CARROLL'S 90 POUND BOMBSHELL
A young girl, lovely, innocent, petite, well-mannered, well-dressed, wee-bred, consorting with the drunks of the count! What a scandal! What a bombshell! Her name-Capitola Armour; her cause-temperance; her goal a sober county. In 1877 she hit Carroll County with a force unmatched until Prohibition.
And what if anything would a 16-year-old girl know about abstinence? Plenty! With logical, impressive argument, she conquered a county and brought reform to many a "past redemption sinner".
Born in 1859 in Mt. Carroll, Capitola Armour was of noted parentage. Her father, Volney Armour, was the county's first state's attorney. She was reared in an atmosphere of abstinence and complete intolerance of intoxicating drink. Mr. Armour was a firm believer of temperance and advanced his belief in his daughter's upbringing.
Armour was an early organizer of the first temperance movement in the County. They called themselves the "Sons of Temperance" and were fairly effective for a time. The Carroll County History (1968) tells of the 1846-8 grist mill of Thorp's store in Mt. Carroll where liquor was kept in basement storage. There was much grinding to do, so many men of the area helped. Mr. Armour firmly believed that this was the start of drunkenness in Carroll County. The History also recalls the Hydraulic Company, which supposedly distilled alcohol was found on many tables. This company is said to be responsible for the end of the "sons of Temperance," as many "sons" held stock in the company.
Capitola was sent to Mt. Carroll Seminary at the age of three because she could taught to read. (Francis W. Shier would take any pupil at that time if they could be taught to read.) Graduating at an early age, she and her father took upon the task of sobering up the county and joined the larger movement to "dry up" the state.
On December 8, 1877 she spoke at a rally in Lanark under the Red Ribbon Temperance Movement. Concerning this meeting and Miss Armour, Mr. J. B. Porter of Lanark wrote to the Mt. Carroll Mirror that she had elegance of diction, grace, ease, logic , and good arguments. "Her womanly pleading" appealed to a good many and he predicted for her a bright future. She spoke at that meeting without notes. The Carroll movement was on its way.
She next hit Thomson on the 17th with a three-day rally that saw 225 imbibers signing the "Pledge. Thomson also organized its own Red Ribbon Movement and officers with names of Miner, Melendy, Smith, Green, Lewis, Cone, Melugin, and Rhodes led the pack. A further rally was to be addressed by one Dode Green, billed as "The Reformed Drunkard, a man who has not drawn a sober breath for the past two years, three days at a time". The writer goes on to say "No doubt Dode can tell something of the evils of intemperance having paid close attention to the subject for many years".
Miss Armour travelled the state addressing many groups and organization. A unique personality, her ninety pounds carried more weight than that of a two-hundred-pound man. She spoke of an enlightened mind. She spoke when the work viewed "a woman's place etc." and was ridiculed by some and applauded by others.
In January of 1880, Capitola married Geo. L. Hoffman, an immigrant from Germany, who became a lawyer, practicing with J. M. Hunter, and was later elected Mayor of Mt. Carroll. He died suddenly in 1922 of pneumonia, Capitola lived to be 96 years and 6 months old, passing away in 1955. Her daughter, Mrs. Capitola Kentner of Savanna, remember that in her later years her mother thought the times were quite immoral and terrible.
One of Mrs. Kentner's most cherished momentoes of her mother is a book of poems and grose written by Mrs. Hoffman and published in the 1890's. It was selected to represent the cultural contribution of the Illinois Woman's Clubs at the Columbian Exposition of 1893.
Mrs. Kentner, at 79, is the only surviving Hoffman child and an encyclopedia of information.
Today, perhaps, Capitola would be heckled again for her avid belief in
abstinence, but what would be her way to tackling drugs, immorality and national
apathy? Perhaps in no small way Carroll County would be indeed fortunate to have
another Capitola Armor to conquer its problems today.