Saturday, June 22, 2013

Edward P. Lowry - Soldier of Fortune


     We see the Indiana Jones movies, and hear of daring adventurers, but we seldom think that anyone of that sort could have come from our small corner of the world.  We would be wrong.  An excellent case in point is Edward Prindle Lowry, a Grant County boy known as “Ted” to his friends in Lancaster, his hometown.  Born on August 5, 1887, he was the son of Edward Mallory Lowry, a prominent Lancaster attorney, and grandson of another attorney Edward David Lowry, a partner of J. Allen Barber.  His father was mayor of Lancaster for three terms and Grant County District Attorney for two terms. Ted was a quiet person who served as a lay reader in the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, but he had a martial bent which shaped his life.

     Ted was born for the military life, and destined to travel to the far corners of the world.  He graduated from Lancaster High School in 1906. He then went to the West Point Military Academy, but was discharged a year later when it was discovered that he was color blind. He went to the Philippines and entered the Constabulary Service, which was established in 1901 by the American administrators of the islands. This was a military style national police force.  He graduated from the Constabulary’s Officer’s School in 1909, and served as a lieutenant for two years. It was during this time that his life was saved by Sgt. Lastam (see the story below) when his unit was ambushed by Moro juramentados.  In 1911 he went to Cuba as an advisor for the police of that nation.

    His next death defying adventure occurred in Persia (now Iran).  That country was dominated by Great Britain in the south and Russia in the north.  In 1905 demonstrations erupted and culminated in the adoption of a constitution and a majles (parliament).  In order to operate, the new government needed to organize its finances, and this required the establishment of an effective tax collection system.  The government hired a young American, William Morgan Schuster as Treasurer General of Persia.  He established a Treasury Gendarmerie (a national police force to enforce tax collection), and hired Ted Lowry, and other Americans to command and train this force.  Russia did not want an independent Persia and demanded the Majles discharge Schuster, which they refused to do.  The Russians invaded the country, and bombarded Tehran, forcing Persia to discharge Schuster and disband the Treasury Gendarmerie.  Schuster fled over the mountains, and Lowry escaped through Russia.

      Lowry returned to the United States. He went home to Lancaster when his father died in July of 1912.  It was at that time that he had the granite Lastam Memorial stone erected near the little home church.  The stone bore an inscription from Saint John Chapter 15, verse 13, which he may have recalled from his time as a lay reader: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  He was soon off on his travels. He began working as a clerk for the United Fruit Company in Panama.  He stayed in that job for several years, and then took a job in Seattle Washington for a lumbering company.  He joined the Washington National Guard, rising to the rank of Captain before his unit was shipped overseas in World War One.  The year 1919 found him an army major, laid up in Walter Reed hospital: “Here I am with pneumonia,” he wrote Frank C. Meyer, his friend and president of the Union State Bank of Lancaster, “about the only excitement I got out of the war.  The Germans did take a chunk out of my nose, but they didn’t make it look any better, and it couldn’t look worse.”


     He accepted a position in the Lithuanian mission in 1920, preparing to serve that country as a cavalry officer, but before he could sail, the plan fell through.  He took a position in the diplomatic service as a clerk at the Legation in Havana, Cuba.  He became a Vice consul in Havana in 1921.  In April of 1922 he was sent to Mexico by the State Department.  He was promoted to Foreign Service Officer in 1924 and to Consul in 1925 serving in Guadalajara, Mexico.  The adventure continued.  

     The year 1928 was a bad one for Americans in Mexico.  In June two American mining engineers were kidnapped by Mexican rebels.  Lowry worked with Mexican government officials to pay the $1,500.00 ransom demanded.  In August rebels attacked another mine and kidnapped the superintendent of the mine, Charles W. Fears.  He escaped unhurt.  In September the rebels kidnapped E.J. Humsted, manager of the Humboldt mine.  The ransom demand was $20,000.00.  “Ted was a quiet type of chap,” his friend Frank Meyer said, “If you questioned him continually he might tell a little about his adventures, but he never talked willingly of them.  I met him in Washington some time ago, and tried to worm from him the particulars of the time he went into a Mexican bandit camp and rescued three American oil men but he wouldn’t tell me a thing about it.”

     In November of 1928, Lowry greeted and hosted a dinner for the famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh when he landed at Mexico City during his good will tour of Latin America.  In the year 1930 Lowry spent his time tracking the whereabouts of Augusto Calderón Sandino, a now legendary Nicaraguan, who led a revolt against the American occupation of his country.  Sandino was a brilliant tactician and escaped capture time after time.  Lowry collected and translated all the local press reports, and rumors, and forwarded them to Washington.

     Lowry’s end came in an incongruous and unexpected manner.  The man who had risked his life in so many ways and in so many places slipped and fell over a stair rail when he leaned over to call to a friend.  He was 42 years old.  He left behind a wife, Rosemund, and three children: Edward David, Jose, and Carmen.  Rosemund was at home in Paris, Illinois when he died, and the embassy sent the children to her there.  Lowry was recalled as one of the most colorful men in the diplomatic service.  Rosemund died in 1967 and like her husband is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
                                                           THE STORY OF SERGEANT LASTAM
From The Grant county Herald June 8, 1910 Vol. 67 No. 15
Ambushed by Hidden Natives in
the. Philippines.
Received Charge of Buckshot in Right
Arm and Had Narrow Escape
From Death.

     Eugene Whitmore yesterday received from his son Major Eugene Whitmore, copy of the Manila (P. L) Times dated April 27, which contains an account of a fight in which Lieutenant “Ted” Lowry of the U. S. Constabulary was slightly wounded and two privates killed.

     Lieutenant Lowry whose headquarters are on the Island of Bongao, was instructed to go to Cagayan de. Jolo and arrest a murderer Moro Nuca by name. After an unsuccessful attempt to take him dyslomatically (sic) he found that the man and certain of his followers were looking for a fight and on the morning of the 11th he left camp with 10 men to investigate conditions. Because of the treachery of a Moro guide they suddenly ran into a band of Moros who rose from the thick cogon grass and catnip brush, about fifteen paces to the front. The Moros were ordered to put down their arms but instead they drew their bolos.
    The account in the Manila Times which written by Lieut. Lowry in part from this point as follows:

    “Being in front of my detachment, fired with my revolver receiving at the instant of firing a load of buckshot in my upper right arm from my gun bearer behind who immediately fled. The leading Moro at this moment was about twenty feet from me and in the act of throwing his spear at me when Sergeant Lastam sprang suddenly in front of me, receiving the spear in his head, being killed instantly.
Sergeant Almano the second man in the line was speared through the back: pulling the spear out   himself he commenced firing ietly (sic) as if on the drill ground.”

     The remainder of the account tells of the bravery of certain other of the men one of whom, Private Mohammed received ten bolo cuts and another, of the bravery of certain other of the men one of whom, Private Mohammed received ten bolo cuts and another, Private Guzman who was killed by being “boloed” through the abdomen to the ribs. Moro Nuca, the murderer was also killed.

Lieutenant Lowry received a Krag Jorgenson bullet through his haversack which fortunately did no further damage.  He with others of the wounded was immediately cared for and reinforcements which were later sent to the island were not needed, the island -- which ordinarily is peaceable becoming as quiet as it was before the fight.

The Lastam monument still lies half buried in the dirt, in a bed of lilies. Perhaps a veterans group, or others who take inspiration from the story of the brave Filipino constable who saved a Grant County man by giving his own life, will stir a desire to return it to its rightful place. The sacrifice of Sergeant Lastam is but one story in the life of Edward Prindle Lowry, but perhaps it is the greatest story, the story of a man of true character and bravery.
Right: Friend Virgil Showalter with Lowry’s Moro weapon collection ->

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fannie Barber Knapp

Fannie Barber Knapp – Housewife and Poet (1866 -1958)

     Life in the rural Midwest in the 19th and early 20th centuries was usually anything but exciting.  Most people farmed and shopped in the nearest towns.  Local merchants flourished and town centers were filled with storefronts.  The world we live in today is much different.  We can drive to big cities to shop for a day, or attend a play or concert.  We can shop in local superstores.  Our rural communities have downtowns with empty storefronts.  Far fewer farm families remain, and many of those own thousands of acres and work the land with immense machines.  In the past things were smaller and activities more local.  

     Most rural Americas then were not exposed to the arts.  This was changed in a major way by the rural arts programs that began in the 1930’s, but before that there were some rural folk who sought fulfillment in culture and the arts.  One of these was Frances Barber Knapp, known as “Fannie” to most.  From loss and pain she forged her works of poetry, her plays, and stories.  In each of the last three issues of the Cunningham Week I have published her poems.  I believe they are fine examples of the art, and I hope you agree.  Now I believe it is time to introduce the person, because she deserves to be remembered, and her poetry deserves wider publication. 

    Fannie, the daughter of Joel Allen Barber Jr., was born into the upper crust of society in Lancaster, Wisconsin.   Her grandfather was J. Allen Barber, lawyer, member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, and U.S. Congressman.  Her grandfather on her mother’s side was J. C. Cover, famous newspaper editor and later consul to Fayal. Thanks to her generous bequests to the Grant County Historical Society we have many photos of her family, as well as documents, artifacts, and a beautiful painting done by Fannie herself. She was not known as a visual artist.  Her images were conjured in poetry and prose.
     Fannie married Arthur Gay Knapp, son of C. W. Knapp.  He was a local businessman and a member of the Masonic Lodge.  If not a progressive himself, he did not attempt to limit Fannie in her personal expression.   She was a strong supporter of woman suffrage.  When the Wisconsin Legislature soundly defeated woman suffrage resolutions introduced by David Evans  in 1901 and 1902, which the Janesville Gazette headlined as a “Joke”, she took up her pen and wrote the following, which was published and entered into the legislative record:                                                                                                                                          


  This is not a great poem.  It may seem racist and condescending, but it reflects the tenor of a time when America was becoming a world power, accepting a hoard of immigrants, and struggling with the southern attempts to undo reconstruction.   As time passed and life left deep scars, her poems evolved in quality.  One of the items we have is a scrapbook filled entirely with poems she read and liked.  She worked hard to develop her own style.  She wrote about the familiar things of her world; her garden, her family, her experiences.  Her poems were the outlet for the person inside.  Small town etiquette required the suppression of emotions for the general good.   The rule was that people had enough troubles of their own without burdening them with yours.  In the poem Anniversary Outburst she wrote:

Her poems reflect a dislike for some small town ways, and gossip most particularly.  She did not condone cruelty or self-righteousness.  She did not endorse the small town class structure that labeled some families good and others bad; some as a well off “upper crust” and poor folks by definition a step down the rung.  We can only wonder what prompted her poem Without Benefit of Clergy, but we understand the situation and her feelings quite clearly:

     Fannie and Arthur had two children, Arthur Allen and Ella Maria (called Marie).  Their son Arthur, who was said to be a “talented cartoonist”, died in some tragic manner in 1924 at age 34.  I have not been able to determine the cause of his death.  Ella Maria became mentally ill and apparently never married.  She was said to be a “beautiful girl and a talented musician.”  She was confined most of her life.  She died in November of 1984 at Orchard Manor nursing home in Lancaster, Wisconsin.  After the death of Arthur Jr. his wife Florence Lathrop Knapp and their son Charles William “Billie” Knapp lived with Art and Fannie.  The child was a great comfort to them.  Outwardly Mrs. Barber remained stoic, but her poetry told of the anguish in her heart:

 Fannie and daughter Ella Maria 

                                                         Ella Maria (Marie) Knapp age 8                                                                                                                     

Fannie barber Knapp did not write only poetry.  She was also a playwright, and wrote short stories.   She was active in the Woman’s Club of Lancaster.  She wrote several plays for them, and recited her poetry for them starting in the year 1900.  In 1941, in her mid-seventies, she was chosen Poet Laureate of the Wisconsin Federation of Women’s Clubs.  She wrote a number of plays: The Spite Wife (1933), Listen Dorothy (1934), Prince For An Hour (1934), Susan Of The Silver Tongue ((1935), and Trapper Grant (1936).  Sadly, none of these are available in our library or any other, with one exception; The Library of Congress has Listen Dorothy and Prince For An Hour, both of which were published and copyrighted.  The only way to view these plays is to visit the Library of Congress in Washington.  They cannot be borrowed.                            

                                                                                 Art, Fannie, and baby Arthur  

     Perhaps the most amazing fact about Mrs. Knapp is that she was a writer of Science Fiction.  In the book “Partners in Wonder:  Women and the Birth of Science Fiction” (2006), in Chapter 3 titled “Weird Sisters” the name “Francis Arthur” is shown as a contributor to Weird Tales Magazine.  Frances Arthur was the nom de plume adopted by Fannie Barber so that she could write this type of material.  Apparently she felt her fellow townspeople might look askance at this activity.  Her story, A Problem of the Dark, was published in the October 1927 issue of Weird Tales Magazine.  The letter accepting her story for publication was sent to her in July of 1926.  The editor, Farnsworth Wright offered her $15.00 for the story.  The story is a tale of the death of a quarterback at a moment of anger, whose spirit inhabits an invisible scaly beast which attacks a team mate posthumously each night.  You can read the story at:!/view.aspx?cid=754998FA211FDBD5&resid=754998FA211FDBD5%211319&app=WordPdf

 Later she wrote on the rear of the letter a note to her grandson, Bill stating that she didn't really approve of these types of stories:

     Frances Barber Knapp, as she called herself in her later years, lived to the age of 92.  She remained creative into her twilight years, writing poems.  In 1946, at the age of eighty she wrote a poem called A Door in the Mountainside which won an award.  It asked in poetic terms if the atomic bomb might not be mankind’s end:  “Is it your will, stern Judge, at last to rid your world of those you saved, at bitter cost?”  She aged with dignity and even when forced to enter a The Grant County Home, was described thusly by a Milwaukee Journal reporter:  “Although she closets herself with her pen, thoughts and books each evening, during the day Mrs. Knapp joins the circle of other residents to soothe and comfort those less happy with their world.   “Life, as you know, isn’t a bowl of cherries,” the poet remarked.  “But I do know I’m needed here and I am not too old to be of some use.  And that’s what makes it worth living.”
     “I’m not a poet at all,” she said when she was 75, “but a small town woman who, between cooking, washing dishes, making beds, and working in my garden, writes a little verse.”  By her work, we know that she was indeed a poet, and a good one at that.

 Pansies by Frances Barber Knapp-on display at the museum