Dan Baker (left), editor and publisher of The Chariton Leader during most of the 1870s, was a witty guy and a good writer --- personable and well-liked in the community he served. The Leader was the Democratic newspaper in Lucas County, successor to John Faith's Democrat. Other than a shared political outlook, however, the two editors could have not been more different.
Faith was an extremist on several levels and finally offended so many people that he more or less drove himself out of town. Baker, on the other hand, had the sense of proportion that Faith lacked and was highly successful.
Dan was, however, slightly twisted --- and couldn't resist poking and prodding sensitive issues upon occasion and engaging in gentle (usually) mockery.
During December of 1877 --- heaven only knows why --- he decided to publish a series of three letters from parties involved in what apparently had been a menage a trois involving three Chariton families that must at the time have been the topic of considerable discussion. We'll never know the exact circumstances, so are free to draw our own conclusions from the letters.
The editor of the competing Chariton Patriot referred to the whole affair as the "Hougland Muss" but kept his editorial distance.
The opening round was fired by Missouri (Hougland) Lott --- Mrs. G.D. Lott --- in a letter written during late November in Fort Scott, Kansas, and Published in The Leader of Dec. 1, 1877. Dan headlined the letter, "From Kansas: Hark from the Tombs."
Fort Scott, Kan.
November 26, 1877
Mr. Baker, Dear Sir:
I take this opportunity of addressing you a few lines which I am desirous of having my Chariton friends know (that is, if you will be kind enough to publish).
This is a very beautiful country. All kinds of fruits and vegetables are raised in great abundance. In fact everything but water; there is a great plenty of that but it is not very good. There is more fall wheat than can be used in three years, if there is a good crop.
I have received several letters from some of my friends in Chariton, and they say everybody is making a terrible blow about Mr. Moss being here in Fort Scott with us, and we understand that our relatives are saying more about it than anyone else.
There is a good many in Chariton, I presume, that remembers Mr. B.W. Hougland borrowing $30 to follow Mr. Moss and Mrs. Hougland. Joe Mitchell remembers it if no one else does. I don't deny Mr. Moss being with us here in Scott, for he was; he boarded with us two weeks and then went off without settling his bill. He said he was going home to bring his family to Scott.
He told me while he was here that he and Mrs. Hougland did go off together when they left Chariton; they met Alexandria. He said that he went with her to her brother Ben's in Missouri, but on hearing that Mr. Hougland was after them, the best thing he could do was to get out of there and leave her, because he was afraid of Mr. Hougland.
I never would have written this but for Mr. and Mrs. Hougland saying so much about Mr. Moss going off with me.
I intend to spend Christmas with my friends in Chariton, if nothing happens. This is not half what I can and will write if I hear any more from them. My daughter and Mr. Chadsey were married the day we arrived in Scott. I shall not bother you any more. With kind wishes to all I remain,
Respectfully yours, Mrs. G.D. Lott
Mrs. Lott did a good job of introducing the cast of characters in this little drama, but more could be said about all of them.
The author, Missouri Lott, was about 36 and apparently had been widowed earlier in 1877 leaving her with three children ranging in age from 7 to 18. She had married George D. Lott during 1858 in Appanoose County and the family had settled near Chariton about 1870. George was part owner of a Chariton livery stable and also farmed in Warren Township. Some say that he died during June of 1877, but if that were the case the death did not occur in Lucas County and he is not buried here. Missouri and her children apparently continued to live in Chariton until the later part of 1877 when they relocated to Fort Scott, Kansas. The circumstances of that move aren't known.
Mr. B.W. Hougland was Brannock W. Hougland, age about 43. His wife was Cornelia, age about 31. They had been married during 1867 --- she was his second wife --- and had arrived in Chariton during the mid-1870s. Brannock was a carpenter by trade. There were three daughters, two by his first marriage and one by the second, ranging in age from 9 to 16, and perhaps a fourth --- older and already married by the time her family moved to Lucas County. B.W. Hougland and Missouri (Hougland) Lott were related, although the degree of relationship isn't known. Upon arrival in Chariton, B.W. had formed a partnership as builder and carpenter with Samuel P. Moss.
Samuel, age 44, had arrived in Chariton, too, shortly after 1870 and in addition to working as a carpenter also served as town marshal. He also was active in the I.O.O.F. lodge. His wife's name was Anna and during 1877 they had seven children, ranging in age from 1 to 16 years.
Cornelia Hougland, having read Missouri Hougland's missive in The Leader of Dec. 1 sat down on Dec. 3 and wrote a response, published in The Leader on December 8. Dan headlined this letter, "Injured Innocence Vindicated."
Dec. 3rd, 1877
Mr. Editor, Dear Sir:
I notice in your last issue of your paper, a letter from Fort Scott, Kansas, signed Mrs. G.D. Lott, in which she made assertions against myself and husband that I deny. In the first place, it is a falsehood about Moss and myself leaving Chariton together, and second, it is false about him (Moss) meeting me at Alexandria, and going with me to my brother Ben's, or being there at all, and I feel confident that Mr. Moss never told her so.
Mr. Moss and Mr. Hougland worked together last spring and summer, consequently was at our house quite often, and has never acted anything but the part of a gentleman while in our company (only some times he got too much bad whisky) and I feel confident that he has never said aught about me to Mrs. G.D. Lott, and if he was so disposed to manufacture a falsehood and tell about any woman in Chariton that had any protection, he knows he is not so far away but what he would be hunted down and dealt with accordingly.
Now, Mrs. G.D. Lott, so far as talking about you or your conduct with Mr. Moss, I never have, and the neighbors will say that I have taken sides with you about the reports about you and Moss, and have frequently disputed the stories that was about you, when I had good reasons to believe them true. But I never like to see one of my own sex go down; but you have been talked to by your brothers with tears in their eyes about your conduct with Moss, and told what public gossip was. You have cut them off abruptly, by saying you'd discard the friendship of every brother and sister, before you would his. Now you see where it has taken you to, and in order to clear yourself of your own bad and disgraceful contact, have tried to put in on some one else.
Now Mrs. Lott, I have made a short reply to your public letter, and don't want anything more to do with you, whether public or private. You asserted in yours of last week, that if you heard any more you could say a good deal more. Now Mrs. Lott, be sure you are right before you strike. With these few words, and hoping the citizens will not think it wrong in saying what I have said, I remain.
Mrs. B.W. Hougland
The series of letters concludes in The Leader of Dec. 22, 1877, with a letter from the gentleman who seems to have been the principal focus of all this attention. Dan headlined this letter, "He Never Done It Either: The Last Blast on the Triangular Free Love Dispute."
Saline Co., Kansas
December 18th, 1877
In your issue of December 1st, I noticed a letter from Ft. Scott, Kansas, signed Mrs. G.D. Lott & in which she (Mrs. Lott) makes statements to which I would like to reply, if you would be kind enough to give it space in your paper.
I am not doing this in justice to myself, but to Mrs. B.W. Hougland. The Mrs. Lott states that when I left Chariton, that I left in company with Mrs. Hougland, which is not the case. She also states that I told her (Mrs. Lott) that I met Mrs. Hougland at Alexandria and went with her (Mrs. Hougland) to her brother Ben's, which is also false, and that I stayed with her until I heard that B.W. Hougland was on my track so I up and lit out.
Now the fact of the case is this, that I never had one word of the conversation that she (Mrs. Lott) set up in her letter, neither in Kansas or anywhere else. But every word is manufactured out of whole cloth.
She also stated that she had not told half what she could and would tell if she heard any more. In that I think that she told the truth, for any one that can make up such a letter as that, out of whole cloth, could fill a newspaper the year round.
Now Mrs. Lott my advice to you is this, that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
Now Mr. Editor, if you will be kind enough to publish this you will greatly oblige.
And that was the end of that so far as the Chariton media were concerned.
Missouri (Hougland) Lott married a widowed blacksmith named John F. Glazebrook during 1878 in Kansas and they moved to Pueblo, Colorado. The marriage did not last, however, and I found Missouri for the last time living in Pueblo as the widow of George D. Lott during 1907.
Brannock and Cornelia Hougland left Chariton and moved to Kansas, too, before 1880; then about 1890 relocated to Washington state. He died at Walla Walla during 1910 and she died there during 1922.
Samuel P. Moss settled down with his family near Seneca in Nemaha County, Kansas, where he died during 1912 having outlived Anna by two years. They are buried in the Seneca City Cemetery.
As a footnote to all of this, it's interesting that in the long run Lucas County owes a considerable debt to Brannock Hougland. When he came to Chariton about 1875 he brought with him his young nephew, Oran Alonzo "Lon" Hougland, then about 16.
O.A. Hougland learned the carpenter's trade from his uncle and went on to become Chariton's first professional architect and one of the city's most prominent citizens before his death at the untimely age of 53 during 1912. His descendants continue to live in Lucas County.