The mob pitched George Park’s printing press into the Missouri River. They wanted to tar and feather Park’s partner, W.J. Patterson, but without Park there to complete the set, the Platte County Self-Defense Association took a pass on that. At least the Herald of Freedom tells it that way. Roy Magers adds that Park went off to Kansas after getting advance word from a friendly Self-Defensive. He says this, however, in the same paragraph where he also seems to relate something more like a local legend. Given he provides only one footnote, and that an informational one rather than a source citation, one can’t tell just where the history end and stories take over. The Herald’s accounts speculate that Park got word of the party in advance, but don’t have the confidence in the notion that Magers did. A letter in the May 5 edition of the Herald suggests that the mob did not take great pains to hide themselves and Park may thus have required any inside information.
Magers also relates this probable legend:
It is said that he [Park] watched the proceedings from a hiding place just across the river from the scene of the raid.
Magers does introduce an additional consideration to Patterson’s treatment. The Herald focused on his wife’s involvement. Its May 5, 1855 issue has a letter from a frustrated mob member, or someone sympathetic to them, about how she kept clinging to him and they voted by a small majority that they just couldn’t tar and feather a woman. Magers adds to this that Patterson claimed Canadian citizenship and that his mistreatment would cause an international incident. It might have. More immediately, I’ve learned from David Brion Davis’ Inhuman Bondage that the proslavery movement in the United States convinced itself from the 1830s on that the British Empire had ruined the profits of its own colonies with emancipation and so it had a special need to destroy competition, which its statesmen pursued under the guise of advocating abolition. To molest Patterson would give Britain an excuse to meddle further in American affairs, something many proslavery men already thought it did regularly, if covertly, though American antislavery groups. Whatever reason they had for sparing him, Patterson felt safe enough in Parkville that in the same May 5 Herald of Freedom he ran an ad offering his services as a real state broker for lands around the town. Park may have left Missouri, but his partner stuck around.
This brings us to the question of why the Platte County Self-Defense Association took action against the Industrial Luminary, Park, and Patterson. Their resolutions make it clear that they consider it an abolitionist paper, as did the letter that the member of the mob sent along. Therein, the author damned the Industrial Luminary as
a Free Soil sheet, and has been aiding and abetting the eastern Abolition societies in their abortive attempt to abolitionize Kansas for the past year.
One could expect nothing less. But Park published out of the Missouri hinterland. One does not expect him to channel William Lloyd Garrison and print blistering invective against slavery, slaveholders, and the sins with which they taint the nation. He may have hailed from Vermont, but Park lived in Parkville for as long as Missouri had the territory. He put the Park into its name. He went off from there to fight in the Texas Revolution, but came right back. George Park might not have perfectly imbibed proslavery orthodoxy, but neither did he bring with him the stigma of a strange outsider nor a fire-breathing abolitionist.
However, this runs long and I’ve often transgressed my usual limit lately. Further exploration of this tomorrow.