Sons of Temperance

In my collection is a small booklet of the ‘Sons of Temperance.’ It is the Constitution and By-Laws for the Black River Division of Springfield, Vermont. The Black River Division was formed in Springfield on January 12, 1849. This booklet was published in 1850.

For historical context the reader should know in 1850 an average paying job was a dollar per day. As you read the dues, fines and penalties try to keep a dollar a day in mind. Also you’ll see mention of a half cent. The half cent was last minted in 1857 but continued in circulation here in rural Vermont for many more years.

The Sons of Temperance were against alcohol in any form. I’ve read this 24 page booklet so I can give an accurate account. First I noticed that they were structured similar to the Freemasons. Officers were given initials for their position. The leader was the W.P. There was a junior P.W.P., a F.S. and a W.A. Others were A.R.S., R.S., A.S. and O.S.

1850 Black River Division of Sons of Temperance booklet. Photo provided.

A few things noted in the Constitution:

“No brother shall make, buy, sell or use, as a beverage any spirituous or malt liquors, wine or cider. No person shall be initiated into the Division, under eighteen years of age, nor for less a sum of two dollars. The regular dues to this Division shall not be less than six and a quarter cents per week.

“Every bona-fide member, who shall be qualified as required by the Constitution and By-Laws of this Division, shall in case of sickness or disability, be entitled to, and receive weekly, not less than three dollars; except it be shown that such sickness or disability be brought on by his own improper conduct.

“In case of the death of a brother entitled to benefits a sum of not less than fifteen dollars shall be appropriated as a funeral benefit. The W.P. in absence of competent relations or friends, shall take care of the funeral, and keep an account of the disbursements. On the death of a wife of a brother, also beneficial, he shall be entitled to the sum not less than ten dollars as a funeral benefit.

“Widows and Orphans:

“The W.P, W.A. and R.S. shall be a committee to visit from time to time, the Widows and Orphans of deceased members, and shall pay to the Widow, from the Contingent fund, the sum of ten dollars per annum, so long as she maintains a good moral character, and remains a Widow.

“In case there should be any Orphans or children of a member, left in poverty without a protector or guardian, it shall be the duty of the Trustees to endeavor to place them in situations where they may be employed in gaining a livelihood, and at the same time be preserved from vice and infamy, and from time to time make proper inquiries into their situation, and report to the Division.”

The year was divided into four quarterly terms with rules as follow:

“After a Division has been instituted three terms, no brother shall be eligible to the office of W.P., unless he has served a regular quarterly term as W.A., nor shall any brother be eligible to the office of W.A., unless he has served two terms in a subordinate office or offices, or as chaplain.

“The initiation fees for this Division, shall be, for all persons between the ages of eighteen and sixty years, $2.00, over which age no person shall be admitted into the Division. Initiation fees must be paid before initiation.

“Fines and Penalties:

“Every elected officer, who shall be absent at the time of opening the Division, shall be subject to, and pay a fine of twenty-five cents. The junior P.W.P., for any neglect on his part to perform the duties belonging to his office, shall be subject to a penalty of twenty-five cents.

“Every member of the Visiting Committee, who shall refuse, or neglect to perform the duties required of him in Section 3, of Art. 8 shall be subject to a fine of one dollar for each and every neglect. Any brother who does not, in changing his residence report the same to the F.S. within three weeks, shall be fined twelve and a half cents for each week thereafter.

“Any brother who shall refuse or neglect to watch with a sick brother, when requested so to do by the Visiting Committee or procure an acceptable person in his stead, shall pay a fine of one dollar.”

This week’s old saying was Willie Nelson’s reply when asked what happened to his money. “I spent most of it on women and booze. The rest I wasted.”

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