Who was Turner anyway?

Who was Turner anyway?

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A Turner Bugler, 2004

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News of 150 Years Ago–November/December 1859


November/December 1859

John Brown’s trial and execution continued to be big news through December 1859.
From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, December 3, 1859.



His Remains sent North with a Military Escort.

BALTIMORE, Dec. 2.–The Sun has a special dispatch from Charlestown, stating that Brown was executed at a quarter past eleven o’clock, without any unusual excitement.

The express with dispatches for the Associated Press has not yet arrived at Harper’s Ferry, the nearest Telegraph station to Charlestown….

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The uproar over the raid on Harper’s Ferry was sarcastically contrasted with the lack of outrage over the raid on the Liberty, MO, military depot in 1855, when local Missourians took arms and ammunition because of the “troubles in Kansas”.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, November 10, 1859.




We copy from the Report of the Congressional Investigating Committee on Kansas affairs, the affidavit of Capt. Luther Leonard, concerning the capture and plundering of the United States military depot at Liberty, Mo., which, as the public are aware, did not elicit the least suspicion of treason among the authorities at Washington! The statement will be found in pages I, 129, 1, 130, and 1,131 of the Report aforesaid:

I am military storekeeper at the Missouri depot, Liberty, Missouri. I have been stationed there ten years last March, having charge of the arsenal, which contains arms and ammunition of all descriptions. On the 4th of December, 1855, my clerk, Mr. Grant, came from town and said there was some talk of their coming down to the arsenal to get arms, but he did not think they would do so. I took no measures of defence, as I never thought they would come, and my clerk told me he did not believe they would come….

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In the session begun in late 1859, the Missouri legislature considered a bill that would have created a state-appointed Police Board for the City of St. Louis.  While the bill failed in the 1859 session, it was introduced again in 1861 and passed.  This law had serious implications at the outset of the Civil War in Missouri, for it gave the secessionist Governor power over law enforcement in the primary Unionist stronghold in the state. The St. Louis Police Board was still state-controlled up until 2013.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, December 13, 1859.


The savage hatred which the plundering Slave Democracy of St. Louis bear to St. Louis, has at length burst all bounds. Their hoarded vengeance is to be wreaked, it seems, on the devoted Free Soil city this winter. Her righteous representatives treat her as if she were a Sodom or Gomorrah, indeed. To strip her of her chartered immunities, to despoil her of her revenue, to tie her hand and foot and deliver her captive to the Executive, to render her incapable of political action, and to rob her of the priceless jewel of self-government, is the task which these gentlemen have undertaken to accomplish. In their haste to strike her foul blows, the paricides trample on constitutional rights and the sacred principles of political equality and government by the people. Like the Venetian renegade of whom the poet sings, each endeavors to be first in leading the deadly assault upon her honor and welfare, and handing her over to sack and pillage, according to the laws of pirates and brigands….

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Even before the Civil War, Thanksgiving was a revered holiday in the United States, although the occasion was not standardized as to the date.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, December 8, 1859.


The great mass of our citizens, it is to be presumed, will join in the observation of to-day, as the annual Thanksgiving occasion designated by the Executive of the State. We do not suppose that the motives of the Governor in refusing to appoint the day observed in common by twenty-seven States of the confederacy, will prevent a hearty co-operation in the usual services of the day by all who are accustomed to join in such devotional and festal exercises. All prejudices should be sunk in oblivion. The prosperity of our city and State as a community and a people should awaken the gratitude of Jew and Gentile alike. There is much to be thankful for-universal progress, personal welfare as individuals, freedom from intestine war and foreign invasion, and rapid advances in the arts and sciences-these should swell the heart of every Missourian with pride. The day will be generally observed, beyond question. The courts have adjourned, the banks and public offices will be closed, and business will be mainly suspended. Most of our churches will be open for Divine service, and there will be no lack of opportunity to celebrate the occasion to the fullest extent….

Click here to read the complete article.


Dan Brown has made a nice living writing about the practices of secret societies, but the public fascination with them is hardly new. If the article fairly represents this order, it is not surprising that it was defunct by 1868.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, December 13, 1859.


Grand Disclosures of the Ceremonies and Mysteries of the Wonderful Order.


[From the Zanesville Aurora.]

In almost every town and city in this country, there is a lodge of the Sons of Malta. This mysterious order took its rise in New Orleans some three or four years ago. There are two accounts given of its origin. It is said, by one account, to have originated with the army of “Walker the Filibuster,” at the time that worthy was preparing to take Cuba. Another account says it originated during the ravages of the yellow fever, and was intended to divert the minds of the frightened people, as well as to supply a fund for charitable purposed-such as burying the homeless dead, &c.

However it may have originated, it is not the order that outsiders take it to be; as we shall presently show….

Click here to read the complete article.


Mr. Wise was introduced to us last July when he departed St. Louis in his balloon and ended up in New York State. In August 1859 he carried the first airmail in a balloon flight from Lafayette, IN, to Crawfordsville, IN, a feat which was commemorated in 2009 at the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park outside Indianapolis. In this article he denigrates one of his contemporary competitors, Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, who went on to gain fame at Mr. Wise’s expense during the Civil War. Lowe did make preparations and practice runs for a transatlantic balloon flight, but the start of the war cut short these efforts.

Wikipedia relates the reason why Prof. Lowe made the history books and Mr. Wise did not: “By July 19, 1861, General Irvin McDowell’s army was prepared to face the First Battle of Bull Run. McDowell had called for a balloon to be sent to the front, but the Engineers awaited the belated arrival of John Wise. Thaddeus Lowe was at the ready and had been called up to inflate his balloon in Wise’s stead. At the last minute Wise appeared with papers in hand demanding that Lowe step aside and allow him to inflate his balloon which was rightfully commissioned into action. As Wise proceeded with a fully inflated balloon toward the battlefield at Centerville, Virginia, he became entangled in the brush which disabled his craft and permanently removed him from involvement in the Civil War.”

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, November 19, 1859.

Mr. John Wise, the aeronaut, in a letter to the New York Express, doubts very much the intention of Mr. Lowe to attempt crossing the Atlantic in his big balloon, and indeed hints very plainly that Mr. Lowe is a humbug. He says:

“I may also be permitted now to say that Mr. Lowe is an aeronaut of seventeen months chronology, and of no scientific attainments, and he has not made ten reputable ascensions. By profession he is a ‘magician’-by nature a man of very gentlemanly demeanor, by practice in balloon progress an unscrupulous plagiarist.

“When Mr. Lowe first disclosed his plan of a big balloon to me, in August last, he impressed me with the belief that he was really in earnest to make the attempt to cross the Atlantic, and he invited me to take a seat in his air-ship for that voyage; but before he had progressed far in his work, I plainly saw that he would not be likely to succeed, even so far as a fair start, as he was deficient in practical knowledge, and very superficially versed in the philosophy of ballooning, and consequently refused his offer to take passage with him-not believing in its possible success, I refrained from having my name associated with the scheme.”


Event announcements are a staple of newspapers.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, December 22, 1859.

“How to Get Married.”-This is the title of a lecture to be delivered this (Thursday) evening, at the first Methodist Episcopal Church, corner of Eighth and Washington avenue, by Rev. D. R. McAnally, editor of the St. Louis Christian Advocate. Personally, we have no desire to be informed on this subject, but as a great many young men, and a great meany young ladies too, will get married, we suppose it is well that they receive instruction, because whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well, and we know of no person more competent to tell folks “how to get married” than the Rev. Doctor.


Devotees of Instant Messaging should find this unusual advertisement easy to decipher.  Hint for the rest of us: try reading it out loud.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, December 6, 1859.

Draper & Tailor ad 1859