The strange story of E.P. Lovejoy and the Wabuska Mangler |

The strange story of E.P. Lovejoy and the Wabuska Mangler

Trent Dolan
Special to the Appeal
Courtesy photoSamuel Post Davis, former editor of the Morning Appeal

Perhaps one of the strangest stories of Carson City’s past is that of the Appeal’s editor, Samuel Post Davis, and his relationship with the Wabuska Mangler, a rival newspaper he apparently conjured from his imagination.

I know that every time I would drive down Highway 95A to Yerington and turn off the cruise control to avoid a ticket going through Wabuska, I’d always wonder what old Sam was thinking when he contrived E.P. Lovejoy as his mock editorial enemy in a place that obviously at any time in the past was of no real significance. Or, was it?

Some of the most delightful newspaper reading comes from the period of 1889-91, when the fictional Wabuska Mangler, and its fictitious editor, E.P. Lovejoy, arrived on Carson City’s scene. Wrote Davis in an early reference in the Appeal:

Mr. E.P. Lovejoy, a large dealer in general merchandise, and editor of the Wabuska Mangler, at Wabuska, Nevada, says: “I have tried St. Patrick’s Pills and can truthfully say they are the best I have ever taken or known need.” As a pleasant physic or for disorders of the liver they will always give perfect satisfaction. For sale by G. C. Thaxter.

But who is this Lovejoy character?

According to an article published in the 1994 Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, “The Wabuska Mangler as a Martyr’s Seed, The Strange Story of E.P. Lovejoy,” by William G. Chrystal, Davis may have met Lovejoy while selling some of his herd in Wabuska, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

First one of the yarns about the Mangler from the Appeal:

Hard Editorial Lines. ” The Wabuska Mangler of Friday says: Last week as the Mangler was going to press, Sol Noel’s Holstein bull came charging into the office and demolished the forms so that we were unable to get the issue out today. We are well aware of the fact that the Mangler in this section is a great annoyance to a good many men here who would like to run politics to suit themselves. We know for a fact that for some months past, Sol Noel and a lot of his conferees have been training the bull to charge into print shops. They rigged up an old cider press and fixed a lever on it so as to represent the Mangler press and a man would stand on the side and make motions as if running an ink roller over the forms. They would then flaunt a red flag in the bull’s face and let him charge on the machine and knock it over. He would then be fed real hay as a reward for his success in demolishing an educational engine. They got the bull well in train and then sent it charging into our office with the above result. He went home with his hide filled with No. 8 shot and if any of the gang come here again they will be treated to something a little heavier. We will continue to publish the Mangler and show up political iniquity whenever it can be found. We will begin suit against Noel in the justice court tomorrow for back subscription and damages.

Davis continued to amuse his readers with periodic rants at Lovejoy and the Mangler until mention of the publication mysteriously disappeared in 1891.

Edward Lovejoy was a real person

So, who was Edward Payson Lovejoy?

In Nevada he was appointed railroad agent at Wabuska in 1881 after being a laborer on the railroad. There he ran a hotel, a small bar and ranch on the acreage around Wabuska. While in California, he was a lawyer, judge and newspaper editor for the Weekly Trinity Journal. His mother, Celia, was married to Elijah Parrish Lovejoy (1802-1837), remembered as a martyr to journalism.

Elijah Lovejoy was killed defending his printing press, which was destroyed by mobs in Alton, Ill. Although the elder Lovejoy did not consider himself a champion of freeing the slaves, that is how he was perceived by the public. He had a deeply religious upbringing, having been raised as a Presbyterian minister. He moved to Alton, Ill., where he was the editor of the St. Louis Observer.

On Nov. 7, 1837, pro-slavery forces approached a warehouse where Lovejoy and his followers tried in vain to save the press. In the following gun battle, Lovejoy was killed and the warehouse burned. The press was thrown into the Mississippi.

In a poem written by William Henry Burleigh, the elder Lovejoy was immortalized after his death Nov. 7, 1837:

Here rests, oh God! Thy martyr! Men should give

Due honor to his ashes, as they tread

Over the grave of one whose actions shed

Lustre undying, fame not fugitive,

On the proud name his children bear. He died,

Not as the traitor, whose base spirit yields,

For east or safety, rights that God hath given, “

Not as the craven, who, for Truth and Heaven,

With doubtful heart, the keen-edged weapon wields,

And from the field ingloriously is driven, “

By courage high his death was sanctified,

His deeds, by faith and prayer – and none hath striven

More nobly in a noble cause – therefore

Honor be his, and praise for evermore.

The elder Lovejoy’s monument to his sacrifice for free speech and anti-slavery was erected in 1890 and overlooks the Mississippi, where the press resides. He is buried some 50 yards away beyond the farthest reach of the monument’s shadow, surrounded by some of his followers.

The Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award is given annually by Colby College, Lovejoy’s alma mater, to a person who has contributed to journalistic achievement. The Lovejoy Library is at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Lovejoy is commonly known as “the first casualty of the Civil War.”

His wife, Celia, fled Alton and moved with Edward many times.

Edward Lovejoy followed in his father’s footsteps. During his six years as editor in Trinity County, Calif., he was known as not religious, but a champion of the Chinese and of women’s suffrage. Many of his views, although quaint today, were far ahead of the curve in 1873 mining California. It should be noted that Edward never mentioned his father or his role in freeing the slaves, nor his uncle Owen, an Illinois Congressman, who counseled Abraham Lincoln on issues of slavery.

After working in Wabuska a few years, Edward Payson Lovejoy died suddenly in 1891, curiously shortly after references to the Wabuska Mangler no longer appeared in the Appeal.

Edward’s wife, Julia, had him buried in Dayton and placed a headstone next to him for herself. She died in 1904 in Los Angeles and is interred there.

It should be noted that Sam Davis worked in St. Louis early in his career, where the elder Lovejoy became a martyr.

As an editor of the Morning Appeal, Samuel Davis provided an enduring legacy to the history of Nevada and to freedom of the press. In his later years, he wrote The History of Nevada, in 1913, a must read for anyone interested in the silver state. He is also an author of many books and served as State Controller.

– Trent Dolan is the son of Bill Dolan, who wrote a column for the Nevada Appeal from 1947 until his death in 2006.