Thursday, July 21, 2016

Democrats, Republicans & S.B. Tinkham's parades

Just in case you thought political squabbling was something new --- I'm here to tell you otherwise. A major difference now in the United States, however, is that 1886 Republicans (this little story is set in 1885 and 1886) would not recognize 2016 Republicans, nor would 1886 Democrats recognize those who identify with that party today. So there's no point in even trying to make a comparison.

I started to tell this story when writing about the 1886 Independence Day celebration in Chariton, then got side-tracked. At the heart of the political flap back then was the unfortunate Sylvester B. Tinkham --- that's his tombstone in the Chariton Cemetery above --- who I found out a little later was a relation of my cousin Justine Abrahamson and her sister, Betty Marker.

Anyhow, the combating parties here are the committee in charge of organizing Chariton's annual 4th of July celebration and members of Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic, organized during 1879, all Union Civil War veterans.

Until 1885, the G.A.R. boys had marched proudly as a unit in the July 4th parade, but in 1885 the group boycotted --- refusing at the last minute to show up. There was a repeat performance of this boycott in 1886. In both instances, apparently, because S.B. Tinkham was chief marshal of the parade.

In its extensive coverage of the 1886 flap, the editor of The Chariton Democrat, looking back to 1885, reported, "It will be remembered that last year (1885) the procession formed and waited on the west side (of the square) for nearly half an hour for the G.A.R., who were then assembled in their hall, to join them. After thus waiting, the post adjourned and did not join. Two members of the organization told two members of the committee on arrangements that they refused to join on account of the person selected as marshal (S.B. Tinkham)."

Mr. Tinkham's major sin, according to the Democrat, was the fact that he was a Democrat --- and the G.A.R. Post was composed almost entirely of Republicans. 

When the G.A.R. boys didn't show up again in 1886 after S.B. Tinkham had again been appointed chief marshal by the committee in charge, the squabble was re-ignited. This year, the G.A.R. denied that Mr. Tinkham had anything to do with it; alleging that the committee in charge hadn't invited post members to participate. That allegation the committee in charge denied.

The Patriot --- Chariton's Republican newspaper --- reported, "So far as the (Democrat report) relates to the G.A.R. post here, there is not one word of truth in it. At the last meeting of the post the question was asked of the commander if there had been any arrangements made to attend the Fourth of July celebration in a body, and the answer was that no invitation had been received and no arrangements made, and there the matter dropped. It was not considered or known who was to be marshal of the day. This action of the post had not the slightest reference to Mr. Tinkham nor anybody else."

The Democrat --- obviously Chariton's Democratic newspaper --- responded, "This year a member of the post told a member of the committee, who is and always has been a Republican, that he hoped the committee would have better judgment than to select the same marshal this year, because the post would not participate. Another member of the committee is our authority for the statement that an invitation was given.

"It is to be regretted that Mr. Lewis (Evan Lewis, editor of The Patriot) in his contempt for truth should be led to make such reckless mis-statements. Of course, he knows nothing about the teachings of truth, never having gone through the experiences necessary to initiation among the veterans therein." (Lewis was a Quaker and a pacifist in addition to being a Republican.)

During the next week, Iseminger Post passed on July 16, 1886, a resolution condeming The Democrat which was duly published in The Patriot and read in part as follows: "Resolved: That it is the sense of this Post that the editor of the Chariton Democrat (S.S. King) is unworthy of the respect of any ex-Union soldier."

The Democrat responded by publishing affidavits from G.W. Ensley, a member of the organizing committee; J.E. Bentley, Chariton fire chief; and James Wilson, an Iseminger post member --- all stating that Mr. Tinkham had indeed been the reason why the veterans decided to sit the parade out.

Wilson testified in part, "A member of the Post told me that the Post would not march under him (Tinkham), and that he would rather march at his funeral."

And so it went. The Grand Army boys didn't participate in the 1887 4th of July parade either and during 1888, no parade was held --- instead the entire day was devoted to oration, music and socializing on the courthouse lawn. After that, things calmed down --- and the G.A.R. returned.

It's not clear exactly what Mr. Tinkham had done to infuriate the G.A.R. --- other than being a Democrat and 20 years along after the war Democrats in Iowa still were branded by some as southern sympathizers despite the fact most Iowa Democrats of the appropriate age had fought for the Union, too.

Editor King also speculated in The Democrat that it had something to do with the fact that Tinkham was not native to Lucas County --- in fact, had grown up in that wild and wooly area of extreme north Missouri just south of the Wayne County's stateline neighborhood of Medicineville. His parents, William M. and Sally (Campbell) Tinkham, are buried in the Medicineville Cemetery.

Whatever the case, Sylvester Tinkham came to a sad end later during 1886 and you've got to wonder if that G.A.R. post member who said he'd rather march at his funeral than behind him in the 4th of July parade had any second thoughts about his careless mouth.

Sylvester, born during 1849 near Columbus, Ohio, had moved with his family to Putnam County, Missouri, during 1856 and a had grown up there a mile or two south of the Iowa line. His father, William, was a union veteran of the Civil War and Sylvester, about 13 when his father marched off to war and the eldest of nine children, helped his mother hold together and support the family.

He later studied law in Chillicothe, Missouri, where he met Margaret Halsell, whom he married in 1878. 

Rather than practice law, he went to work for the McCormick Harvester Co. and after promotion to head a general agency for southern Iowa moved to Chariton about 1875. He was very successful and became extremely active, too, in his adopted community --- one of the major reasons why he had been named chief marshal of the July 4th parades.

Some time during 1885, Sylvester began to experience severe headaches, which were diagnosed as "neuralgia of the brain." As the months passed, the headaches became more severe and more frequent and eventually he turned to morphine for relief --- against the advice of his physicians.

On November 10, 1886, he took a fatal dose.

"He was a prominent and respected member of the Masonic fraternity, the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias," The Democrat reported. "His funeral on last Sunday afternoon was by far the largest funeral that Lucas county had ever seen. More than two hundred members of the secret socities to which he belonged were in line, and the carriages, with sorrowing friends, filled the entire distance from the residence to the grave in the Chariton cemetery, where he was laid to rest, a distance of over half a mile."

S.B. Pinkham's final parade. It's likely that the G.A.R. boys really weren't invited to participate in this one.

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