The Wishart Murder

Des Moines, Iowa
Thursday, July 9, 1891


He Takes Up His Pen to defend Frank Pierce, The Murderer.
Mayor Campbell Accused of

Fostering a Monopoly Driving Pierce to Madness.
Leonard Brown Marks Out Pierce's Line of Defense,
When the Trial Comes.

EDITOR CAPITAL:  I sincerely lament the sad death of Comrade Wishart, nor do I wish or intend to shield any guilty man from punishment;  no, not even the mayor of the city of Des Moines--if he was in any way responsible for the awful tragedy.  No man has done more than I to commemorate Iowa soldiers.  I am poor;  but I impoverished myself, when I had a good start in the world, to build a monument to the memory of Des Moines and Polk county soldiers.  My "American patriotism," is a better monument to commemorate their valor than a pile of marble would be though it cost a million dollars.  I will do all in my power to fittingly honor the memory of Comrade Wishart—a veteran member of the Second Iowa infantry.  My only brother served four years and five months in Co. D of the same regiment.

    Let the whole truth be spoken.  Let all the facts that led up to that bloody affair be told.  Comrade Wishart would be living today if Mayor Campbell had done his duty.  I have been a friend to Mayor Campbell.  When he hired a hack at the expense of the city, and started out to find a dumping ground in which the Des Moines scavengers might bury the filth of the city, and failed to find it, but was accused of getting so drunk that he had to be brought home in an ambulance, I took pains to tell the mayor that I thought he was falsely accused by the press, and persecuted.

    The mayor will have to explain to the public way he permitted Becker to fence up Ninth street;  he will have to explain to the public why he tried to give Graham the monopoly of the scavenger business for a city of 60,000 people, when that business is by law free and open to all men who delight to follow the sweet-scented occupation.  Did not Wesley Redhead deed the land at the foot of Ninth street to the public three years ago, and was it not unlawful to fence it up?  Had not the board of health ordered the scavengers to deposit the offal of the city cesspools, at the foot of Ninth street and upon the public grounds? Was it not the right of any man to be a scavenger and to dump upon that ground without molestation?  Would not any citizen have the right to clean his own vaults or to hire whomsoever he pleased to clean them, and at as cheap a price as he could, and to haul the filth to the foot of Ninth street, as the board of health had directed, digging holes in the ground and burying it?  Yes, he would, and the mayor knows he would have that right.

    Where did Mayor Campbell get the authority to make a monopoly of that useful and necessary occupation, and to give that monopoly into the hands of one man, allowing him to tax the people one-third higher price for the work than others were glad to do it for?  There is something rotten in the Des Moines city hall, higher up than the bottom of her cesspools.  The scavenger Pierce had paid into the city treasury fifty dollars for a license, because the mayor had falsely claimed that a license was required of a scavenger.  After the payment of the money the mayor refused him license.  The mayor arrested him for working without a license.  But the mayor was ??????????????? and it was clear that a scavenger had the right to work without a license, then the mayor refused to allow the scavenger a dumping place for the filth of the city.  He would, it seems, have the city swept with the pestilence rather than do his sovereign duty as mayor of a great city.  The scavenger paid Becker ten dollars a month for the privilege of going through the gate, he has unlawfully placed across the street leading to the public dumping grounds, until Becker informed him that "the mayor's brother had forbidden him in the name of the mayor to allow any other scavenger than Graham to cross through the gate to dump on the public grounds."

    The scavenger demands of the authorities a place for the deposit of the filth of the city.  No place is open to him.  He finds by the records that Ninth street is un-lawfully shut up against him.  He tears down the fence. He removes the obstruction.  He is arrested for malicious  trespass by Becker.  He, after having been confined in jail, arrests Becker for obstructing the public highway.  Becker replaces obstruction in the street and guards the barricade with a Winchester repeating rifle. This looks like war.  This is anarchy.  Thirty-five of forty policemen, standing around with their eyes shut.  They mayor and all his posse inciting it on!  This is mean. This is damnable.  Children are dying by the hundreds in the city because of the stinking cesspools.  It is the heat of summer.  It is the last of June.

    The marshal ordered the scavenger to dump at the foot of Fourth street.  Two days later he countermanded the order.  This was Saturday, June 27th.  On Tuesday morning, June 30th, the scavenger, Frank Pierce, went to the marshal's office with revolvers strapped to his waist because of the state of war and anarchy inaugurated by Becker and the mayor of Des Moines, and he told the marshal that he had no place to dump but at the foot of Ninth street, and that that street was obstructed with an unlawful fence, and he demanded police protection to tear it down.  The marshal sent two policemen, who stood by the Scavenger Pierce, while he tore down the fence and those policemen so guarded him from the beligerant Becker, who had erected the barricade. 

   The wagons loaded with filth got through unmolested by Becker during the forenoon.  At noon while others were at dinner, Becker rebuilt the fortification, re-established his barricade of the street.  Pierce returned with his teams and barrels of filth and could go no further without peril to his own life and the lives of his men, the police having withdrawn their protection who had protected him in the forenoon.

    Comrade Wishart was there with a revolver in his pocket and a star on his breast.  He forbade the scavenger to go farther at his peril.  The scavenger then being as near "the foot of Ninth street" as he could get, ordered holes to be dug in the street as close up to the obstruction erected by Becker as possible, and he had taken up a spade himself to help his men by the holes, when Comrade Wishart thought it his duty to arrest the scavenger without a warrant, which he had no legal right to do, except for a felony.  Comrade Wishart drew his revolver out of his pocket.

    But I prefer to let eye witnesses tell the rest to court and jury whose verdict I trust will be just.


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