“WHITE HUSBANDS OR NONE.” You can imagine how that capitalized proclamation jumped out at me as I paged recently through copies of the defunct Scranton Republican newspaper archived at the Lackawanna Historical Society. There on page 2 of the Oct. 9, 1856, edition was a sarcastic political item titled simply “Spirited.” That year of 1856 the nation was in the thick of a presidential campaign pitting John Fremont of the new Republican Party against old-line Democrat James Buchanan. The item was scoffing at “the spirit evinced by some ladies who joined in a Buchanan procession in Ohio lately, and who carried a banner containing the motto: ‘WHITE HUSBANDS OR NONE.’ Those ladies must be getting desperate. They have actually nerved themselves up to the point of resolving to die old maids rather than marry negroes! What a bold, lion-hearted class the Buchanan ladies of Ohio must be.” Mocking Buchanan’s own unmarried status, the item concluded, “Old Buck himself seems to have adopted the motto A WHITE WIFE OR NONE; and has been compelled in consequence to take–none. Let the ladies beware!”
Finding the Lost “Sinks.” Brad Upp is on a mission. For years he’s been digging for artifacts at the site of a Civil War camp near where we live in Lower Merion, outside Philadelphia. Brad is a natural at it, being a Civil War re-enactor and longtime artifact-hunter. His dogged efforts at the site have unearthed scores of bullets, buttons, buckles, coins, clay pipes, even wedding rings. But what he really wants to locate are the big “sinks.” That’s the military term for outhouses (probably a reference to “sinkhole”), and Brad figures the camp had at least four of them. Basically, they were trenches 12 feet long and 8-10 feet deep. As the sinks filled up with human waste, Brad tells me, dirt, rubbish and other stray items were layered on in stages. He’s tracking down blueprints that may indicate where the sinks were–and he’s sure they contain a gold mine of artifacts. (The nasty sewage has long since disintegrated, he assures me.) The camp was erected toward the end of the Civil War to process soldiers whose terms of service were ending. Brad figures about a thousand men were discharged there. It also had a medical wing to handle ill or wounded soldiers, including a number of emaciated prisoners from Confederate POW camps including the infamous Andersonville. The Lower Merion Historical Society has asked me to collaborate with Brad on researching and writing up the story of this temporary camp and the men who passed though. It’s my honor to work with Brad on the project.
Book News. The Wayne County Historical Society in Honesdale, Pa., is bringing me in next Tuesday, July 17, to give a talk about Embattled Freedom: Chronicle of a Fugitive-Slave Haven in the Wary North. The program is at 2 p.m. in the historic venue known as the Cooperage, 1030 Main St. in Honesdale. I’ll be signing and selling books, too. Come if you can, and please let folks know.