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Chapter XIX

To mitigate the tedium of existence in the first years of any newly opened region, saloons in considerable numbers played a rough but very important part. Le Mars was no exception to the rule; and during the first few years of the English occupation saloons were named especially to attract Englishmen, such as the "House of Lords", the "House of Commons", and "Windsor Palace". In a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, as early as June, 1880, the writer asked if "some thing cannot be done to abate that miserable nuisance styled the `House of Lords'." Going home from church on Sunday, he had -seen twelve drunken young men in front of the place and through the open door he saw a number of women inside "jerking drinks for the ungodly loafers who were reveling there". The editor replied:

The House of Lords has already won an unsavory reputation, and we hope that its flagrant violation of all law and all decency will be the cause of its speedy collapse . . . . Why, the Liberal has been taken to task .... because ' it mentions the drunken sprees of the silly English lads who have come over here to get from under parental restraint.

Seven of these boys were alleged to have marched through town and jokingly to have broken the lamp which stood in front of the Methodist Church, "howling, yelping, singing, cursing, and otherwise scandalising this community". A few days later, four of the "blatant, mouthy young lads whose sense of decency and propriety has been sadly damaged in their making" called on the editor to get an apology and threatened "to bust his bloody blarsted head" if he refused. In an attempt to carry out the threat on the street one day, the editor was rescued by three business men from Jack Wakefield who had been delegated to trounce him with a horse whip. Not long afterward someone wrote that, save for the howling and carousing of the young bloods, the town had been remarkably quiet for some time past; but like Baltimore roughs or New York rats, they had given Le Mars a goodly portion of vice and revelry, and fear was expressed that a repetition of the occurrence "would end only in a young Bunker Hill". (256)

Under the headline, "War between the Races", a Sioux City newspaper referred to the troubles at Le Mars. Speaking of the large number of young Englishmen there, it added:

They are "gentlemen's" sons, have plenty of money, a superabundance of animal spirits, and being a thousand miles away from home and among strangers, go in for what with them constitutes a "good time", with little regard to what people generally may think of their actions. They accept as a literal fact that this is the "land of the free "I and are disposed to govern themselves accordingly. At Le Mars they have carried this principle so far, that the Liberal has on several occasions chided them in no endearing terms, and its issue of this week goes for the "drunken thugs ", as it is pleased to call the young Britons in severe style. The charges preferred embrace about all the sins enumerated in the decalogue, and the paper has assumed to be speaking the sentiment of an outraged community. (257)

The two newspapers of Le Mars seem to have taken opposite sides on the matter, the editors having no love for each other, as one may gather from this scathing bit of journalism:

The terrific swagger, and fierce know-nothing bulldozing with which C. F. Leidy of the Liberal, tried to snuff out the English Colonists of this county a year ago stands in painful contrast to the ineffable toadyism with which he is now fawning at their feet. It will be remembered that his outrageous calumnies of the new comers caused a few of them to pick him up one morning in front of Allison's drug store, and give him such a trouncing that it took ten days of lotions, liniments, pills and plasters to recuperate his exhausted energies. The licking had the effect of transforming the rampageous bull-dog to a whining spaniel, so that now instead of tearing the "cussed furriners," to pieces, he is their most unctuous sycophant. Leidy does not seem to understand, that to any well balanced mind, a bully and a parasite are equally detestable, and that Englishmen are proverbially intolerant of both. Their scorn for a vaporing blusterer is only equalled by their contempt for a servile lick-spittle. (258)

The "House of Lords" with its imported liquor, English ale and porter, and a special locker-room served as a sort of noisy club house for the younger Englishmen. The story goes that the first rural telephone in Plymouth County connected Captain Moreton's barn and this saloon for the special accommodation of his pupils; and that on one occasion Jack Wakefield, to be served at the bar in true Wild West style, rode a pony into the "House of Lords". That these boys sometimes encountered the opposition of Yankees of their own age is evident from the following newspaper account:

A Young Englishman and a couple of chaps from the country got up a good sized show on Tuesday afternoon. They had all been taking budge promiscuously, when one of the country lads thought to make it interesting by giving the Englishman a clip behind the lug, which he proceeded to do, and then lit out at a 2:40 gait. The Englishman followed to the street, but got hold of the other chap and warmed his ears with a pair of beer mugs. Then there was a flight to a saloon and a three-cornered bombardment of beer glasses and knuckles ensued, after which there was another retreat, and, the pale air was streaked with cuss-words, while the claret flowed freely down the necks of the combatants. No arrests. (259)

The agitation in Iowa caused by the prohibition question early in the year 1882 roused violent debate at Le Mars because it was freely predicted that prohibition would "knock the hind-sights off of immigration" to the State - an objection which "the goody-good people who want to transmogrify our State into a grand, perennial Sunday-school ought to think of" . (260) If the amendment to the Constitution should carry, rumor prophesied that the English would take their departure. Prohibition won the day in Iowa as a whole and also at Le Mars, "a whiskey town" with fifteen saloons. (261) When the district court at Davenport declared the amendment unconstitutional in October, 1882, and the Supreme Court affirmed that decision in January, 1883, great rejoicing prevailed in certain quarters at Le Mars and saloons were again freely patronised. It was on this occasion that Charles Dacres, English editor of the Lemars Truth, wrote in serio-comic vein:

     Are you allowed to talk on the streets at night? is a question I would like to have solved: The other evening on the closing of the House of Lords, I was standing with four or five friends talking when the deputy marshal comes up and requests me in his usually suave manner to "cheese this racket."
     Liberty is constantly jammed down, your throat here, but it seems to me an exploded theory, when an officer can do what he likes with your right of speech. Talking, I should think, is not a crime in the eyes of the law, unless the noise disturbs the sleep of others and the blizzard that was blowing on this particular night would have drowned even J. C. Morris' stentorian vocal organs. (262)

Saloons were later closed in accordance with the prohibitory statute of 1884; but the "House of Lords" was afterwards accused of violating the law. (263)

That many American ways and institutions rubbed English colonists against the grain there is little doubt. Fourth of July celebrations and American spread-eaglism found no favor among them; and when some of the bolder young fellows attempted to raise the English flag on Independence Day, it is said, a good-sized riot or worse was narrowly averted. Another thing that caused these people to marvel at the time of an election for school directors was the fact that Americans were "always voting for somebody". When British residents became naturalized and exercised the privilege of voting, a large majority affiliated with the Democratic Party because Republicans were not popular in England. (264)

What must have been particularly foreign to English tastes was the American newspaper of the region with its lack of foreign news and humor and its abundance of sensations and gossipy "personals ". Accordingly, they subscribed for the London Times and Punch and other papers, tried and true. Herbert Cope, the colony's tea importer, presented a Le Mars editor with copies of these English journals from time to time which caused that gentleman to write for the benefit of his readers:

They present no peculiarity aside from their sombre and stately demeanor, if we may so express ourself. An English paper looks so solemn as an owl, never indulges in levity, and is always as dignified as a judge delivering a charge. Even their comic papers have a quaint, heavy, solemn look that almost discourages the lithesome, rattleheaded American whose intellectual viands must be served up in gilded gob lets so to say, and yield their essence at a glance. (265)

Despite the fact that the newspapers at Le Mars gathered and published information relating to the colonists individually and collectively, thus enabling them to keep in touch with one another even if they did so by means of frequent and intimate social relations, Englishmen in this region soon came to have an organ of their own. Charles E. Dacres, who had gained some experience as an amateur journalist on board a British man-of-war, first issued what he named The Indian Creek Gazette. In February, 1882, he came to Le Mars and began taking subscriptions for The Colony Sketch. When it came from the press, an American editor described it as "a daisy in full bloom", "a creditable and spicy little sheet", and wished it success. Featuring especially Mrs. Paley's sketches and "Mercator's" letters, the paper circulated most among the English whom it was designed to interest and amuse. (266)

The youthful editor in one issue propounded and answered at great length the all-important question whether Englishmen should invest their money in northwestern Iowa: he cautioned his countrymen against tackling too much land or squandering their wealth on costly homes, and suggested larger expenditures on all kinds of live stock. From this attempt to do his bit as an economist and financial adviser he turned his attention fearlessly to civic ideals at Le Mars:

It is a highly discreditable fact that the alleys of Lemars are in a disgusting condition. Many of them are blockaded with filth, from which arises malaria in diverse forms, to say nothing of the offensive smells that come therefrom, and the obstruction to the passage of vehicles and pedestrians. The attention of the council has been called to this matter heretofore, and it is time that something be done. (267)

This editorial found so much favor with an American editor that the city hall crowd was treated to the following outburst of newspaper sarcasm:

Fie, fie on you Mr. Sketch. Don't you know that we have a reform council, and a reform mayor and that everything is done that ought to be done, and whatever is not done is omitted in accordance with the grand underlying ideas that grandly underlie reforms and reformers? "Filth," "malaria," and " offensive smells," are all right provided they are reform "filth," reform "malaria," and reform "smells." In city matters we are enjoying simple "reform;" in county matters, it is "whisky, oysters and reform." Go easy, Mr. Sketch. Speak reverently of the local powers that be - for they are all "reform."

The name of the English paper underwent another change before the year 1882 ended: its American rival in the field welcomed The Lemars Truth as follows:

Mr. Dacres has associated with him R. E. Bradley in the editorial management. Of Mr. B. we know nothing, but Charlie Dacres swings a lively and pungent quill, which insures a spicy paper .... We wish it abundant success. (268)

Due to failing health Charles Dacres announced the discontinuance of his venture after ten months' publication. The subsequent career of Dacres, while not brilliant, was at least lurid to a high degree. He celebrated his twenty-sixth birthday by having his "friends in" to help. As a member of "The Wide Awake Hose Company", while extinguishing a fire, he fell from the roof and suffered injuries that kept him in bed a considerable time. He is also credited with having been editor of The Lemars World and The Mirror. (269)

After thirty-one attempts had been made to lay the town in ashes and Le Mars had suffered $100,000 in fire losses in two years, suspicion pointed to young Dacres: indeed, while serving as editor of The Globe, he was arrested, indicted for arson, tried, and acquitted. And upon being accused by The Sentinel of defending "theft and rascality as well as bummerism ", he retaliated by bringing an action for libel for $5000. This only led the defendant to take another thrust at "the pure and spotless Dacres ", and when Mrs. Dacres' name was dragged into the scandal two years later, the young man went to the editor in good temper and declared that the newspaper had done his wife a great injustice: he admitted he had been wild in his time, but claimed that Mrs. Dacres had stood by him with a loyalty commanding admiration, and had always been an influence with him for good.

In the summer of 1887 Dacres, as editor of The Globe, issued a daily journal during the week's celebration of Queen Victoria's jubilee. (270)

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256 The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), June 2, 9, 16, 1880.

257 Sioux City Journal, quoted in The Iowa Liberal (Le Mars), June 16, 1880.

258 The Lemars Sentinel, April 14, 1881.

259 The Lemars Sentinel, February 3, 1881.

260 The Lemars Sentinel, March 30, 1882.

261 The Lemars Sentinel, June 29, July 13, 1882.

262 The Lemars Sentinel, January 25, 1883, replied as follows to Dacres's stricture: "You ought to be thankful you didn't have a bullet hole bored through you, like the little Irishman had a few weeks ago."

263 The Lemars Sentinel, June 27, 1884.

264 The Lemars Sentinel, March 7, 1884, November 11, 1887.

265 The Lemars Sentinel, August 18, 1881.

266 The Lemars Sentinel, February 16, 23, May 31, December 21, 1882.

267 The Lemars Sentinel, July 20, 27, 1882.

268 The Lemars Sentinel, December 28, 1882.

269 The Lemars Sentinel, March 22, July 26, November 14, 1883, October 10, 1884.

270 The Lemars Sentinel, October 7, 1884, February 3, 24, 1885, January 11, 14, June 21, July 12, 1887.
  Charles Dacres is reported as having met his death accidentally in a shooting affray at Yankton, South Dakota. 

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