Salt River Tom and the evils of whisky

-A A +A
By Tom Watson

The debate over whether Spencer County should go wet or remain dry brings to mind a column written by this same scribe several years ago. We take you back to 1890 - a bit before my time.

   William Thomas “Salt River Tom” Love wrote in his diary Monday, Aug. 4, 1890:    “We very early this morning went to Mt. Eden to the election. It was a very hot, sultry morning. I browsed around a while and then went to the polls and voted as follows, it being straight Democratic;    For (and we are skipping the non-local races) County Judge John S. Howard; County Clerk Joe Tucker; Sheriff A.J. Massie; County Superintendent Lucy V. West; County Attorney T.J. Barker; Assessor J.B. Buckner; Jailer Jos. Watson (great, great uncle of the writer of this article, born Nov. 2, 1821, married Martha A. Holsclaw); Surveyor Rolland Cox; Coroner Dr. J.H. Collings; Justice of the Peace Daniel Johnson; Constable S.R. Howser.”

And Tom voted in favor of the sale of intoxicating beverages. After voting, he went to an unnamed restaurant and bought “dinner.” After he “conversed a while,”

Tom went home with four pints of whisky “ for our family.” He listed the results of the election, including 530 for whisky and 425 opposed.

Salt River Tom mentioned that on Christmas Day, 1890 he went out “with the boys” and they “taken” and “communed” a few times.

 “So, we all with one accord harmoniously drank friendship again. This raised the spirit of the boys. Leben threw G.W. Shields down in the snow, then Ed Brown.

I went out to father’s and eat dinner. Uncle Sam said he wanted to fight. I told him to come out on the front porch. He came and as he drew back and made a sideswiping pass at me, I jumped back and the old man’s foot slipped and he fell, pell mell, flatter than an elephant could of knocked him with his trunk.

  “My cowardly legs took me out of that porch. I could save myself better by flight than the other way. I thank the Lord that he has given me such legs, for my salvation from human foes depends on them. I never did blame George Washington for retreating so much. I don’t want no one but a skillful and well informed physician to perform surgical operations on me.” (Sounds like Uncle Sam was chasing Tom with a knife).

“A man of the rural district when well dosed on spirits fermenti is never particular when he strikes, but Uncle Sam got up a smiling, wondering why he didn’t hit me. But I am thankful I am small too. Being small and active, I can bound away and leave the enemy to strike at the airy vacuum to wreak out his vengeance.”

Apparently Salt River Tom found in the coming months that whisky was to be one of his foes as he sought to win an elected position with the Farmers and Laborers Union at Van Buren.

“Not long since I was in Mt. Eden and it is reported that I told Sam R. Howser that I would not sign a remonstrance against his selling whisky. This is false and an electioneering scheme against me. I am determined to sign a remonstrance and vote against whisky all the remainder of my life.”

Watson note: This is the same William Thomas Love who went out carousing with “the boys’ and took home some pints of whisky “for the family.” He also wrote this little poem in his diary:    “Whisky, whisky, bane of life; Source of torment, grief and strife. If I could half the vices tell; The wise would wish thee safe in Hell. Such is the damning influence of whisky.”