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Printed October 22, 2019

Carry Nation’s connection to Brazoria County history: She ran a hotel after failing at farming

By Janice Edwards/ The Bulletin

Brazoria County History touches and connects the lives of many famous people. Some you expect, like Stephen F. Austin. But then there are some unexpected surprises – like Carry A. Nation, famous for her hatchet and no-nonsense approach to saloons. To start the connection, envision the historical marker in East Columbia at Bell’s Landing, where she ran the Columbia Hotel. The marker forms more of a question than an explanation why Carry Nation came to Texas, and the path to the connection’s discovery is a fascinating one.

Carry and her second husband, Dr. David A. Nation (an attorney, minister AND newspaper editor)
came to Texas in 1877, when they sold their mutual properties and purchased a 1700-acre cotton plantation on the San Bernard River. The couple disagreed on many things in their marriage - but mostly they argued about religion. That’s not a good thing when your husband is making the family’s living as a preacher. In fact, just before the Nation family moved to Texas, David Nation was asked to resign as the minister of his church because “his wife stirred up trouble.”

The Nations tried to raise a crop of cotton, but … Carry best describes her situation in a quote from her autobiography, “The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation:”

“About two years after we were married, we exchanged our mutual properties for seventeen hundred acres of land on the San Bernard River in Texas, part of which was a cotton plantation. We knew nothing of the cultivation of cotton or of plantation life. …”

“We were as helpless on the plantation as little children. The cultivation of cotton was very different from anything we had been used to. A bad neighbor threw all of our plows in the Bernard River and everything seemed to go wrong. We had eight horses die in the pasture the spring after we moved there. Soon the money we took with us was gone and Mr. Nation got discouraged. He went to Brazoria, the county seat, and stayed six weeks during court, for the purpose of entering the practice of law again."

So, plantation life did not suit the Nations, as neither of them knew anything about farming. Not long after David went off trying to make a living as a lawyer, Carry became the proprietor of the Columbia Hotel in East Columbia, which had patronage from both steamboat travel and the Columbia Tap Railroad. Carry entered the hotel business by borrowing $3.50 from Mr. Dunn and renting a rattle trap house. Food was purchased with money paid for lodging the day before, and life was hard.

Brazoria County was not kind to Carry Nation. From the Columbia Hotel, the Nation family moved to Richmond – and out of Brazoria County history – in the early 1880’s. There Carry became inn keeper of the National Hotel, and David worked on the paper. From there, the family moved on to Kansas, where Carry became famous for her “hachetations.”

But this was not the end of Brazoria County’s influence on Carry’s life and vice-versa. Sometimes, there are connections between what was and what is, and the fabric it forms is a more wondrous weave. Even though Carry was in Kansas, Brazoria County and she were still connected.

It seems that money derived from Carry’s Brazoria County land helped finance her campaign against liquor. Reference below a quote from James A Creighton’s, “A Narrative History of Brazoria County, Texas,” - page 312.

“In the opinion of Hall Griggs, an attorney at West Columbia at the present time, it was revenue derived from the oil leases and royalties on the original Pharr land tract in Brazoria County which furnished at least part of the money to finance Mrs. Nation’s campaign against liquor. “

And there is yet another very intriguing connection from Carry’s past to Brazoria County’s present. The Facts and Carry Nation have a connection through Oscar Nation, Carry’s stepson. In “The History of The Facts,” it is stated, ” Across the Brazos River, the Velasco World was owned by Oscar Nation, whose alcoholism led his mother, Carry Nation, on her famed rampage against saloons.” Oscar’s paper, The Velasco World, through a series of acquisitions, is today’s The Facts.
Brazoria County and Carry A. Nation is an unexpected historical connection that changes our perceptions of who Carry Nation was and sheds light on a hidden corner of our history.

(Jan wants to hear from you. Write her in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)