G. H. Walser at the Formation of the Kansas Liberal League in 1879

Came across Aaron Ketchell’s “The Countertradition: A History of Freethought in Kansas” and it has an interesting mention of G. H. Walser.

First he covers how in “The Golden Age of Freethought”, Robert Ingersoll “was instrumental in the organizing of freethinkers into a developed body” and that out of the Free Religious Association, founded by Unitarian ministers, came the National Liberal League, its first convention held in Philadelphia in July of 1876, its goal being the “promotion of secularism in America and opposing church influence in public life.” Different states formed their own liberal leagues, including Kansas on September 9, 1879.

Ketchell writes,

From September 5 to 10, 1879, the National Liberal League held a camp meeting at Bismark Grove, a popular meeting place along the Kansas Pacific Railroad tracks just east of North Lawrence that was well equipped for large gatherings. At this convocation, chaired by former Governor Robinson, thirteen prominent freethinkers from eight different states delivered twenty-two speeches, all anti-Christian. The speeches strongly supported established National Liberal League precepts, including taxation of church property, the elimination of the use of public money for religious functionaries employed by the government, prohibiting the use of the Bible in public schools, and the repeal of all Sabbath observance laws.

The critique of the evils of Christianity was relentless over the six days of the camp meeting. Professor William Denton, a geologist from Massachusetts, stated on the third day, ‘My intention is to destroy Christianity. Children are trained in the greatest absurdities instead of teaching them the truth.’ G. W. Walser, of Lamar, Missouri, told the meeting, ‘I don’t believe in the inspiration of the book called the bible. I believe it is a forgery and a libel on the great creator of the infinite universe.’ This harsh message was heard by thousands of people. Estimates of total attendance at Bismarck Grove on Sunday, September 7, alone ranged from three to twelve thousand people. It was claimed that if Robert Ingersoll had not canceled his scheduled appearance, an all-time attendance record for Bismarck Grove would have been set.

The full document can be read here but that is the only mention of Walser.

It’s amazing that positions openly held by politicians during that time are today considered to be political suicide.

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