Blue Grass Blade Vs. Hough, Pt. 3: Rev. Hough Nailed Down

Continuing from Part 2 in which the Blue Grass Blade had published Hough’s letter in which he had attested M. D. Leahy’s conversion to Christianity. Here is published refutation by a C. E. Alexander.

A number of new names are introduced here. First, C. E. Alexander, the individual who introduced Leahy to Freethought and who received the July 4th issue of Blue Grass Blade on July 6th, which makes me somewhat envious, as in 2010 it would have take a publication about two weeks to reach me via snail mail. This would be Charles Alexander, born in Pennsylvania, who was living in Canville, Neosho, Kansas in 1880 (Leahy would have lived with him sometime after this) with wife Elizabeth and daughters Willia and Eva.

In Jan 1907, C. E. Alexander had published the follwing letter in Tomorrow Magazine (edited by Parker H. Sercombe from the Spencer-Whiteman Center, a “Rational World Movement”) , which I reproduce here as he was a great influence on Leahy:


Dear Brother: — I was born in Warren county, Pa., on April 2, 1836, my parents having emigrated to that state from Connecticut some years before my birth. I was reared in the Christian superstition, my parents being members of the Baptist church for forty years; but when Spiritualism made its advent they left the church and gave up Bible myths, and lived and died in full faith of their new religion.

From my earliest remembrances I could not harmonize the Bible with a just and all-wise God, who would create man in his own image and then consign him to everlasting punishment for doing something he (God) knew he would do, as the Bible teaches God knows all things from the beginning. My reasoning has completely satisfied and firmly convinced me that there is neither a personal God nor a heaven or a hell after death. I believe that when I lie down in the dreamless sleep of death all will be well.

My motto is to do right because it is right; to do to my fellow man as I would he should do to me. For the past thirty years I have been doing what I could to forward the Free Thought cause. I have read and circulated Free Thought papers, books and magazines, and am always proud to speak of my belief. We have many free thinkers who are afraid to say what they believe, but I am not built that way.

Yours for the Brotherhood of Man,

C. E. Alexander

By way of this July article add to our roster of people associated with Liberal, Missouri, Charles L. Carter, Joseph Gillson, Thomas Balkwill and Joseph Sedgebeer, who established Freethought University with Leahy.

We also learn of an editorial published by C. B. Reynolds, on Freethought University, in H. L. Green’s Freethinker’s magazine. C. B. Reynolds, whose main claim to fame (now) is that he had been tried for blasphemy in Morristown NJ, May 19-20 1887, and was defended by Robert G. Ingersoll.

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One of the favorite weapons of the Christian clergy is that of slander, when dealing with an intellectual foe, and sermons galore have been preached upon the horrors of the dying moments of infidels. The recantation lies told of Paine and Voltaire furnished many a pulpit theme for years, but with the light of history turned full upon such subjects, greater caution has prevailed in the orthodox camp. Only a few weeks ago we reproduced from the London Freethinker an Ingersoll recantation fake, and we still find preachers, of pretended respectability, claiming that certain well-known infidels were converted.

Two weeks ago we published an editorial in criticism of Rev. G. A. Hough’s statements concerning the alleged conversion of M. D. Leahy, first president of the National Freethought University, of Liberal, Mo. We also questioned his statement that this institution was “a pet scheme of Ingersoll’s” whereby the speaker sought to discredit both the institution and the work of the great apostle of American liberty. Later, we published a letter from Mr. Hough in which he sought to give purported facts in connection with M. D. Leahy, Ingersoll, and others, upon which we sought to elicit all possible information from those who know and were familiar with the history of both. Our efforts have been partially rewarded and we have received a communication, published below, which flatly contradicts the statement of the San Francisco preacher, and proves the truth of our previous assertion that an Episcopal preacher may feel safe in what he says so long as it is only given to an unthinking and non-investigating congregation, but the publicity he obtained for his remarks, was a truly dangerous proceeding for his credibility.

In the Freethinkers Magazine, edited and published by that stalwart patriot and Freethinker, H. L. Green, deceased, we observe an article from the pen of the late C. B. Reynolds, a Freethought lecturer of the old days, and an editorial dealing with the establishment of the Freethought University at Liberal, Mo. From these we learn that the University was established in 1866 [sic – it was established in 1886] by M. D. Leahy, Charles L. Carter, M. D., Joseph Gillson, Thomas Balkwill and Joseph Sedgebeer. The name of Col. Robert G. Ingersoll is not mentioned, either as a founder or as a contributor.

Remember, Mr. Hough said this institution was a “pet scheme of Ingersoll’s and that he had contributed $5,000 to its support.”

A pet scheme is generally regarded as having originated with the person who had made it a thing to be petted, or, having been originated before hand, became so devoted and attached to it, that it absorbed his time, attention and money. That it was a “pet scheme” of M. D. Leahy and his admirable co-laborers, there can be no question, but so far as the records show, and so far as can now be recalled, Ingersoll was not connected with the institution in any way. It lived but a few years and died with the retirement of Leahy, who had got into some disagreement with the other builders.

Lie No. 1 thus nailed to the cross.

What may be regarded as the most important of Mr. Hough’s statement, is that, referring to M. D. Leahy, he said, “He was converted in his room at Great Bend, Kansas, by a lady evangelist.”

As Mr. Leahy was never known to us, as previously stated, we solicited all possible information concerning him, his alleged conversion, the time and place, and by whom, it was supposed to have been accomplished. Years may rapidly thin the ranks of the old guard, but, fortunately, one has been spared to this good day, who, being in a position to know, has written the following letter in reference to the subject under consideration. The letter reads:

Chanute, Kansas, July 6, 1909

Editor of the Blue Grass Blade:

Dear Friend–I have just received the Blue Grass Blade of July 4th, and have read Mr. Hough’s letter concerning the National Freethought University, of Liberal, Mo. As I know something about that institution, and something about its founder, I will try in my poor and nearly blind way to tell you something. I will write of its founder first, I knew him well as a boy, and a brighter lad never lived. His parents lived only a mile from my farm. While he was attending the district school he would come to my house for me to teach what I could of elocution so that he could compete with the other boys. He was a very apt scholar and was soon able to teach me. His parents were poor Irish people, born in Ireland, but Maurice, as we called him, was born in this country. His mother and stepfather intended to make a Catholic priest of him. They lived at the Osage Mission at that time and were devout Catholics. He was instructed in that faith while under their care. After leaving home he went to Fort Scott and attended college under Prof. Saunders, where he graduated. He then taught a few terms of school. His first term was in my district, No. 86, Neosho County, Kansas, and while so teaching he boarded at my home as I lived but a half mile from the school house. One day, at my home, he picked up one of my Freethought papers, the good, old Boston Investigator, and in it he read something like this: “Man should always do his own thinking and not trust preacher or priest to do it for him.” From that time he developed fast into an outspoken Freethinker. He stopped praying. He threw off his beads and burned them in my stove. He then helped me to organize the first Liberal League in our county, he being the first secretary and I the first president. He went to Liberal, Mo. and founded the National Freethought University which he managed in fine style until a rupture came. Some trouble between himself and Mr. Walser caused him to quit the school and it soon afterwards went down. He then went to Illinois and studied law. He then came back to St. Paul, formerly the Osage Mission, contracted consumption and died at his mother’s home. His mother and a priest tried hard to have him recant, but I am told by a friend who attended him during his last days and hours, that he remained firm in his atheism to the end. He told me himself that he had an audience with the old priest and that the priest could not answer his thrusts, turned from him, refused to discuss any more and told him he was doomed for everlasting hell. I never heard of his being at Great Bend, Kansas, and do not think he ever was there. I can say that M. D. Leahy was a great admirer of Col. Ingersoll, but I do not think he ever saw him, for if he had he would have told me either by pen or word as were close and intimate friends and he often wrote to me. While in Fort Scott, and in Liberal, Mo., he sent me an invitation to the commencement exercises of the University. My wife and I attended. It was a rare treat. I have the orations that were delivered and will send them to you if I can find them. M. D. Leahy was a grand, honest, noble minded man. I loved him living and I now love his memory dad.

1105 S. Central Ave.

After reading the above our friends may rest assured that M. D. Leahy was not at Great Bend, Kansas, teaching school; that he was not converted in his room by a lady evangelist; that he did not preach religion after his alleged conversion; that the University was not a pet scheme of Ingersoll’s; that Rev. Hough has stated what is not true.

These investigations will be pursued further and we have yet to elicit information concerning a few more points. We would like to know–

First, Where and when did M. D. Leahy ever preach in behalf of religion trying to undo the evil he had done?

Second, The name of the lady evangelist who converted him.

Third, The object, Mr. Hough had in view by saying Leahy had been converted when he had not?

Fourth, Did Mr. Hough believe the cause of Christ would be better served by a lie than by truth?

Summing up, as far as we have gone, it may be inferred that as an effort was made to convert him by members of his family, the story got out that he had been converted and that Mr. Hough is simply repeating idle gossip as fact without ever investigating. Suffice to say that we have no confidence in Mr. Hough. Wat we wish to ask now, is:

Will he be honest enough to inforce the members of his congregation who heard that sermon that what he told them was merely what had been told to him, that he did not have any personal knowledge of the facts, or that it was simply a fiction of his own inventing and used to point an orthodox moral and adorn his rambling utterances?

As additional information is vouchsafed we shall furnish Mr. Hough with further food for thought.

Continue to Part 4

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