After the hardest campaign in the history of the town in which 562 votes were cast, Momence went dry by a majority of 38 votes. Nearly 400 votes were cast in Ganeer, and that township went wet by 55 votes.
For several weeks both sides have to keep up a warm contest, almost every night there was a speaking or a meeting of some kind. Some of the best orators in the country have been here and the question was thoroughly discussed. Just before the battle of the ballots, a parade of school children was given. About 200 of the little folks were in line, carrying banners, singing songs, and giving their battle cry, such as “The Saloons Must Go.” They were led by the ladies of the different churches.
All day long, the voters came in and the ballots silently dropped into the boxes, told the story. In the afternoon it began to rain, and the anti-local option forces took this as a good sign, but the men stood out in the rain to the finish. Every nook and corner was searched for voters. There were many witty sentences coined, but no blows were struck.
As a result of the election, all the saloons in Momence Township must close. It is said they will move over to Ganeer Township as fast as buildings can be secured. However, the city will vote on option April 21st and it is believed the whole city will go dry. Ganeer has boasted for years that she has no saloons and now it's up to the people to decide. If the city votes wet the question will likely be submitted at the next general election in Ganeer.
1908 was a particularly interesting time in the Temperance Movement for Momence. The photo above was taken at a time when Momence Township was “dry” and prohibited the sale of liquor. Adjacent Ganeer Township was “wet” and therefore allowed saloons.
This meant that simply crossing Dixie Highway in downtown Momence (which divided Momence and Ganeer Townships) would allow you to buy a drink. Additional snippets from 1908 news articles are below and a wonderful booklet with pictures, illustrations and many stories can be accessed by clicking on the button below.
John Condon, who conducts the saloon just south of the Central House, was arrested several days ago by Officer Frank Bukowski for keeping his saloon open after hours. The case was tried before Justice Hardin Vail and a jury and Mr. Condon was acquitted. The jury was composed of M.A. Hoag, A.B. Roper, Frank Calkins, W.H. Allen, Will Day, I.C. Martin.
The building that housed Condon's Place saloon burned down in 1921. John Condon was the father of famous Jazz guitarist, Eddie Condon. Click below to learn more.
Little has been made public in regard to what the saloons will do. Early in the week Ward & LaRoche commenced the erection of a new building just opposite the Ganeer Town Hall, on the alley, into which they will move their business. The old poultry house right near the bridge is being remodeled for Fred Ceelen.
The City Council met last night and granted licenses to Fred Ceelen and to Ward & LaRoche. There are many rumors as to the probable location of other saloons, and as 1200 saloons in Illinois are looking for locations, Momence will probably have her full quota.
Ward & LaRoche's 'new building' is located at 117 West Washington Street. See photo below.
L.S. Cooke has leased the W.P. Watson building formerly occupied by Ward & LaRoche and will use the extra space in enlarging his drug store and ice cream parlor. He has made a large doorway connecting the two rooms and will fix up the business in elegant style.
The W.P. Watson building is known today as the Jensen building and is located at 113 East Washington Street.
Meinzer & Knighthart have started a tobacco and cigar store in the room formerly occupied by the saloon. The buildings are gradually filling up.
The Ceelen building on Front Street has been rented to a Chicago man who will start a 5 and 10 cent store. This is the last of the saloon buildings that have been vacated to be rented. The new proprietor will move into the Wicks flat over the Roden & Cone Drug Store.
Ironically, the Ceelen building is now Off The Vine Winery at 121 East Washington Street and one of Momence's most popular locations for a drink!
Sources and photo courtesy of the Momence Progress Reporter and the Graham Historic House.
John Condon's saloon on the corner of Dixie Highway and West River Street in Ganeer Township, Momence, IL.
Circa May 1908