Two weeks ago, the editor of The Arkansas Toothpick likened the slave rebellions in 1860 Texas to the popular H. G. Wells radio program where Americans were tricked into believing that the Earth had been attacked by aliens. This week’s primary source related to 150 years ago shows the continued trickling paranoia still found in September issues of Arkansas newspapers. The following account adds a new dimension, however.
Since the dawn of terrorism, for thousands of years, one of the most popular ways to destroy an enemy without going to battle with him was to poison his water supply. Though slaves and abolitionsists were not planning quite the same act of terrorism, the plan was to poison melons at the election.
Following the the August 12, 1860 account of a terrorist plot as printed in the September 8, 1860 edition of the Arkansas True Democrat. One question to ask yourself is why it took a whole month for it it appear in the Little Rock paper if not to perpetuate an imagined enemy:
[LITTLE ROCK] ARKANSAS TRUE DEMOCRAT, September 8, 1860, p. 4,
From the Arkansas Baptist.
From Texas—Prices of Provisions—Negro Troubles.
Dear Brother Watson: For fear you or some of your friends might
conclude this to be the year to come to Texas, I will give you a
short statement about the crops.
I have traveled through several counties recently, namely; Falls, Bell, Travis, Milam, Roberson, Limestone and Freestone. There are several counties north of me and from me to the Louisiana line, in which corn cannot be purchased for less than two dollars per bushel, and in a great many places, corn cannot be had at any price. Pork will be very high, but we are blessed here with as good beef as the world can afford and this is a very good substitute for pork. Wheat is worth two dollars a bushel.
It is of no use to mention the cause of the hard times here, as it is understood that this country is seldom blessed with rain enough to make good crops.
Our country has been thrown into excitement in consequence of the burning of several towns and residences. After examination it was found that Abolitionists had placed in the hands of the negroes a great quantity of poisonous medicines and had the plan laid for an insurrection which was to have come off on the fourth of August.
The plan was to poison all the melons to be taken to the Election, on the night before, and on the Election day, to burn all the houses and graneries; kill all the women and children; then make wives of the young women; then kill all the men as fast as they returned from the Election! But greatly to their disappointment several white men have been convicted and hung!
Also, several negroes, and there is no telling how many more will be convicted. As the work goes on, the more there is found out. Two or three of those hung, were Methodist ministers; two more were mechanics from the north.
The towns burnt are Dallas, Henderson and Natchodoches [sic]. Those fired by extinguished are Tylor [sic], Marlin and Palestine. There is a Vigilance Committee in every county that looks into every hidden mystery, and keeps the county well patrolled.
Your interesting paper comes to hand regularly.
J. L. Bowdon.
August 12th, 1860.