Apparently, there was no liquor sold in Brown County from the time of the first settlements until after the Civil War except at the military post, Camp Colorado. Soon after the war, however, peddlers began coming to the city and selling whiskey. Sometimes between 1870 and 1874, several saloons opened. When a newspaper appeared about 1876, liquor ads were published. One bakery advertised, “the best in bread, pies, cakes, cider and beer.” The Brownwood saloon, located on the north side of the square, informed its potential customers that it carried, “whiskey, brandies, foreign and domestic wines, and cigars.” One bar promised, “music every evening and sober and polite bartenders.” On the south side of the square, Happy Jack Young operated the Frontier Headquarters Saloon and Billard Hall. The “OO” Saloon and gambling house was two doors down and served, “all kinds of liquors, cigars, and pure lemonade.”
On the corner of East Broadway and Clark Street, Pomp Arnold had a saloon. He was an unusual saloon keeper. The argument for prohibition was growing. One night a band of Salvation Army crusaders gathered in from of Arnold's saloon and began singing hymns and temperance songs. This infuriated the owner, and he ordered them to leave. They courteously moved to the other side of the street, but continued their singing. On the following night they set up again in front of the saloon. Arnold walked out and proceeded to kick a large hole in the bass drum being played by one of the Salvation Army people. On the third night the musicians came back. This time Arnold made no attempt to interfere. Instead, he stood on the sidewalk and listened attentively. The following morning he did not open for business. He spent the day visiting all the other saloons in town urging them, temporarily, to close their saloons and meet him at his business.
They all came, not knowing what to expect. Arnold entered his saloon and asked the men to help him carry all the bottles and barrels of liquor out into the street. When this was done, he opened all the containers and poured the liquor into the gutter. That day he joined the Salvation Army and was an active member for more than forty years.
During this period of history, there was a strong sentiment to rid the county of liquor. The movement was led by some churches, the Salvation Army and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. In the summer of 1885, the prohibitionists felt that they had enough support to win an election. They got signatures to request an election. They were wrong. On election day the wets had 687 votes and the prohibitionists had 472. This settled the matter in Brown County until November, 1893.
The prohibitionist felt they had a chance to prevail a second time, but only in some precincts over others, and petitioned for an election by precinct, rather than county wide. If it passed in some precincts, but not in others,alcohol sales in those precincts would be allowed.
This time the vote was on a precinct basis rather than county wide. In a name-calling, no-holds-barred campaign, the drys outvoted their opponents by thirty-six votes. The county judge ordered the saloons within Brownwood to close. One establishment simply moved to another precinct on the road to Comanche. The owner called his new place of business “ The Bulletin” to ridicule Will H. Mayes, the editor and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin, who had vigorously pushed the cause of prohibition in his newspaper.
The drys were encouraged by their results within the city so one year later they had an election where The Bulletin Saloon was located. Again the dry election prevailed by votes that abolished the saloon.
The fight was not yet over. The wets requested an election in 1895 within the City of Brownwood precinct. The usual bitter campaign followed with Cyclone Davis (a well known prohibitionist of the time) joining Mayes and other leaders. Colonel Richrd Wynne led the wets. This time the wets gathered 682 votes beating their opponents by twenty-nine votes, and the saloons opened again in Brownwood.
The fighting continued for nearly eight years when the drys petitioned again for a county wide election for September , 1903. This time the drys won by a small majority and that was the end of the open saloon in Brown County. Maybe it ended the “open saloon”, but in no way was it the end of the battle between the “wets” and the “drys”. Elections were brought up until finally liquor in the county was prohibited.
When an election was held to determine whether Brownwood or Byrd's Store would be the County seat, some supporters for Brownwood to be the county seat set up a whiskey wagon on the road into town from Byrd's Store, and gave out free whiskey A lot of those potential voters did not come into town and vote because they stopped at the wagon.
Through the years, studies were done indicating which voting boxes favored the alcohol sales. The law had changed to allow counties to go wet by by individual voting precincts rather than count wide. A new precinct was set up that “jerrymandered” the wet voting boxes into am ameaba shaped precinct. Now, an election was held in that one precinct and that precinct went “wet.” Nrown county was now “wet” but only in that one precinct. That is why for many years, alcohol could only be purchased in a small portion of the town.
Later, the state law allowed for liquor to be held in private clubs where members joined a private club and the membership entitled the patron to an alcoholic drink. That method was used to skirt the law for many years.
Elections were held to allow wine and beer to be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores. Other elections have allowed liquor by the drink. Some of the elections for one precinct at a time. There were always restrictions for distances from churches or schools or playgrounds.
Frequently, churches opposed the sales in the election due to the effect on the family. Some times the Chambers of Commerce supported it to bring in business.