Dirty, Stinking Scandals

If I had not run across a meek retraction from the Republic City News, I never would have heard about the multiple scandals plaguing White Rock in 1886.

We are extremely mortified to learn that several very good citizens of White Rock misunderstood our item of last week.  We said that ‘the people of White Rock were establishing an unsavory reputation, to say the least.’  The words above quoted were too general in their meaning, and should not have been used.

At that point I had to back up a week and seek out the original item to see what the fuss was about.  Expecting to find Gomer T. Davies wagging an editorial finger at, say, open consumption of alcohol or perhaps some political rivalry that had boiled over into fisticuffs on Main Street, I found instead a laundry list of sin and villainy.  The paper reported that some prominent citizens of White Rock were said to be implicated in a chain of murder, blackmail, land theft and arson, along with an unaffiliated case of adultery.  Any misunderstanding may have resulted from the fact it was not so much the supposed crimes and sins that earned Gomer’s condemnation, as the gossip about them - including the town doctor's public shaming of his wife with the news that she had bedded a young man of high social standing.  

What Gomer apologized for was merely the carelessly-chosen words of the last sentence of his editorial, not the opening salvo in which he opined that the whole town deserved to die.

White Rock is not dead by any means, but from the number of dirty, stinking little scandals that they are hatching in that neighborhood it would be much better, in our opinion, if it were dead.  It was but a short time ago that the old suspicion was hatched up about Jacobs committing a murder in years past, and buried the body in a well.

Then came the news of Jacobs and wife having deeded nearly all their property over to the notorious Dr. Churchill, without the least consideration, with a strong suspicion of some very sharp practice on the part of lawyer McHutcheon.  During the last named sensation the law office of Mr. McHutcheon was burned to the ground, presumed by many to be the work of incendiarism.

The latest little stink is among the Batchelder household.  Charges of infidelity against the sharer of his bed and board, was freely indulged in by the eminent member of the medical fraternity, and a certain prominent young society man was brought within the circle of the scandal.  Matters were made so unpleasant for Mrs. Batchelder that she has returned to her former home in Indiana.

The citizens of White Rock are establishing a very unsavory reputation for themselves, to say the least.

The reason for an apology the following week may have been outrage among readers at White Rock, readers with paid-up subscriptions to the Republic City News.  Gomer quickly pointed out that he didn’t mean to call out everyone in the talkative town.

The best citizens of the place, the ones have always been very friendly to the news and have been our staunch supporters - Hence, we have no cause whatever to do them a willful injury.  Among the readers of the News at that place are Chas. Pairan, C. Babcock, Morlan Bros., Thos. Lovewell, Fred Cooper, and many others we might mention, and if the Almighty ever created any better people than they are - either morally or socially - then, we have not the honor of their acquaintance.

While we may surmise from his follow-up editorial that the editor got an earful from Charles Pairan, Chester Babcock, Samuel and Stephen Morlan, Thomas Lovewell, and Fred Cooper, not everyone in White Rock expressed outrage at the original editorial in the News.  The “notorious” Dr. Churchill cheerfully seized the opportunity to announce that he was notorious in only one way - “in taking patients that have been given up and curing them.”  Gomer Davies may have made his point with a few other readers, as well.

It’s probably no coincidence that 1886 was the year Thomas Lovewell announced that he would pull up stakes and move to Oregon.  Orel Jane Lovewell traveled to Clifton to say goodbye to the grown son from her first marriage, a son she had seen only briefly and intermittently in the previous twenty years.  Instead of settling down in the Pacific Northwest, Thomas appears to have spent his winter at his brother Solomon’s house in Oregon hatching a new plan of action which he would unveil the following spring when he returned to Republic County.  

If, as Gomer Davies truly believed, White Rock would be better off dead, then as its chief creator Thomas Lovewell should be the one to drive a stake through its heart.  Although the plat for the new town of Lovewell, a proposed rival for White Rock situated within a lethal four-mile radius, was not filed until 1888, it probably took shape  in Thomas Lovewell’s mind in Oregon in 1886, a year that saw one scandal too many. 

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com