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Town of Wellsville Related Articles

The Dark Side: Gambling and Drinking in Wellsville

Transcribed by Jaylyn Thacher

Alleg. County Reporter 12/27/1883

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THE DARK SIDE.

Some Wellsville Wickedness that Requires Attention.

UNRESTRAINED GAMBLING AND SUNDAY LIQUOR TRAFFIC.

Business on Hand.

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It is not pleasant to feel obliged to write up the dark side of one’s own place of residence. Pleasanter for it is to present and praise the healthful and progressive enterprise of a live and growing young city. Wellsville has much to boast of. It has many standard business men and business enterprises which have long marked a steady and healthful advance. It does not lack for churches nor a most excellent school, the latter sustained by a liberal policy of appreciation and appropriation. Its manufacturing interests are extensive and reliable. They floated the place over the hard times from ’73 to ’78 in better shape, and Wellsville suffered less, than any other village in Western New York. There have been few failures and little suffering in that direction. Handsome new business blocks and buildings and many fine residents have been erected within the past five years. Gas for both fuel and lights have been brought to our doors a welcome and permanent guest, now a grand water supply has been added, testifying to enterprise and advancement with an eloquence at once suggestive and convincing.

These are the things which are pleasant to talk and write about.

But Wellsville has its faults. A reckless disregard and defiance of excise restrictions and of laws to prohibit gambling without any doubt exists more widely today than at any time within the past twenty years. It ought not to be so, but it is so. It need not long continue, and the time has come when thoughtful citizens can well afford to give the subject prompt and proper attention.

AN ANXIOUS MOTHER

A few days ago we received the following letter of inquiry from a resident widow and mother of this city:

EDITOR REPORTER—Can you tell me how many saloons have license to allow young boys to spend their time and money in? And have our City Fathers any right to give license in that way? And if they have not given them in that way, is it not their duty to look after them and if such is not their duty, what can be done to stop those men from allowing young boys to hang around and play on their game table?   ANXIOUS MOTHER

The lady’s name accompanied the letter. Briefly we make answer. No saloon has license to allow young boys to spend therein either time or money, and no decent saloon keeper will invite or allow it. The Board of Trustees (“City Fathers”) has nothing to do with granting licenses. These are granted by the members of the Board of Excise, at present composed of Mr. C. H. Frederick, Mr. Thos. Morrison and Mr. G. Eugene Farnum. These latter have the power to grant or revoke licenses. The village trustees have the right and the power to punish violations of the excise laws and laws to prevent gambling, and it is moreover their duty to do so when complaint is made to them. We understand that there is a statute which clearly prohibits minors from playing billiards or other saloon games without the consent of their parents, and we fancy there a few minors in this city who have ever asked or obtained any such consent. In the face of such wholesome enactment, we are told that there is one billiard saloon on Main Street where minors are freely allowed and encouraged to play, and where, indeed, boxes are placed on the floor around the table so that the very small can mount up high enough to play.

It is freely alleged that there is one saloon or dive on plank road stree where young fellows nightly assemble to gamble. They are bright boys and belong to highly respected families. And their operations are not confined to cards and gaming alone. Of this hell-hole complaint is said to have been made to the Trustees, but so far without avail. The police know all about it.

Between the engine house and Goodliff’s market on Main street there is a regular gambling establishment, or “poker room,” doing a flourishing business nights. The police have full knowledge thereof, and the Trustees plenty of power to break it up.

Farther along on Main street, and in one of the brick blocks is another regular gambling institution doing an unrestricted and flourishing business.

Of course all these places sell or supply liquor, for gambling and drink are inseparable companions. And all this is in distinct violation of law and a menace to the safety of the city.

There are several saloons in the city dispensing distilled liquors that have only a beer license. There have been beer licenses granted that ought never to have been. There are drinks given away and sold over too many bars on Sunday. There are other technical violations of the excise laws that bode no good to the vendor or the public safety.

This lamentable condition of things is in large measure due to the utter indifference of so-called leading temperance men—men who can find abundant time to organize temperance political parties and lastily shout during the campaign, “vote as you pray,” but who lack the moral courage or the will ingress to lay hold of the practical lever, and enforce the wholesome excise and other laws set to restrict the traffic and to punish violations of law, and which, if fully enforced, would drive every dealer out of business.

Of course it requires the rapport of public sentiment to deal with these delinquencies, but that is easily aroused under competent lead. Society evils may perhaps never be so closely guarded as to be wholly prevented. That is a pretty hard matter. But they may be held in generous restraint, and violations may be severely punished. It would seem as though Wellsville is bearing a burden that is neither necessary nor becoming. The desirableness and necessity of a dignified and determined movement to check these spreading and threatening evils cannot be mistaken. Other cities—notably just now Buffalo and Elmira—are rousing to the work of stopping and punishing gambling and illicit liquor selling, and we trust the good sense of our earnest and law-abiding citizens may speedily suggest that similar action is needed in Wellsville, and it is with pleasure that we learn that some such action is to be taken. It is high time. The same laws that generously protect suitable licensed places also afford protection to society and pray why should not the latter demand in its own behalf what it so freely concedes to the former?

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