Making History – One Hatchet at a Time

Channeling my inner Carrie Nation on the front porch of the new Fort Bend Museum, much to the dismay of Mr. Kaminski.

By Patti Parish-Kaminski, Publisher

With the renovation and re-grand opening of the Fort Bend Museum, I decided to take a look at our local tribute to history to examine some of the more interesting artifacts that have been collected through the years. And let’s just say history did not disappoint.

First rattle out of the box, I discovered Carrie Nation’s hatchet. Y’all remember Carrie. She tore up bars and saloons with a hatchet pre-prohibition. As I researched this woman who upon entering a room, it was frequently said, “all hell broke loose,” the similarities were striking – a bit unnerving even. Yes, I’ve tore up a bar in my day, but in my defense, it wasn’t with a hatchet. It was with a Gold AMEX. Same concept; different version of “tore up.”

Carrie was referred to as “a formidable woman.” Hmmm. She lived in Fort Bend; I live in Fort Bend. She dressed in black; I wear a lot of black. Her husband drank; my husband drinks. She was described as a “movement.” I’ll let that one go.

Carrie was an entrepreneur – yet another trait we share. When as a widow she needed to support herself and her child, she became a teacher. After that she taught herself how to manage hotels. She actually ran a boarding house in Richmond. Then she created a Vaudeville “playlet” in 1903 where she smashed up bars on stage and sold miniature hatchets to the audience. She was creative. She even wrote a mini-biography, printed it and sold it after her performances. The museum has one of those in their collection as well. A writer, a publisher – sound familiar? And when the audience started heckling her, well Carrie heckled right back. I’ve been known to retort with a good tongue lashing as needed. But in Carrie’s case, the heckling likely didn’t last long as she was the one who had a hatchet in her hand – just sayin’.

Carrie frequently said she “was on a mission from God.” Those very words appear in a painting in my living room. Granted they are in a painting as quoted from The Blues Brother’s film, but it’s a remarkable coincidence, nonetheless.

To set the record straight, I have never smashed bottles of liquor with a hatchet. I cannot abide by that kind of waste. I did kill a copperhead snake on my front porch once with my Pawpaw’s hatchet as that was the weapon readily available. Of course, the fact that a hatchet was the first weapon I landed on in my search for weaponry might be a bit disturbing to some, but it did the job.

Personally, I’m all for living history, and learning about Carrie and her colorful history was downright entertaining, and I’ll venture to say inspiring. Every time a curveball was thrown her way, Carrie hit it out of the park. Now I’m not saying I always agreed with her politics, but she did what she had to do to fight for her cause and support her family. She capitalized on her fame and made it work for her. And isn’t that what we want history to do – teach us how to overcome obstacles and forge ahead to make a better future?

Carrie said, “You have put me in here as a cub, but I will come out roaring like a lion, and I will make all hell howl!” That she did, and she made an indelible mark on history as a woman to be reckoned with. I can appreciate that.

She also said, “It is not possible to make a bad law. If it is bad, it is not a law.” Really could have used Carrie and her way of thinking at Fort Bend Commissioner’s Court this week.

The history of Fort Bend County began with the Old 300 – and the likes of Carrie Nation – and today, Thursday, July 15, 2021, Fort Bend County history will continue with the New 300 with the grand re-opening of the new Fort Bend Museum tonight. Be like Carrie and make a name for yourself in the annals of Fort Bend history by making a difference in our community – with or without a hatchet – your call.


See y’all next week – on the porch!


Patti Parish-Kaminski

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