To the Editors of the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal.
To the Editors of the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal
(Orion Clemens and Charles E. H. Wilson)
16 February 1855 Ë St. Louis, Mo.
(Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal, 28 Feb 55)
ST. LOUIS, FEB. 16, 1855.
Eds. Journal: Whether it is because of the wagon loads of valentines, or the huge heaps of delayed mail matter that have just come to hand, I cannot say; but there has been a heavy run on our Post Office for about a week. It is almost impossible to get into the office at all, so great is the rush — and to get to the deliveries, after ten in the morning, is an impossibility. For a week or so, nothing could be seen in the bookstores but
thousands upon thousands of valentines. One of our stationers has sold about $1,200 worth of this kind of nonsense.
A widow woman with five children, destitute of money, half starved and almost naked, reached this city yesterday, from some where in Arkansas, and were on their way to join some relations in Illinois. They had suffered dreadfully from cold and fatigue during their journey, and were truly objects of charity. The sight brought to mind the handsome sum our preacher collected in church last Sunday to obtain food and raiment for the poor, ignorant heathen in some far off part of the world; I thought, too, of the passage in the Bible instructing the disciples to carry their good works into all the world — beginning first at Jerusalem.
An extension of the city limits seems to be exciting a good deal of attention just now, and meetings are held every day or two to consider the subject.
The first train went through to Washington, on the Pacific railroad, on the 9th. The cars started from the new depot in Seventh street. The work on this road is progressing finely, and I hear no more complaint about a want of funds.
A new evening paper is about to be started here, to be called the Evening Mirror. I do not know who are to be its editors. A new Catholic paper (bad luck to it) is also soon to be established, for the purpose of keeping the Know Nothing organ straight.
The livery stable of T. Turner, Broadway, near Carr street, was burned on the night of the 14th. Seventeen or eighteen horses perished, among which were "Know Nothing," worth $800, and another fine horse, valued at $500. The whole loss is about $13,000, with an insurance of $8,000. The building burned very rapidly, and threw a light into my room (it was but a square and a half distant) sufficient to read by. Though half asleep, I could hear the shrieks of the poor horses as they madly struggled to escape from the cruel element.
Policemen are queer animals and have remarkably nice notions as to the great law of self-preservation. I doubt if the man is now living that ever caught one at a riot. To find "a needle in a hay stack" is a much easier matter than to scare up one of these gentry when he's wanted. Late last night, hearing a fuss in the street, I got up to see what was the matter. I saw a man — somewhat inebriated — marching up the street, armed with a barrel stave, and driving a woman before him. He was talking very energetically, and applying the aforesaid stave most industriously to the
poor woman's shoulders. The following remarks, which I overheard, will serve to enlighten you as to his reason for "lamming" the lady: "Curse you! (bang! went the stave;) by this kind of conduct (energetic application of the stave,) you have grieved me till you have broken my heart; (bang!) and I'll break your d—d neck for it!" (bang! — bang! — bang!) And thus the gentleman amused himself until out of sight and hearing, and failed to stumble upon a single policeman. I felt sorry for the poor heart-broken creature, and wished with all my heart it might please Providence to remove him from his troubles by putting it into the Sheriff's head to hang the scoundrel before morning. On this beast's account am I sorry that there is no purgatory for the brute creation.
A Thespian Society, called the Young Mens' Dramatic Association, have played once or twice lately at the Varieties Theatre. I saw them play "The Merchant of Venice." I had always thought that this was a comedy, until they made a farce of it. The prompters found it a hard matter to get the actors on the stage, and when they did get them on, it was harder still to get them off again. "Jessica" was always "thar" when she wasn't wanted, and never would turn up when her services were required. They'll do better, next time.
Rev. Dr. Cox will deliver the last of his course of historical lectures before the Young Mens' Christian Association, soon. He is an eloquent and interesting speaker, and never fails to attract large audiences.
S. L. C.
1. Clemens culled most of the news items in this letter from St. Louis papers, primarily the Missouri Republican and the Missouri Democrat of 15 and 16 February. On 14 February the St. Louis Missouri Republican reported the arrival of some five hundred sacks of letters and newspapers ("Mails," 2). This was mail from the East and North that had been delayed more than a week by heavy snowfalls in Illinois. On the day of the present letter the St. Louis Evening News noted that "our P. O. has been turned into a regular Sebastopol, which all manner of people unite in the morning to assault" ("Attack on the P. O.," 2).
2. Clemens was reflecting on Luke 24:47, "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." The preacher was probably the Reverend Artemas Bullard, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis (see 30 July — 20 Aug 66 to JLC and PAM, n. 1). Clemens may have been acquainted at this time with Bullard's fifteen-year-old son Henry, who in 1867 became a fellow passenger on the Quaker City excursion to the Holy Land ("Illness Fatal to Dr. Bullard," St. Joseph [Mo.] Gazette, 17 May 1911, 1-2)
3. St. Louis was debating the merits of a bill, proposed by the city council on 27 December 1854, to redistrict the city into ten wards and triple its area. Under the proposal the city would extend roughly three miles east to west and seven miles along the Mississippi River. Voters ultimately approved the bill, which took effect on 5 December 1855 (St. Louis Missouri Republican: "City Extension," 29 Dec 54, 2; "The City Extension," 30 Dec 54, 2; "Extension Meeting," 16 Feb 55, 2; Scharf, 1:161; Primm, 197).
4. The Pacific Railroad had been incorporated by Missouri on 12 March 1849. It was intended to run between St. Louis and Kansas City (about two hundred and eighty miles) and eventually to be part of the central route linking the two coasts. Liberally funded by the legislature, the railroad had just opened a fifty-four-mile section to Washington, Missouri, on 10 February. The Missouri Democrat predicted that "at no very distant day" the railroad would "bring to our city's lap not only the wealth of golden California, but the richer and more enduring treasures of the world's trade with the Indies and the East" ("Opening of the Pacific Railroad to Washington on the Missouri," 12 Feb 55, 2). Despite government assistance, however, a lack of funds impeded construction and the line was not completed to Kansas City until 1865. It eventually became part of the "Southwestern system," which extended to the Pacific coast (Scharf, 2:1142-67; Primm, 214-22; Belcher, 78-81).
5. The St. Louis Evening Mirror made its debut on 19 February. The St. Louis Leader, a Catholic political and literary paper edited by novelist and poet Jedediah V. Huntington (1815-62), first appeared on 10 March. Clemens's "Know Nothing organ" was probably the St. Louis Intelligencer, a nativist daily established in 1850, or perhaps the blatantly xenophobic True Shepherd of the Valley; or, St. Louis Know-Nothing, established in September 1854 ("A New Paper — the Mirror," St. Louis Missouri Republican, 20 Feb 55, 2; "Prospectus of a New Catholic Paper, in the City of St. Louis," St. Louis Missouri Democrat, 11 Jan 55, 3; "The Leader," St. Louis Intelligencer, 13 Mar 55, 2; "A Know-Nothing Paper," St. Louis Evening News, 30 Sept 54, 2; Winifred Gregory, 371).
6. On 15 February the St. Louis newspapers reported that a 5:00 a.m. fire "yesterday" at Tracy P. Turner's livery stables — at 321 Broadway — killed sixteen horses (Knox, 194).
7. This and the next item were not derived from the St. Louis newspapers.
8. Clemens describes the second 1855 performance, on 13 February, of the St. Louis Amateur Dramatic Association ("Amateur Dramatic Association — Benefit of the Poor," St. Louis Missouri Republican, 13 Feb 55, 2).
9. Samuel Hanson Cox, D.D. (1793-1880), of Brooklyn, a "New School" Presbyterian minister and educator known as the "Great Conversationalist," gave a series of eight lectures on historical topics between 26 January and 16 February, closing with "Historic Poetry," which concentrated on the verse of Sir Walter Scott. Cox was a controversial figure: falsely accused of being an abolitionist, he had nevertheless helped organize a Presbyterian church for blacks in St. Louis, the first such church in Missouri ("Rev. Samuel H. Cox, D.D.," St. Louis Missouri Democrat, 26 Jan 55, 2; St. Louis Missouri Republican: "Dr. Cox — His Position," 26 Jan 55, 2; "Dr. Cox's Lecture," 28 Jan 55, 2; "Dr. Cox delivers —," 16 Feb 55, 2; "Interesting Occasion," 20 Feb 55, 2).