Sunday, March 25, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History   March 25

Prohibitionist R. C. Dial Beaten by Wets Near Farmersville, March 1901

The one social issue that consumed Texas Methodists more than any other at the turn of the 20th century was the prohibition of alcohol beverages.  Farmersville, a locally important agricultural trade center in Collin County, became a focus of the battle in 1901 when violence erupted over the issue. 

It was once the custom for farm families to come to town on Saturdays to do their shopping.  Farmersville, in the middle of a rich cotton growing region was one such commercial center.  Farm families flocked to the dry goods, hardware, and grocery stores.  Unfortunately, gambling dens and bootleggers  also attracted customers. 

Methodists and their allies in the battle for prohibition were naturally offended by the immorality in Farmersville.  In March 1901 the dry faction organized a mass meeting that resulted in an ultimatum for the forces of immorality to get out of town.  One of the speakers was R. C. Dial, editor of the Greenville Banner.  After the rally he boarded the train for home.  Unfortunately six “Wets” also boarded the train.   The party consisting of Gus Hooks, Jay Horn, Jeff Hines, Charles Yeary, Sam McKinney, and Jim Anderson, soon found Mr. Dial and assaulted him.  They departed the train at Floyd, just seven miles east of Farmersville so they could then board the next west bound train back to Farmersville.  They never made it home.  The Hunt County sheriff arrested them right before their train crossed back into Collin County, and took them back to jail at Greenville

In addition to the criminal charges, the six men also had to deal with a $25,000 civil suit Dial filed against them.  The charge read in part,

Did pull out plaintiff’s  beard and hair, and did cut, maim, and disfigure plaintiff about the ear, nose, eyes, and mouth, and other parts of the head and body, causing great and sever loss of blood, humiliating him in the presence of other passengers. . .

 Three of the defendants were tried immediately and found guilty after the testimony of Rev. Morris of the Farmersville Methodist church.  They received a variety of fines and jail terms.  The other three defendants prolonged the case through appeals until May 1902. 

Dragging the case out into 1902 meant that the local newspapers and the Texas Christian Advocate would continue to cover it.  After all, the story was too good to let die.  It illustrated a main theme of the prohibitionist argument, i. e., alcohol was at the center of many other crimes including spousal abuse, child abuse, disorderly conduct, desertion, assault, and so on.   Six men attacking an unarmed, innocent man just because he wanted to express his free speech rights! Outrageous!  Few incidents could demonstrate the depravity of the liquor interests better than this one!.

The remaining three defendants eventually lost their appeals and received jail terms and fines.  What about R. C. Dial?  He healed and continued to make speeches in favor of prohibition.  It would take more than a gang of six ruffians to shut him up.


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