Monday, July 8, 2013

Remembering Hannah Jumper, July 8, 1856

No Friend of Fire Water…    

Old Fifth Parish Cemetery, Rockport, MA

            It’s July the 8th, 2013, and as I walk through this fine old New England cemetery I cannot miss the grave of Hannah Jumper. 
            July 8th, 1856 is a very important date in our little town’s history. 
            I can just see this neat little old lady, with fire in her eyes, as she led a horde of women and three men in a raid on Rockport’s drinking establishments, on July 8th, 1856.

            Hannah Jumper is buried in our Old Fifth Parish Burial Ground.  She’s famous here because this quiet spinster was a woman of action.  In the middle of the Nineteenth century Rockport had a large number of sailors and fishermen, and a large number of little pubs and bars where the men would hang out.  They’d often get drunk and then go home to their wives. 

Hannah Jumper’s gravestone

This went on for years, but in 1856 the Temperance Movement was gaining steam all over the United States (31 states).  The women in town had had about enough of this, and the preachers downtown helped stir up their emotions.  Local women gathered and decided that on Tuesday morning, July 8th they would take matters into their own hands.  They trusted no males with their plans, except for three preachers.

Hannah Jumper, courtesy of Sandy Bay Historical Society

On that fine summer morning Hannah, age 75, put down her sewing, and marched out of her house down by the harbor, and led a group of angry, determined women and preachers down the street. The women had hatchets under their shawls, and they stormed into one bar after another, smashing bottles, and emptying kegs in the street.  Pub owners and customers alike couldn’t believe what was happening.

The women smashed kegs for five hours. Then they went home to cook supper for their families.

That was the end of drinking in Rockport.  Bars and pubs were outlawed, and stayed that way for 149 years.

Then, in 2005 citizens finally voted to allow restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages. 
Hannah Jumper’s house in Rockport.
This photo, shot in 2005, shows sign promoting a vote to restore sales of liquor in Rockport—right in Hannah’s front yard! She actually launched her raid while living in this house, right down next to the harbor on Mount Pleasant St.

            Hannah kept Rockport “dry” for nearly 1 ½ centuries, but in the 21st century, it really didn’t make sense.  People could buy alcoholic beverages in Gloucester, just 3 or 4 miles away, and they could bring them to restaurants in Rockport.  
            It just meant that Rockport restaurants could not benefit from sales of alcoholic beverages, which put them at a competitive disadvantage with restaurants in neighboring Gloucester and other nearby towns.
Peter Beacham

            Peter Beacham, local antique dealer and enthusiastic promoter of all things Rockport, headed the town’s Economic Development Committee, and led a drive to make this change.
            It wasn’t easy.  People just don’t like change, and there were dire predictions of crowds of staggering drunks in the streets, and visions of our children being run over by beer trucks.
            Rockporters went to the polls and voted to repeal the Town’s “dry” status.  Then the measure went to the Massachusetts Legislature, who soon approved the decision, and now, Rockporters can enjoy drinks in local restaurants.
            And Police Chief John McCarthy reports that the roaming, roving drunks haven’t shown up, and no kids have been run over by beer trucks.

                                                                                                            ----Sam Coulbourn
[Adapted from a blog published in July 2012]

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1 comment:

  1. Today, I went to a funeral for a charter member of Covenant Presbyterian Church, which we were in from about one year too late to be charter members to 25 years later. Come to think of it, in order to be a charter member, maybe you have to be a member. Bobby Fannin was a twin, and he and Billy weren't expected to live, so they didn't spend a lot of energy picking names. Later, Bobby legally changed his name to Bob Meredith Fannin. Bob and Bill lived to ripe old ages, and Bob was 92, and 6 foot five when he died. So maybe that's relevant. There is a right time for everything.