Christ's Lutheran Church in 1876

[ The old church ]

Pastor William Sharts, conducting services in the newly renovated third church building, which, like the second one, was known as the "Church on the Rocks," because it sat on a rocky ledge overlooking the Sawkill (about ¾ mile east of our present location--that is, north of present-day Route 212, across from the country club). (To enlarge the picture, just click it.)

[ Beer's Atlas map of Woodstock ]

Above is a map of the Woodstock village, published just a couple of years later, showing the Church on the Rocks on the east side of town, just north of current Route 212 (known then as simply Saugerties Road) and north of the Sawkill. It is identified simply as "LUTH. CH." (To enlarge the view, click it.)

Work was completed on the enlargement of the parsonage that the congregation had purchased three years earlier. The church officers reported the total cost of improvements as $1,133.34 with $732 paid, leaving a debt of $401.84 ($19,402.78, $12,531.84, and $6,870.94, respectively, in 2006 dollars). Some wanted to mortgage the church, but a subscription drive was started instead, bringing the debt down to $150 ($2,568) within a few weeks. Later, there was a party held at the parsonage by the ladies of the congregation, where $57.79 in cash and $5.00 in "provisions" ($989.36 and $85.60, respectively) were raised.

According to historian Mark Anderson, there was probably little to distinguish our services from the typical services of other Protestant sects in America. The basic pattern was: scripture reading, hymn, prayer, Gospel reading, hymn, prayer, sermon, prayer, hymn, and benediction. Four times each year there would be a communion service; the service the week before would be a service of preparation for the communion.

The Good Friday service was preparatory for the communion service to be held on Easter. Pastor Sharts noted:

Few in. Rain.(1) From Anderson, Mark J., For All the Saints: Christ's Lutheran Church, Woodstock, New York, 1806-2006 [Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006], pp. 55-56, citing the pastor's notes. (Close)
On Easter, he noted:
Rainy. No Service.
The mud in April could often be so deep in the roads as to make travel extremely difficult. Pastor Sharts tried again, two weeks later.
Sacrament. Normal number partook. Fair [weather]. The remark of a former Pastor is most true, "This is not a church going people."
In September, he noted:
Day for preparatory service; but no one present on account of the funeral of Mrs. Levi Lasher. Here a funeral, even of a stranger, takes precedence of all things else.
Since Levi and Maria Risely Lasher had been married at Christ's Church in 1846, had baptized at least three children into the congregation in the 1850s, and had apparently left the congregation sometime after 1872, the pastor must have meant that she was a "stranger" in that she was no longer a member. Considering that she had been a member for almost 25 years, it doesn't seem surprising that the congregation would have gone to her funeral even though it was in a different church.(2)

Ibid., p. 56. (Close)

In addition to the detailed and meticulous minutes that Pastor Sharts entered in the pastoral record book, he also maintained a separate record of all the texts he based each sermon on, where he preached, what the weather and road conditions were, and--as you can see--an idea of the attendance. This record seems to indicate that he did evening services not only at the Pine Grove Church but also at the schoolhouse known variously as Herrick's and Overlook.

Here is an entry Pastor Sharts made in his Historical Sketch of this church, concerning the satellite congregation at Pine Grove, which had separated from Christ's Church eight years earlier:(3)

Here Anderson, pp. 62-63, is citing Pastor Sharts's Historical Sketch of this church. (Close)
Untoward Events

Nov. 4, 1876. This congregation in former years was by far the most numerous in Woodstock. Various causes contributed to weaken it. Among them were these--

1st The frequent change of pastors.

2nd The building of other churches in the vicinity, in that, members were inclined to attend a church near by, other than to travel perhaps many miles.

3rd Sometimes for months at a time the congregation has no pastor. In that time the people got accustomed to attend other churches.

4th For want of a Parsonage, several of the pastors lived at a distance, & of course could not attend the interests of the congregation as they otherwise might have done

[ Pine Grove Church ] 5th When the congregation had been weakened from these causes--about the year 1868 it was proposed by the then pastor to build another Lutheran church in the lower part of the congregation about five miles distant from the old church.… [The picture above is the church, the one below a detail of one of the windows; to enlarge either picture, click it.]

[ Detail of the window in the Pine Grove Church ] Pine Grove church was built--the congregation divided--& the new church commenced a sickly existence. And sickly & very weak it remains--with no pastor--& no means of supporting one,--burdened with debt, & with the prospect of having the church soon pass into other hands. But the prospects of this [Christ's] church are brighter than they have been for years; and its members feel greatly encouraged.

Former Pastor William H. Emerick died during this year, at almost the age of 70. The Hartwick Synod's obituary declared:
We would cherish a fond remembrance of all his virtues as a Christian and as a Christian minister and devoutly pray that the influence of his example as an earnest and untiring preacher of the gospel may leave its impress on all our hearts.

It was about this time that Dr. and Mrs. Harriet Heath donated a small melodion to accompany the singing of hymns. Eudora R. Sharts, wife of the pastor, as well as Lydia Cramer (later the aunt of church organist Lydia Russell) played the instrument. It was also about this time that the Bible School became a vital part in the church life, under the tutelage of Eveyln Cramer.

Eudora Genevieve ("Dora") Sharts, daughter of the pastor, was the church librarian.

The Woodstock Region in 1876

Regional historian Alf Evers cited the recollections about local Woodstock life at this time of Byron "Bide" Snyder, whose father had a store in town, including a telegraph office, operating the line running from the West Hurley railroad station through Woodstock and even up to what was left of the Overlook Mountain House(4):

Excerpted from Evers, Alf, Woodstock: History of an American Town, Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1987, p. 271, citing Snyder, Byron, recollections in the Woodstock Weekly, 1924. (Close)
[Ice skating] was great sport. We had places to skate then. Our skates were nothing like the modern ones. They were made of wood with a silver runner. In the heel of each skate was a screw. You bored a hole in the heel of your boot (we only wore shoes Sundays) with a gimlet and then turned the skate around several times until it was screwed up. Then it was fastened more or less securely with straps. Your boots would get wet and freeze stiff. The straps would be coated thickly with ice and you couldn't get your skates off and you would have to hobble home and thaw them out.

There were two fine ponds. They are gone now [1924]. Just back of Herrick's [the mansard-roofed building later the Tannery Brook Motel] was Delameter's pond and sawmill. The old dam is all gone and the pond is only a brooklet. The water reached to the upper end of the old tannery. The tannery is gone but the ruins are still there [below the waterfall near the bridge which takes Tinker Street over the Tannery Brook]. The other pond began at a dam near Larry Elwyn's [just above the waterfall].… It reached up back of the Art Gallery [of the Woodstock Art Association]. There was another just back of Sandwich Inn [the Inn stood on the Rock City Road opposite the cemetery].…

Prospectors were exploring the Woodstock area for coal, oil, and gas.

The United States in 1876

[ Ulysses S. Grant ]

Ulysses S. Grant, 54 (Republican), was President. The 44th Congress was in session, with Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, Republicans in control of the Senate. A dollar in that year would be worth $17.12 in 2006 for most consumable products.

Panic of 1873 (continued)

Debtor farmers of the agrarian West and South, the "cheap-money supporters," the Greenbackers, disappointed in the preceding year's Specie Resumption Act, authorizing the resumption of specie payments in gold coins for all greenbacks in circulation by 1879, were now looking for relief to another precious metal: the "sacred white metal" silver. New silver discoveries in Nevada and other areas of the West was shooting silver production up and forcing silver prices down. Unfortunately, Congress had formally dropped the coinage of silver 3 years earlier with the Fourth Coinage Act, which these debtor groups and Westerners from silver-mining states labeled the "Crime of '73." They were demanding a return to the "Dollar of Our Daddies"--essentially a call for inflation to make debts easier to repay.

Republicans resisted this call and kept persuading President Grant to maintain "sound money"--that is, gold exclusively. The U.S. Treasury was accumulating gold stocks against the 1879 deadline for resumption; coupled with the reduction of greenbacks, this policy was known as "contraction" and it worsened the effects of the continued economic depression from the Panic of 1873.

Immigrants from the British Isles and western Europe (especially Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany)--the so-called "Old Immigrants," most of them boasting a comparatively high level of literacy and accustomed to some level of representative government, who were either Protestant (most of them) or Catholic, were arriving during this decade at an average annual rate of 159,300. The "New Immigrants," those from southern and eastern Europe (especially Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Russia), largely illiterate and impoverished, who tended to be either Catholic, Orthodox, or Jewish and who had little experience with representative government, were arriving at an annual rate of 18,100--11% of the Old Immigrants' rate. The New Immigrants huddled together in large cities, such as New York City and Chicago.

American cities were now growing rapidly, most of the growth resulting from immigration from abroad (augmented by considerable immigration from domestic farms). American government at all levels was not well suited to urban swelling and did little or nothing to ease the assimilation of immigrants into society, and municipal governments especially were totally inadequate to the task. It was left to the urban political machines, run by "bosses," to minister to the needs of the new arrivals. Jobs on the city payroll, housing, food, clothing, medical care, and legal help were cynically distributed in exchange for votes and other forms of political loyalty.

Corruption--waste, extravagance, speculation, graft, and fraud--was such a fetid way of life in the United States during this "Era of Good Stealing" that it was said the Man in the Moon had to hold his nose when passing over America. According to historians Bailey, Kennedy, and Cohen:

Unscrupulous stock-market manipulators were a cinder in the public eye. Too many judges and legislators put their power up for hire. Cynics defined an honest politician as one who, when bought, would stay bought.(5) From Bailey, Thomas A., Kennedy, David M., and Cohen, Lizabeth, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, p. 514.(Close)
The cabinet of President Grant was essentially a nest of incompetents and grafters. Favor seekers plied Grant with wines, cigars, and horses. Several dozen of his in-laws in the Dent family assumed highly paid do-nothing jobs for the administration.

Secretary of War William Worth Belknap, 47, was shown to have pocketed some $24,000 ($410,000 in 2006 dollars) by selling post tradership appointments (particularly one at Fort Sill in Indian Territory)--that is, the privilege of disbursing junk, labeled as "supplies," to Indians. He was impeached by a unanimous vote of the House of Representatives, but resigned his office before being brought to trial in March; President Grant accepted his resignation "with great regret." The Senate tried him anyway, but the vote fell short of the two-thirds required for conviction.

Presidential election of 1876

Though there was really little difference between Republican and Democratic voters or between official party platforms on such issues as currency, the tariff, and vain promises for civil-service reform, there was a pronounced difference in style, tone, and religious sentiment. Rank-and-file Republicans--particularly strong in the Midwest and the small-town and rural Northeast, among the grateful freedmen in the South, and among the several thousand Union veterans in the fraternal Grand Army of the Republic (GAR, often said to stand for "Generally All Republicans")--tended to adhere to Calvinistic creeds descended from Puritanism, stressing strict codes of personal morality and advocating government regulation of morality. Democrats, in contrast, still somewhat cursed with the Copperhead label from the Civil War, had a solid base among whites in the vanquished South as well as among immigrant Lutherans and Roman Catholics in the industrial cities of the North (where their votes were controlled by well-oiled political machines); the Northern Democrats, at least, took a less stern view of human weakness than their Republican neighbors and were more tolerant of imperfections. Education and prohibition figured large in local politics between the parties.

[ Chester A. Arthur ] The spoils of patronage--the awarding of government jobs (especially in the postal service) in return for party service, kickbacks, and votes--was vitally important within both parties and was essentially a big business like any other Gilded Age capitalist enterprise. Among the Republicans, those unabashedly advocating time-honored patronage and thoroughly opposed to any reform of the civil service were known as Stalwarts, a faction led by the handsome, imperious New York Senator Roscoe "Lord Roscoe" Conkling, 47, and his protégé Chester Alan Arthur, 47, pictured here, the Collector of the Port of New York. Conkling, mocked 10 years earlier by rival Republican James Gillespie Blaine, 46, currently Senator from Maine, as having a "turkey gobbler strut," was continually depicted by cartoonists as a turkey. For his part, the flashing-eyes, demagogic Blaine led the faction known as Half-Breeds, who gave lip service to civil service reform but who really wanted to displace the Stalwarts as spoils beneficiaries. The two factions stalemated each other and deadlocked the party.

At the end of the preceding year, Grant insiders had begged the "Old Man" President to go for an unprecedented third term, and Grant seemed willing. The House of Representatives, however, though controlled by Democrats, passed a bipartisan resolution introduced by Illinois Congressman William McKendree Springer, 40, by a lopsided 233-18 vote, essentially declaring that the two-term tradition was designed to prevent a dictatorship:

Resolved, That in the opinion of this House the precedent established by Washington and other Presidents of the United States, in retiring from the Presidential office after their second term, has become, by universal concurrence, a part of our republican system of government, and that any departure from this time-honored custom would be unwise, unpatriotic, and fraught with peril to our free institutions.
[ Rutherford B. Hayes ] The resolution derailed the third-term bandwagon. Meanwhile, Conkling's Stalwarts and Blaine's Half-Breeds were neutralizing each other, so Republicans who were interested in retaining the presidency proposed a compromise candidate, Ohio Governor Rutherford Burchard Hayes, 54, pictured here, a retired (and wounded) Union General obscure enough to be labeled "The Great Unknown." Just as today, Ohio was considered an important swing state in the era's cliffhanger elections, a fact that augmented the qualifications of Hayes; according to a political saying of the time:
Some are born great.
Some achieve greatness.
And some are born in Ohio.
Hayes was also famous for his ability not to offend anyone. Contemporary historian Henry Adams asserted that Hayes was
a third-rate nonentity, whose only recommendation is that he is obnoxious to no one.
Hayes was so noted for his integrity that he earned the contemptuous nickname "Old Granny."

Republican party bosses nominated the even-more-unknown New York Congressman William Almon Wheeler, 57, for Vice President. Learning of the nomination, Governor Hayes was heard to comment:

I am ashamed to say: Who is Wheeler?
As they had done 4 years earlier, some Republicans "waved the bloody shirt" by associating the Democrats with secession, civil war, and anti-black violence. For too many Republicans, however, this ploy had become empty political rhetoric. Hayes himself had only talked vaguely of a fair and just policy for the South. Prominent liberal Republican General Carl Schurz, 47, who 11 years earlier had written a damning report on the racist South, at the end of the preceding year quoted a newspaperman in the Midwest that the Republican Party in the South was as "dead as a doornail" and then added the following:
We ought to have a sound sensible republican… for the next President as a measure of safety; but only on the condition of absolute non-interference in Southern local affairs, for which there is no further need or excuse.(6) Quoted in Garraty, John A., The American Nation: A History of the United States, New York: Harper and Row, 1966, p. 444. (Close)

The Democrats nominated the weak-voiced New York Governor Samuel Jones "Whispering Sammy" Tilden, 62, who had led earlier in the decade the prosecution of New York City's Boss Tweed and the impeachment of several New York judges who had been Tweed tools. Indiana Governor Thomas Andrews Hendricks, 57, was nominated for Vice President. The Democrats campaigned against Republican scandals and for a sweeping civil-service reform. Every paragraph in their platform began with "Reform is necessary in…"

Republicans and Democrats differed very little on real issues, but the race between them was fiercely competitive nonetheless. Each party was tightly organized. Political orator, Republican operative, and agnostic Robert Green Ingersoll, 43, shouted

Every man that shot Union soldiers was a Democrat!… The man that assassinated Lincoln was a Democrat. Soldiers, every scar you have got on your heroic bodies was given you by a Democrat!(7) Quoted in Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Oxford History of the American People, New York: Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 733. (Close)
On Election Day, November 7, hordes of party faithful tramped behind marching bands on the way to the polls. The parties were able to turn out huge numbers of voters--nearly 80% of those eligible. Most of them voted a straight party line, too.

Tilden carried his home state of New York and most of the South, whereas Hayes's strength lay in New England, the Midwest, and the West. Early returns suggested that Tilden had won, and several major newspapers prematurely reported a Democratic victory in their morning editions. However, other newspapers were cautious, and a New York Times headline read:

The Results Still Uncertain
Each side charged that ballot boxes had been stuffed, that ballots had been altered, and that voters had been intimidated.

Tilden had apparently won the 8.5-million popular vote, 4,284,020 to 4,036,572, a margin of 247,448. Unfortunately, the electoral college results were problematic: 20 electoral votes were contested. The winning candidate needed 185 votes; Tilden had 184 and needed only 1 of the contested votes, whereas Hayes had 165 and needed all 20 of the contested ones.

Three of these problem states--Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida--accounting for 19 of those 20 contested votes, were still controlled by carpetbagger Reconstruction Republicans in the vanquished South. Although the Republicans still controlled the "unredeemed" state governments, they were exceedingly unpopular with the overwhelmingly Democratic white southerners, many of whom resented what they perceived as interference from the North and blamed the Republicans for the "lost cause" "War for Southern Independence."

Unofficial tallies in Louisiana gave the election to Tilden by more than 6,000 votes (especially since thousands of Republican blacks had been intimidated from voting), but the "returning board," controlled by Republicans, threw out more than 15,000 votes (87% of them for Tilden) from several precincts, citing voter intimidation and fraud. The result gave Louisiana's 8 electoral votes to Hayes and the governorship to the Republican candidate. Protesting this outcome, the state's Democratic Party set up a rival state government under Governor Francis T. Nicholls, whose administration certified that Tilden had the state's 8 votes. (Governor Nicholls had been willing to sell his state's electoral votes for $200,000 [$3.42 million in 2006 dollars].)

The initial count in South Carolina suggested Hayes as the winner (even after thousands of black Republicans had been intimidated from voting by "rifle clubs," some of them supported by a battery of artillery) but with the Democratic candidate winning the governorship. The Republican-controlled returning board here too disallowed thousands of votes, thereby certifying a Republican governor--Union General Daniel Henry Chamberlain, 41--and legislature. Here too, the Democratic Party organized a rival state government under ex-Confederate General Wade Hampton III, 58, whose government gave the state's 7 electoral votes to Tilden.

The initial returns in Florida indicated that Hayes was ahead by a measly 43 votes (a margin of victory certainly diminished by the intimidation of black Republicans from voting); after a correction, Tilden was ahead by 94 votes. Northern politician Lew Wallace reported on both Florida and Louisiana:

It is terrible to see the extent to which all classes go in their determination to win. Money and intimidation can obtain the oath of white men as well as black to any required statement.… If we win, our methods are subject to impeachment for possible fraud. If the enemy win, it is the same thing. (8) Quoted in Garraty, op. cit., p. 446.(Close)
The Florida election board, like the Louisiana Governor, was willing to offer the electoral votes to Tilden for $200,000 ($3.42 million in 2006 dollars), and Tilden was reported to have ruefully remarked:
That seems to be the standard figure.
Again, a Republican-dominated returning board in Florida threw out enough ballots to give the election to Hayes by a margin of almost 1,000 votes. The board also certified the Republican gubernatorial candidate, but it was overruled by the Florida Supreme Court, which certified the Democratic candidate, George Franklin Drew, who duly announced that Tilden had the state's 4 electoral votes for President.

The remaining disputed electoral vote was from Oregon. Both parties acknowledged that Hayes had won the state, but the Democrats pointed 1 of the state's 3 electoral votes had been cast by elector John W. Watts, who turned out to be ineligible because he was a U.S. postmaster, in those days a federal officeholder, which was in violation of Article II Section I paragraph 2 of the Constitution. Watts had resigned from his office a week before the election and long before the scheduled meeting of the Electoral College. But Oregon Governor LaFayette Grover, a Democrat, officially removed Watts as an elector, replacing him with C. A. Cronin, a Tilden supporter.

On December 6, the electors met in their respective state capitals to cast their ballots. In Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, both the Democratic and the Republican slates of electors assembled, and cast conflicting votes. In Oregon, likewise, both Watts and Cronin cast ballots. Thus, from each of these four states, two sets of returns were transmitted to Washington.

The election dispute gave rise to a Constitutional crisis the likes of which the United States had never seen. The Constitution had no explicit provisions for resolving such an Electoral College dispute, so Congress was forced to consider creative methods to settle it.

Democrats who claimed that they had been cheated shouted:

Tilden or War!
Kentucky Congressman Henry Watterson, 36, declared that a 100,000-strong army was prepared to march on Washington unless Tilden was declared the winner. It seemed like a second Civil War might be about to begin.

Several Democrats argued that the determination as to which counts were valid should be decided by Congress as a whole--with Democrats in control of the House of Representatives and Republicans in control of the Senate. Many Republicans insisted that the President pro tempore of the Senate, Republican Senator Thomas White Ferry of Michigan, 49, who was constitutionally responsible for chairing the Congressional session where electoral votes were to be tallied, was authorized to determine which certificates to count (and thereby making Hayes the President). Others proposed that the matter should be settled by the Supreme Court.

In late December, the Senate and the House of Representatives each created a special committee to come up with a solution. The two committees ultimately suggested the creation of a 15-member Electoral Commission, consisting of 5 Senators (selected by the Senate), 5 Representatives (selected by the House), 4 named Supreme Court Justices, and a final Supreme Court Justice chosen by the other 4. The most senior Justice would be the President of the Commission. Here were the proposed party affiliations: 7 Democrats, 7 Republicans, and 1 independent (supposedly Justice David Davis from Illinois, widely regarded as a political independent but whom the minority Democrats in the Illinois legislature were sure they had bought). The decisions of the Commission could be overturned only by both houses of Congress.

Candidate Hayes objected to the idea as unconstitutional, and several Republicans concurred. This is how things stood at the very tense end of the year.

The voters had also elected the 45th Congress, again with Republicans controlling the Senate and Democrats controlling the House of Representatives. It would assume power in the coming year.

Reconstruction and reaction

White-supremacist groups in other former Confederate states were finding ways to undo the enfranchisement of blacks, including the passage of "Jim Crow" laws prejudicial to blacks, as the Tennessee State Legislature had done the year before. Still, a few blacks were holding political office in some places in the South, including in the U.S. House of Representatives. Black plantation owner Blanche K. Bruce from Bolivar County in Mississippi had even been elected the preceding year to the U.S. Senate, where he continued to serve his full term--the second (and last) black to do so from that state.

Northerners, called "carpetbaggers," and Southerners, called "scalawags," had joined the Republican Party to carry out the congressional Reconstruction program in the South, sometimes meddling in the region's political affairs for their own benefit. Dangerously defiant white Southerners cursed the "damnyankees" and referred to the federal government as "your government." Persisting in their conviction that their view of secession was the correct one and that the "lost cause" was a just war, they admitted of no crime in their rebellion. These unreconstructed Southern whites were particularly incensed at the idea of former slaves holding political office.

With muffled horse hooves, the besheeted night riders of the 10-year-old "Invisible Empire" of the white-supremacist Ku Klux Klan continued to break up black prayer meetings and invade black homes at night. The group was formally dedicated to resist Reconstruction and all activities of the Republican Party. Determined to force blacks to "keep in their place," they terrorized, flogged, mutilated, and murdered "upstart" ex-slaves and carpetbaggers. Here were some verses from one of their terrifying broadsides, including the carpetbagger Union League in its list of enemies:

Niggers and Leaguers, get out of the way.
We're born of the night and we vanish by day.
No rations have we but the flesh of man--
And love niggers best--the Ku Klux Klan:
We catch 'em alive and roast 'em whole,
Then hand 'em around with a sharpened pole.
Whole Leagues have been eaten, not leaving a man,
And went away hungry--the Ku Klux Klan.
Any scoundrel could don a sheet; the Klan was a refuge for several bloodthirsty bandits and cutthroats.

In contrast to (but essentially in league with) the poor-white-dominated Klan, a number of "respectable" racist movements such as the "Mississippi Plan" had been spreading through the South. Terrorists donned red shirts and organized into military companies, parading openly in broad daylight and seizing blacks they deemed militant and whipping them publicly. When blacks dared to fight back, killings were frequent in their resulting rout. Blacks learned to stay at home on election day, and "Conservative" Democratic parties took over local, county, and state governments.

Tennessee and Virginia had installed a white-supremacist "Redeemer," or "Home Rule," Democratic regime 7 years earlier; North Carolina 6 years earlier; Georgia 5 years earlier; Arkansas, Alabama, and Texas 2 years earlier; and Mississippi during the preceding year. South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana remained under Republican control. The few remaining radical Republicans in Congress still favored federal intervention in the former Confederate states in order to protect the basic civil rights of black Americans and their white Republican compatriots; however, the Northern Republican commitment to Reconstruction and black civil rights had long been waning. At the same time, Democrats were vehemently opposing federal intervention, were voting against Reconstruction legislation, and were calling for the withdrawal of federal troops from political duty in the South. There were now only 3,000 Union troops stationed in the South, down from 15,000 9 years earlier and 6,600 6 years earlier.

Here is some claptrap how white supremacist Benjamin R. Tillman, who participated in anti-black violence during this decade, justified his actions in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate 30 years later, when he represented the State of South Carolina(9):

Quoted in Taylor, Dr. Quintard, Jr., "History 101: Survey of the History of the United States--Manual, Chapter 4, Civil War and Reconstruction" (Seattle: University of Washington), citing Bailey, Thomas A., and Kennedy, David M., The American Spirit, Vol. II, (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 462-63, taken from, accessed 1 February 2007. (Close)
It was in 1876, thirty years ago, and the people of South Carolina had been living under Negro rule for eight years. There was a condition bordering upon anarchy. Misrule, robbery, and murder were holding high carnival.… Life ceased to be worth having on the terms under which we were living, and in desperation we determined to take the government away from the Negroes.

We reorganized the Democratic Party [of South Carolina] with one plank, and only one plank, namely, that "this is a white man's country, and white men must govern it." Under that banner we went to battle.

We had 8,000 Negro militia organized by carpetbaggers.… They used to drum up and down the roads with their fifes and their gleaming bayonets, equipped with new Springfield rifles and dressed in the regulation uniform. It was lawful, I suppose, but these Negro soldiers--or this Negro militia, for they were never soldiers--growing more and more bold, let drop talk among themselves where the white children might hear.… This is what they said:

The President [Grant] is our friend. The North is with us. We intend to kill all the white men, take the land, marry the white women, and then these white children will wait on us.
Clashes came. The Negro militia grew unbearable and more and more insolent. I am not speaking of what I have read; I am speaking of what I know, of what I saw. There were two militia companies in my township and a regiment in my county. We had clashes with these Negro militiamen. The Hamburg riot was one clash, in which seven Negroes and one white man were killed. A month later we had the Ellerton riot, in which no one ever knew how many Negroes were killed, but there were [at least] forty or fifty or a hundred. It was a fight between barbarism and civilization, between the African and the Caucasian, for mastery.

It was then that "we shot them"; it was then that "we killed them"; it was then that "we stuffed ballot boxes." After the [federal] troops came and told us, "You must stop this rioting," we had decided to take the government away from men so debased as were the Negro.…

[President] Grant sent troops to maintain the carpetbag government in power and to protect the Negroes in the right to vote. He merely obeyed the law.… Then it was that "we stuffed ballot boxes," because desperate diseases require desperate remedies, and having resolved to take the state away, we hesitated at nothing.…

I want to say now that we have not shot any Negroes in South Carolina on account of politics since 1876. We have not found it necessary. Eighteen hundred and seventy-six happened to be the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and the action of the white men of South Carolina in taking the state away from the Negroes we regard as a second declaration of independence by the Caucasian from African barbarism.

The remaining Republican regimes in the former Confederacy were still introducing some badly needed reforms: streamlining tax systems, launching public works, guaranteeing property rights for women, and establishing adequate public schools. A couple of these governments were ridden with graft, however: In Louisiana and South Carolina, unscrupulous promoters used naïve blacks as pawns. Notably, this sort of corruption was by no means confined to the South; it was happening in all levels of government all over the country during this "Era of Good Stealing."

Without capital, most blacks had little to offer but their labor, and thousands of them, along with thousands of landless poor whites, had become "sharecropper" farmers--essentially serfs, slaves to the soil and to their creditors. In this system, a planter divided his estate into small plots, establishing a black family on each one. Ostensibly, the black farmer was provided housing, agricultural implements, and other supplies in exchange for his and his family's labor. The sharecropper farmer and the planter owner divided the resulting crop, supposedly 50-50. Unfortunately, in the "crop-lien" arrangement, the sharecropper was forced to borrow against the fall harvest to pay for the spring seed. To protect his investment, the lender insisted that the sharecropper concentrate on readily marketable crops--tobacco, sugar, and especially cotton--and the result was overproduction and soil exhaustion. Small-time merchants established crossroad stores, selling goods to the sharecropper family on credit, further burdening the sharecropper with debt. Even those who owned land had a hard time keeping up with debts to store owners for their supplies, and many lost their land and became sharecroppers themselves.

The burly, ruthless Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt, 82, continued to consolidate his Hudson River Railroad and his New York Central Railroad, thereby gaining a monopoly in rail transport between New York and Buffalo, and, through his leasing of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, between New York City and Chicago. He was amassing a gigantic fortune by offering superior railway service at rates lower than those charged by his unfortunate competitors. Vanderbilt was popularizing the tougher steel rail, safer and more economical than the conventional iron, because it could bear a heavier load; with the establishment of the Carnegie steel works, he no longer had to import the steel from England. His consolidation efforts also helped to standardize the track gauge, eliminating the inconvenience and expense of repeated changes from one line to another.

As with the 7-year-old Union Pacific and Central Pacific transcontinental railroad, the nation's first, government subsidies in land grants continued to act as an inducement to railroad construction (the private railroad companies might not otherwise hazard huge sums needed to lay tracks across hundreds of miles of rugged, empty country, tracks whose traffic would not yield profits for years). Congress was awarding millions of acres of public land, and the states themselves were contributing million of acres more. For transcontinental routes in particular, the land was typically granted in broad belts along the proposed routes, within which the companies were allowed to choose the best location for the tracks; until they chose--and even long after--all the land within the belts was unavailable for settlement (and, for land adjacent to transcontinental routes, would be unavailable for another 11 years). The builders of the railroad projects were authorized to take the timber, stone, and other material needed from the public-land right of way it had been granted.

Historian John Garraty has summarized what was happening(10):

From Garraty, op. cit., p. 489.(Close)
Here was a clear conflict between equal opportunity and rapid economic growth, between the idea of the West as a national heritage to be disposed of to deserving citizens and the concept of the region as a boundless prize to be gobbled up in giant chunks by those interests powerful and determined enough to take it. When it came to a choice between giving a particular tract to railroads or to homesteaders, the homesteaders nearly always lost out. To serve a necessary national purpose, the linking of the sections by rail, the land of the West was dispensed wholesale as a substitute for cash subsidies.

Railroad promoters let out all the stops to reap the land grants. They were able to pocket millions of dollars from selling off granted land (at an average price of $3 per acre [$51.36 per acre in 2006 dollars]), investing a pittance of that to bribe Congressmen with cash contributions and lucrative stock. For example, the directors of the Central Pacific were dispersing $500,000 annually ($8.6 million) for "legal expenses," which were actually thinly disguised bribes to stave off government investigations into corruption.

A frontier village could become a flourishing city if it could host a new railroad; whatever settlement bypassed by the railroad typically became a "ghost town." Communities contended with one another to get the rails, offering monetary and other attractions to promoters, who sometimes blackmailed the communities to get even more generous handouts.

Railroads--especially the new transcontinental line---created an enormous integrated domestic market, a huge commercial empire, for manufactured goods as well as raw materials, and they attracted both domestic and foreign investors. The new lines stimulated both agriculture and mining, especially in the West, taking farmers and miners to their remote holdings, bringing manufactured necessities to them, and hauling to market the product of their labors. The iron horse stimulated immigration; the railroad companies advertised in Europe to seduce settlers to buy land from the grants. Now the entire Midwest--Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas--was becoming farmland, and the high-plain prairies of Dakota and Montana Territories was becoming cattle ranges; the white pines of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota was being cut for lumber, rushed by rail for construction of houses and fences in the treeless prairies.

Railroad construction itself generated a gigantic backlog for the young steel industry.

Some railroad promoters were grossly overoptimistic (or simply unscrupulous), however, cashing in construction bonds to penetrate areas that lacked even a potential population that could support a line, laying rails that led "from nowhere to nothing"; when the promoters declared bankruptcy, their trusting investors would be left with only "two streaks of rust and a right of way" (making rails out of steel rather than iron would solve the rust problem).

Railroad construction and operation was making a new millionaire aristocracy and stimulated Wall Street speculation for amassing colossal wealth. The bedazzled public was not detecting, or was disregarding, the corrupt financial maneuvers and rapacious skullduggery. Railroad stock promoters were adept at "stock watering": exaggerating the assets and profitability of whatever line they were hawking, selling its stock and bonds at prices far surpassing their true value. Then, in order to redeem the oversold financial obligations, the line's managers were forced to charge extortionate rates and to wage ruthless competitive wars.

Railroad barons were more and more shunning the crude bloodletting of cutthroat competition, however, and were more often cooperating with one another, entering into defensive alliances to protect their gigantic profits with little concern for the paying public. They formed "pools," agreements to divide the business in a given region and then share the profits. They might also grant kickbacks and rebates to large shippers. They made up the difference on discounts by gouging customers on noncompeting lines, frequently resulting in larger freight charges for shorter hauls.

Meanwhile, railroad barons recruited lobbyists, anointed their own "creatures" into high political office, and bribed journalists, legislators, and judges with cash or free travel. They could exercise more direct control over the lives and welfare of people than could the President of the United States.

Liquid capital had become abundant. John Pierpont Morgan, 39, of the 5-year-old banking house Drexel, Morgan & Co., with offices in both New York City and Philadelphia, was known as the "banker's banker." He was deeply involved in financing railroads, raising large sums in Europe. Rather than merely handing over the funds, however, he persuaded railroads to reorganize in order to achieve greater efficiencies toward the vision of an integrated transportation system.

As the price of coke needed in steel making rose from $1 per ton to $5 per ton ($17.12 and $85.60 per ton, respectively, in 2006 dollars), Henry Clay Frick, 27, who had taken advantage of the financial Panic of 1873 to acquire 80 percent of the coal and coke land around Connellsville, PA, near the Pittsburgh steel mills, was becoming a millionaire.

Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, 40, continued to use the Bessemer steel-making process in his year-old factory in the Pittsburgh area. The massive immigration during this last part of the century was making unskilled labor plentiful and cheap, and the new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe, working in two 12-hour shifts for 7 days a week, built up the strength of the steel industry.

Steel making, notably for railroad rails (railroad baron Vanderbilt was now a principal customer of the steelmakers), demonstrated the new dominance of "heavy industry" for making "capital goods" (machinery for making consumer goods). Using the Bessemer process (actually invented by American William Kelly, involving the blowing of cold air on red-hot iron, thereby igniting the carbon in the white-hot metal and eliminating impurities) and blessed by a ready abundance of coal for fuel, rich iron ore for smelting, and the abundant labor supply, the U.S. was rapidly becoming a major steel supplier for the world.

The 17-year-old petroleum "black gold" industry was booming, especially now with the derivative kerosene, which on a cotton wick in a glass chimney lamp burned so much brighter than the ever-more-expensive sperm oil from whales. Already kerosene was the the fourth most valuable U.S. export.

Kerosene was no longer the only valuable petroleum product, however. By now refiners were learning how to "crack" petroleum

by applying high temperatures to the crude in order to break up and rearrange its molecular structure, thus increasing the percentage of kerosene yielded. By-products such as naphtha, gasoline (used in vaporized form as an illuminating gas), rhigolene (a local anesthetic), cymogene (a coolant for refrigerating machines), and many lubricants and waxes began to appear on the market.(11) Quoted from ibid., p. 506. (Close)
By now the great increase in crude oil had driven prices down, a factor that put a premium on refining efficiency--larger plants utilizing expensive machinery and employing skilled technicians.

The 6-year-old Standard Oil Company of Ohio, now the Standard Oil Trust, directed by abstemious, parsimonious John Davison Rockefeller, 36, was refining tens of thousands barrels of crude per day and was the largest operation of its kind in the world. Through the Trust the merciless Rockefeller, operating "just to the windward of the law," had perfected a technique for allying with competitors to monopolize the petroleum market and controlling bothersome rivals; stockholders of several small oil companies would assign their stock to the Standard Oil board of directors, and all operations of formerly competing firms would be consolidated and aligned. Rockefeller ruthlessly wielded vast power. Weak competitors not part of the trust were plowed under. Rockefeller's unwritten motto was

Let us prey.
His local agents received the following hard-boiled order:
Sell all the oil that is sold in your district.
In addition to the rebates it received from the railroads, the Trust received drawbacks--fixed rates that the railroads paid for every barrel of oil they carried for a Standard Oil competitor--and competitors paid five times the freight rates enjoyed by Standard Oil.

Industrialists, almost all of them identified with the Republican Party and enjoying the tariffs that that party had secured, resumed their building of new factories. These businessmen constituted a new class of gaudy, brassy, noisy, extravagant millionaires, plutocrats who defended their unbridled capitalism and their heartless contempt of the poor by adapting the theory of Charles Darwin: survival of the fittest.

More and more Americans, formerly self-employed farmers or artisans, were becoming wage earners toiling in the new factories, continually fearing unemployment from swings in the business cycle or simply from arbitrary whims of the businessmen. The sweat of these laborers was lubricating the robust new industrial machine, but the laborers themselves shared very little of the benefits enjoyed by the plutocrats. Like the Roman galley slave, the worker was merely an unskilled and easily replaced lever puller for a depersonalized, soulless, conscienceless corporation.

Workers had been struggling to organize themselves into unions. In spite of the hard times from the depression, workers in the 7-year-old Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor continued to meet in Philadelphia as a secret society with passwords, handshakes, and a private ritual. Such secrecy forestalled possible reprisals from employers. With its slogan

An injury to one is the concern of all
the Knights campaigned to include all workers--the skilled--into "one big union." Blacks, Chinese, and "nonproducers" (lawyers, bankers, stockbrokers, professional gamblers, and liquor dealers) were excluded, however. The Knights advocated such social and economic reform as safety and health codes, an 8-hour workday, the abolition of child labor, equal pay for equal work, arbitration rather than strikes, producers' cooperatives, and currency reform based on the principles of the Greenback-Labor Party. They insisted that
Labor is the only creator of values and capital.
Here is a stanza from one of their favorite songs:
Hurrah, hurrah, for labor,
it is mustering all its powers,
And shall march along to victory
with the banner of eight hours.
and here is another stanza:
Storm the fort, ye Knights of Labor,
Battle for your cause;
Equal rights for every neighbor,
Down with tyrant laws!

Larvae of the gypsy moth (Porthetria dispar) continued to spread from Medford, MA, where French naturalist Leopold Trouvelot had brought the insect from Europe 7 years earlier with hopes to start a silk industry in New England. The moth population was exploding and defoliating American woodlands.

The World Almanac, published annually for the preceding 8 years by the New York World, ceased publication.

The 4-year-old Chicago firm Montgomery Ward & Company (originally "The Original Grange Supply House") of Aaron Montgomery Ward, 33, and George R. Thorne had by now expanded its one-sheet "catalogue" (to appeal by mail order to farmers with bargain offerings that could be shipped by mail) to a 150-page illustrated book.

The German bondholders of Missouri entrepreneur Ben Holladay, 58, the "Napoleon of the Plains," who had been trying to finance an Oregon Central Railroad Project, forced him out of business after he could not recoup the losses from the Panic of 1873; Holladay was financially ruined.

The 14-year-old Homestead Act, designed to stimulate the family farm and to encourage a rapid population growth in the West, authorized any U.S. citizen, or any alien intending to become a citizen, to take 160 acres of Western land (a quarter section) for just a $10 registration fee ($171.20 in 2006 dollars), provided that he make certain improvements and that he live on the tract for 5 years. Alternatively, the settler might acquire land after only 6 months of residence for a nominal price of $1.25 per acre ($21.40 per acre in 2006 dollars). Either way, the land acquired was to be exempt from attachment for debt.

Of course, the act augmented immigration. Tens of thousands of settlers applied for homesteads each year, a third of them actually receiving land. During this year, nearly 3 million acres of public lands were legally transferred to private ownership.

Unfortunately, most landless Americans were too poor to become independent farmers; the expense of moving a family from the East to the ever-receding frontier was prohibitive, and the subsequent costs of equipment, fencing, and housing was formidable for most. Industrial workers were ill-suited to transform themselves into farmers; most of the homesteaders were already farmers and were situated close to the frontier anyway.

Also, the standard quarter section was typically inadequate for raising livestock or for the kind of commercial agriculture that was suitable on the dry Great Plains; approximately two-thirds of the homesteaders eventually surrendered in their struggle against draught. Cynics joked that the government had put up the 160 acres against the $10 registration fee in a cruel bet that the settlers would not last the requisite 5 years. Notably, about five times as many families purchased their land from the states, the land companies, or the railroads.

Congress had attempted to address the problem with its 3-year-old Timber Culture Act, which permitting individuals to claim an additional 160 acres if they agreed to plant a quarter of it in trees within 10 years. This law was helpful to farmers in Kansas, Nebraska, and Dakota Territory, but raising seedling trees on the plains was difficult; fewer than 25% of those who took land under this law ever obtained final title.

The Homestead Act and similar laws spawned considerable fraud: Settlers often swore that they had "improved" their claim by erecting a "twelve-by-fourteen" dwelling, which actually measured 12 by 14 inches. Wealthy speculators used the law to obtain large tracts. Unscrupulous corporations bribed aliens with beer or a little cash to become a "dummy" homesteader so that they could snatch properties containing oil, minerals, and timber. And, as stated earlier, the railroad barons always had the upper hand over the homesteaders.

Buffalo hunters on the plains south of the Platte River, brought there by the expanding railroads and the growing market back east for hides (buffalo robes were considered very fashionable, and the demand for them was insatiable) and meat (sometimes just for tongues and a few other choice cuts), killed hundreds of thousands of buffalo--sometimes at the rate of 100 animals per hour. There was also a brisk, faddish demand for mounted buffalo heads. (Of course, there was another important motive: to ruin the way of life of the Plains Indians.) The Santa Fe Railroad in the 5-year-old dance-hall-rich and saloon-rich village of Dodge City, KS, enabled hunters to ship hundreds of thousands of buffalo hides, buffalo tongues, and buffalo hindquarters to market. Many of the "hunters" considered themselves "sportsmen," and as they leaned out of the lurching railroad trains, they blazed away at the animals with repeating rifles. Most of the buffalo carcasses, and certainly the parts not deemed worthy to market, were left to rot in the sun, to be picked by the vultures.

Replacing the buffalo was the Texas longhorn cattle, brought in by cattlemen who had discovered how well the hardy stock survived the winters on the plains foraging on the seemingly limitless forage. They were improving the stock (tenderizing the meat without diminishing the resistance to harsh conditions) by breeding them with pedigreed Hereford bulls. Provided that the cattleman rancher could get access to limited water, he could fatten thousands of steers on public land (in other words, without buying title to a private ranch) and then sell the result for beefsteak and leather at a bonanza profit.

Cattle drives on the 700-mile-long Chisholm Trail from San Antonio, TX, to Abilene or Ellsworth, KS (two "cow towns" on the Kansas Pacific Railway, where cattle could be transported to Kansas City or Chicago to supply "beef baron" Philip Danforth Armour, 43), continued on a large scale, hundreds of thousands of bawling Texas long-horned steers (with horn spreads reaching 8 feet) driven north on the "Long Drive," moving at an average 12 miles per day through open (unfenced), unsettled country.

Historian John Garraty has described what it was like in the "cow towns" (and "buffalo towns"?)(12):

From ibid., pp. 494-95.(Close)
"Cow towns" like Abilene, Ellsworth, and Dodge City were… riotous and… venal.… "I have seen many fast towns," one tough westerner declared, "but Abilene beat them all." A local merchant characterized that town as a "seething, roaring, flaming hell"; its saloons bearing names like Alamo, Applejack, Longhorn, and Old Fruit, were packed during the season with crowds of rambunctious, gun-toting pleasure seekers. Gambling houses and brothels abounded. When Ellsworth, Kansas, had a population of only a thousand, it had 75 resident professional gamblers. At dance halls like Rowdy Joe's, the customers were expected to buy drinks for themselves and their partners after each dance. Little wonder that [Chicago livestock dealer and Abilene Mayor Joseph Geating] McCoy wrote in his Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade (1874):
Few more wild, reckless scenes of abandoned debauchery can be seen on the civilized earth than a dance hall in full blast in one of these frontier towns.

Drought continued on a good part of the cattle range in the West.

Virginia City, NV, at the peak of its prosperity, had 25 saloons and huge, ornate, tasteless houses where successful operators swilled champagne as though it were water and dined on fine china.

Mining engineers John William Mackay, 45, James Graham Fair, 44, and James C. Flood, who had become rich from the Great Bonanza silver strike, discovered 3 years earlier in the Panamint Mountains of Nevada, founded the Bank of Nevada in San Francisco (California).

Thousands of Chinese immigrants were fleeing the disintegrating Chinese Empire and coming to the United States, at an annual rate during this decade of 12,320. Most were men (the ratio was 21 males for each female). Some came with money pooled by their families back home, but most were desperately poor and in debt to Chinese middlemen, which they would need to repay in cruel conditions of indenture for years. The indenture business was known ignominiously as "pig selling." Chinatowns were springing up in railroad towns, farming villages, and cities, where the immigrants could speak their own language and seek safety from prejudice and violence. Many organized themselves into tongs (secret societies).

Science and technology in America: Specifics

New Jersey inventor Thomas Alva Edison, 29, patented a "method of preparing autographic stencils for printing."

Philosophy and religion in America: Specifics

Bearded and rotund Chicago preacher Dwight Lyman Moody, 39, weighing nearly 300 pounds, a former shoe salesman who adapted old-time religion to the facts of city life, could hold huge audiences spellbound. With the help of gospel singer Ira A. Sankey, Moody operated the North Side Tabernacle. On huge city-wide tours across the country, Moody and Sankey were converting thousands. During a 2-month event in Philadelphia, President Grant and some of his cabinet attended. The tour of New York City was held in the Great Roman Hippodrome on Madison Avenue, where the Madison Square Gardens now stands, accommodating crowds up to 60,000 daily. Meanwhile, Moody's Chicago church was expanding, with a new building opened and dedicated in June: the Chicago Avenue Church. The 16-week Chicago crusade started in October.

Novelist Henry James published Roderick Hudson; author and humorist Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), 39, published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Northern poet and essayist James Russell Lowell, 57, sarcastically celebrated the country's centennial with these lines:

Show your State Legislatures; show your Rings
And challenge Europe to produce such things
As high officials sitting half in sight
To share the plunder and to fix things right;
If that don't fetch her, why you only need
To show your latest style in martyrs--Tweed!

Harlan E. Halsey was making a fortune dashing off hundreds of dime novels each year, read by goggle-eyed youths behind the broad covers of serious but boring books.

This is a placeholder for information on the United States during this year. The information will come soon. The footnote at the end of this sentence is also a placeholder; please don't click it.(13)

This is a placeholder footnote. (Close)

The World at Large in 1876

Cuban rebellion

Hostilities continued.

The 13-year-old department store of London merchant William Whiteley in Bayswater, "The Universal Provider," selling dry goods (drapery and haberdashery), jewelry, and oriental novelties, and featuring an in-store restaurant as well as a cleaning and dyeing department, now added a hair-dressing salon and boasted the retailing slogan "Anything from a Pin to an Elephant" (it actually supplied an elephant to fill an order from a clergyman).

The coffee rust (Hamileia vastatrix), which had appeared in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) 7 years earlier, was spreading throughout the Orient and the Pacific, wiping out coffee plantations and causing coffee prices to soar.

This is a placeholder for information on the world at large during this year. The information will come soon. The footnote at the end of this sentence is also a placeholder; please don't click it.(14)

This is a placeholder footnote. (Close)


The copyrighted material cited on this page comes under the definition of "Fair Use."

See also the general sources.