An Agent of the Devil

Kansas elected nearly a clean slate of Republicans in the off-year election of 1898, putting the party in a euphoric mood in a state that had chosen a Populist governor in 1892 and sided heavily with Democrat William Jennings Bryan over William McKinley in the 1896 presidential contest.  Although the spoils system had been watered down by the Pendleton Act of 1883, Republicans in Mankato met to consider which plums could be offered to party standard-bearers, in favor of entrenched Democrats or even Republicans who were known to be less than ideologically pure.  

However, there was apparently some measure of local control over political appointments.  Local citizens might not get to choose the candidate who seemed best qualified to fill a minor post, but they could certainly dig in their heels over one who didn’t seem to measure up.  The Webber correspondent to the Jewell County Monitor picked up the scent of a squabble brewing in a neighboring village to the south and gave the citizens there a scolding at the end of a column of Webber news published on September 6, 1899. 

Lovewell seems to be stirred up by their Post Office muddle.  Dr. Bacheldor received the appointment but there seems to be a tendency by sore head republicans to try to tie up the appointment and keep the present democrat incumbent in office.  Better stop right now boys.  Your successful, disgraceful appointment for justice may spur you to other more shameful heights, but you won’t win.  If the doctor’s appointment don’t suit you pick some good republican that all can unite on but do not try to compromise with the d——l by recognizing any of his agents.

The justice pointed out by the Webber correspondent as “disgraceful” was Justice of the Peace James William Logan, known around Lovewell as “Billy.”  Billy Logan’s behavior probably reached its “shameful heights” in 1892, when he openly embraced candidates supported by the Farmer’s Alliance.  Worse than a Democrat, Logan had at least once teetered towards becoming a Populist, practically a Socialist - an agent of the devil for sure.  Thomas Lovewell  responded to the attack on his old friend in the very next issue of the Monitor

Your correspondent takes upon himself the responsibility of trying to show the people of Lovewell how to run their postoffice and claims that the kick against Dr. Batchelder is done by sore head republicans.  If the kick is done by the sore heads then it is done by 127 patrons of our office and this kick is done by bona fide patrons of this office and not by people who get their mail at surrounding towns.  Speaking about the devil and his agents the people of Lovewell are not acquainted with him, probably the Webber correspondent is an old friend of his.

Regarding our successful, disgraceful appointment of the Justice of the Peace, as the deacon from the short grass country puts it, (I) will say, we claim one of the best Justices in Jewell County and can substantitate our claims by referring to the eminent attorney, Hon. Thos. Kirkpatrick, who will endorse our claims.  Our Justice is not only a man of justice but one of the best workers during the past year that the republican party can produce.

I’ve seen no other evidence of a swell of local sentiment against Dr. Batchelder, although he was getting on in years and would soon retire.  I’m not even sure who eventually did get the job at the Lovewell Post Office.  At the very least, the community at Lovewell did not respond to an unpopular postal appointment  the way the citizens at White Rock had in 1892, when axe-wielding throngs demonstrated in the streets and the correspondent for the Courtland paper had to admit that “War broke out in our peaceful little hamlet last Tuesday, over the same old feud.”

Ever since examining the fluid penmanship exhibited in Thomas Lovewell’s appeal to Governor Crawford of Kansas, written in 1867, I've suspected that Thomas was an avid writer and that a packet of letters from him might turn up someday.  While there’s been no neatly-tied bundle uncovered in a dusty attic, a few examples have trickled out of newspaper archives quite recently - a note to the editor of the Kansas Tribune at Lawrence from 1870, and one to the Laramie Republican written in 1908.  The paragraphs quoted above, from an 1899 issue of the Jewell County Monitor, provide a somewhat longer sample of his wry and engaging writing style.

Five years after Thomas Lovewell wrote his defense of the local justice of the peace, James William Logan’s son Will married Thomas’s granddaughter, Lillie Robinson.*

* In the interest of transparency, I should note that Lillie Robinson Logan was my maternal grandmother.

© Dale Switzer 2023