March 12, 2015 at 2:41 p.m.
Chisago County voted in May 1915 “three-to-one” to be a dry county. This was five years before a Minnesota Republican Congressman, Andrew Volstead, would have his name forever attached to passage of the nationwide Prohibition Act.
Joining Chisago County among the first to exercise the “county option” were Isanti, Lac Qui Parle, Kanabec and Lyon. All five were quick to hold a referendum authorized by the state legislature and all went dry.
In total, according to the MN House Session Daily, there were 64 counties that opted dry and 22 stayed wet. (Lake of the Woods County hadn’t been established yet.)
The “county option” came into being in action that was far short of a mandate. The MN House voted 36-31 giving counties the right to go wet or dry and the state Senate only supported the county option 66 to 62.
A century ago the alcohol debate was dubbed “the saloon question.” According to Chisago County News accounts from 1915; there were two saloons operating in Wyoming and one in Taylors Falls that were directly affected when the county officially voted to go dry.
The County News, on microfilm at the Chisago County History Center in Lindstrom, would report county referendum results all throughout the year of 1915. The biggest headline was for the Hennepin County vote, in October, which supported liquor sales after nine of the 13 wards in Minneapolis voted wet or in favor of liquor licenses.
The newspaper publisher included some advice to the reader in a 1915 story, which legislators in session now have no doubt considered while arguing the Sunday sales. He wrote: “While you are figuring out how much money a saloon will bring into the community, you also want to tarry a while and figure out how much more it will take out of it.”
Editor’s Note: The MN House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee has versions of Sunday liquor sales bills under review. House File 115 is a full repeal of Sunday sales prohibition,
HF 130 would allow muncipalities to opt for allowing Sunday sales and a “pilot Sunday sales” bill also would allow three counties to try it (HF 131.)
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