There are a fair number of articles on Liberal that are floating around the internet which place all their trust and faith in a Revd. Clark Braden and what he had to write on Liberal in the 1880s. None give in full the pamphlet on Liberal that Braden published in 1886, “A Dream and its Fulfillment, An Expose of the Late Infidel Would-Be Paradise, Liberal, Barton County, Missouri”, nor also an earlier newspaper article for which Braden served as source. By a long shot, these are not complimentary writings, but I thought it would be good to hunt them down, transcribe them, and place them up here, so all may have available the full source rather than chosen bits.
J. P. Moore wrote on Braden’s pamphlet in his book, “This Strange Town–Liberal, Mo”, and the chapter and some of his opinion on Braden can be viewed at that link.
“Fifty Years of Freethought”, which was published in 1888, had a few things to say on Braden:
A debating Fundamentalist of the time, the Rev. Clark Braden, supposed to be a Campbellite, dogged Freethought lectures and defied them to meet him. He was a vituperative polecat, and Christians who engaged him to meet Underwood or Jamieson did not repeat the order. B.F. Underwood unveiled this honorless and characterless individual in The Truth Seeker of August 2, 1879.
A meeting addressed by Putnam in Oakland in May, 1888, was interrupted by the intrusion of the Christian champion and rapscallion, Clark Braden, reinforced by a local preacher named Sweeney and one Bennett, local agent of the Comstock society, with a demand to be heard and a challenge to debate. Mr. A.H. Schou of Oakland, who was presiding, said he would leave it to the audience whether these persons should be allowed to take up the time of the meeting, since the character of Clark Braden was well known throughout the coast. The audience voted a loud and unanimous No. The minister Sweeney begged he might inquire what was Mr. Putnam’s objection to Clark Braden. Mr. Putnam replied: “I will tell you why I will not debate with him. I refuse to meet Clark Braden in public debate because he is a blackguard and a liar.”
There was curiosity to know how the Christian champion would take that. He shouted something at the speaker and then walked stiffly forth, followed by the Rev. Mr. Sweeney and Comstock’s young man. As they went, Mr. Schou sent after them the reminder that if a Freethinker had entered Mr. Sweeney’s church and created this sort of disturbance of the meeting, he would have been placed under arrest instead of being allowed peacefully to depart.
This man Braden, whose argument consisted in an attack on the good name of Freethinkers, usually did not return to serve the same Christian community twice. The religious people who employed Braden had a custom of meeting afterwards to pass resolutions repudiating him as too rank to be borne with. He professed to be a Campbellite, or “Disciple,” and when the churches of that denomination could be worked no longer, he went to the Methodists. A religious paper in Winfield, Kansas, The Nonconformist, gave him this piquant mention: “It is yet to he reported that Clark Braden was ever received in a community the second time, except in company of the officers, with jewelry on his wrists.” At one place, where he debated B.F. Underwood, the Christians who employed him told him he was injuring their cause, and he had to borrow $20 of Underwood to get out of town. In return he sent to Underwood a letter in which he told how the Rev. John Sweeney, Underwood’s next opponent, was to be defeated. There was absolutely no good in Braden. His backers in Oakland came to grief.
B. F. Underwood wrote a booklet of 26 pages titled “The Kind of Man Clark Braden Is”. How I would like to get my hands on that!
Now, on to Braden’s booklet, which I will present a few pages at a time.
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A DREAM AND ITS FULFILLMENT
Late Infidel Would-Be Paradise,
LIBERAL, BARTON COUNTY, MISSOURI.
PRICE, 10 CENTS.
CHAPLAIN McCABE’S DREAM OF INGERSOLLVILLE
“I had a dream which was not all a dream.” I thought I was on a long journey through a beautiful country, when suddenly I came to a great city with walls fifteen feet high. At the gate stood a sentinel, whose shining armor reflected back the rays of the morning sun. As I was a bout ot salute him and pass into the city, he stopped me and said:–
“Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?”
I answered, “Yes, with all my heart.”
“Then,” said he, “you cannot enter here. No man or woman who acknowledges that name can pass in here. Stand aside!” said he, “they are coming.”
I looked down the road, and saw a vast multitude approaching. It was led by a military officer.
“Who is that?” I asked of the sentinel.
“That,” he said, “is the great Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, the founder of the City of Ingersollville.”
“Who is he?” I ventured to inquire.
“He is a great and might warrior, who fought in many bloody battles for the Union during the great war.”
I felt ashamed of my ignorance of history, and stood silently watching the procession. I had heard of a Colonel Ingersoll who resigned in presence of the enemy, but, of course, this could not be the man.
The procession came near enough for me to recognize some of the faces. I noted two infidel editors of national celebrity, followed by great wagons containing steam presses. There were also five members of Congress.
All the noted infidels and scoffers of the country seemed to be there. Most of them passed in unchallenged by the sentinel, but at last a meek-looking individual with a white neck-tie approached, and he was stopped. I saw at a glance it was a well-known “liberal” preacher of New York.
“Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?” said the sentinel.
“Not much!” said the doctor.
Everybody laughed, and he was allowed to pass in.
There were artists there, with glorious pictures; singers, with ravishing voices; tragedians and comedians, whose names have a world-wide fame.
Then came another division of the infidel host–saloon-keepers by thousands, proprietors of gambling hells, brothels, and theaters.
Still another division swept by: burglars, thieves, thugs, incendiaries, highwaymen, murderers–all–all marching in. My vision grew keener. I beheld, and, lo! Satan himself brought up the rear.
High afloat above the mass was a banner on which was inscribed, “What has Christianity done for the country?” and another, on which was inscribed, “Down with Churches! Away with Christianity–it interferes with our happiness!” And then came a murmur of voices, that grew louder and louder until a shout went up like the roar of Niagra: “Away with him! Crucify him, crucify him!” I felt no desire now to enter Ingersollville.
As the last of the procession entered, a few men and women with broad-brimmed hats and plain bonnets made their appearance, and wanted to go in as missionaries, but they were turned rudely away. A zealous young Methodist exhorter, with a Bible under his arm, asked permission to enter, but the sentinel swore at him awfully. Then I thought I saw Brother Moody applying for admission, but he was refused. I could not help smiling to hear Moody say, as he turned sadly away:
“Well! They let me live and work in Chicago. It is very strange they wont let me into Ingersollville.”
The sentinel went through the gate and shut it with a bang; and I thought, as soon as it was closed, a mighty angel came down with a great iron bar, and barred the gate on the outside, and wrote upon it in letters of fire, “Doomed to live together six months.”
Then he went away, and all was silent, except the noise of the revelry and shouting that came within the city walls.
I went away, and as I journeyed through the land I could not believe my eyes. Peace and plenty smiled every where. The jails were all empty, the penitentiaries were without occupants. The police of great cities were idle. Judges sat in court rooms with nothing to do. Business was brisk. Many great buildings, formerly crowded with criminals, were turned into manufacturing establishments. Just about this time the President of the United States called for a Day of Thanksgiving. I attended services in a Presbyterian Church. The preacher dwelt upon the changed conditions of affairs. As he went on, and depicted the great prosperity that had come to the country, and gave reasons for devout thanksgiving, I saw one old deacon clap his handkerchief over his mouth to keep from shouting right out. An ancient spinster, who never did like the “noisy” Methodists–a regular old blue-stocking Presbyterian–couldn’t hold in. She expressed the thought of every heart by shouting with all her might, “Glory to God for Ingersollville!” A young theological student lifted up his hand and devoutly added, “Esto perpetua.” Every body smiled. The country was almost delirious with joy. Great processions of children swept along the highways, singing,
“We’ll not give up the Bible.
God’s blessed word of truth.”
Vast assemblies of reformed inebriates, with their wives and children, gathered in open air. No building would hold them. I thought I was in one meeting where Bishop Simpson made an address, and as he closed it a mighty shout went up till the earth rang again. O, it was wonderful! and then we all stood up and sang with tears of joy,
“All hail the power of Jesus name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him Lord of all.”
The six months had well-nigh gone. I made my way back again to the gate of Ingersollville. A dreadful silence reigned over the city, broken only by the sharp crack of a revolver now and then. I saw a busy man trying to get in at the gate, and I said to him, “My friend where are you from?”
“I live in Chicago,” said he, “and they’ve taxed us to death there; and I’ve heard of this city, and I want to go in to buy some real estate in this new and growing place.”
He failed utterly to remove the bar, but by some means he got a ladder about twelve feet long, and with its aid, he climbed up upon the wall. With an eye to business, he shouted to the first person he saw:
“Hallo, there!–what’s the price of real estate in Ingersollville?”
“Nothing,” shouted a voice; “you can have all you want if you’ll just take it and pay the taxes.”
“What made your taxes so high?” said the Chicago man. I noted the answer carefully; I shall never forget it.
“We’ve had to build forty new jails and fourteen penitentiaries–a lunatic asylum and orphan asylum in every ward. We’ve had to disband the public schools, and it takes all the revenue of the city to keep up the police force.”
“Where’s my old friend, Col. Ingersoll?” said the Chicago man.
“O, he is about today with a subscription paper to build a church. They hae gotten up a petition to send out for a lot of preachers to come and hold revival services. If we can only get them over the wall, we hope there’s a future for Ingersollville yet.”
The six months ended. Instead of opening the door, however, a tunnel was dug under the all big enough for one person to crawl through at a time. First came two bankrupt editors, followed by Col. Ingersoll himself; and then the whole population crawled through. Then I thought, somehow great crowds of Christians surrounded the city. There was Moody and Hammond, and Earle, and hundreds of Methodist preachers and exhorters, and they all struck up, singing together.
“Come, ye sinners, poor and needy.”
A needier crowd never was seen on earth before.
I conversed with some of the inhabitants of the abandoned city, and asked a few of them this question.
“Do you believe in hell?”
I cannot record the answers; they were terribly orthodox.
One old man said, “I’ve been there on probation for six months, and I don’t want to join.”
I knew by that he was an old Methodist backslider. The sequel of it all was a great revival. There was gathered a mighty harvest from the ruined city of Ingersollville.
–to be continued–
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Born in 1831, Braden had his good points, in as much as he came from abolitionist stock and was himself an abolitionist. He served at 35 churches (one has to wonder why so many) and made a career of giving lectures, a reported over 6000 in total though I’ve seen Braden admit to 3000. The famous freethinker, Robert G. Ingersoll, refused to debate him, saying, “I’m am not such a fool as to debate, he would wear me out,” which is often taken as proving Braden’s powers, but I instead think witnesses a lack of respect for his technique.
Braden quoted Ingersoll a bit differently in October 1909 at the Disciples of Christ Centennial Convention.
Here is Braden’s history in his own words:
I will endeavor, ladies and gentlemen, brethren and sisters, to answer so many questions that have been asked me by every one that I meet in the time that is allotted to me, and I give it to you in this form. Clark Braden was born Aug. 8, 1831, in Gustavus, Trumbull Co., O. He was immersed by Calvin Smith, Feb. 28, 1855, in Rome, Ashtabula Co., O. He has been preaching nearly fifty-five years. He has been what is called “pastor” for twenty-five congregations, and has been regular preacher for as many more. He has taught school sixty-nine terms of three months. He has been president of Elgin College, Abingdon College, Southern Illinois College and Southern Illinois Christian College. He edited a Christian paper, the Herald of Truth. He is author of the “Braden-Hughey Debate,” the “Braden-Kelly Debate,” the “Problem of Problems,” “Ingersoll Unmasked,” “Errors in Regard to the Trial and Crucifixion of Christ.”
He has delivered more than three thousand lectures in nearly every State in the United States and Provinces of Canada. He can give time, place, proposition and opponent of more than 130 regular debates that had moderators and two written debates. He has held more debates than any other member of the churches of Christ. J. S. Sweeney comes next with 113 debates. He has held forty debates with champions of both wings of infidelity, materialism and spiritism—more debates than any other man living or that has lived. He has met in debate B. F. Underwood, the American champion; Charles Watts, the British champion of materialism, and Moses Hull, the champion of spiritism. He has debated the action, subjects and design of baptism, the work of the Holy Spirit, human creeds, justification by faith only, church organization, soul-sleeping, klngdom-come-ism, Seventh-day-ism, and Universalism. He has held eighteen debates with Mormons. He was challenged three times to debate with Ingersoll. Ingersoll was challenged three times to debate with Clark Braden. And six times Ingersoll backed out. He gave as his reason, and I beg your pardon for saying this, “I’ll be G___ d___ if Bob don’t know what he’s doing. I am not such a G___ d___ fool as to place myself on the platform for six nights of debate with that fellow. Why, d___ it, he would wear me out.” When S. P. Putnam, president of the Infidel Leagues of America, refused to debate with Clark Braden, Clark Braden chased him and replied to him until infidels, disgusted with Putnam’s cowardice, forced him to quit the field. Charles Watts backed out of defiant challenges and left the Maritime Provinces of Canada when Clark Braden was selected to meet him. The Infidel Leagues of Canada backed out of challenges when Braden was selected to meet them. In 1889, in the last of eleven debates with Clark Braden, B. F. Underwood backed out in the middle of the debate, and took the first train next morning. Infidels withdrew their indorsement of Jamieson and closed the last debate with Jamieson. Last August, Elbert Hubbard, whom infidels regard as the successor of Ingersoll, and their champion, in the most cowardly and disgraceful manner backed out of a positive agreement, when he learned that he would have to meet Clark Braden.
During the last twenty years, every prominent champion of infidelity has backed out of debating with Clark Braden. So have champions of Mormon ism, soul-sleeping, Seventh-day-ism, spiritism and kingdom-come-ism. The speaker does not make these statements in a spirit of personal vainglory, but simply to demonstrate the invincibility of the truth in fair contest with error.
And now let me say to you, brethren and sisters, that I do rather avoid giving a challenge, but 1 have been selected by brethren; they have called upon me and I have responded and done my best in discussion. And another thing, when you get so very good and so very refined and cultured that you are unwilling to debate, you will know more than God Almighty, you are better than Jesus Christ, purer than the Holy Spirit. The last six weeks of the Saviour’s life was one stormy debate, and he did some pretty plain talking, too. [Applause.] I want to say to you this, that just so long as there is error in the world, just so long as truth has to be defended, there will be discussion. Every reform was born in debate, rocked in the cradle of discussion, and grew strong in the battle for that which is right; and when you become so cultured that you won’t debate anything any time, you will be a saint among saints, and then leave the result of it to God. I have the divine example of the Son of God for pursuing the course I have. I feel I am doing that which is right. It is said that the apostle John in his old age was carried in a chair into the church at Ephesus and placed upon the platform, and at the close of the services they turned to the old patriarch and he would stretch out his trembling hands and say, “Little children, love one another.” And after this long, stormy, strenuous life, I sum it all up in this, that the supreme work of the followers of Christ is to learn the Christ teaching, live the Christ life, and grow in the Christ character in this life and in the eternal life, where we shall be like him. where we shall see him as he is. [Applause]
In 1908, “The Philistine” published their opinion of Braden by way of a little story, which went as follows:
Not long ago a gentleman calling himself the Reverend Clark Braden arrived in East Aurora. He was sincere, serious, highly educated and wore long patriarchal whiskers.
He announced that he had come to engage with me in a six-days’ debate as to the truths of Revealed Religion. He plainly stated that he considered me an arch-infidel, and his purpose was either to convert me, or else to humiliate me in my own town, in the presence of my neighbors. If we didn’t get thru the debate in six days, he was willing to stay a month. When would we begin?
I tried to excuse myself on the plea of work, other engagements, etc. He demanded that I should cancel all other engagements; and if I was a sincere lover of truth as I professed to be I would now stand by my colors. In fact, this I must do, or he would brand me before the whole village as a coddling coward and a Number Six agnostic jackanapes. I then took a little hand myself at questioning. And it seems that, altho I had never had
any communications with this reverend gentleman—which fact he acknowledged—he came as the representative of another man, and he flashed up a lengthy letter from an unknown, fully authorizing me to argufy with Brother
Braden six nights and days together, or else come off my psychic perch.
In the meantime Braden had gone up to the “Blizzard” office, and had gotten out five hundred handbills, scattering them all over town, denouncing me as this, that and the other.
About this time there came to me a bright idea, thus: If Braden could act as the substitute for another to orate with me in a theological gabfest, then I, too, could appoint a substitute, and the two could have it out.
Accordingly, I appointed Ali Baba to reason with my friend with the lilacs.
I ran Ali up against the adversary, and they got at it quick, with no preliminaries. In five minutes they were calling each other all the names in the Billingsgate Calendar. And in ten minutes, by the stop-watch, Ali had the reverend one by the scruff, pushing him toward the front gate, both talking loudly and fast. Their conversation was heard for half a mile.
The last I saw of the zealous one, he was going down the road, stopping now and then to shake his fist at the Seat of Infidelity, and uttering remarks in italic.
God must dearly love the fools, otherwise He would not have made so many of us.