Newspaper reports there is an active local secret society
by Caveat Lector
Today in history Nov 29, 1861: Newspaper reports there is an active local chapter of pro-slavery secret society
50 YEARS AGO: Newspaper reports there is an active local chapter of pro-slavery secret society
By RUDI KELLER
COLUMBIA — A one-sentence item in the Missouri Statesman held profound implications for future trouble — there was a local chapter of the Knights of the Golden Circle.
The pro-slavery secret society was militant and expansionist, with goals of creating a slaveholding American empire. It had chapters throughout the country and had organized for war over slavery since its inception in 1854. The Statesman did not name any members or where the group met. Editor William Switzler noted only that “we had information several weeks ago which satisfied us” that a local chapter was active.
In a lengthy editorial in the same issue, Switzler urged Unionists to become more active and vocal. “Many of them have long enough seemingly quailed before the storm and refused openly to take a decided position,” Switzler wrote. “Many of them, fearful of dire consequences to themselves and property have occupied a neutral position; have evidenced weakness in the knees and great shakiness in the spinal column.”
The intimidating behavior of secessionists and lack of response had led outsiders to view the area as overwhelmingly secessionist, he wrote. “The impression has gone abroad that there are very few Union men in Missouri, very few, scarcely a half-dozen in Columbia — not a hundred in the county. We tell you, and we speak by the book, that the Union men have a majority in Columbia and there are hundreds upon hundreds in the county of Boone.”
And now was the time for Unionists to take a stand, even with their choice of newspapers for advertising, Switzler told his readers. In a lengthy notice to advertisers, Switzler called on Unionists in eight nearby counties to use the Statesman for their legal notices, which was then and continued to be an important source of newspaper revenue.
After noting there was either no newspaper or no Unionist newspaper in Audrain, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Monroe or Randolph counties, Switzler wrote that allegiance to the Union meant allegiance to the Statesman.
ROCHEPORT — A secessionist postmaster was replaced by a Unionist, the Statesman reported. William Slade was the new postmaster, taking over from J. West Wallace, the Statesman reported.
Appointments as postmaster changed with each presidential administration. Political affiliation was tricky in Missouri, however, as few people wanted to be publicly identified with the Republican Party.
Slade was born in Vermont and moved to Boone County in 1840 at age 30. He was justice of the peace in Rocheport at the time of his appointment.
ST. LOUIS — Stewart B. Hatton, arrested in Boone County at the home of H.C. Schwabe, arrived in St. Louis after being held for three weeks at Macon. Hatton was a local secessionist leader and had taken part in an ambush of Federal troops south of Fulton in July.
ST. LOUIS — Brig. Gen. John Schofield officially took command of the Missouri State Militia, the Unionist state forces being supported with Federal money.
Schofield, 30, was an 1853 graduate of West Point. When the war broke out, he had been on leave as a professor of physics at Washington University in St. Louis. He was active in recruitment activities and had taken over command at Wilson’s Creek after the death of Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon.
Compiled by Rudi Keller, email@example.com, 815-1709 SOURCE: State Historical Society of Missouri; “History of Boone County” by William Switzler; Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
Reach Rudi Keller at 573-815-1709 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published on page A2 of the Tuesday, November 29, 2011 edition of The Columbia Daily Tribune with the headline “Newspaper reports there is an active local chapter of pro-slavery secret society: ”
The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives