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Merrill, Ore., Jumps the Gun on Prohibition

Merrill was a tiny town in southern Klamath County when the prohibition movement was gaining momentum across the country in the early 1900's.

Only a few hundred people lived in the Merrill area in 1915 when the City Council considered a proposed ordinance banning the sale and possession of alcohol within city limits. The mayor and two council members boycotted council meetings, preventing a required quorum.

The two remaining council members, who favored the temperance movement, declared vacancies in the two council seats, and filled one vacancy with a like-minded citizen.  The three council members approved the prohibition ordinance and declared Merrill to be a dry town.  The ordinance was challenged, sending the matter before Circuit Court Judge George Noland in Klamath Falls, Ore.

The judge ruled that the two remaining council members had not followed proper procedures in appointing a third council member.  However, since no one had challenged the legitimacy of the appointment, actions of the third council member were declared legal and binding. Merrill was, therefore, officially dry.

The issue became moot a few months later when voters across Oregon approved state-wide prohibition, four years before it took effect nationally.

Sources: "Merrill Recorder's Court is Upheld by Circuit Court in Deciding the Clubine Affair." Evening Herald 9 Apr. 1915 [Klamath Falls, Ore.] : 1. Print;  "Administrative Overview." Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Aug. 2000. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. .

Todd Kepple has been a Klamath Basin resident since 1990. He was a reporter and editor the for the Herald and News from 1990 to 2005, and has been manager of the Klamath County Museum since 2005. He enjoys volunteering at Crater Lake National Park, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also a founding member of the Klamath Tree League.