Nov 10

The Free Thought Cause In Oregon

By Kate De Peatt — August, 1898

Kate De PeatThe Tenth Annual Convention of the Oregon State Secular Union, held at Wagner, Oregon on July 3, 4 and 5, 1898, was a complete success in every way. Wagner is a pretty little settlement nestled in the Blue Mountains and is just the place for such a gathering. By Sunday afternoon people had gathered from all parts of the State at the graves of Katie Kehm Smith and Mrs. Warren Carsner. The exercises were opened with a song written for the occasion by Dr. F. S. Matteson, of Turner, and entitled “What a Gathering.” Uncle Mac. Ramsby then made an address of welcome in behalf of the people of Wagner, and P.W. Geer, president of the O.S.S.U., responded. Music again paid its tribute to Liberty and the monuments were then dedicated by Kate DePeatt, of Ashland, Ore., who said in part:

Katie Kehm Smith marker in the Haystack Cemetery. (Photo from Dan and Barbara of Find A Grave).“We have met to-day to consecrate ourselves anew to the cause of freedom. Let us so consecrate ourselves that this day shall mark a new epoch in the history of progress. With heart o’erflowing with gratitude and love we have met to pay a tribute to two of America’s noblest women-women whose hearts beat in sympathy with that of the lowliest slave. They pitied the oppressors, but loved the oppressed. They were friends, faithful and just to all.

“We have met to-day to place this tribute of flowers upon the grave of our friend and dedicate this monument to Truth. In one sense we cannot dedicate, for the writings and works of Katie Kehm have done the deed which we fain would do. Upon her grave grow flowers which are beyond our power to plant. But, dear friend, upon thy grave we place the humblest and purest flower-the blossom of love. We pay to you the highest tribute the heart and mind can pay-the tribute of love and tears.

“Out of the memories of the past we draw another inspiration-that of a loving wife, a devoted mother, and a sincere friend. From the Bible of the Ages we glean the history of another life which inspires in us a new ardor for the preservation of the principles which came to us through the baptism of fire and blood. The soil of freedom, nurtured two twin blossoms of pure love which we to-day consecrate to thy use. Wife, mother and friend, upon thy grave we place the other blossom.”

The exercises were concluded with a song entitled “A Brighter Day,” and that spot will ever remain sacred to Truth, Justice and Right. The two monuments are of the same style and stand about eight feet high, bearing on one side an engraving of the famous Free Thought badge so symbolic of the lives of the two friends who are now peacefully sleeping in the arms of Mother Nature. The one raised to the memory of Mrs. Smith bears the inscription, “Dedicated by her friends to a woman without superstition; while the other bears a fitting inscription and beneath it these words: “I fear not death.” Let each of us so live that these words can be truly spoken and in truth pay a tribute to those who have battled for the freedom so dear to us.

Slowly over the brow of the hill the majestic sun arose and kissed into life the sleeping day. The same sun, which for one hundred and twenty-two years has looked upon us as a free nation, smiled and the people responded with shouts and cheers. The banner of welcome and good cheer floated on the breeze early in Wagner, and by 9 O’clock friends were exchanging hearty greetings. A large platform had been constructed in the emerald shades by a rippling stream, and from here music and oratory contemned for mastery.

J.E. Hosmer, of Silverton, delivered an oration upon the subject of “A New Declaration.” Errors were pointed out and telling blows were given many of our customs to-day. It was in truth “A New Declaration.” The chair then sang the new words to the old tune “We Are ‘Willing to Wait a Little Longer,” but I can venture to say that none of us were willing to wait very much longer for dinner, so the lunch baskets were promptly raided. A glance at the table plainly told the fact that the “preachers” had come to town, for yellow-legged chickens could be seen on every hand. Several Jack Spratts and their wives were present, but try as hard as we could, we could not lick the platter clean, and I’ll venture to say that twelve baskets of fragments remained.

The afternoon was devoted to a lecture by Kate DePeatt, who spoke upon the subject of “Adulterated Government.” A voice then exclaimed: “On with the dance,” and in a few moments the platform was cleared and taken possession of by the merry dancers, until weary Nature asserted herself and sleep reigned supreme.

Katie Kehm Smith marker with Otto Wettstein's Free Thought badge. (Photo by Teresa Hunt of Find A Grave).The next day was devoted to the business meeting of !the Oregon State Secular Union, and I think it can be truthfully said that very seldom was so much business transacted so harmoniously. A new constitution and by-laws were adopted, and the Union put upon a firm basis. It is now in a position to push its work to the fullest extent. Friends, “Now is the accepted time,” and Liberty beckons with a glittering wand, “March on, march on to victory!” Dancers again tripped the “light fantastic” until the wee, small hours, and tired but happy they wended their way home, declaring everything a success.

Thanks are especially due to Mr. Warren Carsner, Mr. Carl Wagner, Mr. William Gates and Mr. William Collins for their efforts in behalf of the cause. Let me take this occasion of thanking each and every person who contributed to the success of our meeting.

Long live the people of “The Infidel’s Nest,” and may it ever remain, as it is now, a home of happy, prosperous people.

Long live the Oregon State Secular Union, and may it keep on with its good work until the sun shall at last look down upon a race of free men and free women.