SIDNEY — The Shelby County Historical Society will present free, a living history, audience-participation performance, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m., in the Masonic Temple lodge room, 303 E. Poplar St.
Living history characters will portray a scene from a 1911 Sidney City Council meeting involving the popular police chief, William O’Leary.
The hot button issues a century ago were alcohol, morals, jobs and free speech. O’Leary ignited this combustible mixture, and it boiled over before City Council, almost costing him his job.
Ohio communities were given the option to prohibit alcohol beginning in 1908. Sidney voted to remain “wet” and continue to use and sell alcohol. Miami County voted “dry.” Sidney was home to the Wagner Brewery. It provided 200 local jobs. Sidney boasted many bars and lounges. Sidney also had an active temperance movement, comprising Masonic Lodge members and women’s groups, including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League.
Friction between Sidney and Piqua developed immediately after Sidney voted “wet” in 1908. Miami County residents were taking the trolley to Sidney to drink, causing problems for the Sidney police. This culminated in an April 1911 march on Sidney’s courtsquare the Rev. Biederwolf, a Piqua preacher, and many of his followers.
O’Leary watched the demonstration for awhile, then ended it by kicking the protesters out of town and sending them back to Piqua. Piqua citizens were enraged and demanded he be fired.
The Aug. 29 program will be a reenactment of the Sidney City Council meeting, held to hear from the citizens on the issue of the chief’s conduct and the alcohol, jobs and free speech issues in general.
The following cast has been announced: Neil Allen as John Wagner; Stacy Smith as the Sidney mayor; Aaron Lowe, Ken McElroy, Jeff Gilman and Robert Allen as members of the city council; Mike McRill as Police Chief O’Leary; Rich Wallace as the Rev. Biederwolf; Fay Spangler, as Ida Haslup; Jane Bailey as the Anti-Saloon League representative; Linda DeVelvis as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union representative; Sylvia Smith as a WCTU member; and Brian Huffman as the owner of Bauer’s Stag Bar.