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Chapter 13

REFORM CLUBS.


These differ in some aspects from most of the associations which, prior to their organization, had for their object the reformation of men who had fallen into habits of drunkenness. The distinguishing characteristics of the reform club is its religious spirit, its dependence upon God and its reliance upon prayer.

The first movement in this direction was made in Gardiner, Maine, in January, 1872, by Mr. I.K. Osgood. He says of himself that in fifteen years he had run down from a moderate and fashionable drinker of wine, to a constant and immoderate drinker of the vilest spirits; and from the condition of a respectable business man to one of misery and destitution. Coming back to his wretched home late one night, he saw through the window his poor wife sitting lonely and sorrowful, waiting for his return. The sight touched his heart and caused him to reflect, and then to resolve, that God being his helper he would never drink again. That resolution he found himself able, by God's help, to keep. A few months later he began the work of trying to reform others. His first effort was with a lawyer, an old friend, who was as much reduced by drink as he had been. After much entreaty, this man consented to break off drinking and sign the pledge. Mr. Osgood then drew up the following call for a meeting which both signed: "REFORMERS' MEETING.--There will be a meeting of reformed drinkers at City Hall, Gardiner, on Friday evening, January 19th, at seven o'clock. A cordial invitation is extended to all occasional drinkers, constant drinkers, hard drinkers and young men who are tempted to drink. Come and hear what rum has done for us."

A crowd came to the City Hall. The two men addressed the meeting with great earnestness, and then offered the pledge, which was signed by eight of their old drinking companions. These organized themselves into a reform club, which soon reached a hundred members, all of whom had been men of intemperate habits. The movement soon attracted attention in other places, especially among drinking men, and clubs multiplied rapidly throughout the State. In a few months, the aggregate membership reached nearly twenty thousand. In June of the following year, Mr. Osgood began his work in Massachusetts, under the auspices of the Massachusetts Temperance Alliance, organizing about forty clubs, one of which, in Haverill, numbered over three thousand members. In New Hampshire and Vermont, many clubs were organized by Mr. Osgood and some of his converts.


DR. HENRY A. REYNOLDS.

Another effective worker in the field is Dr. Henry A. Reynolds, of Bangor, Maine, where he was born in 1839. In 1863, he graduated from the Medical College of Harvard University, and was assistant surgeon in the First Maine Regiment, heavy artillery, during two years of the war, receiving an honorable discharge. He then entered upon the practice of medicine in his native city, and continued therein until 1874. But he had inherited a taste for strong drink, through the indulgence of which he became its abject slave. After many efforts at reform which proved of no avail, he resolved to look to Almighty God, and ask for strength to overcome his dreadful appetite. About this time there was, in the city of Bangor, a band of Christian women who met frequently to pray for the salvation of the intemperate. At one of their meetings, the doctor presented himself--it was two days after he had knelt alone in his office and prayed to God for help--and publicly signed the pledge.

Sympathy for those who were in the dreadful slough from which he had been lifted, soon began stirring in his heart, and he sought, by various methods, to influence and save them. After working for several months, with only partial success, it became evident, that for sure and permanent work, there must be organization, and he conceived the plan of a reform club made up exclusively of those who had been drinking men; believing, as he did, that there must exist between two men who had once been intemperate, a sympathy which could not exist between a man who has, and one who has never, drank to excess. As soon as this matter became clear to him, Dr. Reynolds, by notice in a daily paper, invited the drinking men of the city to meet him at a certain place. Eleven men responded to the call, and the Bangor Reform Club, the first of its kind, was organized, September 10th, 1874, with Dr. Henry A. Reynolds as president. The motto of the new organization was, "Dare to do Right." Filled with the true missionary spirit, this little band held other meetings, and did their utmost to bring in new members, and so successful were their efforts, that in a few weeks their membership swelled to hundreds, and the whole city was in a state of excitement over the new and strange work which had been inaugurated.

From Bangor, the excitement soon spread through the State. Dr. Reynolds, believing that God had called him to the work of saving men from intemperance and leading them to Christ, gave up his profession and threw himself into the work of preaching temperance and organizing reform clubs. Within a year forty-five thousand reformed men were gathered into clubs in the State of Maine. In August, 1875, at a meeting of the National Christian Temperance Camp-Meeting Association, held at Old Orchard, Maine, where temperance workers from all parts of the country had congregated, the president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Salem, Massachusetts, learned of the great work of reform progressing in Maine under the leadership of Dr. Reynolds, and invited him to introduce his work in Massachusetts by holding a series of meetings in Salem during the month of September. So the work began in the Old Bay State, and within a year, forty thousand men of that Commonwealth, who had been habitual drinkers, were organized into reform clubs.


FORMATION OF CLUBS.

The method pursued by Dr. Reynolds in the formation of these clubs is very simple. There is a constitution with by-laws, to which the following pledge is prefixed: "Having seen and felt the evils of intemperance, therefore, Resolved, That we, the undersigned, for our own good, and the good of the world in which we live, do hereby promise and engage, with the help of Almighty God, to abstain from buying, selling or using alcoholic or malt beverages, wine and cider included." Article III. of the constitution gives the qualification for membership: "All male persons of the age of eighteen or upwards, who have been in the habit of using intoxicating liquor to a greater or less extent, are eligible to membership in this club." After organizing a club of persons who have been addicted to drink, Dr. Reynolds appeals to the Christian women of the locality to throw around them the shield of their care and sympathy, and urges upon the people at large the necessity of upholding and encouraging them in every possible way.

The meetings of the clubs are held at least once during the week, in the evenings; and on Sunday afternoons or evenings, the clubs, with the Woman's Christian Temperance Unions, hold public religious temperance meetings, which are often crowded to overflowing. The order of exercises at these public meetings consist of prayer, reading of Scripture and brief addresses by reformed men, interspersed with the singing of such hymns as "Rock of Ages," "Hold the Fort," "I Need Thee Every Hour," etc. Brief addresses are the rule, and a hymn is usually sung between each address.

The badge worn by members of these reformed clubs is a red ribbon. Their motto is "Dare to do Right."

One of the first fruits of the establishment of a reform club in any locality, is an increase in church attendance, and a decrease in the tax rate. In many towns where they exist, liquor-selling has become unprofitable, and liquor-drinking a custom that hurts a man's social standing.

From the East, Dr. Reynolds extended his labors into the West, where his work has been chiefly confined to the State of Michigan. In a letter to the Union, the organ of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, under date of July, 1877, the aspect and results of Dr. Reynolds's work in that State are thus referred to by a correspondent from Evanston: "His plan is to take a State and settle down in it 'to stay' until it capitulates to the red-ribbon pledge. None but men over eighteen years of age are allowed to sign this pledge. Eighty thousand men in Michigan, to-day, wear the ribbon, which is a token of their signature--all of them have been drinking men. 'None others need apply' as members of Dr. Reynolds's Reform Clubs. His method is to speak in a general way to the public on the evening of his arrival--his meetings being held in a hall and thoroughly announced. The next afternoon, the doctor addresses women, chiefly from the medical point of view. If they have not a W.T.U. he organizes one. The second night he talks to the public generally again, and organizes his club, then goes on his way, and leaves the town rejoicing. The doctor is thoroughly business-like and methodical. There is no doubt about his securing, in every State he visits, the same results as in Michigan, for his ability is marked, his experience growing, his sincerity complete and all his work is 'begun, continued and ended' in a firm reliance upon God."

To give an idea of the excitement created by the presence of Dr. Reynolds in any community, and of the results of his efforts to reclaim intemperate men, we copy the following brief reference to his work in the spring of 1877:

"It is impossible to give figures, for there are additions every day of hundreds in the State, and the climax of enthusiasm is by no means reached in any town while Dr. Reynolds is there.

"In Jackson, Sabbath evening, February 11th, two months after the organization of the club, Union Hall was so packed that the galleries settled and were cleared, and hundreds could not gain admittance.

"As the result of ten days' work in Saginaw Valley--at the three cities--(Bay City, Saginaw City and East Saginaw), the clubs number about three thousand men.

"From there, Dr. Reynolds went to Lansing, our capital, and at the first signing, two hundred and forty-five joined the club, which is far up in the hundreds now.

"The last and greatest victory is Detroit. Slow, critical, conservative, staid, not-any-shams-for-me Detroit.

"Friday and Saturday nights there were crowded houses. Sabbath afternoon, two thousand five hundred men together, and a club of three hundred and forty-five formed. Sabbath evening, no room could hold the people, and the club reached nearly nine hundred. It is safe to say to-day that a thousand men in the city of Detroit are wearing the red ribbon.

"Dr. Reynolds has done another grand work, and that is in bringing up the W.C.T. Unions. Everywhere this follows, churches are packed with women. Dr. Reynolds tells them how they can help the men and their families, and they fall into line by the hundreds. Three hundred have enlisted in Bay City, four hundred in Lansing, two hundred in East Saginaw, and so on, all over the State."

The establishment of reform clubs has been more general in New England and the Western States than in other parts of the country, though their organization in some of the Middle States has been attended with marked success. Vermont has a large number of clubs, the membership ranging from one hundred to fifteen hundred.


FRANCIS MURPHY.

The work of Francis Murphy, which, has been attended with such remarkable fervors of excitement in nearly every community where he has labored, is not so definite in its purpose, nor so closely organized, nor so permanent in its results as that of Dr. Reynolds. He draws vast assemblies, and obtains large numbers of signers to his pledge, which, reads:

"With malice towards none and charity for all, I, the undersigned, do pledge my word and honor, God helping me, to abstain from all intoxicating liquors as a beverage, and that I will, by all honorable means, encourage others to abstain."

An Irishman by birth, and full of the warm impulse and quick enthusiasm of his people, he has thrown himself into the work of temperance reform with an earnestness that commands a hearing, and with an ardor of appeal and solicitation that is, for the time, almost irresistible.

In the fall of 1869, Francis Murphy found himself in the cell of a prison in the city of Portland, Maine, to which he had been committed for drunkenness. He had been a liquor-seller, commencing the work as a sober man with a good character, and ending it in ruin to himself and family, and with the curse of the drunkard's appetite upon him. A Christian gentleman, Captain Cyrus Sturdevant, had obtained permission of the authorities to visit the jail and talk and pray with the prisoners. This brought him into personal contact with Mr. Murphy, who was not only deeply humiliated at the disgrace into which his intemperate life had brought him, but almost in despair. He tells the story of this part of his life with a moving eloquence. Capt. Sturdevant, after some solicitation, induced him to leave his cell one Sunday morning and attend religious services with the prisoners. He was in a state of mind to be deeply impressed by these services, and the result was a solemn resolution to walk, with God's help, in a new and better way. While yet a prisoner, he began his work of trying to save men from the curse of drink, and to lead them to enter upon a religious life; and his influence with his fellow-prisoners was very marked and for good. On leaving the jail, he began at once his efforts to rescue others from the slavery from which he had escaped. His first appearance as a lecturer was in the city of Portland. The effort was well received by the audience, and at its close he found himself an object of special interest. From this time, he gave himself almost wholly to the cause of temperance. After working for a time in Portland, and assisting in the organization of a reform club, he extended his efforts to other parts of the State of Maine, and afterwards to New Hampshire and the adjoining States, in which, he labored for nearly three years with marked and often extraordinary success. From New England, Mr. Murphy went, on invitation, to the West, and was very active there, especially in Iowa and Illinois, in which States he aroused the people, and was instrumental in the organization of large numbers of local societies and reform clubs.

In the winter of 1876-7, his work in Pittsburgh was attended with remarkable results; over sixty thousand signatures were obtained to his pledge, and over five hundred saloons in Allegheny and neighboring counties closed their doors for want of patronage. The succeeding spring and summer Mr. Murphy spent in Philadelphia, where the excitement was almost as great as it had been in Pittsburgh. But, as in the last-named city, too large a portion of the harvest which had been reaped was left to perish on the ground for lack of the means, or the will, to gather and garner it. The real substantial and enduring work here has been that of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union; which not only held its meetings daily during the exciting time of the Murphy meetings, but has held them daily ever since, keeping, all the while, hand and heart upon the men who are trying in earnest to reform, and helping, encouraging and protecting them by all the means in their power.

Mr. Murphy continues to work in various parts of the country, attracting large audiences wherever he appears, and leading thousands to sign his pledge. He has done and is still doing good service in the cause to which he is so earnestly devoting himself.


T.S. Arthur

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