Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why Don't We Write This Way Anymore?

I'm still rooting around in the past, looking for ancestors. This evening I have been reading through portions of William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, published in 1883. He gives an early history of the town of Olathe, where parts of my family settled and prospered generations back.

I love the way Cutler describes events from what was, for him, only a few decades ago. For example, in his section on early inhabitants of Olathe, he has this to say about one gent:
John P. Campbell, a cousin of James K. Polk, came here from Nashville, Tenn. He was looked upon as a brilliant and promising lawyer in the State, but he impaired his faculties by the use of alcoholic stimulants, and died of consumption in the early years of the war.
Later, in his section on newspapers in Olathe, he recounts the effect of an attack by Quantrill's raiders on the town's only Democrat newspaper at the time, the Olathe Herald, which had been a growing and healthy concern:
Quantrill paid the office a visit September 6, 1862, after which John M. Giffin, its editor and proprietor, gathered up its debris and sold it for $306; original cost having been $3,500. In addition to his newspaper office, Mr. Giffen also lost through Quantrill's efforts, accounts and notes to the amount of $13,000, and the manuscript of an algebra, for which he had been offered $5,000, and fifteen cents royalty on each book sold.
My favorite, though, is his description of the "Reformed Presbyterian, or Covenanter Church." A congregation formed in Olathe in 1865, and split into two in 1871:

This denomination wherever founded is radical in its character, forward in reform movements, and never received into, nor tolerated slaveholders in its communion. While its members have borne arms in every national conflict for right and liberty, yet they refrain from the exercise of the elective franchise--believing the National constitution to be, though in many respects most excellent, yet in some things infidel and immoral.

Seems like I've read similar sentiments on modern day blogs as well.

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