Header Graphic
Obese Dayton Judge Made Big News in 1874
This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on March 16, 1996
by Roz Young
            If you recall, Winnie-the-Pooh went to call on Rabbit, who lived in an underground hole in a sandy bank. It was about 11 o'clock and Rabbit served refreshments of honey and condensed milk.
            After the food ran out, Pooh left to go home. But he had eaten so much he got stuck in the front door. Not only could he not get out the door, he was stuck so tightly that he couldn't go back either.
            So he had to remain in the hole for a week without eating until he reduced enough to be able to struggle out. Meanwhile, Rabbit used his legs for a towel rack because he was taking up a lot of room in Rabbit's house.
            I thought of Pooh's dilemma when I read the story of the `rather obese ex-judge' who got caught in a hole in a fence behind the Dayton Club on Saturday night, March 28, 1874.
            The story is in a clipping from The New York Times of Saturday, April 4, 1874. Suzanne, the daughter of Bill and Louise Braley, of Harman Terrace, was doing some research in the newspaper for Christopher Gray, a Times writer, when - under a story with the headline `AN INCIDENT OF THE CRUSADE' - the name of Dayton, Ohio, popped out at her. She made a copy of the story and sent it to her mother.
            `Dayton, Ohio, is agitated upon the subject of a raid made by the women upon the Dayton Clubhouse on Saturday evening last,' the story began.
            `A telegram says that about 9:30 on the evening mentioned, the ladies went through an alley and came into the yard through a hole made in the fence by pulling off a loose board. They found the back door open and entered and there saw 10 or 12 representative men of the city conversing over their champagne.'
            The ladies were a local band of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, founded earlier in the year at Cleveland at a convention of church women. The temperance movement received its initial impetus from Carry Nation (1846-1914), who, outraged by a drunken husband, campaigned to enforce the temperance law of her state, Kansas.
            `Being a woman of grit and determination,' says Charlotte Reeve Conover in her history of Dayton, `she gathered about her similar victims and led them to the source of her sorrows, the nearest saloon. There they held a prayer meeting on the sidewalk, kneeling on the stones and calling down the wrath of God on the proprietor.
            `When he was sufficiently intimidated, which did not take long, they marched in through the shuttered doors and, taking every bottle from the shelves, carried it outside and emptied it into the gutter. ...
            `The news of her exploits spread, and town after town took it up. Direct action was a new thing for women who had suffered and prayed in private. ...
            `Its full force was felt here in Dayton. Many a drinking place on Sixth Street began the day with an abundant stock and, after a visit from the Temperance ladies, was left with nothing on its shelves.'
            When the earnest women from the Temperance Society appeared in the parlors of the Dayton Club at the clubhouse at 31 S. Main St., some of the men ran out the back door and through the hole made in the fence. `All who tried succeeded in getting through with the exception of a well-known ex-judge, who is rather obese,' the Times story continued. `He was almost out of breath when he reached the fence, where he had to remain until the women finished their service.
            `One of the gentlemen who remained, a prominent retail merchant, asked the ladies how they got in, and when they told him, he desired them to go out the same way they came in. This they declined to do and they prayed and sang for a long time.'
            Who it was who helped the obese club member to become unstuck from the hole in the fence the story does not say.
            No doubt the temperance women, seeking to retreat after the raid through the hole in the fence and finding it full with an obese ex-judge, departed by another way.