My Brother N. G. Gonzales
Character is woven-warp and woof--from the threads spun during the years of early childhood, and the first filaments of patriotism, light as a spider's "gossameres," were cast in the web of my brother's character very early in life.
Narciso Gener Gonzales, second son of Ambrosio José Gonzales, was born the 5th of August, 1858, at Edingsville, Edisto Island, South Carolina. He was given the names of two distinguished Cuban patriots, devoted friends of our father and participants in the First Revolution for Cuban Independence--General Narciso Lopez and Benigno Gener. His mother was Harriet Rutledge Elliott, youngest daughter of William Elliott, of Beaufort, South Carolina.
In late October, 1860, we were in New York City on our way home from our last summer at the North. The presidential campaign was in full blast and at night the Lincoln marching clubs--the "Wide-awakes," paraded up and down Broadway with torches, transparencies and blaring bands. My brother, a two year-old, 14 months my junior, was held up to the window of the old St. Nicholas hotel and watched with shining eyes the flaring torches and thrilled to the martial music. We were not to look upon "Yankees" again until the Spring of l865, but ere the death of the Confederacy, Sherman's flaring torches were to lay in ashes half a score of ancestral homes on half a score of ancestral plantations.
Then we came South. A few months later we were tense with the imminence of war, for, young as we were, public matters were freely discussed before us and we were encouraged to ask questions and keep up with current events.
Our maternal grandfather William Elliott, a strong Union man, opposed secession, but, once his State seceded, he supported the Confederacy ardently with voice and pen and fortune.
When the boom of cannon bombarding Sumter reached the plantation at dawn on that memorable April morning, my father, an exile from his beloved Cuba--the first of her sons to shed blood in her fight for freedom--too impatient to wait for the train, rode on horseback thirty miles to Charleston to offer his sword to the State of his adoption.
Thenceforward his young sons lived in close touch with war, for the railway ran at the foot of the great liveoak avenue, and over its rails trains passed daily transporting troops to and from Charleston, Savannah and intermediate points, and as the long trains of box-cars clanked slowly by, gray-clad Confederates packed within, and gray-clad Confederates sprawled upon their slanting roofs, the soldiers cheered at the sight of the lordly oaks and the tall white columns of the colonial house at the far end of the vaulted graygreen aisle, and the little boys waved their caps and raised their shrill and feeble voices in response.
Three miles away from the plantation was the pineland village where the family spent all the summers of the war, with one or two exceptions, when they risked wartime railway and stagecoach transportation and adventured to Flat Rock in the North Carolina mountains. This village was, throughout the war, an important military post, and with the soldiers the little boys were in almost constant touch, for the servants took them often to the headquarters or the hospitals with flowers, or fruit, or delicacies for the officers or sick soldiers.
We boys were friends with the soldiers of all branches of the service. We liked the cavalry for their dashing ways and their beautiful horses; the infantry because certain kindly old fellows sometimes let us "pop" huge caps on the nipples of their long muzzleloading muskets--the soldier holding the piece, while one of us tugged strenuously with both hands at the stubborn and unresponsive trigger; but most of all we loved the artillery, for the parental colonel was chief of artillery for the department, and on his occasional brief furloughs at home, almost breathed in terms of big guns. So we hovered about the artillery park in the pineland, were set astride the bronze or brass or black-iron field pieces and, with the assurance of youth, discussed with the smiling artillerymen the relative efficiency of the long, slim Napoleons and the short, thick-lipped howitzers. While on our visits to Charleston we learned something about Parrotts and the heavy columbiads in their emplacements on the Battery.
Whatever backwardness or self-consciousness the small boys may have displayed while being "shown of" before civilian grown-ups, there was none where Confederates were concerned, for they were on most cordial terms with officers and men, and asked or answered questions with the utmost freedom.
At different times, General Beverley Robertson (a Virginian), General "Shanks" Evans, and General Johnson Hagood, commanded the troops encamped around the village, and whenever a General called upon the family, at summer settlement or plantation, the small boys managed to be on hand, and, as soon as the General entered the house, the General's horse was commandeered and, decorated with three little chaps mounted in a row, was led around among the pines or under the liveoaks, by a patient and complaisant orderly.
And nothing was too good for the soldier. The treasures of a cellar full of Old Madeira, Port, and Sherry--wines that had been ripening for a generation and would have been worth a fortune after the war--were levied upon for the use of the hospitals or to flavor jellies for the sick or wounded soldiers.
Everywhere there was breathed the spirit of service, of sacrifice, of renunciation for the cause to whose success the energies and the thoughts of old and young were directed. The only men held to be worth while were those who wore the gray, or, if too old for service, had put their fortunes in Confederate bonds. In this fine atmosphere, it is not surprising that the spirit of patriotism was early aflame in my young brother's breast!
At four years of age he had learned to read, and thereafter throughout the war we were made to read aloud from the Charleston "Mercury" or the "Courier" the headlines and news-stories of the battles and skirmishes as they were published day by day--and how we rejoiced at the success of our troops and how our spirits fell at their defeats! Always we were little barometers registering the spiritual exaltation or depression of our elders, and as they read the lists of Confederate casualties and the editorial comments on the progress of the war, we listened with eager ears and smiled or saddened in sympathy with the grownups who loved us.
As the war drew to a close, our hopes wore to a tenuous thread and, by the time we reached Darlington, S. C., whither we had "refugeed" from the lowcountry in the late winter of 1865, the apparent certainty of the Confederacy's fall bore heavily upon us. The little boys shared poignantly the anxiety of the family, and the almost pathetic distress of the house servants at the imminence of the Freedom that hung over them as a cloud whose portent none could penetrate. But youth is resilient, and though the little boys often went off in the woods by themselves to sing patriotic songs or sadden their hearts with Father Ryan's touching poetry of the war, they usually came up smiling at the end of the day.
When it was all over we returned to the ruined low-country and to Reconstruction! Far worse than the poverty and privation was the constant realization in the minds of the boys of the physical and mental strain upon the grown-ups they loved. And the hopelessness of it all! We felt, young and old, like rats caught in a trap. We couldn't think our way out and could see no light ahead.
After ten years of gloom, came Hampton and '76; but meantime, under varied boyish hardships and experiences, my brother's character strengthened and developed.
Upon the birth of Alfonso XII, father of the present King of Spain, Queen Isabela pardoned all the political exiles, and our father who had been exiled from Cuba for twenty years as a leader in the first Revolution was free to return to his native land, and with his family reached Habana in January, 1869.
The "Ten-Years War" was then in progress, and our father, although he had pledged himself not to take up arms against Spain, was under constant surveillance by Spanish spies during the three months we remained in Habana; and often, as we boys stood at the long iron-barred windows looking at the passing throng crowding the narrow streets, we caught furtive glances on dark, sinister faces watching even the children within doors for a sign. A look of disloyalty to the power of Spain, even a ribbon or a combination of ribbons of the forbidden "tricolor," would have caused an arrest.
So we were again in touch with war! Again to feel the sense of outrage at the weak being crushed by the strong, again to feel the sinking of the heart at the impotence of right against might! Spain at that time had not yet worn herself out in the repression of Cuba, and was still full of strength. Twenty-five thousand Spanish troops were then quartered in Habana, and a brave show they made as they paraded through the streets with their showy uniforms and magnificent bands, offering very striking contrasts in the men from different parts of Spain. Here, as we watched them through the iron bars, passed a regiment from the northern provinces-tall, blue-eyed, flaxen-haired soldiers, as blond as Norsemen. There, a battalion of swart, stocky Viscayans swinging along in a loose, rapid step, in brilliant zouave uniforms, looking like pirates with their fierce, black-avised faces, their tasseled caps set awry, and their big gold earrings--heavy cutlasses swinging at their heels as they marched. Then, in plain brown linen uniforms, came the dreaded Voluntarios--young men born in Cuba of Spanish parents, who had volunteered for service as a home-guard against their Cuban brothers. These were hated as well as feared, for their former intimacy with Cuban families gave them accurate information as to those who were patriotically helping the Revolutionists, and through the treachery of these Tories many a brave man f aced a firing squad with his back against the blood-bespattered stone wall of grim Cabanas fortress.
As these Voluntarios passed there was applause, for it seemed to be expected, and the dark eyes of the marching men roved restlessly from one side to the other of the narrow street. Now and then a sibilant hiss cut the air, which questing eyes sought to locate, but the scornful sound came always from the shuttered window of an upper story, and the sullen marchers moved on.
Then, my father moved his family to Matanzas, where, with a college professorship and private lessons, he came upon easy times. Here the three eldest sons attended the Spanish public schools, where my brother, although studying in a foreign language, led his classes, while indulging in tussles with the high-strung Cuban boys during the recess hour every day.
In the autumn, our mother's death of yellow fever, brought the first great tragedy into our lives. My father then took his younger children and his eldest son home to our mother's people in South Carolina, while the second and third sons remained a year longer in Cuba with devoted friends of my father's.
With these friends, living near Matanzas on a beautiful sugar and coffee plantation, my young brothers were very happy, but, though living in comfort and luxury, such as could never come again to the desolate South, the little boys patriotically yearned for the home of their childhood, and for the loving sympathy and understanding of their kindred.
From the great Cuban estate, my brother N.G. wrote frequent letters, giving, for a child, vivid descriptions of trees and flowers and all the life that moved around him. Loving flowers always, he enclosed in every beautifully written letter pressed blooms of the opulent tropical flora that was everywhere about him. He often mentioned the strange hutia, which the boys hunted with terriers--the same hutia which nearly thirty years later was to be the staff of life to the starving "outfit" with which he marched "In Darkest Cuba."
In December 1870 the little boys joined their brothers and sisters at the old home in lower South Carolina, and we began to patch together again the fragments of a shattered civilization.
Back at the old plantation, the boys took up the new life under changed conditions. The sturdy English brick walls of the old house still stood, but they were now green with ivy and wreathed with climbing roses. The only stick left standing on the place was the "wash-kitchen," a servants' house, which the pleadings of an old care-taker induced the Federal colonel to leave for the Negro's occupancy. Before the family returned, the weather-boarding had been stripped away and stolen, but the framework and the chimneys remained, and about these a crude habitation was constructed that sheltered the family for years.
Servants, there were none. The two or three fine old men, who served their master's family with such loyalty and devotion during and after the war, were now dead, and the other house servants were far-scattered, living in homes of their own, or serving in the cities those who had money to pay for service. So the boys undertook such tasks-each according to his strength--as came to hand, and, as each of us was doing something for the common good, all of us were happy. We were seldom idle, for there was always something to do--water to be brought from the "Big Spring" three hundred yards away, wood to be cut, and the vegetable-and flower-gardens to be worked. And the flower-gardens were at once a great delight and a heavy responsibility. In the old days they had been cared for by a French gardener and his half dozen trained Negro assistants, all of them under the constant supervision of one of our aunts; but now the task was upon the former task-mistress, an occasional hireling, and such labor of love as the boys would contribute. And chivalry or affection often prompted them to forego an afternoon's fishing at "the Cypress," or a tramp in the woods, in order to relieve one of the ladies of the family, so often engaged in raking up the fallen leaves in the avenue or in the holly walks that threaded the shrubbery, now but a tangle of sweet myrtles, spice plants, and other fragrant things. Some of the dwarf box hedges and "standards" were still intact, but the cedar and wild-orange hedges, once so trim, so beautifully clipped, were now young trees, still in alignment, but rearing their tousled and uneven heads like the awkward squad of a village militia company. Climbing roses--LaMarque, multiflora, and seven sisters--clambered boldly to the tops of tall magnolias and flung wide their variegated banners forty or fifty feet aloft. And there were beautiful Lady Banksias--white and yellow--some on trellises, while others followed their sturdier sisters and ran riotously up the magnolias, scattering the mintage of their gold and silver blooms far up among the dark, glossy leaves.
And all about this lovely war-made chaparral, were blooming, singly and in clumps, the delicious old-time sweet roses, whose French names the boys mastered only after a fashion, but whose fragrance they understood and reveled in. In a sequestered corner of the garden, among the "tea" and the "musk" roses, was an old bush, watched over and tended reverently, for 'twas our "great-grandmother's Tea rose," and had been in the family for more than a hundred years! Blooming in Charleston ten years before the Revolution, it was first transplanted to Cheeha and brought, fifty years later, to Oak Lawn. Though gnarled and scraggy now, the boys approached the old bush as tho' it were a shrine, for its delicate loose-petaled blossoms had blessed with exquisite fragrance four generations of our people. So we dug around the old rose bush and put fresh clay about its roots; but only the ladies gathered the sparse blooms, whose poignant sweetness gripped the heart of even a boy--of sensibilities.
Of all the gracious hospitality of the old times, there was nothing, save flowers, left to give, but flowers we had, and flowers we gave to all in the neighborhood that cared for them, while on Memorial Day cartloads of beautifully made crosses and wreaths were sent to Charleston for the Confederate graves at Magnolia cemetery.
There were no schools, of course, but the boys were obliged to study daily such antiquated text books as we could command, and were encouraged to dip into Plutarch's Lives for what would now be called parallel reading. Our grandfather's splendid library had gone up in smoke with the old house, but we had taken to the up-country, when we refugeed, fine editions of Shakespeare, and other English poets, Burns, and Scott's Waverley novels, and these were now a priceless blessing, for one of the ladies would read Shakespeare aloud on winter evenings while the boys listened with rapt attention.
My brother N. G., while willing to do his share, had less liking for outdoor work than his brothers, and less proficiency, but he had more love for reading, and, as he had more time to read, he reveled in the old books, sprawled in some sunny spot in winter or curled up in the shade in summer, and stored information and laid the foundations of that self-education upon which he reared so fine a structure in later years.
All through this period of our lives there was the constant hope in the hearts of the grown-ups that out of the French spoliation claims, or out of the refund of the Direct Tax on confiscated lands, would come the means of giving the boys an education, but the ships of our hopes never came to port. After the two older boys had spent a few months at school in Beaufort, the former home of our maternal grandfather, the elder was sent to a private school in the valley of Virginia, and during the year he was absent, N. G. took his place and performed manfully the unaccustomed tasks of wood-cutting, and other heavy outdoor work.
A year passed, and upon my return, N. G. too, had his turn, and went for a year to a private school in Fairfax County, Virginia, while the elder, now sixteen, went to Grahamville, a station on the Charleston & Savannah railway, to learn telegraphy.
At the Virginia school N. G., always a model student, led his classes, and upon his return home at the end of the term, left behind him a high record for scholarship and for conduct. Soon after reaching South Carolina, N. G. joined his brother, now become railway agent and telegrapher at Grahamville, there to study telegraphy and learn something about the railroad and express business. Grahamville, in Beaufort County, was far within the black belt, and the preponderance of Negro population was tremendous. The nomadic hands brought from North Carolina to work the great turpentine farms in the vicinity constituted a turbulent element among the blacks, and the brothers, living in a rough railroad shanty with no sash in the windows, and no lock on the door, had to be constantly on their guard to protect the money packages committed to their care. The Express Company furnished no safes in those days, and when the agent locked his office at night to go to his cornshuck couch in the shanty, or walked three miles to visit in the village, the precious envelopes were pinned or roughly sewn to the inner pocket of his jacket, which, when he pulled it off at night, was carefully folded and put under the mattress. There was always a revolver, a box of matches, and a handful of lightwood splinters at the sleeper's hand, for the shriek of vagabond and irresponsible freight trains running without schedule, often sounded close to his ear, rousing him, in the lonely hours of the "dog watch" before the dawn, to put on his jacket with its precious lining, and adventure through the dark to the warehouse some distance away and lock up such freight as might be wished upon him.
In those days, under the constant strain of a man's responsibilities, boys soon developed into men, and long before we were out of our teens, we took an active part in the work of the Democratic Clubs into which the handful of white men in the vicinity had organized themselves in the fight for the redemption of the State from the horde of blacks and the vicious whites who controlled them.
The telegraph office at Grahamville was, at that time, the only one between Yemassee and Savannah, and, serving twenty-five hundred square miles of territory, was, at election time, a gathering point for those in search of news from the outside world. In 1876, during the momentous Hampton campaign, and the equally exciting contest for the presidency between Tilden and Hayes, parties of men rode on horseback twenty five miles or more from points in Barnwell County along the Savannah River, and from Lawtonville and Brighton far up in old Beaufort district, in quest of news, and picketing their horses in the pineland, accepted such primitive hospitality as we were able to extend, while, by day and by night, we tapped the through wires for such news as might be gleaned.
In 1876, too, the brothers took the Grahamville Democratic Club to Beaufort, to the Hampton rally, where we sported the first two "red shirts" ever seen in that historic town.
About this time, the "Combahee Riots" occurred. The Negroes in that section went on strike and, abandoning their work in the ricefields, became riotous and turbulent. The Combahee Mounted Rifles, a crack "red shirt" company organized for the protection of that district, was beleaguered at Ballouville by thousands of half-crazed Negro men and women, armed with hoes, rice hooks and axes, besides firearms of every description. For several days the situation was tense, and only the courage and coolness of Captain Henry D. Elliott, commanding the Rifle Company, averted disaster. Captain Elliott, however, restrained his men, gradually got the situation in hand, and restored quiet.
A few months earlier, the Charleston Journal of Commerce, a daily newspaper, had been established in opposition to The News & Courier, and my brother N.G., as local correspondent at Grahamville, had sent occasional items of news to the new journal. At the time of the riot neither newspaper had correspondents on the ground but, talking over the wire with the operator at Green Pond, we secured accurate information of the progress of the riot, which N.G. telegraphed from Grahamville to Charleston, enabling The Journal of Commerce to print the first news of an important event. This incident, perhaps, influenced N.G.'s newspaper career, for the editors of The News & Courier immediately made inquiry as to the correspondent who had beaten them, and Messrs. Riordan and Dawson told my brother years later that from the time of that incident they had kept him in mind for future service on The News & Courier.
The spirit of the press stirred early within the brothers while they workced together at Grahamville, for here for some time we issued at weekly intervals "The Palmetto," a pretentious little journal--with editorials, general and local news, and cotton, rice, and naval stores markets. The paper was literally the work of our hands, for our hands constituted its entire mechanical equipment. Lacking both press and type, we divided long sheets of foolscap into columns which we carefully filled with pen and ink, making usually two copies, which, circulating from house to house through the village, created much amusement, for the issues usually contained quips and jokes of local interest. We had a literary department too, and a poet's corner, and to these some of the ladies contributed both prose and verse. At the top of the first page between the two words of the title a palmetto tree was drawn with pen and ink, and when the heading of The State was designed in Columbia, nearly sixteen years later, the palmetto tree stood forth again!
As soon as N.G. had attained some proficiency in telegraphy, he was offered, and accepted, a position as operator at Varnville, now a respectable town, but in the middle seventies a raw and uncombed community. He slept in his wretched office on a cot fitted with a mattress stuffed with pine straw, and his food was cooked by a Negro woman in the pineland nearby. His pay was twenty-five dollars a month in Port Royal Railway scrip--worth fifty cents on the dollar when he got it, but he didn't always get it.
While N.G. was stationed at Varnville there came to the neighborhood a gunman named Hutto, a sort of desperado who, having shot up another community and killed a man or two, was regarded by the Varnville people as an undesirable person to have around. He was hiding out in a swamp nearby, and while making no offensive demonstration against the community where he had taken sanctuary, his proximity kept the citizens in a state of jumpiness, and plans were furtively laid for his capture, but before they were matured, the outlaw left a note at the postoffice late one night asking that a representative of the incorporation meet him at a designated spot far in the woods on the following night, for a parley. There was no moon and the swamp was dark, so with one accord the leading men began to make excuses and none would lead, whereupon N.G., alone and unarmed, went to meet the gunman at the "Council Rock" and brought back to the intendant the conditions upon which he agreed to give himself up or quit the community. What became of Hutto cannot now be recalled, but he troubled the leading men no more, and when a few days later a, United States deputy marshal--an Ohio man named Wright--came down from Augusta to examine into the outlaw's activities, he reported to the Government that the only man in Varnville was a seventeen year old boy!
Some time later N.G. went to Savannah and for more than a year worked twelve hours a night as telegrapher for the old Atlantic & Gulf Railroad. From Savannah he was promoted to Valdosta, Georgia, where he served the same company as railroad operator, and the Western Union Telegraph Company as Manager for two years, when, quitting the telegrapher's key for the pen, he entered journalism, to be, thereafter, his life work, to which his mind had been definitely committed since his sixteenth year.
During the campaigns of 1876 and 1878, we attended great Democratic rallies at Oak Lawn, our old home in lower Colleton County. Campaigners were present with bands of music, and we put forth earnest efforts, verbal and gastronomic, to make the blacks safe for Democracy. As usual, they were profuse with promises. Before and after the barbecues a thousand Negroes swore by all the Gargantuan gods that they'd vote the Democratic ticket. Half a dozen did!
Attending one of these meetings was A. B. Williams, a tall, handsome young Virginian of about N. G.'s age. They had met earlier while Williams was a "cub" on the Journal of Commerce. The youths, mutually attracted to each other, discussed journalism, and laughingly spoke of starting a newspaper together some day. Thus began a friendship of long standing, and in later years Williams' brilliant editorials in the Greenville News and my brother's in The State, were known throughout South Carolina.
When in June 1880, A. B. Williams became one of the proprietors of the Greenville Daily News he offered N. G. a position as reporter which, although the salary was only half that he earned at Valdosta, my brother eagerly accepted.
After two months service on the News he resigned to become the Columbia correspondent of The News & Courier, and fourteen months later was sent to Washington where, as a special correspondent during the exciting year following the death of President Garfield, he reported for his newspaper the Guiteau trial and execution and the long session of the Forty-seventh Congress. Upon his return from Washington where he had gained distinction by the brilliance and clarity of his comments on public men and affairs, he went to Charleston as a member of The News & Courier's editorial staff, but preferring the independence of his former position at Columbia, he returned to the capital city, organized "The News & Courier Bureau," and for eight or nine years his column was an outstanding feature of the newspaper. His able discussion of the measures under Legislative consideration, his shrewd analysis of the motives actuating the politicians who supported or opposed them, the fairness of his criticisms and the courage with which he set forth his convictions, gave this editorial correspondence distinction and authenticity. Having stipulated that nothing that he wrote should be subject to revision by the home office, he was entirely independent and, however the readers of The News & Courier may have differed with the editorial policy of that newspaper, the daily column signed "N. G. G."--recognized as the clearly expressed opinions of an honest and high-thinking journalist--was never questioned.
Through his column N. G. pushed and secured many reforms--among them being the abolition of the practice of farming out convicts by the State penitentiary, long an abuse.
Nor was he unmindful of the interests of his adopted city. Columbia's daily newspaper during that period was but a feeble flame to light the city's way along the paths of progress, but N.G.'s unfaltering faith in the future of the capital city was reflected in his column day by day, where he unremittingly set forth her material advantages and strove ardently, too, for clean municipal government.
He was devoted to the cause of education--that of the public schools, as of the higher institutions of learning. The University of South Carolina had no firmer friend, no abler defender against the then frequent attacks made upon that institution by selfish and narrow interests.
And when the embryo of the now great Winthrop College was being watched over and nurtured by its present President in Columbia, N.G. backed him with the enthusiasm which he could always command in any worthy cause.
The first brick crossings on "Main" street--then a wretched country road--replacing the old granite stepping stones, were laid by city council only after two years of hammering in the Columbia column, where, as later in The State, no deserving interest was ever too small, no deserving man too lowly to find a champion; nor was any interest, or any man too powerful to be above dissection or criticism.
During his connection with The News & Courier my brother reported all the State campaigns and many famous trials in different parts of South Carolina.
In 1890 B. R. Tillman was elected Governor, and my brother, indisposed to establish such relations with the new executive as the policy of The News & Courier required, resigned his position to take effect at the close of Governor Richardson's administration.
In our seventh and eighth years, at the close of the Confederate War, we became fascinated by tales of the South Seas, and promised ourselves that some day we would cruise among these far Pacific islands in our own pearl-fishing schooner, or lateen-sailed canoe. Blown upon by adverse winds, the soap bubbles of our boyish dreams had long since burst, but N.G., having saved a thousand dollars during his sixteen years of hard work, made plans for a year's vacation in the South Seas, the cost of the trip to be met by letters to a syndicate of newspapers, when--out of the political cloud that lowered over South Carolina--the spirit of The State flashed forth!
We had been ardent supporters of Judge Haskell in his campaign of protest against the unseating of certain legally elected "straightout" delegates by the "regular" Democratic Convention of 1890. Judge Haskell, an "irregular" candidate, was swamped, but his following, numerically small, comprised many of the highest and ablest men in the State, and in their spirits rankled the injustice and the brutality of the bludgeoning they had received.
When, therefore, our purpose to leave South Carolina became known, for my former work awaited me in New York, political friends in Sumter, Marion, Darlington and other counties, as well as in Columbia, urged us to remain in our native State and found here, at its capital, a Democratic daily newspaper to which they pledged their support.
A small company was formed--no hundred men of equal standing ever subscribed twenty thousand dollars to any other enterprise in this or any other state. Judge A. C. Haskell was chosen president, and my brother, N. G. Gonzales, editor; and, on the 18th of February, 1891, the first issue of The State came from the press.
The first number contained the following editorials:
In the dawn of this new day, with the lifting of the shadows and the coming of the eastern tints of promise, certain men, loving their State, referencing the nobleness of her past and watchful of her future, send out to their brethren, far and near, this messenger, which, with loyal pride in the land of their birth, they name The State.
A frail and modest bark, it may be, to bear so proud a name, but it is freighted with good intent and high resolve, and bears at the fore as symbols of inspiration and hope, the noble emblems and brave mottoes of South Carolina.
Out into an illimitable sea of human thought, and energy, and passion, toward a far horizon concealing mysteries of the days to come which no eye of man can pierce; out to the angry buffetings of storms and the stagnant solitudes of calms, the ship of The State fares forth.
No black flag is at her peak and no stain of piracy is upon the argonauts who man her decks. They sail with clean hands and honest hearts, intent on good, and the fair wind which sends them out of harbor bears with it, and to their ears, the "God speed" of thousands who are accounted good and true.
Theirs is a venturesome voyage, no doubt, and one upon which timid spirits would not embark; but it is a mission of duty, and honor, and right, and there is no coward in the crew.
So the anchor is up, and the charts are scanned, and with fair white sails filled and fearless colors floating, The State prow-pointed by the needle of Truth, clears the haven of Faith, and is in the wide ocean of Endeavor.
May her helm prove steady and her timbers stout!
Principles and Promises
For the publication of The State nearly one hundred citizens of South Carolina are associated. They represent many shades of opinion, but are united in the basic belief that there is room and work at the capital of the State for a newspaper which shall be fearless and consistent, true to its party faiths, but resolute in its opposition to "bosses" and cabals, fair to opponents as well as to friends, pledged to principle rather than to policy--a journal devoted to the upbuilding of the State in every line of honest industry, and alert in every field of enterprise--a paper honest, clean and reliable.
To this belief, the citizens of Columbia who contribute so largely to the establishment of the paper, have added the conviction that the new life which thrills in the veins of their city needs a capable exponent in a journal with broad aims, intelligent ambition and liberal public spirit.
These have been the considerations underlying the enterprise which is this day committed to the public.
To the people of South Carolina, The State promises these things:
That it will be a Democratic newspaper--Democratic in its adhesion to the principles formulated by Jefferson, but wearing no livery of service to sham Democracy.
That it will be an independent paper--independent in its judgment and its utterances, holding no man exempt from just criticism, and none beneath just praise.
That it will be a fair paper--giving to its opponents entry to its columns whenever they have a grievance and are willing to express it decently and tersely.
That it will be a State paper--measuring only by its means the aid it can give to every worthy cause in every quarter of South Carolina.
That it will be a progressive paper--having the warmest appreciation of enterprise, and the will to encourage it and to keep step with it.
To the citizens of Columbia, The State pledges a friendship which must belong to those who have taken such large part in its creation. It is of Columbia, by Columbia and for Columbia, as it is of, by and for South Carolina. It promises these nearer friends that it will unstintingly and unceasingly work for their city, that no narrowness of spirit shall mark its dealings with them, that it will regard only the good of the community, and that it will respond most freely to the support which it hopes to deserve, by liberating them from dependence upon other communities for vehicles of thought and information.
The State is no man's organ, and is untrammelled by dictation. It is established in no spirit of diablerie, as some of its contemporaries seem to have anticipated. It is a business enterprise, yet not such an enterprise as holds a dollar above a principle. It will not palter, or stultify itself for the sake of being on the winning side. It will not "ride fences" so as to be out of danger. It lacks the approval of the present State administration, as that administration most certainly lacks its fealty. But it does not desire to thresh anew the old straw of last summer. It begins with the status quo, not the status quo ante.
From this time forward it will speak, when occasion arises, on State politics, and when it sees a wrong-doer, will strike him hard. But it does not propose to invent cases of wrong-doing. If, perchance, the administration shall prove itself an ideal administration, that will be the judgment of The State. To promise more than this would be truckling. To do less would be unfair.
As a newspaper, The State trusts that it approximates the expectations of its friends. It has been designed to be the best newspaper ever published in Columbia, but its readers must be the judges of its success in that regard.
The plant required for its publication has been selected with the utmost care. From one end of its establishment to the other, not an article can be found which has ever been used before. Everything is new, and from the best makers. It has the finest and the fastest press in the city, operated by the first gas engine ever brought to Columbia. The most skilful engravers have wrought its heading, and its type has been chosen with strict regard to freshness and beauty.
The work to be done with this equipment has been planned with equal care.
The State receives the full Southern service of the United Press, a telegraphic news association which is known throughout the Union as the equal or superior of any organization of the kind in the country, and these dispatches come to it until 3 o'clock on the morning of publication, giving the news of the world in compact and readable form. A staff of correspondents covering every county in South Carolina will report by telegraph and by mail the news of the State. The news of Columbia will be given with satisfactory amplitude.
It will be the effort of The State to commend itself as a complete newspaper to South Carolinians everywhere, depending for its acceptability, not upon one overweighting feature, but upon that variety of features which marks the symmetrical journal.
Should the paper attain that success which it is encouraged to expect, every improvement which enterprise shall dictate and experience approve will be made upon it, and the approbation it receives will be but the incentive to increasing worthiness.
"The State rests its case."
The story of The State's struggles and services may not be set down here. To other daily newspaper ever endured such hardships or survived such vicissitudes. Its entire capital stock was exhausted before the end of its first year, and it was never to have anv more until new capital was created out of its earnings ten years later. But through it all it has lived the lives of the men who made it, and has held true to the course laid upon its chart nearly 32 years ago!
The State, under my brother's editorship, was the first Southern newspaper to cry out against the cowardice and the barbarity of lynching--the first to denounce lynchers as murderers and to denounce them here at home, where enemies are always to be made.
The State was the first newspaper to advocate a Child Labor Law for South Carolina, and its fight for the little children of the cotton mill villages won for it, not only the bitter enmity of its former friends, the mill owners, but also that of the children's parents, who insisted upon the God-given right to sell the labor of their own flesh and blood.
And The State's long fight for compulsory education added to the list of its critics in the cotton mills those farmers who wished to work their children in the fields!
Throughout the last Cuban revolution, whose success American participation made sure in 1898, my brother's heart was in the Cuban cause, which he supported so vigorously, so understandingly, that his editorials were widely quoted as expositions of Cuban wrongs and aspirations.
When the United States declared war on Spain in 1898, he urged the young men of South Carolina to volunteer, and, seeing no immediate prospect of rendering effective service with the American forces, as he was entirely without military experience, he joined the Cubans gathering under Nunez at Tampa, Florida, early in May, and went actively into training, hoping to strike a blow for his father's country.
The story of his enlistment, his voyage, his landing, and his "two months' service under Gomez along the Trocha from the Caribbean to the Bahama Channel" is a simple record of hardships borne with philosophical cheerfulness and fortitude. There were few exciting incidents; little to stir the blood, but--under constant privations--much to try the spirit, to test the moral and physical fibre of the man.
And there is told, too, a story of the quiet heroism and the dogged courage of the Cubans in their long fight for independence that should shame those who have held them lightly as a volatile and emotional people. Men of all classes, from the cultured millionaire Habanero to the barefoot guajiro of Camaguey--naked, starving, often isolated from their fellow men of the outside world for months or years--yet kept up their almost hopeless struggle for freedom with all the inherited tenacity of their Spanish blood!
It's easy to fight in the open, while all the world looks on, for there's always recognition for brave deeds, and the approbation of mankind is sweet, but his soul must be strong indeed who "carries on" without faltering, through the jungle of spiritual and physical loneliness! That, as my brother has set down, his ragged, starving Cuban companions did.
"The child is father of the man," and to the end of his life my brother's distinguishing characteristics were those he showed as a boy, and all of these he exhibited during his service in Cuba.
First, courage--physical and moral--strong enough to master fear, if physical fear be present; strong enough to stand for the right, as one sees the right, against, if need be, kindred, friends and all the world.
Second, truth--and truth walks hand in hand with courage, for the truthful boy or man need know no fear. And truth holds justice within her arms; therefore, seeing the truth and loving the truth, he could not be unjust to any man.
Third, loyalty--and loyalty to family, friends, home, State and country also embraces patriotism, and his loyalty and his patriotism were intense.
Fourth, magnanimity--without which none can be truly great. This trait developed and strengthened year by year after reaching manhood. Quick and passionate as a child, tenacious of his opinions and unyielding as to what he conceived to be his rights, 'twas hard for him to give up or modify either rights or opinions, even in the f ace of facts, but the germ of magnanimity was always within his heart, and, once convinced of his error, his amende was invariably prompt and generous. But, as he came in contact with the rough edges of life, as, with the passing of each year he experienced ingratitude, disloyalty and the spiritual loneliness of the idealistic and sensitive nature in a world of materialists, his spirit softened, he became more tolerant of the views of others; his mind so broadened that if he could not find "good in everything," he could at least recognize the good points of his enemies--whenever they were made manifest--for gold was gold to him whether it glistened in the quartz of rugged natures or shone in the loose sands of the weak. After reaching manhood, his high temper was brought under complete control, and my brother became indeed the captain of his soul.
As a child, N.G. was brave to intrepidity. He would often ask the servants to put him to bed in the dark, not that he cared for the dark, but only to show his independence of the light. His pluck was indomitable and he was ready to fight if fighting was forward, whatever the odds against him. Never proficient in running, jumping, throwing or climbing, he was always willing to take a chance, always ready, if he tripped and fell, to jump up and try again. So, in the night attack on Moron, he lost his companions, stumbled through the darkness of the Cuban jungle toward the sound of the firing, blundered almost into the Spanish trenches, and, under the cross-fire of bullets from friend and foe, fell by chance into the lines of his own command in time to fire a few shots for liberty. Here, too, he stumbled--but he carried on!
In his story of the Cuban campaign, N.G. refers frequently to Buttari, a Cuban poet, an officer like himself, who accompanied the expedition from Tampa, and my brother writes that he could not have got along without Buttari to tease, which is easy to understand for, from early childhood, love of teasing was, almost a passion with him, and he seldom knew when to stop. But although he made a butt of Buttari and rallied him on his love of luxury and his insatiable appetite (N. G., too, loved the comforts and the refinements of life, but was man enough to do without them) yet his loyalty and generosity to the selfish companion who had been thrown upon him, prompted him to stuff the poet while starving himself, to carry Buttari's baggage on his shoulders while staggering in agony through the jungle mud under the heavy load of his own, and to refuse an invitation to join his commander's mess where he would have had sufficient food, because he wouldn't desert the butt who was battening upon him.
Although the fortunes of the Confederate war had deprived my brother N. G. of the benefits of education for which he yearned so passionately, altho' condemned as man and boy to a lifetime of unrequited toil, tho' his early life had been saddened by the hardships imposed upon the gentlewoman of his family, yet he felt no bitterness toward the North. While despising the malevolent politicians who had put Reconstruction upon the South, his mind was singularly open and no Northern man worthy of friendship ever came to Columbia without finding a friend in N. G.
Although by nature reserved, and never a "mixer," his interest in men was so deep, his enthusiasm for any worthy cause, any new enterprise, so great, that its advocates or promoters could always command his support, and, once enlisted, his interest never flagged until the cause succeeded or the project was put through.
He suffered fools patiently tho' not gladly. Singularly democratic, he would talk to anybody on the street about politics, business or anything, for he was interested in many things, and in his fellow man in every walk of life. With never a home of his own, no Columbian, white or black, ever planned a house and told him of it, but his interest was engaged and he was ready to help with suggestions or advice.
And he was singularly tolerant and sympathetic toward Negroes, as only members of former slaveholding families can afford to be. Knowing their limitations, he did not expect too much of them, and his generous recognition of their many good qualities, and his encouragement and advice were a constant inspiration to those among them who sought to raise the moral standards and increase the efficiency of their race, while his persistent efforts to secure for this dependent race equality under the law--efforts which ceased only with his death--won their lasting respect and gratitude.
This natural democracy and these inherent traits of N.G.'s character were amply illustrated in his relations to political affairs in city, State, and nation.
In the year 1890 began the degradation of the Democratic party in South Carolina. For the first time in our history, candidates for public office resorted to blasphemy and vituperation.
Then, for the first time, politicians, playing upon the ignorance of the masses, commenced to attack such newspapers as were courageous enough to expose unworthy men and unsound policies, and in every recurrent campaign our people have witnessed the spectacle of candidates asking support, not upon their own merits or those of the measures they advocate, but only because they are opposed by certain newspapers.
He who seeks public office, by that act submits his character and his qualifications for public scrutiny, and in reviewing and criticizing the public records of these men, the press not only exercises a manifest right, but is performing a high public duty. Yet, for almost a generation, a few devoted journalists, asking no office, serving no private ends, concerned only with the election of decent men and the promotion of wholesome policies, have been targets for the abuse of every questionable fellow who aspired to high office, and the candidates who profited by their service have stood dumbly by while the newspapers suffered for a cause in which their only interest was the welfare and the good name of their State.
The State newspaper, under the brilliant and militant editorship of my brother, N. G. Gonzales, was always at the forefront of every fight for decent government.
In 1902 a candidate offered for the governorship, whose success, my brother believed, would have dishonored South Carolina. His character and his record were known to the public men whose duty it was to have exposed him, but they lacked the moral courage for the unpleasant task, which the patriotic editor undertook. Thenceforth, from every stump my brother was bitterly assailed. Friends, knowing the murder that often lurks in a coward's heart, warned him of his danger, but, having put his hand to the plow, he followed the furrow through to the end, and the State he loved was, for the time, saved from dishonor!
Nearly five months after the close of the campaign, unarmed and unsuspecting, and with a smile upon his face, he fell by an assassin's hand, a martyr to the freedom of the press and the cause of good government.
Ambrose E. Gonzales
NARCISO GENER GONZALES
Died January 19, 1903
The knightly soul of the brave man, loyal friend and devoted brother, whose name has graced these columns since the birth of The State twelve years ago, has crossed the river, and the paths his willing feet have trod shall know him no more. But along their ways, from seed he sowed, flowers are blooming and the air he loved to breathe, the air of his native State, is sweet with the incense of his noble words and deeds.
To die for his State, even by the loathly hand that struck him down, was sweet to him. During the four days of mortal agony that followed his cruel wounding no words save those of love and sympathy for his bereaved kindred passed his lips. He died with his face to God, a gentleman unafraid.
With heavy hearts, his work is taken up by those 'who loved him well, and in his name The State is pledged anew to the principles for which he gave his life.
Ambrose E. Gonzales