Dec 20

Presentation: Oregon Freethought History

Faculty of Liberal University of Oregon, ca 1899, flanked by Katie Kehm Smith, (left) and Nettie Olds, (right).Date: January 25, 2016 at 6:30
Place: O’Connor’s Cafe and Bar, 7850 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, Oregon

A presentation by Silverton Historian Gus Frederick. This talk addressed the Freethought movement in Oregon during the latter quarter of the 19th Century, beginning with the seeds of the Oregon State Secular Union, the growing Freethought scene in Southern Oregon, and culminating with the establishment of Liberal University of Oregon at Silverton, the West’s first strictly secular center of higher learning. Additionally, he will address the wider national scene of this period, with its diverse universe of men and women and their varying concepts and ideas, relating to the last 25 years of the 19th Century.

In the course of researching this presentation, and subsequent digging—mainly in digitized Freethought publications from GoogleBooks—We decided to create a WordPress site around select pieces from this unique publication, the Free Thought Magazine, from Chicago. The editor and publisher, Mr. Horace L. Green, went to great lengths to provide a forum for a broad range of topics—including issues he did not agree with.

The last decade of Free Thought Magazine—Volumes 11 (1893) to 21 (1903)—have a wide range of different topics covering the universe of the so-called “Golden Age of American Freethought.” All the big names are there, as well as others, pretty much unknown now. These had been digitized by GoogleBooks, placing this material into our easy access by way of the Internet.

Green’s tagline was “Hospitable to all truth and devoted to the exposing of ancient error by the light of modern science and criticism.” And he published pretty much anything that was presented in a respectful manner, even if he did not agree, (which he usually said afterwards with “Editorial Comments”). Plus it gives a view of our country from 1893 to 1903 through the eyes of the Freethought community of the period. Ironically, Green died October 30, 1903, when an open gas jet was allowed to asphyxiate him and his wife.

Presentation at O'Connors

Gus Frederick is a native Oregonian and third generation Free Thinker. He was born in 1954, 100 years after his hometown of Silverton was founded. He is by training a filmmaker and photographer, although he has broadened that term to multimedia artist. He currently works as a conceptual artist, photographer, filmmaker and animator. He serves on the board of directors for the Silverton Country Historical Society and the Silverton Planning Commission.

He also facilitates The Davenport Project, delving into and lecturing about the life and times of Oregon-born cartoonist Homer Davenport (1867-1912) and his pioneer politician father, Timothy W. Davenport (1827-1911). His latest project involves a Web site featuring selected articles from Free Thought Magazine, published during the “Golden Age of Freethought.”

This lecture was hosted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Portland Chapter. Doors opened at 5:30 for social hour with the program starting at 6:30.