Blue Grass Blade vs. Hough, Pt. 4 : The Truth is Out at Last

Continuing from part 3 with letters and editorials concerning the M. D. Leahy controversy, refuting the Rev. Hough assertion that Freethinker M. D. Leahy, who established the Freethought University, had undergone a Christian conversion.

This letter which the Blue Grass Blade published in this September issue is written by M. D. (Maurice) Leahy’s brother, who happens to be Timothy John Leahy, husband of Bertha Rogers. I’m familiar with this name through my readings concerning Chautauqua Co. Kansas and the Osage Reserve. Bertha Rogers was the daughter of “Judge” Thomas Lewis Rogers Jr. and Nancy Chambers Martin. Judge Thomas Rogers was Cherokee through his father, Thomas Rogers, and Osage through his mother who was Ellen Lombard, her father being French and her mother Osage. Martha, a sister of Bertha’s, married William Thomas Leahy b. 1869 July 7 in St. Paul, Neosho, Kansas, died 1929 May 17. William Thomas was a first cousin of the other Leahys already mentioned, his father being Thomas Leahy and his mother the Osage Marie Louise Champaigne. This family is in the 1875 census one page removed from M. D. Leahy’s family.

Census results for Maurice Leahy

1870, Osage, Neosho, Kansas
96/94 Leahy Margaret 31 boarding house keeper 500 b. Ireland
Thomas 6 IL
Maurice 5
Timothy J. 2 b. KS
Edward 1

1875 Osage Mission, Neosho
1/1 Etchingham Charles 37 laborer 150 200 Ireland from LA or IA
Margaret 35 b. Ireland from IL
Leahy, Thomas 11 b. IL
Morris 10
Etchingham, Mary 8 b. IN from IN
Leahy E. J. 7 b. KS
Edward 5 b. KS

1885 Grant, Neosho, Kansas
Charles Etchingham 52 farmer b. Ireland from IL
Margaret 45
Thomas Leahy 21 School teacher b. IL
Maurice 20 school teacher
John 17 farmer b. KS
Edward 15
Mary Etchingham 17 b. IN
Joseph 9 b. KS
Maggie 7
Willie 3

I’ll post a bio of Timothy John Leahy which will reveal a little more of Maurice’s early life, and the life of Timothy.

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Volume XVIII, Number 21
Lexington, KY. September 5, 1909

Pgs 4-5


Rev. George A. Hough, Episcopal Preacher, is Shown to Have Knowingly and Willfully Misrepresented M. D. Leahy. Strong Letter from Brother of the Dead Freethinker

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We deem the following communication to be of that high degree of importance as to demand as much prominence as possible.

Our readers will recall the efforts we have made to protect the memory of M. D. Leahy, deceased, from the vicious assaults of Rev. George A. Hough, an Episcopal preacher of San Francisco. The first reply received was from C. E. Alexander, of Chanute, Kansas, and during the past few days we have received another letter from the same gentleman, stating that he had found a brother of the late M. D. Leahy, who was thoroughly conversant with all the facts connected with the life work of that devoted friend of man, and intimated that we would shortly hear from him. Just after the last issue of the Blade had gone to press we received the letter which is published below.

While perusing this letter, we suggest that our readers keep in mind what the Rev. Hough has to say on this subject. Hough’s letter was reproduced in our editorial column, issue of July 4, last. The points Hough sought to make were: —

1. That the National Freethought University at Liberal, Mo., was a pet scheme of Ingersoll’s.
2. That Ingersoll had contributed $5,000 toward it.
3. That M. D. Leahy was converted and preached the gospel of Christ at different points throughout the southwest.
4. That M. D. Leahy was converted by a lady evangelist in the privacy of a room at Great Bend, Kansas.
5. That M. D. Leahy was untrue to himself and to humanity.

Bearing these in mind, read and digest the following letter:

Pawhuska, Okla., Aug. 15, ’09

Editor Blue Grass Blade, Lexington, Ky.:

Sir: — An old friend of mine, Mr. C. E. Alexander, of Chanute, Kansas, sent me a copy of your paper containing a letter by Geo. A. Hough, together with your request for full particulars, concerning my brother, M. D. Leahy. I want to thank you for the invitation you have extended asking for the truth concerning his life and death. I shall only relate those incidents connected with his religious life and his relation to the Freethought University.

Our parents were very devout Catholics, having both been born and raised in Ireland, and we were raised under very strong Catholic influences. In his early life, my brother’s ambition was to become a priest and give up his life to the church. As a boy, he was exceedingly devout, pure-minded and studious. When he grew to manhood he was, morally, the most perfect man I ever knew. At 18 he was teaching in the public schools, and stopping at the home of Mr. C. E. Alexander above mentioned. There he became acquainted with Freethought literature, and soon became an avowed Freethinker. This was in 1883.

For two years after this he attended the Kansas Normal College at Fort Scott, Kansas, graduating in 1886. George A. Hough was teacher of penmanship in this institution, and an earnest member of the Y.M.C.A., and naturally gave my brother little credit as a thinker, although he was regarded by the faculty as the strongest student, up to that time, who had graduated from that college.

In the fall of 1886 he established the Freethought University at Liberal, Mo. This institution received no financial aid outside of Liberal, and but little there. Col. Ingersoll’s financial aid was never solicited, and he never gave any, and the statement that my brother and Ingersoll had contributed $5,000 to aid the institution, I am certain is an absolute falsehood. No one was closer to him than I, and I am sure no such fact existed, and I do not now remember of my brother ever receiving a letter on any subject from Col. Ingersoll.

The Freethought University had an existence of two years, and was a success in every way, except financially. My brother had no means, and but few people in Liberal could afford any financial support.

For the next year he did very little, except to build up a weakened constitution, which he was never able to do.

During the winter of 89-90 he became identified with a move to start an institution of learning in Hutchinson, Kansas, but this was short-lived.

Up to this time he had been a radical Materialist, but now he began to lean towards a belief in a continued spiritual and mental existence. He met in Hutchinson with some devotees of Christian Science. He in part accepted their theories, but not in full, nor did he ever do so. He insisted that they, only in part, understood the great problems of human life, and that no one could grasp it. He was sure that there was a continued evolution, both here and hereafter, and that the mind that was purest in thought and freest from immoral cogitations, was on the surest road to progress.

From Hutchinson, Kansas, he went to Great Bend, Kansas, where he occupied for one year a chair in the faculty of the Central Normal College. I was not with him at this place, but an older brother was, with whom M. D. made his home. I am informed by him that while there no change took place in the religious opinions of M. D. Leahy, and that the story related by Rev. Hough is an entire fabrication and absolutely without foundation. L. A. Hanson was with my brother both at Hutchinson and Great Bend. He was a Christian Scientist, a great admirer of my brother, and doubtlessly has said more than the facts would warrant.

From Great Bend my brother went to Cairo, Ill., where he was principal of the High School for one year.

In the summer of 1892, he returned to Osage Mission, Kansas (now St. Paul) the home of his boyhood days, and where our mother still lived, broken completely in health, and with the seal of death upon him.

No one realized his condition better than he. He lingered until the leaves began to fall and then passed away. At his own request, no religious ceremonies were held over his body. He died, believing that his spirit would continue, but without the slightest belief in the creeds and tenets of orthodox Christianity. I was constantly by his side during the last month of his life, and discussed the question of a hereafter with him. I told him that if at any time he felt that he wanted to see a priest or minister, to say so, and his wishes should be granted. He answered that he had not changed his opinion in the slightest with reference to Christianity, and that so far as he was concerned, he had no desire to see either priest or minister. He died in full possession of all his mental faculties and with a full realization that the end was at hand.

So far as his lectures are concerned, he, so far as I know, never delivered a Freethought lecture outside of Liberal, Mo. He lectured many times throughout Southern Kansas, but only on educational topics and usually before Teachers’ Associations. He never mentioned religion in these lectures.

He died, believing his too short life, was well spent. There were no dark spots in it. He was as chaste as a virgin, and his mind free from any but the purest thoughts. Hough’s statement that he spent the remainder of his life trying to end the wrongs he had done, is false. He had done no wrong to atone for. He was not converted, nor did he ever say so. He may or may not have been wrong in his religious views, but he never retracted, and did without fear.

Trusting that these lines will put him right before the world, and particularly the Freethinking world, and again thanking you for bringing this matter to light, I am,

Very truly,

T. J. Leahy

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pg. 10


We are constrained to express complete satisfaction at the result of the investigation entered into concerning Rev. George A. Hough the Episcopal preacher of San Francisco, and the late M. D. Leahy, founder and instructor of the erstwhile Freethought University, at Liberal, Mo.

When the statements of Mr. Hough were first brought to our attention we were not sufficiently familiar with the facts to essay a reply with any degree of satisfaction or conclusiveness. Our active work on the Freethought lecture platform did not begin until 1889, and the institution at Liberal had become defunct. Through correspondence we had become acquainted with but one person residing at Liberal, namely George H. Walser, and it has been many years since we heard from him, even now not knowing whether he still be in the land of the living or has entered the realm of the dead. In order to get at the facts, the Blade called for information from those who were in a position to know, and did know, that the reading public might be given accurate information, and our efforts in that direction have not been in vain. There is now sufficient evidence at hand to convict this Episcopal preacher of having grossly, wilfully, and maliciously told the members of his congregation, in a Sunday sermon, an untruth concerning M. D. Leahy, and as a fitting climax we take pleasure in publishing, in this issue of the Blade, a communication from a brother of the dead Freethinker, which is conclusive on the subject.

It will be recalled that Mr. Hough insisted that Ingersoll had given $5000 to the institution and that it was a pet scheme of Ingersoll’s, but lived only about two or three years. That M. D. Leahy, its first president, afterwards became converted in the privacy of a room at Great Bend, Kansas, by a lady evangelist, and spent the balance of his life in trying to undo the wrongs he had done, and had preached Christianity extensively in the Southwest. This statement, of course, was made to his congregation alone, and had it not been for the manuscript copy he had furnished the papers of San Francisco for publication, no further notice would, or could, have been given it, and these statements would have passed unchallenged. The one source of danger to Mr. Hough lie in the fact of the publication. That brought his utterances to the attention of others, and the investigation undertaken by the Blade.

Rev. Hough is convicted of having told an untruth in stating that the National Freethought University, at Liberal, Mo., was a pet scheme of Ingersoll’s.

Rev. Hough has been convicted of having told an untruth by stating that M. D. Leahy had told him that Ingersoll had given $5000 to the support and maintenance of the institution.

Rev. Hough has been convicted of having told an untruth when he said that M. D. Leahy was converted.

Rev. Hough has been convicted of having told an untruth when he said that M. D. Leahy had striven to undo the wrongs he had done by his unbelief and had extensively preached Christ and him crucified.

Rev. Hough has been convicted of having fabricated a story of absolute fiction connected with M. D. Leahy for the purpose of disparaging the same and memory of a dead Freethinker who cannot defend himself, and to draw the cash out of a credulous and unthinking congregation.

Rev. Hough has been convicted of being anything but a gentleman, and possessing an utter disregard for truth.

For these findings, the Blade is grateful and thankful to C. E. Alexander, of Chanute, Kansas, who has rendered capable and valuable help in this undertaking, and it is also thankful to T. J. Leahy, the surviving brother of M. D. Leahy, author of the communication which appears in this issue.

From a careful perusal of the letter in question, our readers will be able to understand something of the nature of the case. Attending Kansas Normal College, at Fort Scott, Kansas, from which he graduated in 1886, M. D. Leahy was thrown in contact with George A. Hough, who was a teacher in penmanship thereof, also a worker in the Y. M. C. A., and Leahy being an infidel to the Christian religion at that time, Hough had very little use for him, and, as T. J. Leahy suggests, “naturally gave him little credit as a thinker.” We can now understand the animosity of George A. Hough, and we can understand why this intolerant bigotry should be made manifest so long after M. D. Leahy’s death, for is not George A. Hough, formerly a teacher in penmanship, now an Episcopal preacher, and do not Episcopal preachers of the Hough stripe appear willing to defame the dead whom they disliked in life?

Fortunately, we have also, from the same source, learned something of L. A. Hanson, or Hansam, as Mr. Hough renders the same, and it appears that his “unbelief” as a “professor” simply consisted of his being a Christian Scientist, but not content with distorting fact, Hough had this man converted at the same time and place by the same lady evangelist of whom nobody has the slightest knowledge.

That M. D. Leahy should confine himself to lecturing upon educational topics alone, after the demise of his University at Liberalt, is not strange to those who have experienced the force of Christian bigotry, intolerance and hate. M. D. Leahy had to live and he had to earn the means of livelihood. Without saying aught concerning religion, for it or against it, he lectured on other subjects, and this is taken by one of narrow, illiberal and evil mind, to imply a conversion to Christianity.

During our previous active work in the field of Freethought, we had incidentally heard of Liberal, Mo., of the University that once existed there, but we had never been given the facts as we have them now. We have also learned that this is not the first time that preachers have made the claim that M. D. Leahy underwent a conversion and had renounced his philosophic unbelief for the Christian religion. With this exposure of the arrant falsehoods of George A. Hough, it is to be hoped, and the public have a right to expect, that such proceedings will forever cease.

The Blade is pleased that its attention has been called to the statements made by Mr. Hough; that it undertook the investigation, and it is doubly pleased with the results.

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