LOMPOC FOUGHT DEMON RUM COURAGEOUSLY – AND LOST! By Merle Blasjo

Photo courtesy lompochistory.org

Lompoc’s birth came through the efforts of a group of land developers who wanted to create a community free from alcoholic beverages. It would be patterned after Vineland, an earlier temperance community in New Jersey. The developers purchased 43,000 acres of land and platted it into urban lots and surrounding agricultural plots. The deed for all lots contained regulations against manufacture, possession, and sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

The town grew rapidly. Lots were sold and building homes began, using lumber floated off of visiting trading ships. Residents who wanted to live in an alcohol-free community were recruited.

To most observers, the town was alcohol free; however, there were cracks in the anti-liquor armor. Stagecoaches traveling through the area were known to carry booze, some of which found its way to residents of this otherwise pure community. As recorded by the Lompoc Historical Society, a group of temperance women learned the repository of the happy water was a local drug store, whereupon a group of angry women, armed with axes and other weapons, invaded the store and began destroying containers of anything that seemed to be the evil brew. At this point, the enraged proprietor appeared with a handgun and threatened the women. Before their retreat got underway, a group of men approached in defense of the women, and convinced the owner that to preserve his good health, he should put down his gun.

Antagonism between the “dry and wets” continued with threats and some bombings, and other vigilante acts. A widely circulated story tells of a building known to be a saloon that aroused the ire of some temperance women who planned an attack on this watering hole. They got a long heavy rope and wound it around the building and secured it. Then an army of women applied themselves to pulling down the hated edifice, but before anything moved, an alcohol advocate snuck in and cut the rope. But the determined temperance people repaired the rope and the pulling continued until the building was off its footings and several blocks down the street. A victory for the sobriety side!

When Lompoc was incorporated as a city in 1888, the court found the clause in the deeds outlawing production and sale of alcoholic beverages to be unenforceable. This ended the temperance enforcement, but a strong temperance attitude remained, and the few saloons that opened found strong objections from the temperance folk, who remained a force in the community.

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