Ari Armstrong, Exclusives, Mesa County, Uncategorized

Armstrong: Seeing reflections of today in Palisade’s history

“If you are hunting health, wealth, and happiness, come to Palisade.” So says the inaugural edition of the Palisade Tribune, June 6, 1903. That seems like a very long time ago, yet I personally knew people, my great grandparents, who lived then.

Recently my family toured around Palisade, the little town just east of Grand Junction where the canyons open into farmland, the place where I did much of my growing up. We visited my family’s old house on 5th Street, the house my family had built in Vineland (east of the river) on peach land that used to belong to my grandfather, and other places of personal significance.

We also visited the place that used to be the fruit co-op, where, as I saw as a youth, farmers would bring their fruit to transport down the rails or by truck. That land now houses a distillery and a brewery. The farmers now sell directly or at local stands. The town is at once familiar and alien.

Because of my history with the town, I was interested to see a notice from the Palisade Historical Society: “Thanks to generous private donors, and support from the Colorado historic Newspapers Collection, 207 more issues of The Palisade Tribune are now digitized and available on the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC) and Wyoming State Library databases! You can browse, read, or search 3,347 issues of Palisade’s newspaper of record from June 6, 1903, through December 1970.”

That’s a lot of history! Here’s how the first issue of the paper introduced itself: “Again, we are pleased to note, Palisade has a newspaper of its own—a thing which has gotten to be a necessity in all well regulated communities and one which ranks with the church and school in doing good offices for the people in the locality where they are published.”

Down the left of the front page are ads for a general store, a drug store, a barber shop, a restaurant, a billiard and pool room, and a blacksmith. The first column offers tidbits of news. “Cherries are ripe.” “Marshall Graham was a Junction visitor Sunday.” “The first cutting of alfalfa is now ready to harvest.” “The light peach crop in the south and east means a great deal better prices for the Palisade article.”

Some of the political concerns are familiar. The paper announces new school teachers and comments, “Good schools are the backbone of a community and much attention should be given them.”

Then as now, people worried about crime. A Frank Mahany was convicted of killing someone for fishing at a lake apparently owned or claimed by “an Englishman by the name of Radcliffe . . . without a permit from the said Englishman,” for whom Mahany “was acting as a flunky.” In certain respects we’re a bit more civilized now. The sheriff, reports the paper, had to hide Mahany to prevent the locals from organizing “a genuine ‘neck-tie’ party.”

Then as now, various parties pitched health remedies sometimes of dubious value. But then the ads appeared in the newspaper and in some cases were laid out to resemble news articles! The third page of the paper promotes Doan’s Kidney Pills, a cuticura skin ointment (a variant of which is currently on the market and of which I have no opinion), and “Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound” for menopause. The Tribune apparently saw no irony in running such ads next to a line from a news commentary: “Probably the most impossible, hopeless task on earth is to overtake a lie.”

And, then as now, people fought over “fake news.” The Tribune summarizes the case of John G. Carlisle of Kentucky, once a Democratic presidential hopeful. Here is what Carlisle was reported to have said in a speech: “I deny that the United States is a nation! It is a vicious system that has destroyed sovereign states and oppressed nine millions of people in the south. If a state has no right of secession she certainly has no right of revolution. . . . The day will come when South Carolina will rid herself of the barbarous political buzzards of the north.” Inflammatory stuff. Apparently a previous iteration of the Tribune republished the speech in that form.

Here is what Carlisle said, according to the paper of 1903: “I did not say that the government is a ‘vicious system,’ but that at that time the policy of the administration was vicious; I have always held that the constitutional right to secede did not exist; there was no verbatim report of the speech, for no reporter was present; an opposition paper picked up from the audience a few stray recollections of what I said, strung them together and published them.” Although I immediately suspect anyone who discusses the alleged viciousness of the North without mentioning the obvious viciousness of slavery that the North finally ended, apparently the papers initially misreported Carlisle’s words rather dramatically.

A problem with the truthsome story about Carlisle is that it is nestled between ads for snake-oil remedies and a dubious account, reprinted from the Kansas City Journal, of an “Indian” who approached a foolish and insulting “white man” and “struck the white man in the face with a rough, heavy glove.” The white man’s slack jaw supposedly indicated, as the “Indian” correctly surmised, “an unfailing sign of cowardice.” Apparently this tidbit is a made-up morality tale, I guess, about why you should not insult people or respond passively when someone slaps you in the face. For modern readers this is strange for a newspaper.

Reading this old print, now digitized and put online, I am struck both by how people have improved society in various ways and how people still suffer many of the same foibles.

These days, those seeking health can hike or ride the trails around Palisade (just bring plenty of water!). Those seeking wealth—well, as my grandfather experienced, farming can be a tough business. Some people do quite well hawking peaches or producing delicious alcoholic beverages, including wines. As for happiness, I still remember as a child plucking the perfect peach, almost the Platonic form of a peach, off of a tree and devouring it on the spot. Through the generations, to reach for a peach has never gotten old.

Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.


Our unofficial motto at Complete Colorado is “Always free, never fake, ” but annoyingly enough, our reporters, columnists and staff all want to be paid in actual US dollars rather than our preferred currency of pats on the back and a muttered kind word. Fact is that there’s an entire staff working every day to bring you the most timely and relevant political news (updated twice daily) from around the state on Complete’s main page aggregator, as well as top-notch original reporting and commentary on Page Two.

CLICK HERE TO LADLE A LITTLE GRAVY ON THE CREW AT COMPLETE COLORADO. You’ll be giving to the Independence Institute, the not-for-profit publisher of Complete Colorado, which makes your donation tax deductible. But rest assured that your giving will go specifically to the Complete Colorado news operation. Thanks for being a Complete Colorado reader, keep coming back.

Comments are closed.