KanColl: The Kansas  Historical Quarterlies

Pistol Packin' Pencil Pushers

by Cecil Howes

May, 1944(Vol. 13 No. 2), pages 116 to 138.
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.

"THE newspaper is the historian's surest and most nearly eternal source ofinformation. The living event is forever gone, but the newspaper is evidence thatlife was here."

     I know not who wrote the above lines, but theytypify the highest ideals ofjournalistic endeavor, the factual recording of things as they are.Recently there passed from the Kansas scene the last of the ruggedindividualists, editorially speaking. The death of William Allen White ended anera in Kansas newspaper history.

     It began with the turbulent days preceding theCivil War and continued in unabated fury for fifty years except as theparticipants passed to their rewards. Bill White was a comparatively late comerinto this galaxy of individual journalists, but he left his mark upon the era asdistinctly as did Sol. Miller, M. M. Beck, John Speer, Dan Anthony, MarshMurdock, Jake Stotler and a host of lesser but no less active editors inKansas.

     These men brought to Kansas a record in thenumber of newspapers and newspaper readers that has not been approached by anyother state and has had much to do with the high literacy rate of ourcitizens.

     They brought to the Sunflower State the Kansaslanguage, a style terse and pointed. None ever asked a Kansas editor to make hiswritings more definite and certain. There was precision in what these editorssaid, they were proud to take sides on any question of moment and none was everadverse to replying "I dood it." The Kansas language is one without equivocation,innuendo, double talk or double meaning. It is generally incisive and sometimesmordacious. It doesn't wiggle, wobble or waver, beat about the bush, put out asmoke screen, play hide and seek or dodge the issue and does not stoop todemagogery. It contains no weasel words.

     Nationally the era passed with the deaths ofDana, Horace Greeley, "Marse" Henry Watterson, William Rockhill Nelson and theircontemporaries. At the beginning of the present century began the era ofanonymity in newspaper editing. In recent years there has been a bit of swingingback through the use of columns and commentators upon events of the community,the state, the nation or the world.



     Pistol-packing pencil pushers is no figure ofspeech or alliterative titling. It was an actual fact. For, in the days of whichI write, the typewriter had not been invented or was chiefly a toy or aninstrument of business. It may be recalled by some that Col. William R. Nelsonrefused to allow typewriters in his news or editorial rooms because he felt thathis writers tended to string out their stories or editorials and what he wantedwas a clear-cut, sharply defined statement of fact or opinion without quantitiesof expressive but unnecessary verbiage.

     The editors wrote with pen or pencil. Duringterritorial days and through much of the Civil War period every Kansas editoralso packed a gun. The old Colt's horse pistol was as much the necessaryequipment of an editor in those days as was his pencil and a piece of scratchpaper, or maybe just an old envelope.

     With one or two exceptions I am inclined to thebelief that no Kansas editor was actually bloodthirsty. They seldom shot tobolster their views or their ego but toted their guns purely as a matter ofpersonal protection against viciousness. There is little sign of lust to kill inall the history of Kansas journalism, as rowdy, vituperative, flamboyant,pitiless and partisan as it was in the early days.

     You should remember that Kansas was settled bycrusaders, either from the North or the South, men and women who were willing togive their lives and their property in support of or in opposition to humanslavery. There were no pennyweights, no shrinking violets within or without thenewspaper profession in those days. Pillage, torture and murder were concomitantsof the times. It was frequently a question of the survival of the quickest on thedraw. Like their contemporaries in the crusade editors took sides. There was nositting on the fence in those days. You were either for or against slavery andall of its works and you lived and acted accordingly and always tried to actfirst and examine into the probable intentions of the other fellows or theirgroups afterward.

     The editors in Kansas for the first ten years ofits history as a politicalentity, either as a territory or a state, fought fire with fire. Fire andbrimstone was a necessary ingredient of their views upon the slavery question,border ruffians, jayhawking, murder, theft and the general cussedness of anyeditor or others who happened to have leanings toward the other side of anyquestion.

     Those men, on both sides, were masters ofvigorous English. They knew orconcocted virile expressions. They applied the barbed


epithet where they thought it would do the most good. Personal and editorialabuse was not uncommon. They spoke and they lived not only vigorously butviolently and some died with their boots on.

     Those editors were the embodiment of the driveand force of a crusader. Theynever were neutrals and never nonpartisan. Their abusive expressions were theoff-shoot of enthusiasm, and psychologists assert that concentration for anyonealong a certain line induces obsessions and engenders personal animosities.The editors of an early day and their constituents made no distinction betweenpolitics and other questions of moment. If an editor were "agin" something he wasalso "ferninst" the personality that was sponsoring whatever project the editorhappened to be "agin" at the moment. There was no distinction between editorialfreedom and personal freedom in those days. If an editor objected to any programor the views of any person it was taken to be personal as well as politicalopposition to the proposal under discussion.

     So it is no wonder that editorial viewpointsbred personal animosities. The timesand conditions were such that no other course was open, they believed, as didtheir constituents and those whom the editors opposed. There is an old dogma, "Ifyou believe you are right, let there be no deviation from the charted course."That was firmly imbedded in the minds and personalities of the men and women whoconstituted the citizenship of Kansas in those early days. And it applied to theeditorial brethren as well as to the ordinary sovereign squat-meaning Mr. AverageCitizen.

     Some mention must be made of a group ofnewspaper men, not editors, butcorrespondents for Eastern papers, who packed pistols as well as language and hadan important part of keeping aroused the question of squatter sovereignty and howslavery was to be driven from the new territory by force of numbers and arms whenneeded.

     This group of audacious writers wrote feelinglyand generally quite accurately ofa passionate and raucous period in the history of Kansas. All of them wererugged, a few ruthless,.they recorded the progress of human history as they sawit, fearlessly and sometimes intolerantly. They engaged in bitter and acrimoniousdebates in their newspapers over policies of the two factions of Antislaverysettlers and, like the settlers, they were one of them and fought personally andwith their pens to make Kansas a free state.

     Horace Greeley visited Kansas early. Dr. EdwardEverett Hale wrote a book aboutthe new territory without ever setting foot on


its soil. Many of these correspondents did come to Kansas to write aboutaffairsand remained to help mould the affairs of the new state and to live within itsborders until their own hour glass ran out. Some of them held public office in alater day.

     Marcus J. Parrott, Martin F. Conway, Col.Richard J. Hinton, Samuel F. Tappan,the Hutchinsons, William A. Phillips-later a member of congress from Kansas andfor whom Camp Phillips was named, James Redpath, Richard Realf, James M.Winchell-later to be chairman of the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention, JohnHenry Kagi, John E. Cook and many others were in this group of correspondents,all militant advocates of Democratic processes, so long as it meant thedestruction of slavery and the slave power.

     Those of you who may have taken only a cursoryglance at Kansas history willremember the sacking of Lawrence, the tossing of the type and printing presses ofthe Free-State newspapers into the Kansas river. There were other instances of asimilar nature at Atchison and Leavenworth and print shops were wrecked at otherpoints because the editors were too outspoken, too vehement possibly, in theiradvocacy of either the anti- or the pro-slavery causes. But these losses did notdeter the editors a single minute. They borrowed money or type or printingequipment and their papers came out shortly after these episodes just as bitterlyassailing the other side and as plain-spoken in support of their beliefs as ifnothing had happened.

     Dan Anthony I of Leavenworth deserves topbilling among the pistol-packing pencilpushers. He fought a duel, was shot at numerous times, was seriously wounded onceand killed a rival editor in his own home town. All of these incidents occurredduring the territorial or early statehood days, and he carried two big horsepistols for many years and to his dying day these lethal weapons, ready to go,laid on or in the top drawer of his desk. During the later period of forty yearshe never had occasion to use this armament, but it was well known that "Ole Dan"was always ready. He mellowed a good deal as he grew older and while his likesand dislikes were just as sharply drawn and aggressively supported or opposed helearned to temper his violence materially.

     The first victim to the pistols of Ole Dan wasR. C. Satterlee, one of theeditors of the Leavenworth Herald. Anthony had heard that a rebel flag hadbeen flown from a store in Iatan, Mo., across the river from Leavenworth. He wentover to see about it, visited the store where it was displayed, and returned torelate his adventures in his paper, The Conservative. [1] TheHerald copied the Anthony version


and then printed another version, concluding: "Whereupon, it is said, Anthonymade double-quick time out of the store down the railroad track, with coat-tailsextended, and the utmost horror depicted on his countenance." [2]

     The next day Anthony called at the Heraldoffice and inquired for Satterlee. When his rival was not in the office Anthonyand a friend left. They met Satterlee a short distance from the Heraldoffice and after an exchange of a few words the shooting began, which resulted inthe death of Satterlee and the wounding of Anthony's companion. [3]

     About the close of the war Anthony engaged in aviolent controversy in support ofCapt. J. B. Swain, "recently sentenced by a court martial at Fort Leavenworth forkilling rebels." In his paper Anthony said:

     Col. Jennison gave the orders for the killing,and when called on to testify, denied his verbal order[4]

The next day there appeared this advertisement in the Leavenworth DailyTimes, then published by P. H. Hubbell & Co., and later purchased byAnthony:

     D. R. Anthony, in his statement of May 11th, inregard to me, lied, and knew he lied, when making it.

(Signed) C. R. JENNISON [5]

     Anthony met Jennison on the street the followingday. Jennison called to Anthonythat he wanted to talk to him. Anthony asserted that he backed away and advisedJennison that he did not want to talk to him and further that Jennison was armedwith at least two eight-inch navy revolvers.

     The shooting began and Jennison was wounded inthe leg. [6] Anthony was acquitted of a charge of assault with intent to kill.[7]

     Later another rival editor, W. W. Embry, shotAnthony [8] and Embry was killed byThomas Thurston, a former employe of Anthony. [9] The wounds of Anthony were sosevere that medical journals of the time said, "So far as we can ascertain there.are no parallels in the annals of surgery of a man surviving such a wound."Colonel Anthony did survive and lived many years as an aggressive, militanteditor.


     Anthony engaged in many fist fights withcitizens. He apparently had no personal fear of anybody at any time. He was mayorat Leavenworth, and Gen. Thomas Ewing, then commander of the district of theborder, had Anthony arrested and taken to Kansas City and martial law wasdeclared in Leavenworth because the mayor had refused to allow some Missouriansto reclaim horses which they believed had been taken from Missouri and were beingheld by Kansas Antislavery men. Anthony was held by the soldiers only one day andmartial law was lifted. On returning, the evening of September 8, 1863, Anthonyfound his fellow citizens assembled to greet him. He addressed them in part:

     Yesterday, I was brutally arrested and marchedout of town with two thieves at myside, followed by a company of soldiers with cocked revolvers pointed at my back.Tonight, I returned to Leavenworth, my home, escorted by a committee of ten ofyour truest and best men.
Yesterday, Martial Law reigned in Leavenworth-today it is scattered to the fourwinds of Heaven. Yesterday we were despondent, today we are triumphant. . . . Thethieves who had me in arrest, left in a hurry. . . . Had Gen. Ewing made the samehaste when he left here in pursuit of Quantrill, with his enemy in the front,that his detectives and soldiers did with an imaginary foe in the rear of them,Quantrill would not have escaped from the butchery at Lawrence with impunity. [10]

     A. F. Collamore, Leavenworth correspondent forthe old Kansas City (Mo.) Times, wrote of Anthony in 1880:

     The fiendish, bloodthirsty proprietor of theLeavenworth Times, is so fearfully low down and utterly despicable, here,where he is thoroughly known, that the very dogs, the sorriest mongrels or themangiest Spitz, would, in a certain contingency, pass him by, and cross a countywrithing with agony, in search of a cleaner post. For twenty-two years, it hasbeen his habit to call decent men, who opposed his lunacies, "dirty dogs,""gamblers," "skunks," "drunkards," "scoundrels," etc. His beastiality ofdisposition, and brutishness of heart, have banished him from the walk in life ofevery gentleman, and he stalks through our streets, despised, shunned, andhideous to the sight of those who, with gentle instincts or cultivated habits,loathe disagreeable or disgusting surroundings. Ignoring decency, to answer anargument, or refute a charge, he even resorts to his vocabulary of billingsgatewhich springs spontaneous from a putrid heart, and scatters his blackguardism invery poor English. Gentlemen, congregated on the sidewalk, scatter at hisapproach, as though a cyclone of epidemic pestilence was imminent, and ladiesshudder, as they drop their veils and shrink with horror, when they realize hisvicinage. . . [11]

     From the above it may be gleaned by all thatCollamore didn't like Anthony. Itmay be said here that the respect was mutual, for


Anthony wrote of Collamore and two others, that they had "for years beenassociates and participants . . . in whisky drinking, gambling and debauchery.The trio embraces three of the lowest, dirtiest, filthiest scoundrels that everinfested any place on earth." [12]

     Anthony was a participant in many affrays asidefrom his shooting affairs witheditors. Gen. James C. Stone, one-time resident at Leavenworth, is reported tohave beaten Anthony with an umbrella. Collamore's account says that "Anthonybacked for half a block while he received the castigation and then ran yellingfor mercy." [13]

     One of Anthony's employees, who learned thenewspaper business under the fieryeditor of the Leavenworth Times, has written: "He was a hard task-master,yet a good one. His likes and dislikes were very marked. If he didn't like you itwas best to remain in the background, for he never forgot why he disliked you." [14]

     One of the interesting incidents in the careerof Colonel Anthony and anenlightened sidelight on his character, is the campaign he waged against his owncousin, George T. Anthony, for a second term as governor of Kansas. George T.Anthony had had the most active support of the colonel in the first campaign, butthey quarreled over a matter of policy during the first few months of GovernorAnthony's term and became bitter political enemies. So acrimonious were theattacks by Colonel Anthony upon his cousin and so actively did he wage hiscampaign that the governor had only a smattering of votes in the convention whichnominated John P. St. John as the Republican candidate for governor and thusdenied Governor Anthony a second term.

     The next in line of the pistol-packin' editorstakes us to Topeka, where anotherimportant shooting affray involving editors occurred. J. Clarke Swayze was theeditor of the Topeka Blade. He had long been engaged in sharp newspapercontroversies with F. P. Baker, editor of the Commonwealth and with JohnW. and V. P. Wilson, former editors of the Topeka Times.

     Swayze accused the Wilsons of padding the billsfor county printing andfrequently printed reflections upon the integrity of the Wilsons. The Wilsonsretaliated and the bitter controversy continued for many months. On March 27,1877, John Wilson put on his war paint, donned his lethal implements and wenthunting for


Swayze. He found him within a matter of minutes and when the smoke of battlecleared Swayze was mortally wounded. [15]

     The late John Wesley Roberts, the founder of theOskaloosa Independent andgrandfather of the present editor, engaged in numerous sharp controversies in hispapers and personally with the methods of Colonel Anthony. Yet, when Anthony waslying near death from the bullets of Embry, Roberts, who was then editing theLeavenworth Daily Commercial, frequently sat beside his brother editor anddiscussed philosophy, politics, economics, religion or any other topic which cameto their attention. [16]

     Roberts was one of the pistol-totin' editors,not for any rival editor but forcitizens who felt themselves aggrieved because Roberts had stepped upon theirtoes.

     The Oskaloosa Independent said:

     The Independent editorially denouncedjayhawking. During all the years of the war this newspaper continued with heavyindictments of this unlawful business, and became, thereby, the object of hatredand threatened revenge by the horse-thief crowd, which grew to considerablenumbers in these parts.

     Even after 70 years the Independentcannot name names or tell all it knows about this business, but the editorrelates the following to show the temper of those times:

     Toward the close of the war its editor, J. W.Roberts, was repeatedly threatenedand plots were made to do him bodily harm and destroy his property. Men followedhim about the unlighted streets, whistled their signals in the darkness, and atone time during the county fair plotted the burning of the printing office. Warned of this mob action a party of 16 armed citizens of the town took positionsat the windows of the office and stood guard through the night. The toughs gotcold feet and failed to show up and a killing was averted. At another time threeof the gang were appointed to go to the editor's residence in the night, call himout and beat him up. A neighbor woman, sitting up with a sick child, saw thethree fellows go by the house and hide in a big patch of jimson weeds in the barnlot. The editor had been warned of the plot and had three loaded guns at hisbedside. But again the nerve of the scoundrels failed them and they slunk away inthe darkness. In later years Mr. Roberts remarked to his son, then associateeditor, that while he and his friends won the long conflict and saw law and orderrestored when three of the outlaw leaders were driven from the county, he"wouldn't go through it again for a warranty deed to Jeffersoncounty."

     Once a time bomb, crudely made, was placed inthe door of his printshop, but itwas discovered in time to prevent damage or injury. Roberts engaged in a bitterfight against a gang of horse-


thieves who called themselves the Union League, and finally drove them out ofthecounty. An attempt to wreck this printing plant was made because he espoused thecause of prohibition. [17]

     Two decades from territorial days the fightingspirit of the Kansas editors wasstill rampant but they were not so much given to riddling their rival editorswith bullets as with satirical invective and verbal brickbats. Many of themcontinued their vituperative onslaughts down into the early years of the presentcentury. Their methods of devastation changed from lead to words, but the wordswere tossed about with equal vigor and colorful design as those earlier editorstossed leaden missiles at each other and their enemies.

     It wasn't until later that the editors generallychanged their ways. Possibly itwas not until William Allen White pointed out that the masters of abusivelanguage in Kansas editorial chairs were either dead or in the poorhouse that thegeneral plan of name calling was replaced by vigorous arguments and carefulmarshaling of facts and figures to win debates and discussions.

     The period from the late 1860's down to theclose of the century may be dividedinto two distinct sections, both intermingled as to time but widely different asto locale and purpose.

     We herewith present some excerpts from variousnewspapers of our fair state inwhich the editors expressed their more or less general or specific views relativeto their rivals. It should be noted that these were purely newspaper rows betweeneditors of the same neighborhood or in adjacent counties where something occurredwhich aroused an editor to a determination to drive his rival out of thecommunity, not by threats but by the most scathing, ruthless, meaningful,sometimes vulgar but generally colorful epithet, invective and innuendo.

     Let us look now upon the proofs thereof: FrankC. Montgomery was the editor ofthe Hays Sentinel and Harry Freese was competitor. There were numerousflare-ups between the two editors and some name calling.

     Montgomery didn't mind being called a horse-thief. He had a horse. He didn't mindhis rival calling him a skunk for his rival smelled bad. But when Freese accusedMontgomery of stealing a picket fence, which Montgomery did need, but didn'tsteal, it was too much. He went on the warpath, found Freese and they engaged ina street ruckus that was long the talk of the town. The record does not show howlong the rival editor stayed in the hospital, but


Frank Montgomery carried to his grave a twisted and gnarled finger as theresultof the fracas.

     T. W. Eckert, editor of the Arkansas CityTraveler, wrote of the editor of the Arkansas City Enquirer:

     It is reported that Charlie McIntire may soontake charge of Greer's supplement in this city. Charlie is all right. In fact,anybody would be an improvement On the eunuch who is snorting around in thebasement, but unable to do anything.

     That paragraph cost Eckert $700 in a libeljudgment. The Kansas Free State, Lawrence, April 7, 1855:

     It was exceedingly amusing to see how very muchsome men were alarmed in this place on the day of election. The editor of theHerald was concealed most of the day, until near night, then, loaded down withrevolvers and bowies, sneaked over to the polls and voted after the Missourianshad dispersed. A number of others did not go to the polls.
We have heard of hybrids of various descriptions, but only once of a crossbetween the quadruped and insect. That isolated case is the editor of the IowaPoint Dispatch-he is half "fyste" and half tumble-bug! His quadruped nature isindicated by his bark, and his insect nature, by the substance he delights torevel in!
"Venerable," of the Dispatch, acknowledges his indebtedness to us, to theamount of a hundred barrels of corn.-Keep your corn, neighbor, for homeconsumption; if we should have a hard Winter, provender for asses will be scarcein the Spring!

     From the Marysville Enterprise, May 16,1868:

     Cone [of the Nemaha Courier, Seneca] forthe three hundred and fifty-fifth time, refers to our being in the guard-house onone occasion. We have acknowledged that fact so often that it is useless to do soany more. Cone-you idiot-you Jackass-red-headed, frizzle-headed, mush-headed,slab-sided, brainless deformity and counterfeit imitation of a diseasedpolecat-we inform you again, once more and emphatically, we were there. But itwasn't for stealing type!

     From The Advisor, Voltaire, April 22,1886:

     The snooping propensities of the Colby Cat arefully equal to those of the old "yaller" variety, and like the "yaller" cat, iscontinually in trouble by reason of it. For the past winter the Colby feline hasbeen too much engaged in Sheridan county to smell much in any other direction,but the vigorous kicking it has received from that quarter has driven it out andnow the nose of the beast is in this county. We are loaded for bear and don'twant to monkey with cats, but if some things continue, there will be an excellentopportunity for some one to start a manufactory of fiddle strings in Thomascounty.

     From the Ottawa Republican, October 22,1874:

     For the most fulsome and able-bodied lying werecommend the Ottawa Journal as being in advance of any sheet in Kansas.Their elementary principles are founded upon falsehood and their politicalcontest upon exaggeration of the most exaggerated sort. It has grown to animpossibility for them to make the most common statement about the most commonaffairs, without falsifying and enlarging.

     From the Dodge City Times, October 6,1877:

     After a sojourn of some weeks in the dog house,or, as it has been more recently dubbed, the "lime kiln," Mr. John Blake and hisroom-mate, "Shorty,"


are again as free as air. They were released immediately after the lastmeeting of the Council. Mr. John Blake greatly regrets that he has been thuscompelled to eat the city's bread and drink the city's water for so long a time,as it made him think of the dry and dreary times when he was a good templar andtasted not the beverage.
Although we have promised Mr. Blake not to say anything that would injure hisstanding in the community, yet we are compelled to waive that promise for onceand say that he is about as onery a specimen of the genus-homo as we ever saw,and we do earnestly believe that his proper sphere is the rock pile. He mightmake a good well digger or street scavenger if he was properly watched and keptat work, but as a man on his own merits, he is no good.
As for Shorty, he is not so bad. But he will persist in always being around underfoot, and never was known to refuse a drink. 'He might have some style about himif he was a mind to, but he don't seem to care.
These two ex-guests of ours, we hope, will not cause the city useless trouble andexpense any more.

     There was intense rivalry between Atchison andLeavenworth to become the tradingand political centers of the territory soon to become a state.

     R. S. Kelley and John H. Stringfellow foundedthe Squatter Sovereign at Atchison, a Proslavery paper. At Leavenworth waspublished the Proslavery Kansas Weekly Herald, edited by H. Rives Pollard.Wrote Pollard May 11, 1855:

     It is with great reluctance we condescend tonotice anything from the vituperative pen of the insignificant, puerile, silly,black-guard who at present presides over the Editorial conduct of theSovereign. Atchison may be, but Leavenworth is not the place where PeterPindar's remark, "every black-guard scoundrel is a king," is recognized by thecommunity. . . . The egotistical dupe of the Sovereign thinks we are arepresentation of the verdancy of Virginia. . . . Be that as it may, we canretort by saying that the mendacity of Missouri is represented in the person ofone R. S. Kelley, of Atchison.

     To which Kelley replied in no uncertain termsthat Pollard was the scum of theearth, a blackguard, muckraker and various other terms not of endearment. To thisPollard replied (issue of June 1)

     The low, silly, garrulous numbskull of theSquatter Sovereign, yclept Kelley-the contemptible, whining, blind puppyof Atchison, that answers to the name of "Bob," continues to pour forth histirade of abuse upon us with unrelenting fury. The Sovereign, in speakingof our "low flung language," says: "He can assail no one but in the language ofthe doggery."
It is to be presumed that when we assail a dog, it will be in languageintelligible to him. We look upon Kelley as a dog, and consequently thought the"language of the doggery" suitable to the occasion.

     In the peroration of the Sovereign's article,Kelley becomes exceedinglybellicose, and gives us to understand he "will fight." This does not frighten us:if Kelley wishes to fight, and will designate some time and place for thatpurpose, we will meet him.


     The two rival editors of newspapers in rivaltowns continued their tirades andPollard became so incensed that he challenged Kelley to a duel. But Kelley wastoo busy promoting the slavery cause and suggested that if his rival would devoteas much time and space to editing a newspaper worthy of the name and support thecause for which the papers were founded and boost the community in which heproposed to live, his rival wouldn't have time to fight a duel.

     Next possibly we should consider some newspaperrows with a somewhat differentpurpose in view. These grew out of the bitter county-seat contests which markedthe settlements of some of the western Kansas counties. The driving force of therival editors was not so much the general annihilation of their competitors asthe destruction of the claims of the rival town for the county seat. About thefirst thing that the promoters of a town sought was an editor. About the onlyrequirement they laid down was that the editor be the owner of a shirt-tail fullof type, a battered old press and a command of abusive language intended to tearto pieces whatever upstart might undertake the publication of a newspaper,alleged or real, in the rival community.

     The things those birds said about each other, toput it mildly, were not nice, inaccepted parlance. There were many fightin' words used by editors of an earlierday and there is reason to believe they meant most of what they wrote, as witnessthese excerpts:

     From the Hugoton Herald:

     Now if we had Sam Wood hung and the deadheadsthat came over from Springfield to attend to our business tarred and feathered,we would have our dirty work done for the spring. The adherents of Wood are anitinerant class of gamblers, toughs and disreputable roustabouts, the mostdespicable followers the heart of such a contemptible old villain could wish.


     From The Jacksonian, Cimarron, August 2,1889:

     We are "onto" the lop-eared, lantern-jawed,half-bred and half-born whisky-soaked, pox-eaten pup who pretends to edit thatworthless wad of subdued out-house bung-fodder, known as the IngallsMessenger. He is just starting out to climb the journalistic banister andwants us to knock the hay-seed out of his hair, pull the splinters out of hisstern and push him on and up. We'll fool him. No free advertising from us.Murphy, k. m. a.

     E. L. Cline, editor of the Garfield CountyCall, Eminence, November 25, 1887:

     Ravanna, a hamlet conceived in infamy and buriedin disgrace. The most degraded of . . . bats was one who flourished as the editorof a newspaper called the [Ravannal Record. . . . He fliesfrom


one corner of the rookery which, by the way, was intended for a court house,to another, regardless of stone walls or contact therewith. His cheek is of flintand the indentions in some places have almost worn through the wall. He is agreat curiosity to every visitor of the "deserted village," and oftentimes sincehave men well versed in veracity tried to win from him his laurels as a liar butin every instance met with disasterous failure. He stands alone more than thepeer of any liar on the earth or in the sun, moon and stars, the balance of theuniverse still to hear from. For this fame he has become immortal and willcontinue to eke out a miserable bat-like existence until some undiscovered planetwill send forth an expert who will rob him of his fame, then like Sampson shornof his locks, he will sink into insignificance and pull the dilapidated walls ofthe rookery down upon him.

     The Chieftain, published at Ravanna,referred to the Garfield County Call as Gall.

The Call, of October 21, 1887, said:

     Poor fool! Go off and soak your head, and do nottry to defend the $2.500.00 Boodle Bull any more, for you can't tell lies withoutlosing what little brains you have got, and saying just the opposite of what youwant to.

     The Chieftain said:

     Eminence is thriving like a potato bug in anonion patch.

     The Eminence Call said:

     Although in the interest of humanity, commondecency and honest government wedesire that this enterprising, God-fearing and progressive city of Ravanna shallbe and remain the permanent county seat of this magnificent county, dowered bynature with a climate that makes the most favored part. of Italy seem bycomparison like a fever-breeding, miasmatic swamp, yet we refuse, in speaking ofthe denizens of that nondescript collection of bug-infested huts which its fewand scabby inhabitants have the supreme gall to call a town, a few miles distant,to descend to the depths of filth and indecency indulged in by the loathsomecreature who sets the type for an alleged newspaper in that God-forsakencollection of places unworthy to be called human habitations.
While we can only think of that loathsome tramp with shuddering contempt, ourloathing is mingled with a certain degree of pity. He of course was notresponsible for the fact that he was born a complete degenerate and fitted outwith a face that causes children to scream with fright and old, staid farm horsesto break their halters and run away when they see him coming toward them. Thosewho have known him from childhood say that the first sentence he ever uttered wasa lie and since then he has never told the truth except on compulsion.
His first known crime was stealing the pennies from the eyes of his deadgrandmother and his next was robbing the cup of a blind organ grinder. He is thekind of a man who sleeps on a manure pile from choice and whose breath has beenknown to turn the stomach of a veteran skunk.
We only indulge in this description of his person in order to satisfy thecuriosity of such of our readers as have never had the misfortune to see him, sothat they may be spared being nauseated by getting in hisvicinity.


     The rival editor replied by saying that he couldnot waste space on a man who disproved the Darwinian theory, because it wasimpossible that any monkey could have been the ancestor of such a monstrosity andthat the only reason this editor had not been hung long ago was that it wasimpossible to keep the rope from slipping over his head. In fact he did not havea head, his neck had simply grown up and haired over. "There was a tradition," hesaid, "that at one time he did have what seemed to be a head, but that a wen hadgrown up beside it. He was taken to have the wen removed. The surgeon beingsomewhat nearsighted and in a hurry, cut off the head and left the wen and theeditor's own folks didn't discover the difference for a month afterward."

     Neither of these rival towns had more than 400bona fide voters but at the county-seat election one town polled 17,000 votes andthe other 18,000. The town casting the fewer number of votes started a contest,the editor saying that this was the time to show "whether our boasts about a freeballot and a fair count meant anything, or have the liberties of the people beendestroyed by the most unprincipled villains who ever stuffed a ballot box?"

     The Ravanna Chieftain said:

     We too might have resorted to fraud, but ourcitizens, relying on their constitutional rights and believing that there couldnot be such shameless villainy in this free land, decided to allow only legalvotes to be counted; but the human hyenas shall not prevail. If the courts aretoo cowardly or too venal to rebuke such outrages then a brave and God-fearingpeople will rise up in their wrath and smite these polluted lepers hip andthigh.

     The late lamented Tom McNeal got into thenewspaper business by accident and a bucket full of sorghum molasses. Tom waseducated to be a lawyer and was just getting into the practice when a moreadventurous brother, who had come to Kansas and settled in Barber county, sentfor him to come to the short grass country.

     Tom came, expecting to be a lawyer and grow upwith the country. But instead, he turned editor, forgot the law, except for aterm or two in the legislature when he first proposed and successfullyaccomplished the granting of the right of the mothers of this state to vote inschool elections.

     M. J. Cochran was the editor of The Mailat Medicine Lodge. He was a careless printer, had little command of English andfew of the attributes of a decent, respectable editor. Besides those deficiencieshis morals were not of the very highest type.

     But let Tom tell the story himself


     On a decidedly cool night . . . the regulatorstook the editor from his humble office, stripped him of his clothing and thenadministered a punishment which I think was entirely unique and unprecedented inthe treatment of editors. There was no tar in the town and not a feather bed tobe opened, but an enterprising settler had brought in a sorghum molasses mill theyear before and as sorghum generally grew well there, had manufactured a cropinto thick, ropy molasses. Owing to the cold weather the molasses was thicker andropier than usual. The regulators secured a gallon of this, mixed it well withsandburs, and administered this mixture liberally to the nude person of theeditor. I do not need to tell my readers who are familiar with the nature of thesandbur, that it is an unpleasant vegetable to have attached to one's person.
Other citizens . . . told the editor that he could remain as long as he wishedand they would be responsible for his safety. Cochran expressed his appreciation. . . but confessed to them that the atmosphere of the town did not seemsalubrious or congenial to him. . . . [19]

     Tom's brother, J. W. McNeal, and hisbrother-in-law, E. W. Iliff, bought The Mail [20] and shortly thereafterTom McNeal became an editor and philosopher.During territorial days and directly following the Civil War, there were manybitter onslaughts upon the integrity of editors by persons offended by editors.Sometimes those persons actively engaged in some activity with which an editordisagreed, did not have a newspaper with which to make reply. So they resorted tohandbills, some of them quite large and sometimes the language was not onlyvigorous but flamboyantly vehement, as witness this handbill, published in whatis generally termed as "circus type," meaning the largest type the printingoffice owned:

To the Public

I, the undersigned, on my own personal honor and responsibility, do herebypublicly declare G. W. Brown, Editor of the Herald of Freedom, to be a wilfulLIAR, a malicious SLANDERER, and a most contemptible COWARD; all of which chargesI hold myself in readiness to prove.

Lawrence, July 14, 1857


     Thirty years ago William Allen White wrote theobituary of the last of theimportant newspaper rows in Kansas. He closed the era under review in 1907, withthese pertinent and pointed remarks:

     There is in progress in a small Kansas town, atthe present time, a newspaper row that reminds one of the halcyon days when therag across the street was edited by a lop-eared leper. Unfortunately for thepicturesque in journalism, the lop-eared lepers are nearly all dead, or in thepoorhouse. We seldom


     hear of them any more, and we sigh for the touchof a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still.
In this Kansas row, one of the editors is described as a hyena that prowls bynight. The hyena that prowls by night replies that his antagonist is to allintents and purposes a polecat. The polecat appears slightly dazed by thisrebuke, but rallies bravely, and intimates that the hyena would consider it nocrime to steal the coppers from a dead man's eyes, although such a chargeinvolves nature faking; for what would a hyena do with coppers-or, for thatmatter, why should a dead man wear them on his eyes?
The hyena ignores this accusation, and expresses his profound conviction that thepolecat would rob a widow's hen roost. And so the cheerful controversy proceeds.It is really refreshing, as viewed from a distance, and it is too bad that theProminent Business Men . . . are always butting in. They ought to be sendingmarked copies of the local papers all over the universe.[22]

     I think now we should consider the fightingeditors of Kansas in their political activities, or at least their views uponpolitical questions and the promoters thereof. They had views of personalitiesand projects and the Kansas editors viewed with alarm and pointed with pride atthings that were or ought to be and often pointed the finger of scorn and in nouncertain language told their subscribers about those who would seek positions ofhonor and trust within the commonwealth.

     It might be well, at this point, to point outthat the constitution of Kansas established the freedom of the press and thesupreme court of this state enunciated the doctrine that a political figure hasno rights that anyone is bound to respect. Even before that view was expressed inlegal verbiage, the earlier editors assumed the dogma was correct and actedaccordingly. Much can be quoted from the fulminations of various editors of anearly day regarding political figures. Suffice it to quote two expressions ofeditorial opinion about Jim Lane, as somewhat typical of the directness ofapproach of these editors toward political personalities. First from theKansas State Journal, Lawrence, April 6, 1865:

     The grim chieftain of Kansas [Lane] slew hisenemies by wagging his jawbone; his prototype-Sampson-killed off the Philistineswith a weapon of the same kind.-Tribune.

     From the White Cloud Kansas Chief, April19, 1860:

     MUZZLE THE HOUND!--Jim Lane, the demagogue,whoremonger and murderer, is peregrinating the Territory, for the ostensiblepurpose of denouncing the issuing of Territorial Claim Bonds, authorized by thelate Legislature, but in reality to gratify a personal spite, and abuse Gov.Robinson. In this despicable business he is encouraged by Republicans, andgenerally makes it con-


venient to ease himself of his overflowing bile at Republican CountyConventions.

     Daniel W. Wilder, long-time editor and politicalfigure, engaged in many sharpcontroversies with Gov. Charles Robinson, first governor of Kansas, a leader ofthe New England Emigrant Aid Society and directing force of one branch of theAbolition contest. It should be remembered that Robinson believed that Kansascould be won to the Antislavery cause through mere force of numbers. He wasbitterly opposed to John Brown, Jim Lane, Wilder, Sam Wood and others whobelieved in direct action. Brown, Lane and the others held to the doctrine thatfire could best be fought with fire, that murder should be avenged with murder,torture with torture and theft with greater thievery. Robinson and his groupbelieved such nefarious activities were entirely unnecessary and that thecrusading spirit of the North would send such crowds of Abolitionists into Kansasas to make the doctrine of squatter sovereignty a reality and accomplish thedesired result without bloodshed and without plunging the nation into a war overstate rights, which had been abrogated when the constitution was written butstill was and is sometimes to this day claimed to be somewhat of a politicalfetish.

     Robinson, and many of those who opposed him,carried their political feuds totheir graves. Years after the conflict, Robinson wrote a book about theterritorial days. A copy came into the hands of Wilder, who wrote a personalletter to Robinson, which said:

     I am glad you have written the "KansasConflict." You have a personal history well worthy of preservation; the historyof a hero. The historian will never leave you out. But I am decidedly on theother side in the main part of your version, or perversion. Your wife's book isbetter than yours. . . [23]

     The late J. K. Hudson, long-time editor of theTopeka Daily Capital, engaged in numerous editorial forays against thegreat and near great in Kansas political affairs and some of these resulted inpersonal encounters because of the bitterness of the editorial lambastings whichHudson dispensed through thecolumns of his paper.

     A violent encounter between Hudson and CassiusGaius Foster of the United States district court came about with the adoption bythe people of Kansas of constitutional prohibition. The Capital supportedprohibition and Judge Foster as vigorously assailed the doctrine. Judge Fosterwas the instigator of some litigation involving political activities of politicalenemies and also directed against


Hudson and the Capital. In the course of the long series of lawsuits,Hudson wrote:

     The editor of the Capital offers noexcuses for having stripped the judicial pretender of his dignity, and shown thepeople the danger of placing the great power of a United States districtjudgeship for life in the hands of a man who neither appreciates or understandsthe fact that his office should not be used for political purposes or to protecthis narrow, personal prejudices. . , [24]

     A more modern version of a similar theme can bepresented by a study of the longeditorial controversy between Clyde M. Reed, former governor and now UnitedStates senator, in his Parsons Sun, and Judge John C. Pollock of theUnited States district court of Kansas.

     The Farmers Alliance movement, which later grewinto the Populist politicalorganization, brought forth from the editorial pens and pencils the most robustinitiative, the sharpest criticism and the most vigorous individuality of anymodern political period in the history of the state.

     It was an agrarian movement, imbued with thefeeling that the money changers werein control of the affairs of the government; that the farmers were being deniedtheir just rights; that the mortgage companies were choking the progress of thegreat farm areas; the railroads were hamstringing the producer of foodstuffs; thepeople were being exploited by the politicians in the interest of the rich; thefarmer was being browbeaten and reduced to peasantry by the machinations ofbusiness and its satellites.

     It produced William A. Peffer, he of the longwhiskers; Elizabeth (better knownas Mary Ellen) Lease, who advised the farmers to raise more hell and less corn;Jerry Simpson, better known as "Sockless" Jerry, although he was never caughtwithout those appurtenances for the nether limbs; Annie Diggs; Frank Doster andhis doctrine that the rights of the user are paramount to the rights of theowner; Gov. L. D. Lewelling; Gov. John W. Leedy and a host of others, brilliantof mind, quick of wit and a wholesouled determination that their cause was just.There was nothing anemic about these men and women of vision and determination;and there was no padded bludgeon which they used or which their editorial orpolitical opponents used on them. They struck from the shoulder with all theforceful and colorful language which the dictionary provided. The editorialopposition was not in the least backward, either.


     Senator Peffer, long-time editor of theKansas Farmer, now one of SenatorCapper's 57 varieties, the only Populist ever elected United States senator fromKansas; the man who defeated the erudite Ingalls, was the writing-leader of thegroup. It may be here noted that nearly all of the projects suggested by theFarmers Alliance and the Populists are now a part of the law of the land,including postal savings; the direct election of senators; regulation of railroadrates and services; women's suffrage; the regulation of bond issues and sales;the recall of public officials and some others. Projects which they favored andnot now effective were consolidation of the railroads; direct election of thepresident; a postal telegraph system; the initiative and referendum; governmentownership and control over coal beds and a proposal that the president be limitedto a single term.

     Peffer's real name was William Alfred. Manycommentators referred to him asWilliam Anarchy Peffer. One editor wrote: "Peffer is old enough to quit buildingcastles in his whiskers."

     Another wrote:

     Senator Peffer is not obliged to spend money fora Christmas tree. He simply puts glass balls, small candles, strings of popcornand cornucopias in his magnificent whiskers and there youare.

     Another comment:

     Senator Peffer was a gentle soul who thought infigures and talked the same way. He had no style either in oratory or writing,being dull, prosy, cumbersome and interminable. But he knew a lot of things, orthought he knew them and exuded statistics from every pore to provethem.

     The most interesting series of political letterswhich Kansas has produced waswritten by "Fightin' Joe" Hudson of the Capital at the very beginning of GovernorLewelling's term, the first Populist administration in Kansas.

     In this connection, it may be noted thatcommunism, as a political organizationor entity, was first brought into Kansas by Hudson in that long debate. In anextensive examination of Kansas papers no mention of communism as we understandthe term was found. The French Commune, of course, was well known, but did nothave the connotation of the present day, or, as I believe Hudson construed it.Let me quote from an editorial of January 13, 1893:

     You and your co-workers of the Populist party .. . have a well-defined plan, after gaining possession of both branches of theLegislature, to impeach Chief Justice Horton and Justice Johnston, of the SupremeCourt. Doster, the anarchist, will dishonor the seat so long honored by JudgeHorton, and when you control both branches of the Legislature, the executive andthe


judiciary, it will be appropriate for you tohaul down the stars and stripes that float over the Capitol and run up theappropriate red flag of anarchy and communism.

In another letter, January- 15, Hudsonwrote:

     Permit me to congratulate you that there were nomore blunders that could have been made in your first week. You exhausted thesupply. . .

     At another point, also on January 15, Hudsonwrote:

     The most reckless orator of your calamity partynever pictured a more defiant executive head than yourself for a revolutionarymovement against the tyranny of law and good order. . . . The present revolutionwas impairing your ability to state facts, while you yet retained the capacity ofthe average speakers of your party to substitute bombast for reason and threatsof lawlessness for patriotism. It is the duty of the press to point out thepublic officers who endeavor to pass gall for ability and windy bravado forcourage.

     Again, on January 22:

     Your administration . . . for a young thing, hasattracted wide attention on account of its brilliant and original character, itsdefiance of public sentiment, and its reckless disregard of legal forms. Sinceyou read your flamboyant inaugural endorsement of the anarchistic spirit and thetreasonable tendency of your party, . . . Kansas has received more ridicule,contempt, and criticism than ever in a dozen yearsbefore.

     In a campaign after the legislative war, WilliamAllen White wrote what isgenerally termed his second most powerful editorial, "What's the Matter withKansas," [25] a document reprinted many times since his death.

     It will be impossible to close this narrative ofpolitical editorials withoutreference to a more recent campaign than any of the others. This was the almostsingle-handed effort of William Allen White to drive the Ku Klux Klan out ofKansas.

     He derided, kidded, abused, villified andlambasted the organization and itsmembers and also the politicians who coddled the outfit for political expediency.In the Gazette of August 2, 1921, White wrote

     It is an organization of cowards. Not a man init has the courage of his convictions. It is an organization of traitors toAmerican institutions. Not a man in it has faith enough in American courts,American laws, and American executive officers to trust them to maintain law andorder, and it is an organization of lazy butter fingers in politics, or it wouldget out at the primary and the election and clean up the incompetent officialswhom its members think are neglecting to enforce the law.


The Ku Klux Klan in this community is a menace to peace and decent neighborlyliving, and if we find out who is the Imperial Wizard in Emporia we shall guy thelife out of him. He is a joke, you may be sure. But a poor joke atthat.

     When he became a candidate for governor becausehe had reason to believe thecandidates of both the major parties were supported by the Klan, Mr. Whiteannounced in the Gazette of September 20, 1924:

     [The Ku Klux Klan] represents a small minorityof the citizenship and it is organized for purposes of terror. Its terror isdirected at honest, law-abiding citizens, Negroes, Jews and Catholics. . . . Theyare entitled to their full constitutional rights; their rights to life, libertyand the pursuit of happiness. They menace no one. They are good citizens,law-abiding, God-fearing, prosperous, patriotic. Yet, because of their skin,their race, or their creed, the Ku Klux Klan in Kansas is subjecting them toeconomic boycott, to social ostracism, to every form of harassment, annoyance andevery terror that a bigoted minority can use.

     When a governor of Kansas at a public meetingmakes his salutation, "Ladies,gentlemen and polecats of the press"; when a governor of our fair state stands inthe window of his own office in the Kansas statehouse, remarks, as he watches areporter amble along a statehouse walk, "If someone will kill that S-O-B I'llmeet him at the door of the prison with a pardon," it need not surprise anyonethat the editors and reporters replied in harsh words.

     To many of the present day the excerptssubmitted present a rather sordid pictureof Kansas newspaperdom of an early day. But these excerpts are only one facet ofthe newspapers and their editors of that time. It would not be fair or decent toeliminate these and present only the Pollyanna, the flowery stuff, the materialpraising politicians and other editors.

     Something of the period which brought forth thepistol-packin' editors must beunderstood to fully grasp the significance of the editorial explosions submittedherewith.

     Times have changed. No editor of the present daywould offer such fulminations aswere common in an earlier day. They don't run newspapers that way these days.But no record of the early days of Kansas newspapers can leave out the invectiveand denunciation which appeared so frequently. They were a part of the editorialinvestiture of those days when name calling was a fine art but doubtful as to itspotency or efficacy.

     What has been written here has been an attemptto provide not an exhaustive but arepresentative replica of the verbal assaults by the


editors of Kansas. You would be exhausted long before the available materialhadbeen culled from the pages of the newspapers of Kansas.

     What has been presented is intended to be, and Ibelieve fairly represents, the typical fulminations of the scribes of Kansasduring an earlier day. They may be multiplied many times. Many of them, andothers like them not here set down, represent numerous black eyes, some brokennoses; a cracked skull or two, some cauliflower ears and numerous abrasions ofthe scalp, hands and arms. They preferred a meat ax rather than finesse; directaction rather than deftness, and the record indicates they got the desiredresults. They were great characters in those days, intensely interesting tostudy, gifted with imagination, always partisan, never neutral, and thoroughlyimbued with the vision that the function of an editor was to enlighten, educate,interest and entertain, and gosh, how they did it


1. The Conservative, Leavenworth, June 12, 1861. Anthony was thenassociated with D. W. Wilder in the publication of the Conservative. Helater was publisher of the Bulletin and Commercial. TheTimes, which was established in 1857, was acquired by Anthony in 1871, andthe paper has since remained in the control of the Anthony family.
2. The daily Leavenworth Herald, June 13, 1861.
3. Ibid., June 15, 1861.
4. Leavenworth Evening Bulletin, May 11, 1865.
5. Leavenworth Daily Times, May 12, 1865.
6. Leavenworth Daily Conservative, May 14, 1865; Evening Bulletin,May 15, 1865.
7. Ibid., June 2, 16, 1865; Daily Conservative, June 6, 17,1865.
8. Leavenworth Daily Times, May 11, 1875.
9. Ibid., January 3, 1880.
10. Leavenworth Evening Bulletin and Daily Conservative, September9, 1863.
11. Kansas City (Mo.) Times, May 30, 1880.
12. Leavenworth Times, May 28, 1880.
13. Kansas City (Mo.) Times, May 30, 1880.
14. Letter from H. H. Seekler, business manager of the Leavenworth Times,to the writer. March 29, 1944.
15. Topeka Daily Blade, March 27, 28, 1877; Topeka Weekly Blade,March 29, 1877; The Commonwealth, March 28, 1877.
16. Letter from Frank Roberts to the writer, undated.
17. Ibid.
18. Kansas City (Mo.) Star, May 31, 1942.
19. McNeal, T. A., When Kansas Was Young (New York, 1922), pp. 80, 81.
20. The Mail, Medicine Lodge, March 6, 1879; Medicine LodgeCresset, March 20, 1879.
21. Handbill, Manuscripts vault, Kansas State Historical Society.
22. Emporia Gazette, November 6, 1907.
23. Letter, D. W. Wilder to Gov. Charles Robinson, April 27, 1892, in RobinsonCollection, MSS. division, Kansas State Historical Society.
24. Foster vs. Hudson, the Legal and Political History of the Suits Brought byHon. Cassius Gaius Foster, Judge of the United States District Court of Kansas,Against Maj. J. K. Hudson, Editor of Daily Capital, . . . From 1889 to . . .1895 (Topeka, 1895), p. 3,
25. Emporia Daily Gazette, August 15, 1896; Weekly Gazette. August 20,1896.

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