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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The next day the free lovers armed themselves and defied their assailants. Wednesday night about twenty men met in the lumber yard to renew that attack on the free lovers, but knowing that they had prepared themselves to resist, and that their assailants would be killed, they abandoned the attempt.
These facts are stated in the Liberal and in Equity, a little free love sheet started by Replogle and his affinity, June 5th, as the organ of free lovers. Moore united his philosophical leaflet with it as they were kindred efforts. In their criminations and recriminations these sheets–Liberal and Equity, fully exposed the rottenness of both factions. Walser says in Liberal, July 1st: polyandry, pimpism, debauchery and lust, under the sweet-scented name of free love.” In Liberal of July 15th he says that the free lovers defended seduction. Then in the Liberal of August 19th that they blew up the entrance to his mines.
Free lovers retorted saying he was no better than they were. That they had only done what he said, in a public speech, he founded Liberal to have practiced, only what he had advocated. What he practiced himself, and what he knew and approved, when it occurred.
It was disgusting to watch Walser’s course. After leading in and instituting such conduct, and approving of it, while it was transpiring, when the writer’s expose of his infamy turned public attention to Liberal, he made frantic hypocritical attempts to white wash his den and save his property. But none of his associates in infamy would consent to be made scape-goats, to save his property. They defended themselves by exposing him. Then he would truckle to them, as he did to Moore July 4th, four days after sending a mode to assassinate him, by shaking hands with him and calling him, “Brother Moore.” The result again proved that free love was in the ascendency in Liberal, and could not be made to act the scape-goat. Walser closed his paper, closed up residence, abandoned Liberal, and offers the rotten carcass for sale. Such is the condition of affairs in Liberal, this the last week in November, 1886. The Chaplain dreamed better than he knew in his “Dream of Ingersollville,” only his picture is scarcely a pencil outline of the dark picture painted on the fair prairies of southwest Missouri. Another lesson has been inscribed on the page of human experience, that infidelity, godlessness and hatred of restraint always end in crime, infamy and ruin. God is not mocked. As men sow they reap.
A large portion of the literature most read in Liberal is of the character put under ban by law. Young females read, without any attempt at concealment, “scientific” works on the “science of prevention.” Miss Stowe, a young female leader in Liberal society, was met in the street by a young man with such a work in her hand. She loaned it to him to read. The Replogle woman was carrying such a book on the street by a travelling man. Foeticide is the prevailing practice in Liberal. There have not been as many children born in Liberal, born of infidel parents, as it has been years in existence. Mrs. Rosenkrantz, the wife of a hotel keeper in Liberal, told Dr. Bouten [Bouton], when dying of foeticide, that it had been performed for her in Liberal sixteen times, and that the ground around the motel was full of murdered foetuses. Van Law, the marshal, dug up a half developed embryo in digging a drain for the hotel. This is not the only instance. Doctors say that a large portion of their practice with women is saving them from the consequences of foeticide. The Lyons woman, Mrs. Lide Elson, and Mrs. Weams [Weems] were most notorious, as those who practiced foeticide, but there were several who understood the “science.” It was commonly reported that since Mrs. Lyons and her associates in “prevention and foeticide” have left Liberal, that a number of young females have found themselves enciente, and that Walser’s daughter and Thayer’s daughter left Liberal in that condition. But enough of such disgusting details.
The infidels of Liberal made desperate efforts to refute the facts stated in the Post Dispatch and Globe Democrat. They impudently asserted that they had a public school house although not two weeks before Walser made such statement in the Liberal, he tried in a school meeting to sell the building to the district and it was rejected, because it was merely a residence, and not fit for a school house.
The pretended statement of Mrs. Burgess was written by Walser, and never authorized by her. The statements of pretended Christians living in Liberal, are frauds. The parties have never been in a religious meeting, since living in Liberal, and have been regular attendants in infidel meetings, and are regarded as Infidels by all parties. Poole the pretended Baptist preacher, is a notorious scoundrel, who escaped the penitentiary for stealing, it is believed by bribery. Dr. Clark lived in lewdness with his wife before marriage, until he was forced to marry her by her brother’s revolver. He escaped the penitentiary for forfeiting bail bonds.
Mr. Finley, ex-sheriff, Mr. Boston, deputy sheriff and other honorables of Barton county “certify” for Liberal. How will they reconcile such certificates with statements they have made to others, such as Finley’s statement to R. F. Holland, that the hotels were whore houses, and women had come to his room in them, and wanted wo sleep with him. Others who signed those statements, and editors who have lied for Liberal, in their papers, have made statements flatly contradicting their statements in behalf of Liberal.
Some have said it is a common thing for some men in Lamar to go to Liberal, to spend the night with prominent women there. Doubtless the reason that some of these parties “certified,” was that they feared, if they refused, such visits would be exposed by their “friends” in Liberal. Scores of statements of these certifiers can be proved, flatly contradicting these “certificates.” Scores of statements of Lamar editors can be proved flatly contradicting their lying whitewash of Liberal.
There is not a person of common sense in Barton county that does not know these facts. If there was not Infidel in Liberal, if the town was empty, the property of the northwest corner of Barton County would be worth more than it is now. That Infidelity has delayed the improvement of that part of the county, and depreciated property over a half a million dollars. If Liberal were settled by decent moral christians, the property of that part of the county would be worth that much more. Had Liberal been settled and managed by christian people, there would be to-day a town of 3,000 or 4,000 people and that part of the county would be worth a million dollars more than it is. If Liberal can be cleansed and not a trace of Infidelity left, that part of Barton county in ten years will be worth one million dollars more than it will be if infidelity is allowed to fester and infect the atmosphere, with its stench. The true policy for Barton county is for her papers, officials and people to cease lying and whitewashing this cancer. Denounce and expose it. Exert every influence to break it up, extirpate it. If the people of the surrounding country would utterly cease, every one of them, to go to Liberal for mail or trade, or to railroad depot, and go to Lamar, Nevada or Fort Scott, rather than patronize the den, in six months the cancer would be dead. Then fill the empty houses with
decent people, obliterate the name of Liberal and its foul memories; and build up a decent city as can be done.
Bankers, grain dealers, merchants, business men, professional men, have visited Pedro, and were delighted with its prospects, except the cancer so near it. The would not bring their families there. They will not until that cancer is removed. The people of the northwest of Barton county have borne the cowardice and pandering to infidelity, practiced in Lamar, and by would be leaders, and by papers as long as they will. Such men must change their course, or look to their infidel friends, that they appreciate so highly for their patronage and support. Decent people have been betrayed for that den of infamy as long as they endure it, as those who have betrayed them will learn.
The reply to this expose of this den will doubtless be to open the floodgates of filth on the author. But abuse of the lawyer in a case, never impeaches his witnesses, nor sets to one side their evidence. Several persons heard the statements of Grayston and Bouton, as made to the writer. Curless has rehearsed what his committee unearthed, to dozens. The infidel papers of Liberal, in their criminations and recriminations, have stated nearly all of the facts stated in this pamphlet. There are scores of persons around Liberal who, from the statements of infidels, or personal knowledge, can verify, one by one, the statements of this pamphlet. The writer has only given a specimen fact, out of volumes left untold. Two facts will be the moral of our history. Walser hired one A. J. Fishback, a renegade preacher, now an infidel ranter, as is always the case with such scoundrels, to travel and lecture, and lie for his den, and persuade fools, infected with the itch of what they call “free thought,” to go to Liberal. As Fishback was turned out of the church for eloping with a female from Oskaloosa, Iowa, and leaving his family destitute on the charities of the people, and as he is a free love libertine, whose wife and daughter disown him, he was a fit representative of Liberal. He persuaded a blacksmith in Pike Co., Illinois, to move to Liberal. His father-in-law, a life-long spouting infidel, visited him in Liberal. After staying a few days, he gave money to his daughter and said, “Do you leave here as soon as you can get away. This is no place for your children. I would not, for the world, try to rear a child in such a place.” He remarked to Mr. Bumgarner, “An infidel surrounded by Christians may spout his infidelity and the community may be able to stand it. But it will never do to try to establish a society with infidelity as its basis.” Dr. J. S. Gish, who tried it, said to the writer, “All that is needed to cure an infidel of roseate ideas of infidelity is two weeks experience in Liberal. It will cure him of all love for, or pride in infidelity.”
Since the above was written, about Dec. 1st 1886, there have been several new developments in Liberal. The Opera House was burned one night in Feb. 1887. The largest stock of goods in Liberal–belonging to the Todds–was in the store below the opera hall, and was burned. The fact that all were heavily insured was a subject of universal comment. Walser’s residence–like his store in Paris, Illinois–was burned one night. He had some men arrested for setting it on fire. His witness was a woman that he had put into the house to take care of it. Under the cross-examination she broke down, and came very near exposing the fact that she had set the fire at Walser’s instigation, so clearly as to cause their arrest. All were satisfied that such was a fact.
During the past winter the “joints” in Liberal threw off the mask and sold liquor, and ran pool-rooms, until the people of the surrounding country began a crusade, that landed some of the keepers in jail and ran the rest out of the country.
To fulfil the Chaplain’s dream, Stewart and some infidels got some Christians to hold meetings in Liberal, and to start a Sunday School in the school-house. But as it was done to save the credit of the town, and was not “fruits meet for repentance;” after playing the hypocrite a few weeks, meetings and Sunday School were shut out and put down as usual.
Property cannot be sold at from one-third to one-half its cost. Liberal is not only dead, but like a corpse chained to a living man, it is impeding Pedro in its growth. Walser played out in Wichita, and has gone back to Liberal. He is bumming around Liberal, trying to eke a living out of the carcass of Liberal, until he can sell it.
The infidels in Liberal are too rotten–too thoroughly given over to reprobate mind, to repent. That part of the Chaplain’s dream was the result of the Chaplain’s goodness of heart. Infidels like those in Liberal, may suffer from their infidelity, but they never repent. They are like Milton’s Satan. They become more depraved, and seek to drag others down with them. Those who have fled from Liberal, and those who can not, will continue to fester in their rottenness, until they curse God and die.
No attempt has been made to refuse this pamphlet. The writer has the statements of Grayston, Bouton, Curless and other infidels in such a shape that they dare not deny them. He can confirm them by the evidence of scores of others. He had the files of the Liberal and the Equity, the Infidel papers of Liberal. In these papers Walser, Stewart, Replogle, Moore, Yoemans and others state the facts he narrates, and they can not repudiate their own statements. Even the Lamar papers and “honorables” have ceased to lie for Liberal. The writer submits this revised edition of his pamphlet to the American public, with the conscious satisfaction that its statements are “iron-clad” and “water-proof.”
The following facts are well known and will not be denied in Liberal and vicinity. There lives near Liberal a farmer named George Boulware. He is a sceptic, but a man whose word is good. He tells openly and boldly this story. His hired man attended Sunday evening entertainments in Liberal. He told Mr. Boulware, that while the dancing jamboree, that always follows the Sunday evening entertainment, was in progress, boys, young men and old men were allowed, after paying a dollar each, to go behind the scenery on the stage and commit fornication with a female who was there for that purpose. Mr. Boulware told this and denounced such orgies, and called the entertainments and the place where they were held “Walser’s Dog House.” Walser threatened to sue Boulware for slander. Boulware defied him, told him to “crack his whip and drive ahead.” Walser has never sued Boulware, who continues to tell the story, defies Walser and the Infidels, and says he can prove what he has said. The reader can draw his own conclusions.
The following statement of the officials of Barton County will tell how the suits that the infidels of Liberal brought against Clark Braden were disposed of:
STATE OF MISSOURI., BARTON COUNTY. SS,:
Clark Braden was tried before me, Justice of the Peace in and for Barton county, State of Missouri, on the 18th day of May, 1885, for criminal libel, in certain statements he was charged with having made to a reporter of the Post-Dispatch a paper published in St. Louis, Missouri, and which appeared in that paper of May 2d. 1885. After the prosecution presented all their evidence, the case was submitted to the jury without any rebutting evidence by the defence, and Clark Braden was acquitted by the jury.
A. HALL, Justice of the Peace.
Lamar Barton County, Missouri, Nov 25, 1885
W. L. MACK, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Barton County, Missouri.
LAMAR, MO, Dec. 19th, 1887
The suit of Solon C. Thayer vs. Clark Braden et al., was dismissed by demand of the plaintiff, and judgment was rendered against the plaintiff and security for all costs. The costs were paid by Thayer, through the sheriff, under an execution.
W. L. MACK, Clerk of Circuit Court.
This was a civil suit for $25,000 damages.
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NOTES: Well, Braden never quite got around to saying fire and brimstone ought to be rained down and the earth salted, but he intimated as much.
Braden, noted elsewhere, states that he got much of his information from William Grayston and Dr. Bouton in a double interview but he never is clear on what either told him. In a few days I plan to write a post on this.