Louis Leander Alexander and the Sons of Temperance
July 15, 2014
Louis Leander Alexander (1828-1904) was very active fraternally from 1855 through 1887 in the state of California. The first fraternal organizations he belonged to were the Sons of Temperance and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Grand Divisions of the Sons of Temperance were established in California by 1853 according to the Sacramento Daily Union. Our certificates show that Alexander belonged to Sonora Division No. 16. During the 1850s and 1860s he lived in the city of Sonora in Tuolumne County, California, with his wife Marta Elizabeth Farr (1840-1898) and six children. Alexander worked as a Mining Superintendent.
The 1849 Gold Rush in California made the state ripe for raucous behavior and insobriety. Miners, similar to soldiers and sailors on leave, often led solitary lives seeking riches and frequently ended up in taverns, hotels, and gambling palaces or tents, all of which served alcohol.
Various temperance movements emerged as a result of the Gold Rush in California. The Sons of Temperance was one of these organizations. Scholar Ralph Mann suggests that the Sons of Temperance offered men a rich symbolic haven outside the home and an alternative masculine image. In 1855, when Alexander was a member, this fraternal group supported a state bill on the total prohibition of alcohol. The law did not get passed, but the influence of this organization was clear.
By 1855, Alexander was already a Past Worthy Patriarch of his division in the Sons of Temperance. He was then appointed District Grand Worthy Patriarch which gave him the power to perform certain duties of the Grand Worthy Patriarch, a state-wide position. According to an 1856 certificate (above left) Alexander was appointed "Degree Regent" for Sonora and Knights Ferry. In this role, he supervised the conferral of degrees and the compliance with ritual throughout the district.
The Sons of Temperance invited both men and women to join. However, according to his chapter in California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression, historian Joshua Paddison suggests that in California men continued to dominate the temperance movement until 1878 when the Woman's Christian Temperance Union became active. This organization transformed temperance from a male issue to a woman's concern and was embraced by California women. Members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union sought to make public life alcohol-free.
By 1880, Alexander and family had moved to Oakland. It was here that he became a Master Mason in Oakland Lodge No. 188. Later, in 1886, Alexander became a 32° Scottish Rite Mason as evidenced by this certificate (below right).
Sons of Temperance Certificate for Louis Leander Alexander, 1856. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, A2014/9/5.
32° Scottish Rite Certificate for Louis Leander Alexander, 1886. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, A2014/9/14.
Blocker, Jack S., David M. Fahey, and Ian R. Tyrrell. Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003.
Cherny, Robert W., Mary Ann Irwin, and Ann M. Wilson. California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.
Goodman, David. Gold Seeking: Victoria and California in the 1850's. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994.