Return to Dr. Bronson's St. Augustine
History
Independent Lincoln Temperance Society

The American Missionary
Permanent Temperance Work
From January 1882 The American Missionary
Miss Lydia P. Auld

The first of April, 1869 by the advice of our friends in St. Augustine, Fla. and by express command
from the State Superintendent, who said we were working too hard, we gave up our night school,
relying more upon their judgment than upon our own view of the case.

The young men in the night class of Miss Bowker (now Mrs. Clift), expressed a strong desire to meet
at least one evening in the week for instruction. The idea of forming themselves into a temperance
society was suggested to them, and they decided upon a speedy organization.

Accordingly, on the evening of April 6th, about a dozen young men met in our little school room, and
proceeded to organize the first temperance society in St. Augustine. After the election of various
officers, the evening was devoted to music. Miss Bowker had previously taught them several
temperance melodies. Mrs. Mayhew, of Orange, N. J., who was boarding in town and greatly
interested in the welfare of the colored people, was present. She was a sweet singer, and drilled them
in two or three new pieces.

On the 13th, there was an increase of numbers. Mr. Berrian, from New York, was invited to address
the young men. He gave them excellent counsel, and read the simple pledge he had prepared,
explaining its binding obligations. We did not wish any to sign that night, as we desired them to give the
subject careful consideration.

A week later, on the 20th, there was a large attendance. The good friend who was with them the
previous week plainly stated the object of the meeting. He exhorted them not to do anything rashly; and
read the Constitution he had drawn up for the Society, with the following simple pledge attached:

"We hereby solemnly pledge ourselves to abstain from the use of all intoxicating liquors, or drinks, as a
beverage."

A few moments of solemn silence followed the announcement, "We are now ready for signatures to this
pledge," which was broken by one after another rising and stating, in a clear and intelligent manner, his
reasons for signing the pledge. Many of their remarks were truly affecting. One young man siad, "A
gentleman, who went North to-day, offered me a bottle of whisky. I said, "I thank you sir; but I have
joined a temperance society, and am going tonight to sign the pledge, so please excuse me for not
accepting it." Another referred to his beastly intoxication on the Christmas day before, and resolved
that the return of that day should find him a different man.

The first to sign was the President, who is even to this day their leader. I think no work was uttered
during the signing of the pledge. The firm, manly footstep and scratch of the pen were the only sounds
heard. Sixteen names were affixed, and the signatures ceased for that time. Then the organization was
completed. The name of Lincoln Temperance Society (since changed to Independent Lincoln
Temperance Society) was adopted. Some temeprance songs were sung, and those young men went
quietly and thoughtfully to their homes---nobler, indeed, for the onward step they had taken.

On our return in the fall, we found that the young Society had steadily grown in strength and numbers.
Not one of the "sixteen" had violated his pledge, though often and sorely tempted to do so. Such
abstinence was very praiseworthy in a community where drinking was the universal custom. The
Freedmen's Bureau had erected for us a new school building, in one of the rooms of which the Society
held its meetings every Monday evening.

April 20, 1870, the Licoln Temperance Society celebrated its first anniversary. The membership had
rolled up to 54. Female members had been admitted during the year, and the good the Society had
accomplished was clearly perceptible in the elevated tone and manners of the young people. Several
white friends were present on this occasion to listen to the speeches of the members. Miss Bowker
was referred to in one of these as the "Mother of Temperance."

A few weeks later, in May, we left St. Augustine, not to return. Years passed, and only incidentally
was the Society heard from. In September, 1878, I was rejoiced to receive a letter from the President,
D. M. Pappy, giving an account of the flourishing condition of the Society, from which I will make a
few extracts.

"Our Temperance Society, that Mrs. Clift and yourself assisted us in organizing, numbers now about
one hundred and seventy-five. I have remained President since you left, with an interval of two years.
Our struggle was hard, and we had much to encounter. St. Augustine has considerably changed by so
many young men abstainingh from that great evil, the intoxicating drink. Our Society has also purchased
a lot, and built a fine hall of two stories. The meeting room is on the upper floor, and a public reading
room and librrary on the lower floor. The building is nicely lathed and plastered, and painted. The
young men of the Society are using every means to elevate our people to respectability and intelligence;
but like everything else, it takes time. Already our Society has acheived much good, and we do tender
many thanks to you and to Mrs. Clift for your influence.

"All the young men that were in the Society when you were here are still with us, except one. The
young men, including myself, have never regretted signing the pledge, and we promise forever to keep
it, because we have found much good in it."

In 1881, they celebrated their twelfth anniversary, and Mr. Pappy writes:\

"Our celebration went off very nicely. We had the hall handsomely decorated with flags, flowers and
evergreens. Over the President's stand was a large anchor, with '1869' above and '1881' below it. On
the right was your name, and on the left that of Mrs. Clift. In the centre of the hall was a mound of
flowers.

"The exercises consisted of a grand reception, speeches, singing, reading, essays, with excellent music
by the brass band, an exhibition of fire-works and a  balloon ascension. These were presented to us by
some white friends. The celebration was a grand success, and has had a deep effect on those outside.
Last Monday evening we received five new members and shall on next Monday receive a few more.

"I think we are just as strong and firm in the progressive spirit as ever we were, if not more so. We
number nearly 200 members now. Our building is not quite finished yet, as everything costs so much. It
has cost us already nearly fifteen hundred dollars.

"The members of the Society, for the past month, have been holding temperance revival meetings every
Monday evening, for the benefit of the young men. The exercises consist of speaking, singing and
prayers by the members of the various churches. It has revived the hearts, not only of the members of
the Society, but also of many others."
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