Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Imperial County, California
From: The History of Imperial County, California
Edited by: F. C. Farr
Published by: Elms and Franks
Berkeley, CA 1918


WHEN Imperial Valley was still a part of San Diego County, a few white ribboners came to this desert land to make their respective homes. No temperance work having been done here, a National Woman's Christian Temperance Union organizer, Mrs. Bailey of New York, was invited to enter this new field and endeavor to organize; some preparation was made for her coming, and Brawley was the scene of the first organization, with a membership of thirty five charter members, January 20, 1906. Imperial was second to respond, having a charter membership of forty two persons. Calexico was third with forty three charter members. Mrs. Bailey said that the latter was the largest W. C. T. U. she had ever organized.

Being San Diego County, we became locals of San Diego County W. C. T. U. Geographically we were so separated that it was impossible to work to any advantage under their jurisdiction and our environment required special lines of work. In November, 1906, a general institute was held at Imperial. Mrs. Mae Tongier, a national W. C. T. U. lecturer, being the guest of honor, was invited to lecture and organize locals wherever she thought wise throughout the Valley. The institute unanimously requested Mrs. Tongier to present a petition to the State W. C. T. U. executive, asking that we be separated from San Diego County W. C. T. U. and form an independent federation. In due course of time the request was granted. At this time Mrs. Tongier made a tour of the Valley and organized El Centro W. C. T. U., also Silsbee, located about six miles to the northwest of El Centro.

Miss G. T. Stickney, president of the State W. C. T. U., made an official visit and organized the forces consisting of five locals into an Imperial Valley W. C. T. U. on April 2, 1907, at Imperial. This was the first organization of federated forces formed in Imperial Valley. Officers elected were: C. Angie Miller, of Brawley, president; Mrs. S. T. Bixby, of Imperial, vice president; Maybel Edgar, of Imperial, recording secretary; Florence Buttress, of El Centro, corresponding secretary; Lizzie Kramar, of Silsbee, treasurer.

Miss Margaret Wiley, state organizer, toured the Valley in the interest of medal contest work in 1908, and organized a union at East side school house with nine charter members, called the Alamo W. C. T. U. At every annual convention an effort was made to hold a county gold or silver medal contest. These contests are popular in the locals and medals are quite fashionable. In 1911 a memorial window was constructed in the Christian Church edifice at El Centro, in honor of Mrs. Ida Tout, a pioneer temperance worker of Imperial County, much loved by her associates. Drinking fountains were installed on the streets by the local unions, in all the incorporated cities of the Valley, i. e., El Centro, Imperial, Calexico, Holtville and Brawley. A formal dedication of each of the fountains to the city trustees by the local W. C. T. O. was instituted. The local president presenting the fountain and the mayor receiving it for the city with the appropriate exercises, gave to our cities filtered ice water for the thirsty.

Imperial Valley was organized into a county in 1908 and immediately our Valley W. C. T. U. took on the dignified name of Imperial County W. C. T. U. Through continued effort the county was born white and the first legal act of the first supervisors was a strong prohibition ordinance, adding a truly prohibition county to our fair state of California. The pioneer temperance workers labored under difficulties. The County W. C. T. U. sustained a detective fund and purchased an apparatus for ascertaining the per cent of alcohol in liquids. Many gallons of so called soft drinks were never drank, leaving the dispenser wiser but not richer.

On February 5, 1909, Holtville was organized, with twenty eight charter members, by C. Angie Miller, county president.

Mary Stewart, state secretary of the Young People's Branch, organized the Jasper W. C. T. U. at the school house, near Calexico.

Verde W. C. T. U. was organized by C. Angie Miller seven miles southeast of Holtville at the Verde school house; Mrs. L. Strain, president.

Heber W. C. T. U. was organized with Mrs. M. A. Ritter as first president.

Mary Stewart introduced young people's work and organized several classes throughout the county, explaining essay contest work based on scientific temperance instructions, laid down in the state school law of California. Essay contest work is a department to encourage instructions along scientific temperance lines, and several of our young people have received state recognition as the best essayists on the given topic, receiving $to as state prize in the grades and $20 as state prize in the high school course, in California.

The Dry California campaign was special for 1914, and was very strenuously conducted. A County Temperance Day on October 6, 1914, was celebrated at Calipatria by the temperance forces of Imperial Valley, under the auspices of the County W. C. T. U. Free barbecue dinner, submarine band, parade, program and cantata, "The White Republic," were some of the attractions of the day. A thousand people were entertained.

Bard W. C. T. U. was organized in October, 1914, by the state vice president, Mrs. Hester T. Griffith.

Election on November 3. 1914, showed Imperial County to be the banner county of the state of California. One per cent against two and one half per cent for the prohibition amendment. Every townsite in the county has a strong temperance clause in its deeds, ever forbidding the giving away of liquor on the premises.

The W. C. T. U. work is divided into departments numbering as high as fifty. We believe in temperance in our cooking and have a department that handles cooking flavors and toilet articles, far superior in every way to the alcoholic preparations, but without alcohol, called No-Als.

Local funds are also raised under this department, by the sale of these articles. The pledge stimulates the members to eliminate the $1,000,000 annually spent in the manufacture of ordinary extracts and toilet articles.

In 1915 North End W. C. T. U. and Magnolia W. C. T. U. were organized by Mrs. C. Angie Miller, county organizer.

At the annual convention of 1915 Mrs. Aten presented each of the local unions with a beautiful gavel, made from the natural mesquite wood, grown on her ranch near Calipatria.

Mrs. Maggie Newby, county superintendent of mothers' work, brought from the state convention banners for Imperial County on several occasions, and organized a Mothers' Club at Brawley that is doing a great work.

Parliamentary Usage has been a county movement, a local and county contest being held. Mrs. Feldman of. Holtville was a winning contestant for a state prize. Imperial County has brought home the state parliamentary banners several• times. Much efficient work has been done by every local union in the county in this department.

The Trysting Hour or noontide prayer is a custom among the white ribboners that is certainly uplifting. This word of prayer at twelve o'clock noon constitutes a prayer circle that extends around the globe.

Life membership was presented by the County W. C. T. U. to the following ladies in recognition of efficient service rendered: Mesdames C. Angie Miller, Brawley; Imogen Aten, El Centro; E. J. Curtis, Holtville; M. A. Ritter, Heber; Mrs. Kramar, Silsbee; Mae Webb, Calexico; Amande Mackey, Imperial; Mae Plush, Brawley; Mary E. Vencill, El Centro; May C. Best, Holtville; Mary E. Royce, El Centro.

At the 1915 county convention County President C. Angie Miller withdrew her name from the list of candidates for county president, having served in that capacity for eight consecutive years. Mrs. Imogen Aten served as county vice president for four years. Mrs. Mae Plush as county corresponding secretary three years; Mrs. S. T. Bixby as county vice president for two years; Mrs. E. Abbott corresponding secretary for two years; Mrs. W. Edgar secretary for two years; Mrs. Carrie Rapp vice president for two years; Mrs. Lois Hogan secretary for one year; Mrs. M. Carlisle was secretary for one year; Mrs. M. Hoyt secretary one year; Miss Cote corresponding secretary for three years; Mrs. Lizzie Kramar served as county treasurer for nine consecutive years; Mrs. Imogen Aten served as county president for one year and six months, Mrs. Amande Mackey completing the year; Mrs. Wilson county treasurer for two years; Mrs. Grace Ruth, present incumbent; Mrs. Webb, corresponding secretary, present incumbent; Miss Florence Yarnell, county president at the present time.

Work for soldiers and sailors has occupied the attention of every local in the county since the war was declared. The national organization being recognized throughout the world, assumed her quota of soldiers' and sailors' supplies, and the locals throughout the nation do their bit making bags and filling them, trench torches and fuel sticks, as well as hospital supplies. The last great move was an ambulance drive, the local furnishing its quota of money to the state of war supplies, and then collectively have raised money to send an ambulance to France, fully equipped and manned. The ambulance is dedicated to our boys of Imperial County, California, by the Imperial County W. C. T. U. of Southern California.

Brawley was organized January 20, 1906, with thirty five charter members, by Mrs. L. E. Bailey, New York City national W. C. T. U. organizer, the first president being C. Angie Miller. The first philanthropic act was to install a watering trough on the street for thirsty horses; these were not the days of automobiles. On May 12, 1909, the active members of the Brawley W. C. T. U. completed articles of incorporation for the local organization and incorporated under the state laws of California as part of Southern California State W. C. T. U. The same year a business lot on G Street in the heart of the city of Brawley was purchased through the efforts of the W. C. T. U. Donations and proceeds of a two day flower fair furnished the finances. These flower fairs became an annual event for several years, sustaining a free reading room which was maintained as long as accommodations could be obtained in the city. As the city improved the W. C. T. U made improvements on its own property, such as sidewalks and street pavements, preparatory to building. A board of trustees is annually elected and has the property in charge.

Department work received considerable attention from the first. Loyal temperance legion and young people's branches were organized.

A curfew ordinance was introduced by the W. C. T U. and went into effect in the year of 1914 in the city of Brawley.

Imperial W. C. T. U. was first organized in 1916, disbanding later. It was substantially reorganized in April, 1913, by the state president, Mrs. Blanchard, with thirty six charter members, Mrs.Amande Mackey being president. The liquor interests were strong, it being the only wet city in the county, but this brave band of twenty six women worked and created sentiment until they were one hundred and thirty strong, and now rejoice to know that liquor has been voted out of their city.

Calexico W. C. T. U. is located on the Mexican border, and has strong, staunch workers who are doing a grand work. This local was organized in 1906, and has flourished and won every battle toward keeping Calexico dry. Soldiers' and sailors' work is going forward, they furnishing their own material for hospital supplies. The department is well carried out. The ambulance drive was more than a success.

El Centro W. C. T. U. was organized in El Centro in November, 1907, by Mae Tongier, with Mrs. Tuttle as the first president. This local was the first organization of any kind in the place.

Alamo W. C. T. U. was organized by Miss Margaret Wiley in 1907, with nine charter members, at the Eastside school house, Mrs. Linnie Strain being the first president. The interest created was due to Mrs. Martha Hoyt's influence. This little band did a grand work carrying on the departments of the county. Medal contests was a special work. Finally the members moved to Holtville and united with the local W. C. T. U. there.

Silsbee Union was organized by Mrs. Mae Tongier with a membership of sixteen charter members, and became a part of Imperial County Union when it was organized in 1907. Mrs. Fannie Harding was the first president. Being a country union, the principal work was encouraging sentiment for bone dry prohibition, and educating young people to take a firm stand for that that is best in life. Two other unions, McCabe and Seeley, were organized, drawing on Silsbee for membership. Then various causes drew away so many members that the interest waned until the ambitious little union lost courage and disbanded in 1916, trusting that the influence of this work may not altogether be lost.

Heber W. C. T. U. was organized December 15, 1913, by Mrs. Mary Coman, editor of the State W. C. T. U. paper, with sixteen members in roll, Mrs. Angeline Courtney being the first president. This small band has been faithful, carrying on the department work suited to their locality, beside meeting all county demands, and doing much effective campaign work for the California drive.

Holtville W. C. T. U. was organized in 1909 by C. Angie Miller, county president, Mrs. Martha Hoyt being the first president. The scripture lesson was read from the Bible by an old crusader, Mr. Walter Chaney's mother. The second year the membership was double; it readily grew until it was at one time the largest in the county. This strong union was a power in Imperial County and always ready to lead; in essay work this union took the first prize in the county. Later Mary Thompson received a state prize of twenty dollars for the best essay in the state written by the high school students.

Seeley W. C. T. U. was organized March 3, 1914, with ten live, active charter members. Mrs. Minnie Hull was the first president and served four consecutive years. An active Loyal Temperance Legion, an organization for the children, at one time was their ideal. Much live work has been done and now in war times they are doing soldiers' and sailors' work, liberally furnishing their own material.

McCabe W. C. T. U. was organized at the McCabe school house by Mrs. Eva C. Wheeler, with Mrs. Thayer as the first president.

Calipatria W. C. T. U. was added to the list in 1918, being organized by Hester Griffith, state vice president, and Miss Florence Yarnell, county president.

During the two years 1915-1917 the special object sought by the county president was better legislation. The legislators were showered with letters, cards and telegrams. Much that was encouraging was gained; an effort was made to prohibit liquor near irrigation near Mexican soil, as this is a source of existence in Imperial Valley. Thus, while we may be deemed small among the force of righteousness, the moral uplift of Imperial County would certainly have been much less had the W. C. T. U. had no participation in it. An ambulance to our soldier boys even nationally is not regarded as such a small thing, and especially by our boys themselves, when exposed to the terrors of wan Whatever has been sent to the front has been clean and pure. There are no reports of death from the surgeon general caused by anything being sent by the W. C. T. U. Their influence is certainly not without its weight on the rising generation. Many of our children will yet rise and thank their Maker - "My mother was a member of the Imperial County W. C. T. U. and gave me my first lessons on sobriety and temperance and saved me from the blighting effects of alcoholic compounds. While her noontide prayer often presented me to the throne of Heavenly Grace." It is thus this moral uplift must go on, and on, until not only our county and state is redeemed from this Dark Damnation Drink, but our nation and the world is free from its blighting influence, and we all join the angelic song and sing, the kingdom of this world has become the "kingdom of our God and His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever."

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