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Mrs. Ursula Steward.
HOW A NORTHERN ttLINOIS TOWN SUDDENLY
By a. N. Beebe, Yorkville, III.
Between two clear and silvery streams, the Big Rock and
the Little Rock, each of which emptied its cool placid
waters into Fox River southward, was situated an enter-
prising little town, in its early history "Piano." Its
founders were Cornelius Henning, Marcus Steward and
John F. Hollister, the first one being an early pioneer from
New York and the latter ones from Pennsylvania and
Piano, so named, was the nucleus for future history and
manifold destinies. Bom in the cradle of honorable pro-
genitors, it could not consistently lower its aim to reach a
higher station. Soon the aid of the siu^eyor and the
officials was invoked and their efforts culminated in an
embryo city. The selection of this chosen location was
soon proven to be a wise one, as the newcomers sought them
out and decided on camping there.
As time wore on, business ventures soon developed.
Dwellings were erected, business houses started, churches
and school houses were soon underway, and every year
some new and desirable feature was added. In 1854, by the
ceaseless efforts of these promoters and their progeny, the
great thoroughfare. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy
Railway was induced to extend its lines from Aurora
through Mendota, and later on to Burlington and Quincy.
The advent of the railway gave our new town a fresh start
and was a potent influence in giving us an outlet for our
products and was an inlet to all comers, as well as to ship-
pers of merchandise.
Naturally enough, the citizens of any enterprising town
were ready to join hands in the betterment of its people
and its institutions, and as the town lots began to sell and
new settlers came in the better element decided that some
plan be established by which saloons and grog shops could
be kept out, ftdly realizing, as they did, that an ounce of
prevention was worth a pound of cure ; that it would be far
more desirable and much easier to prevent an evil of this
kind than to eradicate it after once it had gained a foothold.
For a time this policy was pursued and lived up to quite
tenaciously, but as time wore on the town grew larger
and those having to do with the sales and conveyancing of
village lots became indifferent and careless, the anti-saloon
clause which had been written in all conveyances began
being omitted and finally ceased to be a feature in the sale
It generally happens when an opportunity offers for the
sale of the ardent, some one is ready to embrace it; and
Piano was no exception. It was in the month of March,
1858, and three saloons were in full blast to dispense liquid
inspiration. The Illinois statutes at this time afforded no
relief to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquor, save to
incorporated towns. The founders of the town had sought
to continue the policy of restriction, but indifference and
carelessness had overtaken the vigilant. Temperance
societies were organized and all of the isms and fallacies of
liquor-sellers' logic had been ground out and threshed out
time and time again, and all to no purpose. The saloons
still flourished and no license to pay.
The temperance societies were becoming desperate.
Mostly women, as they were, they felt deeply chagrined
that there seemed to be no remedy in sight, and those peo-
ple of easy virtue derisively scorned their sincere efforts.
However, there came a time when human endurance
ceased to be a virtue and trouble began to brew. Agita-
tion had apparently borne no fruit. This band of so-
called * 'fanatics** had discussed ways and means and proba-
bilities and had pledged their faithfulness to each other.
They had twenty-two members. Persuasive measures had
utterly failed. On the 23d day of March, 1858, they
assembled. Their leaders were Mrs. W. P. Boswell, an
Mrs. Jane S. Henning.
^W ^ m
Mrs. S. E. Hollister.
eastern lady of high standing, educated and intelligent,
resolute and firm, wife of the Railroad Agent; Mrs. Helen-
day Beaver, wife of the Baptist minister and a woman of
determination; Mrs. Ursula Steward, wife of one of the
founders of the Town; Mrs. Cornelia Steward, wife of the
late Congressman Hon. Lewis Steward; Mrs. Jane S. Hen-
ning, wife of H. B. Henning, merchant in Piano; Mrs. S. E.
HoUister, wife of another founder; Mrs. Anna Steward,
merchant's wife; Mrs. Marinda Henning, wife of William
T. Henning; Mrs. Mary A. Steward, wife of contracter and
builder George H. Steward; Mrs. Fanny Tripp, lumber
dealer's wife; Mrs. H. O. Doty, contractor's wife; Mrs.
Susan Carver, Miss Sarah A. Favor, Mrs. Mary E. Wil-
liams, Mrs. Polly Nobles, Mrs. Eunice Clark, Mrs. Sarah
E. Henning, Mrs. C. A. Hough, Mrs. Sarah Parsons, Mrs.
Deborah Berry, Mrs. Amanda Ryon, Miss Nellie Clark,
Miss Hattie Ryon, Mrs. F. L. Sackett, Miss Eunice Swift,
Mrs. Esther Kelly, mostly residents of the Town and its
The saloon-keepers mingled more or less with the mer-
chants, officials, professional and business men of the Town,
and they could hardly be expected to commence open war-
fare against the grog dealers, and though the latter were
debauching the youth and, to a large extent, absorbing the
earnings of poor laboring men, yet the business men were
slow and reluctant to prosecute.
But these resolute women would no longer tolerate
further delay and resolved to try more forcible means.
Finally, on the 23d day of March, 1858, they met at their
rendezvous and, armed with hatchets, hammers and
various other weapons of destruction, marched boldly, but
quietly to the leading dealer's place of business, one
Stephen Winans'. They found him intrenched at the
front door behind a gun and an axe. Parleying a moment,
they sought a pledge from him to quit the traffic and were
stubbornly refused ; whereupon a general smash of barrels,
decanters, and bottles ensued. A promiscuous crowd was
soon attracted to witness the spilling of the grog. When
the Winans* stock had been despoiled, the woman's bri-
gade visited **Bill Smith." He was a little more demon-
strative and tried a plan of bluff, but his assailants were not
in the least intimidated by any threat and only indulged
in derisive laughter at his discomfiture, and they were not
long in inundating his saloon floor with mixed liquors,
and poor **Biir' soon became meditative.
The liquor spillers then called at Chambers* saloon;
they here met more open objections and, as the women
prepared an onslaught on his costly billiard tables, the ex-
citement was at fever heat. Finally, better counsel pre-
vailed and the ladies concluded there wotild be nothing
gained by wanton destruction of property, so the billiard
tables were spared. This finished the raid, and there was
then not an available drink in town. It had very suddenly
become a dry town and there were no beer wagons at large
to replenish. Of course the feelings of the thirst vendors
were as badly smashed as their barrels and bottles had
been and they sought relief in law to retrieve their lost
fortunes. Soon the woman's brigade was officially called
on by the sheriff and as many of the women as the saloon
men considered were financially responsible, were sum-
moned to appear at the next term of the Circuit Court to
be holden at Oswego. Some half a dozen of the responsi-
ble men were also included and made parties to this suit.
It must be admitted that it was not without some fear
when the day approached for them to appear in Court.
The anticipation of a trial in Court and the results which
might ensue, did not occasion that bouyant spirit that was
manifest on the day of the liquor spilling. Nevertheless,
they had lost none of their determination to stand together
and see it through. When the day came to attend Court,
they went together to the county seat ; as they were near-
ing the county seat, they met a delegation of prominent
people headed by ,a brass band who escorted them to the
Mrs. Mary A. Steward.
Mrs. Anna Steward.
When the case of the Piano women was called by the
Court, the presiding Judge very graciously informed them
that as no one appeared against them, the suit was dis-
missed and they were at liberty to go their way. The
Oswego citizens then took these Piano liquor spillers to the
best hotel, where a dinner was provided. And at their
return to their homes, their people gave them a cheering