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Skagit River Journal

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Frank Wilkeson and friends desert Bryan
and endorse McKinley in 1900 election

Introduction by Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore
(Frank middle-age)
Frank Wilkeson in middle age, circa 1883, about the time he first began touring mining camps in the Rockies and the Northwest states for newspaper columns. Photo courtesy of Wilkeson descendant Elizabeth Edwards

      The article below is the fourteenth column we have shared by or about Frank Wilkeson, who surveyed the Skagit River in 1870 and later returned to Washington Territory, where he became a boomer of both Sedro and Hamilton in the 1889-1891 period. In addition, he gained fame in the 1880s and 1890s as an author of a famous book about the Civil War and as a columnist for the New York Sun and New York Times. Since 2000, we have worked with Pennsylvania author Patricia McAndrew, Wilkeson's biographer, whose book about his fishing columns, The Old Soldier Goes Fishing, will be published in April 2006.
      Like several of Frank's columns, this article was syndicated nationwide and Patricia found it while researching her book. It appeared on a full page of articles in the Marble Rock Journal newspaper in Iowa on Oct. 25, 1900, that endorsed William McKinley, the Republican candidate for U.S. President that year. In the column, Wilkeson specifically listed the business leaders all over Washington state and nationwide who had deserted William Jennings Bryan, the Democrat candidate, and were enthusiastically endorsing Republican William McKinley. We provide some background here so that you can understand some of the issues and personalities that Wilkeson reviewed in his column.

Elections of 1896 and 1900

Patricia's collection of Wilkeson columns, The Old Soldier Goes Fishing, will be published in April 2006. For more details about ordering the book, please see this site

      The seeds for the 1896 and 1900 election were sown at the 1892 national convention of the People's Party, also known as the Populists, at St. Louis, Missouri. The most vocal adherents of the new party were millions of small farmers, predominantly in the South and West of the U.S. who rebelled against the entrenched business interests and banks of the East. They complained that railroad trusts set exorbitant freight prices by monopoly; that Eastern banks squeezed the farmers by controlling credit; and that manufacturing monopolies fixed prices of machinery. Farmers also complained that those interests were forcing farmers to sell their land at panic prices, so that they had to move to emerging metropolitan areas to take jobs
      The core of the new party was a fraternal organization that was organized by Oliver H. Kelley in 1867 as the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. Its local units were called granges and its members were grangers. The movement grew after the nationwide financial Panic of 1873. Over the next two decades the Grange gained strength in the Midwestern and Western states by flexing its political muscle, especially versus the railroad interests in state legislatures. Granges also promoted direct popular election of U.S. senators and RFD — Rural Free Delivery, both of which eventually came to pass. Another major force in the Populist Party was the Farmers' Alliance, formed in 1890 on a platform headed by the coinage of silver in proportion to gold, the base of U.S. currency. Although the Populists finished a distant third in the election, the standard-bearer James B. Weaver, from Iowa, gained the third highest percentage of the popular vote of any candidate from the Civil War through the first half of the 20th Century, after Teddy Roosevelt (1912) and Strom Thurmond (1948)
      Grover Cleveland won the presidency in that 1892 election, regaining the office after losing his reelection race in 1888 to Benjamin Harrison. He was greeted in 1893 by a major nationwide financial panic that was second in modern times only to the Depression of the 1930s. He also lost support later in his term by becoming an adherent of the gold standard, against the free silver interests in both the Democrat and Republican parties, who advocated a return to coinage of both silver and gold. When federal gold reserves plummeted in 1896, Cleveland had to appeal to financier J.P. Morgan for a bailout and from then on, he was branded as a puppet of Morgan and the financial interests of the Northeast. Cleveland's Democrat base deserted him and that set up an 1896 election campaign between new leaders of both national parties.
      William McKinley Jr. was an Ohio native and a veteran of the Civil War, who enlist as a private and was then commissioned and served as a captain on the staff of General and future-president Rutherford B. Hayes, who was also from Ohio. After the war, McKinley practicing law in Ohio and he entered Republican politics as a prosecuting attorney. He enthusiastically backed Hayes in his runs for Governor of Ohio and then the presidency. Running in a Democrat-controlled Congressional district, McKinley was elected in 1876 and reelected to six times, losing his seat one time in a disputed election.
      He became a proponent of a high protective tariff and won support of businessmen, all the way through his races for president. In 1890 he became speaker of the House and successfully promoted the McKinley Tariff Bill. That bill galvanized Democrat opposition, however, and the opposing party gerrymandered his district, which led to his defeat in November 1890. In November 1991 he won narrowly the campaign for governor. He chaired the 1892 Republican convention that nominated Benjamin Harrison for reelection as president, and although McKinley asked them not to, McKinley gained 182 votes on the convention ballot.
      Marcus "Mark" Hanna, a wealthy plutocrat in the coal and iron industries and the Republican political boss of Cleveland, soon moved McKinley out of the shadow of the strong U.S. Senator from Ohio, John Sherman, and successfully campaigned for McKinley as the Republican presidential nominee in the Republican convention of 1896, where he won on the first ballot. The nationwide financial depression that began in 1893 still dominated national politics and the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan for president, as did the People's Party — also known as the Populists, along with the National Silver party.
      The dominant wing of the Republican Party pushed through a major platform plank that opposed the free coinage of silver. Another wing of the party that became known as the Silver Republicans split off from the ticket, led by farmers, businessmen and politicians in the West. Hanna and McKinley successfully blamed the Depression on the repeal of the McKinley Tariff Bill and they urged businessmen nationwide to support the cause of sound money. McKinley pledged that a high protective tariff would protect American jobs and wages. Many of the Silver Republicans joined with defectors from the Democrat party to become Fusionists, whose main concern was obviously the coinage issue. Even with the defection of the Silver Republicans and a spirited campaign by Bryan. Hanna successfully raised $4 million for the campaign, during which Theodore Roosevelt later recalled, "Hanna marketed McKinley like a patent medicine." The ticket of McKinley and Garrett A. Hobart, a New Jersey businessman and legislator, won by a margin of 602,000 popular votes and 96 Electoral College votes.
      Democrats were split over William Jennings Bryan running again. Some members of the conservative wing of the party approached former Admiral George Dewey, hero of the intervening Spanish-American War, about heading the 1896 ticket. Dewey, not known for his diplomacy, wrote a letter to his backers that somehow leaked. He wrote: "I am convinced that the office of the president is not such a very difficult one to fill." When the letter became public, Dewey withdrew and the party easily nominated Bryan again.
      Bryan and his running mate, Adlai Stevenson, of Illinois, ran primarily on a Democrat platform of anti-imperialism and continued opposition to the gold standard. Although some historians have noted that Bryan may have been correct years before when he first argued that there was not sufficient gold worldwide for that metal to be the sole basis of currency. But by 1900, that argument had run its course and was a loser for Bryan, following the gold strike that began in the Klondike, and other discoveries in Australia and South Africa.
      The Republican ticket was McKinley and the young governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt, who was "kicked upstairs" to replace Vice President Hobart, who had died in office. Bryan launched a phenomenally ambitious campaign, however, delivering more than 600 speeches all over the country. McKinley repeated his front porch campaign in Canton and in Washington, D.C
      And that sets up column based on an interview with Frank Wilkeson, which was published less than two weeks before the national election. From 1889 on, Wilkeson and his wife, Mary, had shuttled back and forth from Kansas to Washington. Wilkeson leased out his Kansas ranch and McAndrew thinks that he and his wife likely resided back there in a hotel in or near Gypsum, the largest nearby city. In the early 1890s, Frank boomed the village of Hamilton on the upper Skagit and then bought a ranch east of town near his friend, Ike Morrell. In 1892 he opened a general store in the mining district near Stehekin, but two years later that business failed during the nationwide Depression, and his son Bayard moved his family to the Hamilton ranch. When Frank ran successfully for the Washington State Legislature in 1896, he and his wife lived in the grand Fairhaven hotel. But after he lost his re-election bid in 1898, Frank's attention seems to have been redirected to Kansas. As you will see in the column, he wrote of buying land in the Midwest. He was middle-aged by then and had gained a spare tire around his middle. McAndrew suspects that, although he enjoyed returning to Chelan and to the Skagit for visits, Frank's primary residence was likely not in Washington from 1900 on. We have changed the order of his named people somewhat to organize them by area and we have provided some background information in brackets [ ].

Washington wheels into line on expansion
Men who have deserted Bryan for McKinley

Published in the Marble Rock Journal newspaper, Iowa, Oct. 25, 1900
Transcribed by Patricia McAndrew, author of The Old Soldier Goes Fishing

      Colonel Frank Wilkeson, formerly Populist member of the legislature of the state of Washington, and who was one time associate editor of the New York Sun, has rejected Bryanism. He says:
      "I am an expansionist of the most extreme type and believe in holding the Philippine Islands for commercial reasons as well as a military and naval base.
      I have paid taxes for thirty years to establish eastern manufacturing industry,— paid even under angry protest, because I lived in a region remote from all possibility of profitable manufacture,—and now, when Washington has a chance to establish a manufacturing industry to supply the people of Asia with finished products, I am a high tariff advocate.
      I want the industries of Washington diversified; I want our coast built up and commerce established. I want to see the consuming powers of the market of Asia increased, so that it will consume all the surplus wheat raised in Australia and on the Pacific coasts of the North and South American continents, and this will increase the price of wheat raised in the Mississippi valley, where I have a large farm
      I believe that the success of Democracy will directly and disastrously affect my pocket; that it would if carried to a logical conclusion create industrial and commercial lethargy on the Pacific Coast, and by curtailing the power of consumption of the foreign and domestic markets, cause breadstuffs and provisions to fall in value."

Skagit county leaders
      Hiram Hammer, one of the ablest Populists in Washington (state): "I am a Protectionist. I believed that unless we had free silver, want and destitution would follow. The reverse is true. I believe that in the future as in the past that whatever legislation we obtain—that is, in the interest of all the people—must come through the Republican Party."
      C.E. Bingham [ ], mayor of Sedro- Woolley, head of the banking house of C.E. Bingham & Co., who has always been a staunch Democrat.
      J.B. Holbrook, Sedro-Woolley, bank cashier [C.E. Bingham & Co.] and an active Democrat.
      Dr. M.B. Mattice, Sedro-Woolley, a leading physician and lifelong Democrat.
      Louis [Lewis] Kirkby [ ]. Sedro-Woolley, mail carrier and a Populist.
      John H. Slipper [ ], Hamilton, one of the largest merchants in the Upper Skagit valley, and a Democrat
      Thomas Thompson [ ], Hamilton. Mine owner in the Upper Skagit. And a Populist.

West Skagit County
      A. Lyons, Burlington, an enthusiastic fusionist in 1896-98.
      Henry Thompson [ ], Birdsview, an extensive rancher and old-line Democrat.
      N.W. Carpenter, Mount Vernon, a large saw mill owner and a Populist.
      W.B. Schricker, La Conner, head of the Skagit County Bank and an influential Democrat
      Adam Huff, Bayview, a rancher and strong Fusionist.
      M.O. Pease, Anacortes, mine owner and a good Democrat all his life.
      Dr. G.V. Calhoun [ ], Seattle [and LaConner part-time resident], original silver Republican and one of managers fusion state campaign 1896. Expansion.

Washington statewide
      Col. J.J. Weisenberger, Whatcom, fusion campaign speaker 1896; original Silver Republican; major First Washington Regiment Volunteers in Philippines; delegate to Republican state convention 1900; present colonel Washington State National Guard. Expansion.
      Col. [George] G. Lyon, Seattle, newspaper proprietor and editor, Expansionist, former chairman Republican Territorial Committee, leader of Silver Republicans 1896.
      Josiah Collins, leading attorney of Seattle. Finance and expansion.
      S.M. Shipley, attorney, Seattle, Silver Republican organizer and fusion nominee for state senate 1898. Expansion.
      Richard Gowan, attorney, Seattle. Finance and expansion.
      Judge C.C. Austin, Seattle, former member state senate and elected police judge Seattle on fusion ticket 1896. Original Silver Republican. Expansion.
      George Donworth, leading attorney of Seattle. Finance and expansion.
      Solon T. Williams, Seattle, Silver Republican, elected to state legislature as fusionist 1896. Expansion.
      W.A. Peters, attorney, Seattle; former Democrat. Expansion.
      M.B. Harben, Seattle, fusion speaker and organizer 1896-98. Member King County Republican Convention 1900. Expansion.
      N.J. Craig, Everett, chairman, Populist County Convention 1896; member city council. Expansion.
      John McRae, Everett, life-long Democrat and leading party worker; former city councilman. Expansion.
      A.W. Criswell, Everett, leading Populist. Expansion.
      Harry Knowles, Snohomish, fusion, chief deputy sheriff 1896-98.
      L.C. Whitney, Everett, former prosecuting attorney Snohomish County. Finance and expansion.
      J.E. Yeend [?]. Walla Walla, farmer, present member state senate, elected as Fusionist 1896. Expansion.
      J.C. McCrimmon, North Yakima, chairman Populist County Committee 1896. Expansion.
      M.E. Hay, Wilbur, original Silver Republican and fusion organizer; is now chairman Lincoln County Republican Committee and nominee for stats senate. Expansion.
      Dr. J.C. House, Port Townsend, formerly chairman Idaho Republican Territorial Committee: Silver Republican and fusion organizer this state 1896; chairman Jefferson County Republican Committee 1896. Expansion.
      Geo. S. Courter, North Yakima, secretary Silver Republican State Central Committee 1896. Expansion.
      F.F. Marble, North Yakima, elected county surveyor 1892; nominated for same office by fusionists 1896 (? unreadable) . . . declares for McKinley.
      John Louden, leading businessman, North Yakima. Expansion.
      F.M. Sanders, Entiat, Chelan county business man. Expansion.
      Col. W.M. Ridpath, mining man [and namesake of the Ridpath Hotel], Spokane, former Republican member and speaker Indiana House of Representatives; manager George Turner's senatorial fight 1897. Expansionist.
      W.H. Plummer, attorney, Spokane, elected to state senate as fusionist, 1896. Expansion.
      D.G. Haigat, business man, Aberdeen, life-long Democrat. Expansion.
      Col. J.J. Tolkas, Aberdeen, merchant, life-long Democrat. Expansion.
      Mark Payette, Aberdeen, merchant. Expansion.
      L.C. Crowther, Aberdeen, retired. Expansion.
      H. L. Blanchard, Chimacum, Jefferson county, former member board county commissioners, life-long Democrat; now president State Dairy Association. Expansion.
      R. J. Chard, Port Townsend, merchant, life-long Democrat; is for expansion and against Democratic pro-Boer sympathy.
      Charles Pink (?), Port Townsend, former city councilman and appointed customs inspector under Cleveland administration. Same reasons as Chard.
      A. N. Godfrey, Port Townsend, former county surveyor; appointed deputy collector customs under Cleveland administration. Expansion.
      J. C. Pringle, editor Port Townsend Evening Call. Finance and expansion.
      J. M. Holden, Orting, People's Party organizer 1896. Expansion.
      James Coplan, business man, Orting. Expansion.
      Henry Beckett, Orting, assessor Pierce County 1896; elected on fusion ticket. Expansion.
      H. P. Bulger, Tacoma, People's Party speaker and club organizer, 1896; Republican organizer 1898. Expansion.
      [Journal editor's note: other long articles on the same page: Wisconsin Democrats abandoning Bryan; and Iowa Democrats who are opposed to free silver; and Michigan has many McKinley converts. We cannot find any trace of a Mr. Lyon as the owner of a Seattle newspaper. If any reader has information about him or any of the other gentlemen referenced, please email us.]

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