The Crusaders and The Columnists–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

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Crusaders and Columnists

[pages 30-31]

In his early vision of a happy Freethought haven, tucked away on the quiet prairies, one wonders if Mr. Walser ever envisioned there would be a day when religious zealots would come as iconoclasts seeking to smash that dream, nor that feature writers would come searching out and writing of things they sought to make appear bizarre and sensational. But they did come.

Of the crusaders, the one to have the greatest impact on the community, and to fight the “infidels” the hardest, was one Clark Braden, who came in 1885. Braden was a Christian minister, had been a teacher and was a college man. He was zealous to the nth degree and was a foeman worthy of his steel.

Liberal was yet new then, and the pioneers were yet filled with the enthusiasm, each of the purpose for which he came. Among these were some men of good education, good speakers and good debaters. The fat was in the fire and these men and the Rev. Braden went at it “hammer and tongs,” to use an old cliche.

Among the foremost debaters for Liberal was a man named C. C. Stewart. There is no record that Mr. Walser ever took part in any of these word battles with the Rev. Braden, though he, no doubt, was very much interested in them.

Stewart and Braden are reported to have debated ten times. Which one came off best in the series, I have never seen any account. But they say the hurt dog always howls the loudest. Braden was so infuriated that he wrote and published a scurrilous pamphlet, denouncing Freethinkers, one and all. In this pamphlet he made effort to smear the characters of various citizens of Liberal, with particular vituperation against Mr. Walser and members of his family.

The calumny was so obvious that fair minded citizens paid little attention, regarding the purpose to be solely for slander.

The feature writers who have come, have almost invariably concentrated on the “Infidel Town,” the “Barbed Wire Fence,” the “Spiritualist Expose,” which will be treated later in this history, and on Pedro and the “no church, no God, no saloon and no hell” topics. Their dissertations have all been very similar. They seem to have felt they must follow a pattern to please their reading clientele.

There may be others come; and when and if they do, no doubt their stories will be read with interest, as have been all the others.

Mr. Braden’s pamphlet will be explored in a later chapter.

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