Gentle Readers, I discovered a source today that allows me to go into more depth on the matter of the Parkville Industrial Luminary: a copy of Roy V. Magers’ paper The Raid on the Parkville Industrial Luminary in the October 1935 issue of the Missouri Historical Review. I rarely get access to this kind of material, let alone in a timely matter. I hope that you’ll forgive a bit of repetition in the interest of adding more details.
Magers sets the scene:
On the evening of Friday, April 13, 1855, the people of Parkville were excited by the appearance of the hill north of town a company of armed and mounted men. Those who went to investigate came back to report that the horsemen were members of the Platte County Self-defensive Association, a strong pro-slavery organization whose reason for existence was to discourage and destroy, by violence if necessary, any agency or influence that seemed to be an expression of the spirit of Abolitionism. When morning came, the party proceeded to Parkville, and without delay carried into execution the purpose for which they had come.
I had the impression from past reading that the men who destroyed the press hailed from Parkville itself. Their status as local outsiders adds an interesting dimension to things. Magers doesn’t make it clear if the whole mob came from outside of Parkville or not, but clearly at least some of the two hundred did. They may not have come from far given that Platte County include Parkville, but these very fine distinctions can matter in small towns even today. I’ve seen it myself.
The mob came into Park’s building, a former hotel, and “seized the printing press, type and other equipment and brought them into the street.” He then read out the Self-Defense Association’s eight resolutions against Park, calling the paper “a nuisance which has been endured too long” and Park and Patterson “traitors to the state and county in which they live”. This brought them to the ultimatum:
That we shall meet here again, on this day three weeks, and if we find G.S. Park and W.J. Patterson in this town then, or at subsequent time, we will throw them into the Missouri River, and if they go to Kansas to reside, we pledge our honor as men to follow and hang them wherever we can take them.
The resolutions then turned to acknowledging “our Parkville friends,” who had apparently informed them of other free soil men in the area to “attend to”. Furthermore, since they had the crowd there:
we will suffer no person belonging to the Northern Methodist Church to preach in Platte County after this date, under penalty of tar and feathers for the first offense and a hemp robe for the second.
Magers’ footnote, regrettably the only one, tells us that the Northern Methodists had recently adopted an abolitionist platform that endeared them similarly to most locales along the border.
The remainder of the resolutions called on other counties throughout Missouri to engage in their own purges in the interests of “our peace, our property and safety”. One doesn’t go far in reading this sort of thing without some reference, however indirect, to the feared slave revolt. The Self-Defensives concluded by asking that the proslavery press in Kansas and Missouri reprint their resolutions.
With the speech finished, the mob went about its work:
A procession was formed, bearing at its head a banner with the words “Boston Aid.” It moved across the bridge and through the town to the foot of Main Street, where the press and type were dumped into the waves of the Big Muddy […] One can imagine that there was a good deal of whooping and yelling, horse-play and laughter, furnishing rare entertainment for the townspeople who watched the performance.
Everybody had a great time, except Park, Patterson, and those with less conspicuous antislavery ideas who now had to wonder if someone had informed on them and so if they could expect a visit. Not everybody would have the quick wits or sheer courage of Frederick Starr, and Starr himself left Missouri within a week of the Industrial Luminary going from the soil of Missouri into the waters of the Missouri.