The week after the meteor fell, the people of Lakeport voted. April 11, 1912, a municipal election was held in Lakeport for town Trustees, a Clerk, and a Treasurer. Also, on the ballot was the question; ‘Shall the sale of Alcoholic Licenses be issued in Lakeport?’ That question was all-important for most of the men in Lake County. Some of the more pious made the point that the meteor that fell into Clear Lake only the week before was a sign of displeasure from on-high against the many stills and bars in the County, so they pled from the pulpits that the county should vote for prohibition or more damaging catastrophes might befall them.
Despite the warnings, the turnout was good. In fact, it was the biggest ever seen. Ninety-five percent of the six hundred and forty eligible voters voted. However, the dark warning that splashed down in Clear Lake may have been taken to heart by some. The vote for ‘Wet’ or ‘Dry’ was as follows: ‘Yes’: 227, ‘No’: 229.
I’m sure the meteor had nothing to do with the close vote. Still, it makes one think. I’m certain there was a demand, by those who imbibed, for a recount of the votes, especially those that had not had a drink that day… and with a sliver of a margin of only two votes.
Depending on whether you were for or against liquor, the case of Hershell Slocum bears on the point. I’m not sure for which side of the fence any of the voters were swayed after hearing Hershell’s case.
A few weeks before the vote, a law passed by the State Legislature stated: ‘Any person addicted to stimulants and has lost the powers of self-control shall be committed to the State Asylum for a period of two years.’ Hershell Slocum of Kelseyville was arraigned on a complaint by his Brother-in-Law, Fred Cox. Hershell was charged with being addicted to the intemperate use of stimulants and had lost the power of self-control.
Hershell was in luck. The prosecutor failed to prove his case, and Hershell was given his liberty. The timely testimony that saved Hershell Slocum’s hide was this: ‘While the Defendant is a drinking man, and goes on periodic debauches, he still has reasonable control over, both, his mental and physical functions.’
I didn’t think to ask about parts of this tale until the last time I edited this part of the book. It had been bugging me and, until now, it was an itch I had not bothered to scratch. Now, finally, I was driven to ask the question; ‘Why did Fred Cox complain about his brother-in-law, Hershell? Did Hershell have lots of money, and Fred wanted to get his hands on it? Or was Hershell misusing Fred while in his cups, and Fred was tired of being beaten up?’ Whatever the reason, I wish the writer had told me why Hershell was dragged into court. It left me with an unfinished feeling.
Next Week: The Confidence Man
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