Thursday, January 21, 2021
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Early in the fall of 1879, a group of high school boys were sitting around a table at the offices of the Rockville Tribune newspaper in Parke County, Indiana. These boys naturally gravitated to the newspaper office, where, according to the paper’s employee, Isaac Strouse, “pipes and tobacco were always at hand and could be smoked with immunity from parental displeasure.”
With John H. Beadle’s purchase of the Tribune, Strouse’s horizons expanded. The veteran newspaperman agreed to take him on as a cub reporter and to review his work and to give him informal lessons on the proper use of the English language. On this day in the newspaper office, Strouse, who had risen to become the newspaper’s local editor, heard one of the boys proclaim Juliet Humphries as “the prettiest and smartest girl in Rockville.” Although he had gone to school with Betty Humphries, the oldest of the Humphries’ daughters, Strouse had never been introduced to the youngest member of the clan.
A short time after the discussion in the newspaper office, Strouse finally met the then sixteen-year-old girl who was to become his wife at a party where he had the distinction of “being the oldest boy, as well as the only one not in school.” Strouse spied his friend Betty Humphries sitting alone and went over to talk to her. After the two had been talking for some time, another boy came over and demanded, in a friendly way, for Strouse to meet the other girls at the party and called over Betty Humphries’ sister, Juliet. “Gyp [Juliet] came to our corner, bringing several of the other girls,” said Strouse, “and we were all ‘introduced,’ though every one of us was born within a radius of a mile.” Strouse and Juliet fell into a long conversation, which included a discussion of books and poems they had recently read. Their shared love of literature, and the close bonds they formed through Juliet’s “secret” work for the Tribune (Beadle had hired her to write, anonymously, for the paper), helped begin a courtship that ended in marriage.
By the time Juliet did her first reporting job under her own name for the newspaper, she and the local editor were “regarded by themselves and everybody else as ‘engaged,’” noted Strouse. And, despite the use of a non de plume (“La Gitana”), the small community knew that it was Juliet Humphries who had written several pieces that had appeared in the newspaper. For her first assignment, Beadle assigned Juliet to cover the Fine Art Hall at the Parke County Fair. The fair was considered the one great event of the year and the Rockville Tribune, in order to scoop its rival newspaper, took its press out to the fairgrounds in order to issue a daily report on the fair’s activities.
Unfortunately for Juliet, her work on the Parke County newspaper brought with it little financial remuneration. “I wanted money the money to buy my wedding frock and a few other things,” she said. “There was no help for it.” At the age of seventeen, Juliet left school without receiving her high school degree and successfully passed the examination to become a teacher. In those days in Indiana, the state had no mandatory standards for teachers, with teaching licenses (like that given to Juliet) granted by county superintendents to those candidates who successfully passed written tests.
In addition to the written test, in order to gain a teaching job in Parke County Juliet had to obtain the signatures of most of the patrons in the school district. She had varying degrees of success with her neighbors: one man railed at her that her proper place was in the kitchen, not teaching school, and another offered to marry her as an alternative to signing her paper. Her father’s legacy helped with one man, known in the area for his tendency to get drunk on election day and pick fights with fellow voters. The man, however, remembered that Juliet’s father had been “a mighty good Democrat!,” and agreed to help her by signing her paper and obtaining signatures from his other neighbors.
Juliet’s stint as an educator lasted only a short time. “Under different circumstances I think I might have succeeded fairly well as a teacher,” shet said, “for I did know what was in the books and I had a faculty for general information, which is what is often sadly lacking in a teacher. I could interest the children.” She received help in disciplining any wayward boys from the oldest boy in the class, Henry, whom she befriended. “Soon he ‘licked’ every boy in school for me and we had fair order,” Juliet said.
Instead of continuing her teaching career, however, she quit her job when she married Strouse. The nuptials, which took place on December 22, 1881, did not proceed without some disapproval—from the bride’s family at least. Traveling to her job as a teacher one day in her uncle’s wagon, she informed him that she intended to marry a man whose life’s work was to be a newspaper editor. The uncle solemnly chewed on a piece of straw for a moment before telling his niece: “Jule, don’t you know that being an editor is the orneriest business in the world?”
Strouse, who at the time of his marriage to Juliet had gone over to the rival Rockville Republican to take a job as a printer at a higher salary, discovered that his new wife possessed not only writing talent, but an independent mind as well. On their wedding day the couple had received as presents such items as a set of silver spoons, a porcelain tea set, table linen, a lamb’s wool comforter, and twenty-five gold dollars from the groom’s father. Also, the uncle that had wondered about the wisdom of marrying a newspaper editor had “accepted the inevitable” and had given the couple as a wedding present an elaborate illustrated family Bible, which included an illuminated marriage certificate at the beginning of the family record. In the record, Juliet inscribed: “Isaac Rice Strauss was born December 12, 1863.” Many years before, Strouse’s father had “Americanized” his family’s name from the German Strauss to Strouse. Throughout the rest of her life, Juliet used for her married name the old German spelling (Strauss), while her husband kept the newer version (Strouse). “She never would write our name as it was written by my father after he changed the spelling to compel the people of a typical Hoosier pioneer community to call him ‘Strouse,’” noted her husband.
The newlyweds endured a rough beginning to their years together. In the summer of 1882 they were both stricken with typhoid fever when an epidemic hit Rockville. With Strouse unable to go to work, and hence earn an income, the couple moved in with Strauss’s mother, a woman for whom her son-in-law had a world of respect. “I have not spoken of this unequaled woman as my ‘mother-in-law a half dozen times in all my life,” he observed. “I never could apply a name, so long the object of jokes and jibes, to such a woman.” With Susan Humphries able care, the young couple survived their bout with illness, but it took until autumn for Strouse to feel well enough to be up and about (his wife, whose sickness was far worse than his, was still confined to her sickbed but convalescent).
Riding to the fairgrounds with his father, Strouse came across his former employer, Beadle. Taking Strouse aside, Beadle informed him that the “exigencies of journalism have made it imperative that I have a partner.” The editor had fallen on hard times in his competition with Rockville’s other two newspapers, the Rockville Republican, which (not surprisingly) supported the Republican party, and the Parke County Signal, which allied itself with the Democrats. Beadle’s lack of business skills and some unfortunate hiring decisions that curtailed his ability to take freelance writing projects prompted him to ask his former employee to take a half-interest in the paper for $800. “Had he said $800,000,” said Strouse, “the price to me would have amounted to the same kind of a proposal.”
Aware of the newlywed’s financial difficulties, Beadle arranged for Strouse’s brother David to contribute $300, which he required to make the Tribune solvent again, and agreed to take a personal note from Strouse for the remaining $500. Strouse was more than happy to accept the offer and rode home to share the “glorious news” with his family. “How it heartened all of us!” he said. Not only did it mean some hopes of financial security for the young couple, but Beadle’s kind offer (Strouse later learned that no mortgage had been made against his interest in the newspaper) would also provide Strauss the opportunity once again to utilize her writing talents. Beadle and Strouse announced their new partnership to the community in the pages of the Tribune on November 10, 1882. “It shall be our earnest endeavor to make it a live paper,” the coeditors said, “containing all the local and a fair share of the general news, and for the next year we expect to make a specialty of home interests, in the schools, churches and business of the town and county.”
Country weekly newspapers like the Tribune dominated journalism in the Hoosier state and the nation during the late nineteenth century. From 1870 to 1890, the number of community weeklies serving towns of less than ten thousand people tripled in size from four thousand to twelve thousand. The phenomenal growth could be attributed to the modest capital investment it took to start a weekly newspaper in a small town. Most towns could even boast of having two newspapers to choose from—one supporting the Democratic party and the other endorsing the Republican party. This happy circumstance came about as a result of the strong partisan nature of Indiana politics at this time and a legal advertising law requiring government notices to be published in two newspapers that represented political parties receiving the highest vote totals in the last general election.
Politics was important to Strouse (he gradually moved the Tribune from a nominally independent stance to one that solidly backed the Democratic party), but he had to concentrate on other matters first to get the newspaper back on its feet. Just the simple act of putting out a newspaper often meant heavy labor with a small staff, slowly churning out pages by brute force, typically with a Washington hand press. County editors in those days, one practitioner of the art observed, served as “editor, reporter, proof reader, solicitor, collector and general roustabout.”
As he took on more and more responsibilities at the newspaper (Strouse became the Tribune’s sole owner and editor in 1889), the newspaperman also found himself calling upon his wife time and time again to provide more copy to enliven the newspaper’s columns, including a department of “Local Fables” written in the style of Aesop.
Typically for her, Strauss later tried to downplay her early contributions to the newspaper’s revitalization. “The editor would come home tired and careworn from his struggles with the old Washington hand press,” she said, “and his interviews with patronizing subscribers who wanted to pay in pithy turnips or green stovewood cut two inches too long for our little ‘early breakfast’ wood cook stove—and I hadn’t the heart to refuse when he asked me if I couldn’t write something to brighten up the paper.”
Strauss proved herself to be a tower of support for everyone involved in the operation of the county newspaper. Edmund Beadle, a nephew of John Beadle who started at the Tribune as an apprentice printer and eventually rose to become its owner in 1919, remembered that during the Rockville and Bridgeton fairs the Tribune printed between two thousand and three thousand premium lists. “No sooner would the ink be dry than the sheets were carried to Mrs. Strauss for folding and binding at home,” said Beadle. “She with needle and thread gave every spare moment she could from household work and care of her small daughters to the tedious task of folding and binding the premium lists.” Strauss also provided leadership for the newspaper at a time in journalism when females were a rare sight in newsrooms. The dirty and often noisy newspaper offices were considered “off limits” for genteel ladies.
Although poor and struggling to repay the $300 debt owed his brother David, Strouse noted that the one outstanding recollection of those early days of his married life was “one of constant fun and frolic.” There may have been little or no cash on hand from subscribers, but when it came to farm products taken in kind for a subscription to the newspaper, “we were opulent beyond the wealthiest of our townspeople.”
The Strouse household also received an abundant supply of reading material. Such periodicals as the North American Review, Atlantic, Scribner’s, the Magazine of American History, and the Independent Youth’s Companion were obtained in exchange for advertising or reviews. With free passes provided by railroad lines, the young couple could also travel to Terre Haute for performances at the opera house. Angry or resentful comments against the couple, said Strouse, were given a “humorous turn” in their work for the newspaper.
With her husband’s complete takeover as owner and editor of the Tribune in 1889, Strauss continued to provide assistance in whatever areas she could, contributing essays, poems, and other articles. The only piece of work she refused to tackle were editorials. Although politically in sympathy with her husband’s support of the Democratic party, she personally disliked politics. No matter how “sick or unable to write I might be during all the years she constantly contributed to our paper she never would write a political editorial,” said Strouse.John Clark Ridpath, a well-known Hoosier educator, writer, and popular historian ran for Congress on the Democratic ticket. Ridpath, according to Strouse, had been “one of the first to recognize literary abilities in Juliet V. Strauss” and had always visited the couple when he came to Rockville. Because of her fondness for Ridpath, Strauss, according to her husband, worked tirelessly on her friend’s behalf, attending rallies, decorating speaker’s stands, and assisting other women in their auxiliary work. Strauss’s efforts, which included helping feed hundreds of people who had attended a rally on Ridpath’s behalf, were for naught; the Indiana historian lost to Republican George W. Faris by only 365 votes.
Just a few years after her husband gained control of the newspaper, Strauss embarked on an ambitious new writing project. On February 9, 1893, Strauss wrote her first “Squibs and Sayings” column for the Rockville Tribune. At first, her husband had attempted to dissuade his wife from becoming responsible for a regular department. Although “delighted” with her idea, he warned her that in his experience such departments usually ran in country newspapers for only a few weeks or months at best before petering out. “I believe I can keep it up,” Strauss said. She was as good as her word; the front-page column ran in the newspaper every week until Strauss’s death in 1918.
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
On August 8, 1838, readers of the Indiana Democrat in Indianapolis were greeted by a special correspondence from the northern Indiana community of Logansport, which had been originally printed in the Logansport Telegraph.
The article, signed “A Visiter to the Lake,” reported on the sighting of a sixty-foot-long creature sliding through the once quiet waters of , located near Rochester in what is now Fulton County. One eyewitness, who viewed the monster from the safety of the shoreline, described the beast’s head as “being about three feet across the frontal bone . . . but the neck tapering, and having the character of the serpent; color dingy, with large bright yellow spots.”
John Brown Dillon, who became known as the “Father of Indiana History” for his much respected History of Indiana, which went through four editions between 1843 and 1859, and helped save future the state’s past for future generations through his work with a number of early Hoosier historical organizations. His writings won praise from Indiana historians who came after him, with one, Emma Lou Thornbrough, commending Dillon for being the “only person in the state in this period whose writings deserved to be called history by modern standards of historical scholarship.”
Dillon had help in his “Devil’s Lake” escapade, as noted pioneer Hoosier artist George Winter contributed several of the articles about the monster printed in the Telegraph and an illustration featuring a method of possibly capturing the creature.
Details about Dillon’s early life are sketchy at best. Born sometime in 1808 in Wellsburg, Brooke County, in what is now West Virginia, Dillon and his family soon moved to Belmont County, Ohio. After the death of his father, nine-year-old Dillon was apprenticed to a printer in Charleston. At the age of seventeen Dillon moved to Cincinnati, where he displayed literary skill, having his poems published in several local newspapers.
Sometime in his life Dillon had suffered a visual malformity, and always could be seen wearing dark-green eyeglasses equipped with side mirrors. His friend, Logansport attorney and later Indiana supreme court judge Horace P. Biddle, recalled that “familiar as we were for so many years, meeting at all hours of the day, under all circumstances—even to bathing in the river—I never saw his face without his glasses on, which he always wore fastened by a little cord around the back of his head.” After Dillon’s death, when his body was being prepared for burial, Biddle investigated and discovered that his friend’s “left eye had been broken, apparently by a blow of some kind, and partially wasted away.”
By 1834 Dillon had settled in Logansport, where he studied law and was admitted to the Cass County bar in 1840. He never, however, established a law practice, preferring instead, noted Biddle, to spend his time on “hoary border legends, traditional story, but more especially local history.” Dillon pursued these interests through a career in pioneer journalism, starting work as an editor for the Logansport Canal Telegraph in August 1834. A year later he purchased an interest in the newspaper, which, by 1836, had changed its name to the Logansport Telegraph.
Described by his friends as shy, serious, and intellectual in nature, Dillon exhibited another side to his character in an incident during his time as the Telegraph’s editor. Biddle recalled that he, Dillon, and Winter were in his law office on April 1, 1840, when someone mentioned that it was April Fool’s Day. Dillion was keen on the idea of fooling somebody and wrote out a notice and tacked it on a billboard in the office of the hotel where he lived. The notice read: “There will be exhibited at the court house this evening a living manthorp, from 8 to 10 o’clock. Sir Roger De Coverly, Manager.”
Dillion’s notice had an immediate effect. At dinner that night, Biddle recalled, clergymen, lawyers, and other learned men of the community were searching every book they could find to learn what a manthorp was. “The word manthorp is really a compound of two Anglo-Saxon words,” Biddle noted, “meaning ‘the man of the village.’ For a long time afterwards Mr. Dillon’s ‘April Fool’ was locally a popular anecdote.”
If the Lake Manitou monster is but a legend, then the “living manthrop” was not Dillon’s first practical joke on the citizens of Logansport. The bespectacled editor, however, did not herald the monster’s existence by himself. He had the assistance of the English-born Winter, who came to Logansport from Indianapolis in May 1837, as he later wrote, “for the purpose . . . of seeing and learning something of the Indians and exercising the pencil in that direction.” Winter obviously had learned something of the Indians’ “Devil’s Lake” legend—knowledge he used for his articles in Dillon’s Telegraph.
Although Winter may have expressed astonishment over the response to his article years after the fact, initially he did try to stir up some reaction through the newspaper. The week following the first article on the creature, the Telegraph printed a second story titled “The Monster.” The story proposed calling a meeting to discuss the possibility of an expedition to the lake to “capture the Leviathan that inhabits its mysterious depths.” Written by Winter, the article went on to sound a battle cry to the local citizenry:
“It would be well, probably to suggest the propriety of those holding a meeting who are favorable, and willing to support the effort to ascertain with certainty, whether the mysterious, old and cherished tradition of the Indians, is based upon a KNOWN species of fish, or serpent, or whether the field of science shall be extended by the discovery of a new species of animal, peculiar to this beautiful and not oft visted Lake Mani-i-too.
It is truly astonishing that such a small inland lake, so remote too from the seas, should be as mysterious in its depths as it is in its legendary associations. But so it is. Boys! Up with your harpoons and to the Lake Man-i-too. The weather, the season, the forest in all its leafy beauties offer you inducements to leave the turmoil of every day life for a week, and seek relaxation in the exciting expedition to the Devil’s Lake.”
Although a meeting was organized on August 11, 1838, at the Eel River and Cass County Seminary to discuss methods of capturing the monster, no expedition to the lake was ever mounted by Logansport residents. According to a local historian, a “sickly season, combined with other circumstances,” prevented the investigation from happening. The creature remained safe and hidden.
Articles on the monster inhabiting Lake Manitou died out from the Telegraph’s pages by September 1838. Interest in the creature was resurrected, however, in 1849 when Winter wrote an article for the Logansport Journal on “The Monster Caught at Last.” The story reported the capture of a fish weighing “several hundred weight—the head alone weighs upward of 30 pounds and its capacity for swallowing may be imagined when we state the mouth measures three feet in circumference.” Also, in 1888, according to a history of Fulton County, a 116-pound spoonbill catfish was pulled from the lake by four men, who placed the fish in a horse trough by the courthouse in Rochester and charged people ten cents for a peek at the great beast. They later took their catch exhibit in Logansport. Eventually, they butchered the catfish and sold it at ten cents per pound.
Dillon’s work as a historian soon usurped his journalism career. He started his research on a history of Indiana in 1838, receiving assistance from U.S. Senator John Tipton, a close friend. Dillon left Logansport in 1842, moving to Indianapolis to pursue his historical studies and find funding for his history. Although he could rely on materials from the state library and private collections, Dillon lamented that “many interesting facts, connected with the early settlement of Indiana, have been perverted, or lost forever, because they were never recorded, and the stream of tradition seldom bears to the present, faithfully, the history of the past.” Still, his Historical Notes on the Discovery and Settlement of the Territory Northwest of the Ohio, appeared in 1843, and was followed sixteen years later by his History of Indiana. His posthumously published Oddities of Colonial Legislation in America came out in 1879.
Fellow Hoosier historian George S. Cottman, founder of the Indiana Magazine of History, dubbed Dillon as the “Father of Indiana History” and praised him as the first in the state to enter the field “with any seriousness of purpose, and his contributions exceed in value any that have come after.” In his writing Dillon displayed “immense industry, unflagging perseverance and an ever-present purpose to find and state the truth,” said Cottman.
Dillon himself wrote that in his work he was striving to give an “impartial” recording of history. He noted in his preface to his History of Indiana that in writing the book he attempted to keep his mind free from such influences as “ambitious contentions between distinguished men, or from false traditions, or from national partialities and antipathies, or from excited conflicts between the partisans of antagonistic political systems, or from dissensions among uncharitable teachers of different creeds of religion.”
In 1845 the state legislature elected Dillon as state librarian, a post he held until 1851, when a Democratic legislature replaced him with Nathaniel Bolton. Dillon later served as, assistant secretary of state, secretary to the State Board of Agriculture and held numerous offices with the Indiana Historical Society, including secretary and librarian. He proved indefatigable at adding books and manuscripts to the Society’s early collection. In addition to state offices, Dillon served on a variety of Indianapolis governmental bodies, including being a member of the Marion County Library Board and a school trustee.
In 1862 Dillon left Indianapolis for Washington, D.C., where he received a position as clerk to the Department of the Interior, later moving to a job as clerk with the House Military Affairs Committee. Civic leaders in Indianapolis remembered Dillon’s contributions to the state, with noted attorney Calvin Fletcher calling upon the state legislature to bring the historian back to Indiana to write a history of the state’s contribution to the Civil War. Dillon finally returned to Indianapolis in 1875, living in a room at Johnson’s Building on Washington Street. He struggled to make a living, even having to sell his beloved library to make ends meet. Dillon died at age seventy-one and was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Good Friday, April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary,
attended a performance of the popular play Our
American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Just five days
before, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his army to Union
General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in
his escape, Booth slashed Major Rathbone with a dagger he held in his left hand
before leaping to the stage below, breaking his leg in the process. The
astonished crowd heard the well-known actor call out the State of
Twelve days after the assassination, Union troops finally found and surrounded Booth, who had taken refuge in a Virginia barn. The soldiers set the barn on fire to force the killer out. One of the soldiers shot Booth as he crept toward the door armed with a carbine. Before he died, Booth said: “Tell my mother—tell my mother that I did it for my country—that I die for my country.” As those nearby helped raise his hands so he could see them, Booth uttered his final words: “Useless. Useless.”
had not acted alone in killing the president. He had gathered around him a band
of followers who planned at first to kidnap
In early May Wallace received orders to join other Union officers as judges on a military commission authorized by the new president, Andrew Johnson, to try those charged with plotting to kill Lincoln and other government officials. The finding of the commission would be final, with no chance for appeal except directly to President Johnson.
North wanted vengeance for the dead president. Government officials also wanted
quick action. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles noted in his diary that
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had told him he wanted those responsible for the
assassination “to be tried and executed before President Lincoln was buried.”
The eight persons on trial at the Old Arsenal Penitentiary in
Mary Surratt, who ran a boardinghouse where the conspirators met, and Dr. Mudd, who treated Booth’s broken leg, were charged with aiding those planning the killing. Arnold and O’Laughlin were accused of being involved in the assassination plot. Powell, Atzerodt, Spangler, and Herold were indicted for their participation in the attacks on government officials. During their confinement, many of the prisoners were shackled and had to wear heavy cloth hoods over their heads.
on trial for the
the time of the trial, only a few voices were raised in protest in the North.
One newspaper, the New York World,
dismayed by what went on, lashed out at the commission for its “heat and
intolerance.” Although debate still rages today on the fairness of the