Saturday, March 06, 2010

Carry (not Carrie) Nation in Raleigh

Sunday's column about the choices facing policymakers about the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission mentions a historical anecdote from 1907, when the well-known temperance leader Carry Nation visited Raleigh. Sharp-eyed readers may recall seeing her name spelled "Carrie" -- but her real name was Carry Amelia Nation. She authored a book entitled "The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation" and signed it Carry A. Nation. Still, you'll see her name spelled "Carrie" in a lot of places.

She was afraid of no one and was famous for having taken a hatchet to saloons in her campaign against liquor, tobacco and other devilish substances. When she visited Durham in 1907, she called Duke's tobacco "all the works of the Devil." The story goes that when she took a hatchett into a saloon where prize fighter John Sullivan was having a few drinks one day, he ran and hid.

She is pictured in a visit to Raleigh with the Rev. Sylvester Betts. I've been asked before if I'm related to Rev. Betts, and while I've long thought that possible, I have never found a connection. But who knows? My great grandfather was the Rev. A.D. Betts, a Civil War chaplain and longtime Methodist minister who was still living when Sylvester Betts was preaching from time to time at what became Pullen Baptist Church in Raleigh. And in 1907, my father was one year old, having been born the previous year in a house where his grandparents lived near the corner of Bloodworth and Jones Street across from the Governor's Mansion. It's my guess that old A.D. Betts and his son W.A. Betts, also a Methodist minister, both of them teetotalers, would have at least known Sylvester Betts -- and might have campaigned with Carry Nation in her war on Demon Rum.