older than Carry. It seemed a loving match at first, but troubles made their life difficult. David was not successful at any occupation. Financial difficulties, coupled with poor health, stressed the marriage.
The diary and scrapbook kept by Carry during this time reveal much about her personal side, including concerns about her family, particularly the health of her daughter, Charlien; poetry that interested her; and expenses and farm products sold. There were frequent expressions of faith.
Although she must have loved her daughter, Carry had conflicting emotions about Charlien. Carry blamed her daughter's poor health on Charlien's being the result of "a drunken father and a distracted mother." While Carry took Charlien to doctors as far away as New York, she also expressed great concern that her daughter was not a Christian. In her autobiography, Carry wrote, "I often prayed for bodily affliction on her, if that was what would make her love and serve God." Read more of Carry's remarks about Charlien.
In 1890 the Nation family moved to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, after failed attempts at farming and running a hotel in Texas. They lived in Medicine Lodge much of the next decade, with the exception of a few years at Seiling, Indian Territory (Oklahoma). David (bottom, left) fared better as a minister, although Carry was not always supportive of his efforts and often corrected him while he was in the pulpit.
Carry's willingness to help the destitute did not always make her popular with her class-conscious neighbors. Known as "Mother Nation" to those she helped, Carry worked with the Women's Christian Temperance Union to close down joints in Medicine Lodge. As jail evangelist for Barber County, she became aware that many of the inmates had drinking problems.
In 1901, after 29 years of marriage and at the height of Carry's prohibition activities, David filed for divorce. Claiming, "I married this woman because I needed someone to run my house," he cited grounds of "desertion."
Carry A. Nation is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.
- How Well Do You Know Carry Nation? - Fun quiz.
- Hatchetations and Home Defenders - Why reformers smashed saloons.
- Paying the Bills - Selling hatchet pins, buttons, and newsletters.
- Taking on the Role of Crusader - Personal tragedies in Nation's life.
- Other Crusades - Women's health, woman suffrage, and anti-smoking.
- An International Figure - People all over the world followed Nation's work.
- She Hath Done What She Could - Final days in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
- An American Icon - Carry Nation is a household name today.
- Temperance Timeline - Timeline of alcohol reform.
Contact us at KansasMuseum@kshs.org