A Social Issue in 1904

In California in 1904 liquor licenses were issued at the county level based on the advice and consent of the voters in a particular district. In November of that year the license of the Nuevo Saloon in Ramona was up for renewal.

Just before the election, D. N. Dodson, the editor of the Ramona Sentinel newspaper, expressed this opinion: “With license, a man gets a drink and goes home satisfied. With prohibition, he gets a jug and gets drunk. There is many a dollar that has stopped in Ramona that would have gone on, but for our saloon. Kill it and the dollar will roll out of our reach. Save the boys by voting for a license.”

The “drys,” as prohibition advocates were known then, won the election by 14 votes. In the next edition after the election, Dodson wrote an editorial in which he proposed putting his newspaper up for sale, saying he wished to “retire to a chicken ranch. We like this town and many of its people. We expect to remain here, but we don’t want to wear out trying to build up a town on the dry plan. The only two enterprises that bring in a cent of transient or foreign money to Ramona, outside the hotel, is [sic] the saloon and the Sentinel, but a majority of 14 ‘Roundheads’ show that neither are appreciated. The tyranny of majorities ‘makes the countless thousands mourn.’”

Dodson subsequently calmed down about selling the paper, although he did resign as Ramona’s justice of the peace soon after the election. Eventually the Ramona voters changed their perspective as well.

Sources for this post included the book: Ramona and Round About, by Charles LeMenager and two 1904 San Diego Union articles.

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