New England women have a reputation for thrift, resourcefulness, charity and indomitable will. Yankee women have left their mark on the history of our country. Woman from fishing and farming families, not to mention the Brahmins on Beacon Hill, have fought valiantly for voting rights, property rights, and countless other social causes. A seminal figure in Rockport’s past, Hannah Jumper led a major crusade for temperance that has left a lasting mark in the town’s history. Hannah was born on Cape Ann in 1781 into a seafaring family. She was tall and strong. By her teens she was shouldering more than her fair share of the family household work. She excelled in cultivating and administering medicinal herbs. This expertise and her accomplished sewing skills supported her into old age and forged a strong bond with the other women in the community.
Women of that day cared for their households, while the men primarily fished. It was a hard life making a meager living from the land and sea. There was little time or money to be wasted.
Fishing for days in high seas could whip up a thirst as strong as a nor’easter. One sure cure for that kind of thirst was rum and the fishermen weren’t known for moderation.
Disgusted by grown men with mouths to feed passed out on Main Street and the squandering of precious earnings Hannah began to speak out about the evils of alcohol. She wasn’t the first New Englander to frown on drinking. This was a country founded by Puritans. A number of temperance movements were beginning to gain suppport by the time Hannah decided to take action.
It seems that in addition to knowing her medicinal herbs, Hannah also had some serious community organizing skills, and a flair for the dramatic.
The Fourth of July in 1856 was a convivial affair. Perhaps the celebrations lasted a few too many days. Strong willed and fearless at age 75, Hannah Jumper saw too many women suffering the result of their men’s excessive drinking and felt the time had come to make a dramatic social response. It was that same week that Hannah and the Hatchet Gang made their contribution to Rockport’s history of temperance.
Preparing in advance, they crept out under the cover of night on July 7, 1856, and marked with white chalk the establishments that sold alcohol. The next morning, Dock Square was filled with a crowd of agitated and determined women led by Hannah. Carrying hatchets and hammers, and with the “The Ladies Temperance Banner" held aloft, the crowd moved swiftly through town. For the next 5 hours, they moved from one marked establishment to the next slashing and dumping every ounce of alcohol. When they were finished, the whole town smelled like a rum bowl. The vast majority of the town was happy with the results
One local shop owner, upset by his sudden loss of inventory, tried unsuccessfully to have Hannah convicted for destruction of property. After three trials, and two unsuccessful appeals, the jury verdict was upheld, and Hannah was officially acquitted of any wrong-doing.
The events of that day were to mark one of the earliest and most effective protests against excessive alcohol consumption, the height of which finally resulted in Prohibition from 1920 to 1933. So effective, however, was Hannah and her Hatchet Gang, that Rockport became and remained a dry town for 150 years even after the repeal of Prohibition.
Hannah Jumper is a much-loved legend in Rockport. Her banner is kept safe at the Sandy Bay Historical Society and her story is often told. Never-the-less, we do enjoy a good rum cocktail from time to time and serve a special one in our restaurant: The Hannah Jumper. We couldn’t resist.
In honor of Hannah, our rich history, and all rum lovers past and present, this coming Thursday we are hosting the first of its kind rum tasting dinner: 4 artisanal rums paired with a four-course menu. Details below.
Plantation Rum Tasting Dinner (View menu)
Thursday, March 8, 2018, 7PM - 10PM
Reservation suggested. 978.999.5917
We hope to see you on March 8. Please leave your chalk at home.