Prohibition Ladies Trial

The Trial of Bonaparte Ladies

The Nov 8, 1875 issue of the THE GATE CITY reports on the court proceeding resulting from the Ladies attack on town Saloons.

Preliminary Examination of the Ladies who participated in it.

The trial of the Bonaparte ladies for demolishing the saloons at that place came off last week. James Hagerman appeared for the State, and Judge Williams, of Ottumwa, for the defendants. The charge was malicious trespass. After a two days’ trial, during which the hall of justice was packed with people interested in the proceedings, the Court discharged all but Mrs. Joseph Meek, and ordered her held under bonds for her appearance at the next term of the District Court. Her friends offered to go upon her bond, but she declined to give bail at all, but announced her readiness to go to jail, and would not permit bail to be given for her. This was a phase of the case not anticipated by the Court. The lady, it is said, reported at the train next morning ready to go to jail, but nobody appeared to claim the right to take her there, and she is still at large.

The Court has the matter under consideration, but the conundrum, “what will he do with her,” is up to date, unsolved.


In the Sept 11, 1875 edition of DAILY GATE CITY, Bony reports on the  attack of  local saloons by prominent women in town. Acts like this helped to enact the 18th Amendment for Prohibition in 1820.

Bonaparte, IA, Sept 10.  There was the biggest excitement in town yesterday that has occurred here for some time. About a dozen of the most prominent ladies in town armed themselves with axes, hatchets, etc., and set out for war on the saloons. They did not believe in praying and singing as the crusaders did. They adopted more forcible measures. They first visited the billiard hall and saloon of R. T. Cresap, where they proceeded to empty out all the liquor they could find, which consisted of five or six kegs of beer and one or two barrels of wine.

They didn’t do any other damage there but proceeded, to Pulse’s saloon, where they smashed in the door and entered. The leader ordered the bar-keeper from behind the bar and proceeded to demolish things generally, smashing candy jars, bottles, decanters, glasses, clocks, and everything pertaining to the bar. They then went out and smashed in all the windows. The damage here was about $200.

By this time about all the men and boys in town had gathered together and followed them to the next saloon, which was that of Davy Crane. Here the leader gave the door – which was locked – a tap with an axe, breaking it open, when they entered and commenced their work of destruction.

The Constable here stepped in and endeavored to arrest them, but it was no use, they we’re determined and nothing could stop them. After smashing up about all the bar fixtures, and finding no kegs or barrels, they left, and there being no more saloons to conquer, they went home. The affair created a big excitement, some taking sides with the women, but most of the citizens opposing such unlawful proceedings. The saloon keepers say they will make them pay all damages.


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