July 8, 1856, is an important date in the history of Rockport. On that summer morning, 200 wives, mothers, daughters and assorted supporters gathered in Dock Square to take part in an event that would have repercussions to this very day.
Brandishing hatchets, led by Hannah Jumper, they began their raid. In the words of Ebenezer Pool. an eyewitness. “…On finding any keg, jug, or cask having spirituous liquor in it…with their hatchets broke or otherways destroyed it…” Who was Hannah Jumper? How did so many law abiding. homemakers find the courage to follow her’?
Hannah Jumper, a tall, redheaded, 31 year old seamstress, left her family’s farm in Joppa and came to Rockport in 1812. Her talent with a needle and thread, along with her abilities to grow herbs and make medicinal brews from them, helped her to build a pleasant life in the small fishing community. Thus established, Hannah began to form lasting friendships with many of the women who would later join her in the rebellion against “demon rum”.
Fishing was the mainstay of Rockport. However, the weather only permitted this activity for nine months of the year. Instead of finding other employment during their enforced threemonth “vacation.” the men idled away their time and consumed enormous amounts of liquor.
Year after year, the economic deprivation caused by those periods of inactivity was worsened by the money spent on spirits. The women of the town grew increasingly frustrated and their patience wore thin. Hannah Jumper not only shared their feeling and their concerns, but she also became very outspoken on the subject.
Finally, in 1856. with the rise of the. temperance movement and the early rumblings of women’s rights being heard, the women of Rockport met secretly to plot their historic raid. Only three men were considered trustworthy enough to be taken into their confidence.
On the morning of July 8, 1856 women from every corner of Rockport rallied around Hannah and five other women who had assumed leadership roles. Even at age 75, Hannah Jumper was still a formidable figure!
Secreting their weapons beneath lacy shawls, the protesters set out to destroy every drop of alcohol located in places they had marked (under cover of darkness) with a small white cross. Howls of outrage and threats of recriminations followed the progress of the “hatchet gang”.
Five hours later. the weary but victorious women ended their revolt and went home to fix supper for their families.
One disgruntled target of the raid, Jim Brown, took the matter to court. The verdict, in favor of the women, was appealed time and time again. In the end, the original verdict was upheld and Brown was ordered to pay the court costs of $346.25 to the defendants.
Subsequently, Rockport became a ‘dry’ town, and remained so until 2005, when voters approved the sale of alcoholic beverages in local restaurants.