This colorful tale was written by local historian J. S. Minard and appeared in the Belmont Dispatch, November 21, 1902. It originally was published in the Cuba Patriot. Our thanks to Karen Meisenheimer for its transcription.
Interesting Reminiscences of Local Politics in 1840-44
As all those who are old enough will remember, and those of fewer years may know from reading or hearing it from the lips of their elders, the presidential campaign of 1840 was unique in that it was the first campaign of song and singing in our history. To song-singing was added hard cider, coon skins and log cabins.
The whig candidates for president and vice president were General William Henry Harrison and John Tyler, and they were wafted into office on waves of song and hard cider. “Tippicanoe and Tyler too” was emblazoned on their banners, and was the slogan which inspired the whig hosts, and spurred them on to victory. Log cabins were built, in which to hold their meetings which were many and enthusiastic, and no meeting was considered a success without a barrel or barrels of hard cider, which would be stood on end, the upper head knocked in and half a dozen gourd shells hung around it, from which the ardent young whigs (and older ones too) would drink sour beverage, and it seemed sometimes as though loyalty to the party and its candidates was measured by the amount of cider they could drink. Tacked on to the outside and inside walls of the cabin were seen numerous coon skins and the democrats in derision called the whigs “coonies.” Four years latter the democrats having learned the lesson, actually outsang the whigs and elected James K Polk of Tennessee over Henry Clay of Kentucky. The chorus of one of their songs ran “For Polk is the boy to splie your fun, and sadly bust your biter. You’ll find a different race to run from that of Tip and Tyler.”
The late Judge Martin Grover that year (1844) ran for congress and was elected. During the campaign he was called to Batavia to address a democratic mass meeting. He was introduced as the “ragged lawyer from Allegany,” and opened his speech with these memorable words, “In 1840, it rained hard cider, forty days and forty nights,” which came mighty near being a literal fact. But the main object of this article is to tell of a prank which an Allegany whig played on his whig brothers of Perry, Wyoming Co. then however in Genesee Co.
A whig mass meeting at Angelica had been determined upon. Cider in Allegany was scarce, and the time for the meeting was drawing near. Some one was going “out north” for salt and other supplies, and he was commissioned to get a barrel for use at the meeting. He succeeded in getting back as far as Perry. About noon he drove into the barn at the hotel, put out his team and staid to dinner.
His load however had been noticed. A whig mass meeting was to be held that afternoon, and they were short of cider. He was asked what he had in his barrels. He told them he had salt and cider. They offered him two prices for more for it, but no, he could not let it go for it was for a meeting at Angelica. It was for that meeting, and only that, and they must have it. But the men of Perry were importunate, and during the noon hour it was intimated to our Alleganian that they were [bound] to have that cider, peaceful if possible, by force if necessary, but rather than resort to violence, they would pay even three prices for it. The Alleganian’s mind was made up at once what to do. So quietly visiting the drugstore, he purchased a liberal quantity of ipecac, and slipping though the hotel back yard, he succeeded unobserved in introducing it into the barrel of cider.
Settling his bill he prepared to leave, but was immediately beset by the crowd clamoring for the cider. As long as it was prudent to do so, he protested, but finally rightly judging from unmistakable symtoms [sic] he yielded, taking however abent three prices for the fluid and immediately “dug out,” felling that strong personal interests were involved and that he wanted to see Angelica at the earliest convenient hour.
When the Perry meeting had got well started, quite a number, some prominent in the proceedings, felt constrained so absent themselves, in fact the number of enforced absentees was surprising, and seriously impaired the effect of the meeting. Anxious inquiry was made for the Alleganian, but to no avail. He was wending his way back to Angelica.
How the Angelica whigs got along with their meeting or how they treated our hero on his return, deponent saith not, but for proof of the truth of the story reference may be had to Mr. David Kirkpatrick – J. S. Minard in Cuba Patriot.