Whiskey in Perrysville

Whiskey had a stronghold in Perrysville in the 1850s.

PERRYSVILLE -- In 1854, Perrysville and surrounding Green Township were home to no less than nine commercial distilleries.

Whiskey was so prevalent it was often used as a form of currency. Many of the church-going women of the town were opposed to the consumption of alcohol, and so approached the proprietors of the two stores in Perrysville that sold the spirits asking them to no longer sell whiskey -- their request was answered with laughter.

That February, 20 women of the town's local Temperance Union decided to take matters into their own hands: Armed with hammers, hatchets and other makeshift weapons they stormed into one of the stores that laughed at their earlier request. Before the proprietor had time to realize what was happening, the women had poured all of the whiskey into the cellar and thrown the casks and stoneware jugs into the street.

Satisfied with their work there, they marched down the street to the second store -- but this time they met resistance.

The second proprietor had heard the commotion and realized what was happening, he quickly locked the doors and barred the women's entrance -- but it wasn't enough. The women with hatchets took to the cellar doors, smashing through them in order to complete what they saw as God's work.

The group stormed through the cellar and up into the store, smashing the wooden barrels of whiskey and pouring the spirits down the cellar stairs. Two of their members who were late to the party -- and in the process of climbing the cellar stairs -- were washed back down into the quagmire.

Once their mission was complete, the women marched back into the street and were promptly arrested. The "Ladies of Temperance" as they came to be known were given a slap on the wrist by the judge and sent home, much to the dismay of the proprietors and all their customers.

Perrysville remained dry -- out of fear more than morals -- for 14 years. The Ladies of Temperance were not done, and 14 years later would strike again.

Their antics were even put to music:

'Twas the 17th of February, the year of '54, the Ladies of Perrysville did cause us great deplore.

Aunt Becky, with her eagle bill, and eyes so black and bright, dare the best man in the crowd to come and take a fight.

She swore she would not leave a drop; that she would it all spill, she would not leave a single drop, to tempt poor Uncle Bill.

More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.

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