Gov. Sam Brownback recently released a list of the state’s top 10 most significant events. Traces of one of those events can still be seen in Pittsburg.

Gov. Sam Brownback recently released a list of the state’s top 10 most significant events. Traces of one of those events can still be seen in Pittsburg.

Kansas was the first state to go dry in 1881, and the last state to get wet again, in 1948. One of the strongest movements advocating the push for banning alcohol was the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

Founded in 1874 in Cleveland, Ohio, the WCTU hoped to obtain pledges of total  abstinence from alcohol, and later also tobacco and other drugs, according to its website. The white  ribbon bow was selected to symbolize purity, and the WCTU's watchwords were "Agitate - Educate - Legislate."

Local chapters were  called "Unions" and were largely autonomous, but closely linked to the state  unions and national headquarters. There were clear channels of authority and  communication and the WCTU quickly became the largest woman's organization in the United States (and later, in the world.)

After the turn of the century, according to the Kansas State Historical Society, the Kansas WCTU began supporting two native temperance workers in Africa, Americanization work in the mining camps of Southern Kansas near Pittsburg, maintained a home for elderly women in Kansas City (the Carry A. Nation Home), sent field workers to unorganized territories to organize new unions, worked with both prisoners and military men in the state, and concerned itself with issues surrounding tobacco, narcotics and movies.

Little information is available about the WCTU in Pittsburg, but the organization was very active in the area, said Randy Roberts, curator of Pittsburg State University's special collections. According to Josephine Strnad, current president of the KWCTU, there were 15 district in the state. Pittsburg was in district No. 3, which included Wilson, Neosho, Crawford, Montgomery, Labette, and Cherokee counties. Strnad said that according the 1981 annual report, the state convention was held in Pittsburg in October of 1892, 1908, 1921 and 1956. All 15 districts a listed that year except District No. 3, which appears to indicate that it folded at some point between 1956 and 1981.

"A lot of the movement was about the right to vote, as well, and Kansas wasn't a dry state anymore, so interest probably started to dry up," said Lynn Frederickson, a researcher at the KSHS.

But Pittsburg residents can still find remnants of the WCTU if they know where to look. Cornerstone Family Church at 405 S. Locust has a stained glass window featuring the WCTU's symbol. The church has served many denominations over the years but began as the First United Brethren Church when it was built in 1912. The Methodist church also advocated temperance, and eventually joined with the United Brethren in 1968, and the congregation moved out of the church around that time, church historians said.

Because the church has had so many occupants rotate through its doors, no one is certain when the window was installed or who put it there. But Strnad said she believes it would have been installed by the local members, since there are no records of the national organization funding any of them. Strnad said she knows of similar windows at a church in Glasco, in north central Kansas, and at a church in Griggsville, Ill. And an internet search showed a similar window in Blackwell, Okla.

And at Pittsburg State University, Willard Hall, which was the university's first female dormitory, was named after Frances Willard, who became the WCTU's second president in 1879, Roberts said.