Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A side order of misogyny with your reporting, sir?

I've written a number of times about Dan Baker, editor of The Chariton Leader during the 1870s and author, in 1880-81, of the local portion of Lucas County's first (and most complete) history, published during the latter year.

He was a good story-teller and an amusing writer who went on, in California during later years, to establish a reputation as an enterprising, reform-minded journalist.

On the other hand, Dan was a racist --- an aspect of character evident in his editorializing and in his reporting on Chariton's black residents; apparently something of a misogynist, too. That trait is evident in two reports from The Leader published in the fall of 1874 about the pregnancy of a young, single school teacher in Otter Creek Township. Here's the first report, from The Leader of Aug. 29:


"Suit has been commenced in the Wayne County Circuit Court by a young woman named Welch, aged about 18 years, against Mr. John Canterbury of Otter Creek Township for Bastardy and his property in the county is attached for the future support of a coming heir without an inheritance or  a pledge of affection, without a Papa. Its gay and festive ma was a school marm, up in Otter Creek some months ago, and is a sister-in-law of Mr. Canterbury and she alleges that he is the happy father of it, as near as she can remember, while John with honest indignation denies the charge and says he will be able to establish his innocence successfully. Mr. Canterbury is spoken of as a good man and citizen, and we hope he will be able to acquit himself of the soft impeachment."


The follow-up appears in The Leader of Sept. 12:

"A short time since we published an account of a little bastardy case, commenced by a young lady of easy virtue and doubtful morals named Welch, against her brother-in-law, Mr. John Canterbury, of Otter Creek township. Since that time, John called on us and showed us an affidavit, duly signed and executed by her, in which she positively declares that John is perfectly innocent of the delicate little charge, and that she was influenced and instigated by another party to bring suit against him for the future maintenance of the prospective orphan. We are glad to hear that John is thus cleared from the disagreeable situation, though we fear that the young lady's veracity will suffer a little in the transaction, as she has committed herself rather awkwardly on both sides of the question. Otter Creek township, you are redeemed! Oh that the Jackson township nest-hiding case could have cleared up so well."

I have no idea what the "nest-building case" was all about, but presumably some among Dan's readers did --- or he wouldn't have mentioned it. But clearly Dan felt that his fellow male had been wronged by a teen-age hussy.


I don't know what became of the young woman, the child or of her paternity case. No further reports appeared in The Leader, once Dan had delivered his pronouncements concerning her character. The Patriot did not report upon the case at all and issues of Wayne County newspapers that might have clarified the situation seem no longer to exist.

Mr. Canterbury was a native of Henry County and a Civil War veteran who married Matilda Welch during 1866 at Fairfield, then moved soon thereafter to Lucas County's Otter Creek Township. The couple produced their fifth child of 10 total during 1874 when John was 32 and Matilda, 29.

Prior to 1880, the Canterburys moved to Decatur County, then into Missouri and finally, after 1900, to Lewis County, Washington, where he died on Dec. 19, 1908, at the age of 66. Matilda died during 1923. They are buried in Claquato Cemetery, Lewis County.

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