Business and Labor

The Temperance Movement Meets Vermont Yankee Ingenuity

New England towns have always had an interesting relationship with alcohol and temperance movements. Moonshining, rum-running to Canada and dry and wet debates have added to the local color for generations, but nowhere was the debate more fervent or entertaining than in Vermont.

Underhill Old Country StoreAnd especially in the towns of Jericho and Underhill. These two towns, joined at the hip, were fully engaged in the temperance movement from the middle 1800s on. And in both towns there were strong, active temperance societies – as well as strong active opponents of the movement.

In the early 1800s, most people drank alcohol liberally. But by the 1840s, Jericho and Underhill both began tightly restricting the use of alcohol and, indeed, at times the towns voted themselves dry.

One local grocer had the good fortune to avoid the controversy, however. The Old Country Store was built in 1886 by Homer Thompson and it is still in business today as Jacob’s Family Grocery. The store, which is more central to the village of Underhill, actually straddled the line between Jericho and Underhill, giving it a unique flexibility to avoid the whims of the voters.

When one town went dry, the store was able to shift its alcoholic beverages from one end of the building to the other and keep right on conducting business.

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