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Tenderfoot Days

By George Robert Bird

Opposition to the Liberal Schools

MOUNT PLEASANT, the town to which I conducted my reader in the previous chapter, was the scene of the first firm stand for liberal schools in the territory. This stand with the opposition to it was due to the advent of my companion Mac, who not in the best of health, came, under medical advice, in the spring of 1876, to the mountain altitudes and air of Utah Territory to recuperate after an arduous course of higher education.

Though frail in body, his mind and spirit were sound and needed no tonic. In fact, he was full of grit in this respect, a primary condition of success in any line of endeavor in the Far West of that period. It is an uphill enterprise to establish a new order of schools anywhere, for the conservatives invariably oppose new methods on the principle that the old are better.

At that time the Mormon schools were very elementary, for they had been overshadowed by the religious teaching and zeal of a people who combined church and state, and who regarded advanced education as a door of infidelity.

Making due allowance for the distractions of frontier life, and the strenuous claims of agriculture in a new land on its people, it remains true that the mental nourishment given, as schooling, to the children was very poor.

Mac and those who backed him in far-off New York felt strongly in the matter of a better and American training for the children of this remote territory. Thus his health and his task joined to establish his interests in a territory so far distant from his home.

Invited to Mount Pleasant, by certain men of liberal views, he found himself one March morning stepping from the bi-weekly stage at the town's post-office, a stranger among a strange people. This was the first attempt, outside of Salt Lake City, to establish the cause of liberal education.

At the beginning he did not have very intellectual associates. An intellectual man himself, and a fine teacher, his best helpers were no ornaments to education. His Mormon opponents soon dubbed two of Mac's closest attendants, "Right Bower," and "Left Bower."

"Right Bower" was a peripatetic sewing-machine agent, who was zealous in the interests of the original Howe sewing-machine, of very heavy running gear, and which sold readily, at that time, for one hundred and ten dollars each. "Left Bower" was an old miner, down on his luck, with the illuminated face of a free-drinker, whose residence in the valley was due to the marriage of his only daughter to a son of a zealous Mormon elder.

It was these two men who created the first liberal sentiments among the "Jack" Mormon class of the people, an element rather weak in the faith, although not quite apostates.

The Mormon elders were first amused at this effort to supplement their establishments, but as the school drew and grew, concern followed amusement and soon anger succeeded this concern. A vigorous call for aid was sent to Salt Lake. Brigham Young himself with two apostles came down to organize a crusade of words against this liberal movement.

The little town was wrought up to fever heat, and after Brigham Young returned to his headquarters, Mac expected trouble. It came. One night he had just closed a meeting in the adobe hall which they occupied. There had been noisy exits, and noisier calls outside. A crowd surged in front and filled the yard. They began throwing stones and adobe bricks from a pile of material close by, with cries of:

"Run him out of town!"
"Rock his building good and plenty!"
"We want no Liberal here!"
"Come out and clear out!"
"Take him out, boys!"

A rush was made for the door. It had been closed a few minutes before. It bent beneath the weight of many shoulders, and threatened to break.

Mac had a Colt revolver which he carried by the advice of the officers at Fort Douglas. From a small side window his head and arm appeared suddenly. He ordered the crowd to step off from the property, and retire to the street.

"If any one of you breaks down that door I shall feel at liberty to defend my property with this weapon." He pointed his revolver at them. Mac, while small of stature and somewhat frail of build, in that day, yet had the square jaw and prominent chin of the Scot. His grit had its effect, for while more stones and bricks were thrown, no more rushes at the door took place.

In fact in a few minutes the crowd withdrew with muttered threats. The Mayor of the town, who also was the bishop of that Stake of Zion had just come forward, and with a few words so quieted the people that they dispersed to their homes.

I do not think they would have gone to such an extreme course as to imperil Mac's body, since the military camp at Fort Douglas one hundred and thirty miles north had a with-holding power on fanaticism.

It was a well-executed effort to scare him off, and would have succeeded against a faint-hearted man. Mac went to his cot-bed that night as quietly as usual, but his gun was under his pillow. He might trust in the Lord but he kept his powder dry according to the code of Oliver Cromwell.

We expected such demonstrations of opposition at the first opening of these new schools. I have personal knowledge of a school beginning at American Fork, a town near the canyon of that name, where the scenery is said to rival in grandeur that of the Yosemite Valley. This town had a liberal element and a school was begun with a teacher in charge.

"Why do you come here ? You are not wanted," said the Bishop of that Stake of Zion.

"We come to teach the young people better manners and methods."

"We can do all that now as we have done other things in the past. There is no need of you or your so-called work."

"We are at liberty to do our work here, if law abiding, wherever the flag flies. The flag flies in this Territory now."

This Bishop gave the quiet word to the town roughs to annoy the teacher and his school. A howling brigade was formed on the occasion of every night meeting, and hideous noises were made outside the door. Then followed a throwing brigade, and stones showered on the building. At the last part of the assault, several adobe bricks were hurled through the windows, breaking the sash as well as the glass, and striking the opposite wall of the room. The Bishop, being the Mayor of this incorporated town, did not heed the complaints made to him in his civic capacity, and the disturbers had full swing until they grew tired of this outrage themselves, and the sufferers were rewarded for their patience by a lull in the opposition.

Meanwhile the Liberals were boycotted at the Co-op stores, and they had to send to Jew merchants in Salt Lake City for their supplies. It was nerve-racking, yet a combination of patience and courage wore out the first hot opposition. Then followed an entrenched, stubborn action of the church elders which by personal visits and threats kept away most of the young people and older children for a time.

While I was temporarily in charge of the Mount Pleasant school, during Mac's absence in the East, I came in contact with "Lo," the Ute Indian of the Territory, in all his blanket and gun glory. These Utes were a fine race of men physically. Beneath their brave exterior, of course, there was left, despite Mormon church teaching, much of the cruel temper of the Apaches or the Arapahoes. The Mormons made much of these Utes, for according to their theology the Redmen of North America are the descendants of the Lamanites, the original inhabitants of the land in the times of Mormon their prophet. For further particulars, see the book of Mormon.

They had a way of calling these natives by a pet name, "The Battle Axes of the Lord," and used them, in harmony with that name, to do their disagreeable work, as I shall have to recount in a later chapter.

I have always thought that the Bishop of Mount Pleasant sent this band of Battle-Axes to scare me off. I did not look so fierce of face as Mac, the organizer of the school. Late one warm afternoon in June, the doors were ajar to catch all the air possible. I was in the front room of the house adjoining the school hall, and before I was aware of it, with a sudden tramp of feet, the kitchen to the rear of the house was filled with blanketed Utes. As I came in, an array of keen black eyes regarded me. They were squatted, Indian fashion, around the walls, each with his gun held well within his knees. A deep voiced demand followed.

"Want meat! Want pie'! Heap hungry!" How they knew that we had a batch of pies baked that day puzzled me at the moment, but I afterwards heard that the Bishop had told these strong allies of his, that I had a liking for the American national pie, and they would surely find some at my house.

The speaker was really tall and straight, a fair copy of Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans;" but he was very lean and hungry looking. He had a crafty face, and his eyes were full just then of malice and insolence.

Their attitude towards me was due to the following fable, told to them by the Mormon elders.

"The Mormon was the Indians' true friend and brother, while the American was the Redman's white-faced foe, who took away their land, and shot them when they resisted this robbery, using the blue-coated soldier to do the deed."

These Indians' ancestors, in earlier days, had come in fighting contact with the migratory and invading white man and much injustice, spoliation, and slaughter had followed that contact of fiery spirits of both sides, as the Redman sought to stop the emigrant invasion of his hunting grounds.

I had been skillfully associated, by the Mormons, with the frontier white men whose common saying was "The only good Injun is a dead Injun," and this accounted for the unfriendly looks of my Indian visitors.

Now the kitchen larder was not very full. To supply with food a baker's dozen of strapping natives, was a problem. It was our policy to please rather than to offend these men, in an endeavor to counteract base stories to our prejudice.

It so happened that a big batch of dried-fruit pies had been cooked that very morning by a busy company of women who were interested in our Liberal Hall work.

"No meat to-day; too many mouths," I said to the modern fac-simile of Cooper's Indian.

"Go to the Bishop up the street, who has a big house; also many cooks. He can give you much meat to eat."

The Indian's eyes glittered as I mentioned the Bishop.

It was the duty of the Church rulers, in accordance with their creed, to entertain strangers or travellers, white or red, and to make no charge for this hospitality. The Bishops especially prided themselves on keeping this ancient custom alive. I knew this and also did "Lo," the Indian. "You give pie. American pie heap good for Ute."

"Do you eat white man's pie?" I asked, eyeing them all in turn. "I will see if there is enough to go around this circle."

It had come to me that the batch of pies, now on the shelves of the little six by six pantry, would serve a better purpose in the tough stomachs of these Utes, than in those of visitors assembling that evening in the Social Hall.

The eyes of all the Indians followed me into the pantry, and were on me when I came out with a dozen of the ladies' pie-provisions. I handed them to "Lo." With the rest in the pantry there was just enough to go around the circle, which in itself was fortunate, for it gave to every man a pie, and so all were on an equality. It was a sight to the eyes to look at such an Indian feast. They enjoyed those pies, and I enjoyed seeing them eat.

The meal was soon over, for it does not take an Indian long to eat a pie. They were pleased

and amused at my good natured response to their demand. Said the leader:

"Heap good man. Heap good pie."

Then they stood up, and, with grins and more friendly eyes, they went out in Indian file, and I saw them no more. I never heard of their call on the Bishop. I was rather pleased at the outcome of this visit.

I soon had visitors of another kind. A delegation of six women came rushing in.

"What were those Indians after here?" they cried.

"After pie."

"What! our pies! You surely did not feed those lazy beggars our pies."

"I did. They came demanding food with guns in their hands, thinking to scare me. To please them and gain their good will, and off-set the Mormon stories of American hate, I fed them your pies."

"Oh! oh! oh! Our pies! What shall we do to-night?"

"Bake some more now. Those in the stomachs of the Utes are heralds of peace for us. It depends on your cooking whether their repast will disturb their digestion."

"No fear of that! An Indian's digestion is that of an ostrich."

Soon I was hustled out of the little kitchen, all too small for six active women. These women knew that at the social of the evening, some food distinctively American, would be in demand. They decided that a batch of New England pies would be ideal, so they re-doubled their morning's efforts and doubled the pie out-put for that night's festivities.



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