Strong Prejudices–J. P. Moore’s “This Strange Town–Liberal, Missouri”
Checking with the copyright catalogue, I find copyright was made in 1963 by J. P. Moore but was never renewed, which means the book has entered the public domain. The author is long since deceased.
THIS STRANGE TOWN–LIBERAL MISSOURI
A HISTORY OF THE EARLY YEARS
1880 – 1910
BY J. P. MOORE
In the history of mankind, differences in religious beliefs have caused much trouble; over it wars have been fought, rivers of blood spilled, and human beings mercilessly tortured; and the differences have not always been only between Christians and infidels.
So with the close proximity and high rivalry between the two schools of thought, it should be no surprise that the prejudices sometimes ran riot and that there were clashes between the dominant minds of Liberal and those of Pedro. Neither should it be surprising that in the heat of passion, sometimes harsh and biting statements should be made.
It was so in this instance, particularly in the earlier years. Pedro, as has been stated, had no newspaper. So we are without documented reports from that side. But Liberal did have a newspaper, and it was owned by Mr. Walser; so he could express himself freely through its columns–and he did just that.
In the Sunday, February 14, 1960 issue of The Joplin Globe, there was published a brief story of Liberal, in which was quoted an item from a November, 1905 issue of the Lamar (Mo.) Republican, a newspaper long since extinct. On the assumption that the growth of Pedro once threatened to dwarf Liberal, this item was presented, purporting to be Mr. Walser’s side of the story:
“The First two houses erected on the townsite of Pedro were a church and a saloon. In a short time the post office was established for their use, and things went on swimmingly. But business did not follow. The people said they would rather stay with Liberal and free thought than Christianity and drunkenness, for they could send their wives and children to Liberal without being insulted by drunkards. Being unable to take business from Liberal, their town dwindled, their church became a hunt of bats and cockroaches, and now the wind whistles through the walls and caved-in windows, the requiem of spent nonsense.”
This is a rather severe pronouncement. If written by Mr. Walser, it must have been done long before the year 1905, as by that time Pedro had become a part of Liberal, rivalries had cooled off, animosities had subsided, Mr. Walser had become softened by years and there was no need for him to so vent his spleen.
Then quoting further, the article gave the following as having been written by Mr. Walser at a later date, as his version of the Christians invading his town:
“Here they came like ants on a sun-dried grubworm; and as the “Six Hundred;’ they were in front of us, and they were in the rear of us; and on neither side could we turn without meeting ‘Ave Maria’ or ‘Old Hundred,’ so we caved and let them in, virus and all. And now we have a typical Christianized town with two churches and a saloon, with all the fascinations that such conditions breed.”
This last statement is amazing, too. It could have been originally quoted from some early edition of the old newspaper, The Liberal; but it is difficult to make it fit chronologically with the date of 1905, unless the writer is reminiscing. As of that date it had been sixteen years since the first church had come to Liberal, and the newspaper, “The Liberal,” had long since discontinued publication. Whenever it was written, tension surely was high at the time. There must have been repercussion, and it would be interesting to hear the other side of the story, but there is no record.
Be that as it may, there is quite a switch in the time of the two items quoted. In the first it would seem the Freethinkers had the Christians hopelessly defeated, while in the last it would appear the Freethinkers had been overwhelmed.