In the summer of 1913, hard on the heels of the Rev. Lincoln McDonnell's big tabernacle meetin', a religious awakening took place in this river town. Churches reported their pews filled on the Sundays following McDowell's departure, and Sloan's Creek was used for more baptisms than swimming parties during that hot, hot summer. And while congregations opened their doors to many new members who had "hit the sawdust trail" during the revival, a movement was also afoot in Cape Girardeau "looking to a general cleaning up of moral conditions and the obliteration of practices which... are a blot on the fair name of the city."
To that end a group calling itself the "Men's Club" began to publicly work to end what its members considered immoral practices. A front page article in the July 16 edition of The Daily Republican sang the praises of the group, but was a little short on information as to who the members were and the overall structure of the organization. It noted that since the McDonnell revival, membership in the club had ballooned from 80 members to 141. Only one member's name was given in the article: Uncle John Fulbright. He apparently was in charge of the membership roll.
Along with outlining the work of the club, the story also noted that a large collection had been taken up at the recent meeting, with the funds to go in support of the work of the "Citizens' Committee." The article emphasized the covert nature of the work undertaken: "In order to carry out some of the work of the Citizens' Committee, much secrecy has to be employed. For that reason (at a recent meeting) some of the movements were discussed in a way that prevented even some of the members from knowing exactly what was meant or intended..."
One of the Men's Club's first victories publicized was the repeal of a liquor license for the Commercial Bar on Broadway, near Main Street. Through the quiet workings of the club, judges of the Cape Girardeau County Court decided not to renew the license, which expired in August 1913. The court noted that the proprietors of the saloon violated the law by selling liquor to minors and "habitual drunkards."
The club also turned its attention to "white slavery," or prostitution. Reading between the lines of articles published at the time, "fancy women" were quite the problem in Cape Girardeau in the summer of 1913. It appears the Men's Club may have put pressure on Mayor F.A. Kage, because in July he ordered the new police chief, D.A. Nichols, to rid the town of this immoral element.
The front-page article in the Republican showed Nichols was an impressive law man, sending the women in question scurrying for the ferry and the trains to take up their occupation in the larger towns of St. Louis and Cairo, Ill.
The proprietor of one of the boarding houses raided by police, however, took exception to The Republican's coverage of this general brooming out of Cape's fallen doves. The newspaper, being fair and balanced then as it is today, printed his objections in the next day's edition.