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Mr. McLean & Rev. Kasey ring in 1907 with sunshine & shadows

110 years ago, Columbia was growing and prospering. The tax base was rising. Business was booming owning in large part to the excellent schools here - Columbia M & F and the Lindsey Wilson as well as, the fact, Mr. McLean wrote in a piece for a Louisville newspaper: " . . . there are no saloons or places of vice...and the watchword is morality." But Rev. Kasey cast a shadow on the economic outlook, that can be read by clicking on the headline for this complete, fascinating story from the past . . .

By JIM

In 1906, amid national economic uncertainties that began in September, Columbia prospered.

At year's end, Fred McLean, man-about-town and astute observer of the human condition, wrote a piece for the (Louisville) Evening Post; the Adair County News republished it in the January 9, 1907 edition. He wrote glowingly of Columbia's burgeoning population (an increase of several hundred since 1900) and the resulting increase in the tax base, which stood at nearly half-million dollars as 1906 drew to a close. And too, noted the author, "there are no saloons or places of vice...and the watchword is morality."


Mr. McLean gave profuse credit for much of Columbia's "prosperous condition" to the presence of the two schools in the town: the Lindsey Wilson Training School, opened just two years earlier, and the venerable Male & Female school, which in recent years, he said, "came to the front in a new dress and with many new inducements for students."

The article concluded with a rosy outlook. stating that Columbia merchants and bankers had reported 1906 as the most prosperous year in a decade, and that "the indications are that 1907 will bless Columbia more bountifully than the year that has just ended."

On an inside page in this editon of the News, a lengthy op-ed by Rev. A.R. Kasey, pastor of the Columbia Methodist Church, cast long range shade on Mr. McLean's sunny optimism for the new year. The good man of the cloth gave fret to what he viewed as a menace from without, a looming threat to local merchants -- the mail-order houses.

A few paragraphs into the piece, the good man of the cloth wrote, "In nearly every community there is growing up the mail-order business...Developed to its limit, this would mean the total ruin of an town. Suppose every time any body wanted any kind of merchandise he ordered it from Chicago, what would become of our merchants?"

Rev. Kasey then went on to list several - perhaps a few too many -- hypotheticals, including such possibilities as ordering flour or building materials from Nashville or Minneapolis; using a bank in Cleveland instead of hometown Columbia; "ordering up" a doctor or dentist from Burkesville, or getting one's local news via a Louisville paper.

"In a word," he continued, "what would any of us do if we all tried to...[give] all our support to foreign interests? This principal carried out by every body in every thing would make Columbia a town that has been.

"In fifty years from now when a traveler drove up to in front of the post office and Montgomery Ward & Co. ware house, a venerable farmer from Bliss, as he loaded into his wagon merchandise shipped from Chicago, would tell the traveler that this is where Columbia used to be."


This story was posted on 2017-01-08 12:39:31
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