Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 3, 1993, pg. 3
It is that time of year we again focus our thoughts on one of the most popular holidays in America: Mother's Day, this Sunday May 9. Here in Albion we celebrate Mother's Day in a special way, honoring Albion's "original Mother of Mother's Day," Juliet Calhoun Blakeley (1818-1920). How did Mother's Day get its start in Albion according to the legend which has survived these many years? The answer may surprise you, and is one we should not forget or downplay.
It is no secret that the legend surrounding our local hero Juliet had to do with Albion's participation in the ever-growing temperance movement in the late 19th century. In fact, Albion served as the national headquarters for the Prohibition National Committee in the 1890s with Albion College professor (and later president) Samuel S. Dickie as its president!
The temperance movement was alive in Albion during the 1870s, and local anti-temperance leaders decided to do something about it. On Friday May 11, 1877, these anti-temperance ("saloonists" as they were then called) leaders captured three local boys, all sons of prominent temperance leaders, and forced them to spend the night in a local saloon.
According to Juliet's son Charles, there the boys "were induced to indulge in liquor...About noon Saturday, when the streets of Albion were lined with crowds of shoppers, the youths...were turned loose to mingle , while intoxicated, among the crowds in the business section of the city."
One of the boys was Charles Daughterty, son of local Methodist minister Rev. Myron A. Daughterty, who was the presiding Elder at the local Methodist Church wehre Juliet C. Blakeley was a member. On Sunday May 13, which was also Juliet's 59th birthday, Rev. Daughtery began services at the church, but according to Charles, "the grief which resulted from finding his son intoxicated the day before made it necessary for him to leave the pulpie ere the services had been concluded."
At this point according to the story, Juliet C. Blakeley, who was sitting near the front of the church, stepped up into the pulpit and called on the mothers of the congregation to assist her in the service, and to support the temperance movement. Thus began the first Mothers Day "service" in Albion. that evening, several angry saloonists went to Juliet's home and tore up her wooden sidewalk in front of her house, but she was able to readily identify them and the sidewalk was replaced.
Juliet's sons, Charles and Moses, were so impressed about her conduct at the church, that they designated the second Sunday in May in honor of their mother, according to the story, and encouraged all their friends and business associates to do the same. Both sons were traveling salesmen. The Methodist Church in Albion later took up the practice, and issued postcards honoring Albion's Juliet Calhoun Blakeley.
As we celebate Mother's Day, let us not forget the local history and meaning surrounding this event. This week in our Historical Notebook we present a photograph of Juliet Calhoun Blakeley (1818-1920), and a photograph of the distraught Methodist minister, Rev. Myron A. Daugherty, who stepped down that historic day. Also is pictured Juliet's son Charles C. Blakeley (1852-1935).
A couple of postscripts: In all the literature, the name "Mothers Day" does not appear in articles relating to Mrs. Blakeley before the formation of the national Mother's Day. The second Sunday in May was probably celebrated by the sons because that happened to be their mother's birthday. Before the national Mother's Day, the local Methodist Church referred to the aged Mrs. Blakeley as "the mother of Albion Methodism," as she was its oldest female member.
In Albion's Riverside Cemetery, the gravesite of Juliet Calhoun Blakeley is unattended. Few know of Juliet's historical signifance as they pass by the marker. Perhaps some civic-minded group in town could take it upon themselves this week to see that a nice flower urn and a bouquet could be placed in the Blakeley family plot and annually maintained, in memory of this pioneer woman: Juliet Calhoun Blakeley, Albion's original Mother of Mother's Day.
Juliet Calhoun Blakely
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All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic