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 present a few pages at a time. The full booklet may be found via the tag, “a dream and its fulfillment”.
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In May, 1884, a number of persons who would not submit to infidel insolence and bulldozing; moved fifteen of the best buildings in Liberal on to a plot west of Liberal and started the rival town of Denison, now called Pedro. This town is now the crossing of the Kansas City and Memphis railroad, and the main line of the Missouri Pacific, over which the traffic between Kansas City, St. Louis and Texas passes. When the writer returned to Liberal in April, 1885, he engineered movements that resulted in separating Pedro from Liberal as a school district; and that gave to Pedro a postoffice. The depot in Liberal will be abandoned. The infidel fiasco will collapse, and when the few infidels left in Liberal have, like the Arabs, silently folded their tents and stolen away, Pedro will be one of the most promising business towns in the southwest. There are two meeting houses and two churches in Pedro. The writer preached in Pedro, and had one house finished and dedicated. The other has since been finished. Pedro will be one of the best towns in southwest Missouri, and will be a monument to the difference between Christian liberality and toleration, and Infidel intolerance, and bigotry, as Liberal will be of infidel folly and vice, until it disappears in Pedro. Another small imitation of building the tower of Babel.
One would suppose to read the statements in the paper published in Liberal, and infidel papers, that Liberal rivaled Boston in its literary and benevolent enterprises, societies and work. A great Liberal Orphans’ Home was chartered, with a wonderful flourish of trumpets, and much has been written with regard to it, and loud calls have been made for money. It has existed only in the gas evaporated in the charter, infidel papers and in the gab in Liberal. The Great Liberal Normal and Business Educational Institute–there let us stop and take breath–“in which all Liberal could have their children educated in all departments of knowledge and literature”–Oxford and Cambridge would hardly presume to make such an announcement–was one of the wonders of the age, a stupendous marvel, beyond human knowledge, a universal university beyond the grasp of human powers. To give some shadow of reality to the Great Liberal Orphans’ Home, Walser put up with money duped out of parties, for the Home, a two story dwelling house about thirty by fifty, cheaply constructed, ostensibly as a start for the Home. He rented this to the school district. Into it were put Grayston and his wife. As none but infidels would send to the school, and not all of them, about half of the pupils of the district school attended this great Liberal Normal Business and Educational Institute. There never were more than one hundred pupils in attendance, not twenty outside of Liberal and not half a dozen lived over two miles from the cheap building in which the school was taught.
The “all departments of knowledge and literature” taught in it were not equal to the grammar department in an ordinary graded school. There were a score of public schools in Barton county that excelled it. The whole sham was maintained by violating the law in using public funds to run a most intolerant sectarian school of the infidel stripe of sectarianism. All reading lessons of a religious character were skipped, and if a religious sentiment happened to be met with, in spite of all this bigoted care, the teachers were careful to instruct the pupils that no person of sense believed such stuff. Pupils were carefully taught to spell the name of the Deity with a small “g.” Such was the elevating and liberal spirit of this Great Liberal Normal and Business Educational Institute. The morals of this marvel can be appreciated when it is known that the disgusting, ruffianly practice of cursing and profane swearing was the habitual speech of nearly every pupil, old and young, male and female one the playground, and in the schoolroom, in the presence of the teachers, unrebuked. There never was a class in the school beyond what were in neighboring country district schools. There was not a normal or business pupil in the school. To read the advertisements of the sham, the glowing puffs of it in the paper in Liberal, and in infidel papers, and in letters written from Liberal, and in the talk of infidels about it, one would have supposed that the great universities of the Old World were primary schools in comparison with it.
When the public money was exhausted, the Chancellor of this universal university, Grayston, went to Walser, the Regent of the Board of Trustees, and wanted his pay. The Regent told the Chancellor that the Great Liberal Normal Business and Educational Institute had no funds, and that the August Board were in no way responsible for the Chancellor’s pay. The Chancellor and the Regent of this universal university had a row, and Mark Walser, noble son of an illustrious sire, acting as his father’s ruffianly bully, sneaked up behind Grayston and knocked him down; and the Chancellor of this universal university, went around for weeks, with his eyes in mourning for the departed glories of the Great Liberal Normal and Business Educational Institute, composed of two teachers in a cheap building, not erected for school purposes, with less than one hundred primary pupils of a district school–a universal university in which “all Liberals”–what a host there must have been of them–“could have their children educated in all departments of education and knowledge”–what a curriculum infidel literature and knowledge must have–“and have them in the best of Liberal society,” where profanity is the prevailing speech, and free love the prevailing sentiment and practice, “and have them enjoy the advantages of Sunday Instruction Schools and Entertainments,” offered by swearing female free lovers and procuresses with exercises made up of obscenity and blasphemy.
The miraculous effort needed to keep up this great Liberal Normal and Business Educational Institute for six months, on public money perverted from its lawful use, exhausted even the infidels of Liberal, and a year
elapsed before another effort was made. The Great Liberal Orphan’s Home and the Great Liberal Normal and Business Educational Institute were consolidated–it is a wonder how two such colossal concerns could be united–their charters amended and consolidated, and the new wonder was called “Free Thought University.” Flaming announcements of this wonderful legal achievement were made in the Liberal paper. profound articles were published in the paper by Chancellor Leahy. Circulars were sent all over the land, and announcements were made that sons and daughters of Liberals were coming to this new wondrous university in crowds. Portentous announcements of the opening of the Free Thought University were made. The morning came and “twelve pupils, all from Liberal, and nearly all young girls”–I quote from a paper published in Liberal–met in the little U.M.L. Hall, a building without a school desk or one particle of school furniture. Parturiunt montes, ridiculus mus nascitur. The mountains labor, a contemptible mouse is brought forth.
The school has never had more than fifteen pupils, young girls of Liberal, and about once a month a dance or jamboree of some kind has been held to wheedle out of the folly of fools some thing to eke out the board bill of the faculty of the Great Free Thought University of Liberal. The millennium of universal mental liberty, according to infidel gospel is fully established, and such glimpse as human vision can stand can be seen, in the Great Free Thought University, of a dozen young girls in the little U.M. L. Hall in Liberal. Bah! Humbug!
The “live paper” was a little four-column sheet, printed one page at a time on a ramshackling old job press, that looked ancient enough to have been co-temporaneous with the invention of printing. The type had been rejected, as worn-out type, when Walser got possession of it, and the paper was about as legible as if it had been printed on a currycomb. It was edited most of the time by Replogle Chaapelle and other free lovers, was set up by free lovers, and its matter was low filthy attacks on religion and all that was good and decent. As an editor remarked to the writer: “The vile little thing is a disgrace to the press of the United States.” This sheet, with a circulation of less than 300, was a fair index of the public spirit, liberality, moral and intellectual status of this Infidel Paradise, during its seven years of so-called “Free Thought and Liberalism.” About six months before he left Liberal, Walser got a new press and some type, and enlarged the paper. He had the assurance to announce that he was going to make an illustrated paper of it, and called for five dollar contributions for that end. The assurance of this Infidel Peter Funk, and the intelligence of his dupes can be measured by the fact that he had the cheek to make such an announcement, and there were fools who gave their money to him, for he published a list of names. The paper ran a few months and collapsed, and the outfit is now for sale. The “live paper” is dead beyond hope of resurrection.
The innumerable enterprises of which so much was said in the paper, in letters from Liberal, in accounts of it, and in meetings in Liberal, and in the gassing done on its streets, were even less real than the University, the Home, the live paper. Public meetings have been held, and enough enterprises have been gassed about, to cover Barton County with buildings. The wind work of countless projects were done, for gas is abundant in Liberal. To-day there is not a factory in Liberal, not a public school building, only a skeleton locked up under a mechanic’s lien. Its hotels are dens of infamy, its stores the cheapest, and they are moving away. Its bonds are fifteen cents on a dollar, and no purchasers, and its people, who can get away, are fleeing from it like vermin from a sinking ship.
When persons went to Walser to purchase lots, with wonderful apparent generosity, he told them that he did not want pay down for the lots. He would give them a bond for a deed at the end of ten years. They could use their own means in erecting buildings, and starting their business. By such a course Walser secured the erection of more and better buildings on his lots than would have been erected on lots owned by the builders. The dupes soon learned that they could neither rent nor sell, except as Walser dictated, and that he was devouring their money by his ten per cent interest. A more abject set of serfs than most of the people of this Infidel land of freedom were never seen. Replogle and Moore, in editorials in “Equity,” the anti-Walser paper, published in Liberal, taunt the tools of Walser with these facts and with having his collar on their necks. They taunt Walser with his frauds and his extortions. Walser and his crew no longer deny the facts stated to the writer, by Grayston and Bouton, and stated by him in the Post Dispatch. They have been bandied back and forth in the rival papers, in rows, called meetings in Liberal, and on its streets, until no one will be fool enough to deny them.
Liberal, ever since it was projected, has been, to the crack brains and cranks, who howl about what they call the free thought, meaning free lust, what the cave of Adullam was to outlaws in David’s day, a refuge. It has been a slop-tub, to catch the filth of all follies and abominations. Its leaders have been, like Fishback and Yale, renegade preachers and their followers, renegade church members, kicked out of the church for crime and vile conduct and character. It has always been full of all sorts of cranks, howling all sorts of abominations and lunacies. Yet in no place on earth have intolerance and bigotry been so rampant, as among the disciples of free thought in this Liberal town of Liberal. Spiritists abuse Materialists, and Materialists insult and ridicule Spirits, and each crank is like Ishmael, “his hand is against all others, and their hand is against him;” and a Killkenny cat fight has been constantly going on, and each crank in Liberal was a howling, clawing cat.
–to be continued–