Colorful Journalism in Fort Wayne was written by Herbert C. Bredemeir, a long-time local journalist and presented before the Fort Wayne Quest Club on January 28, 1966: The Fort Wayne Times was a Whig paper and some of lawyer/editor Dawson’s antagonism toward President Lincoln may have been generated by the fact that, even though Lincoln had appointed him Governor of Utah Territory in 1861, he did not hold that office very long. When Dawson first got to Salt Lake City, he made a patriotic speech on December 10, 1861, which should have made him immensely popular with his Mormon constituents. He conceded every contention of the Mormons that the compromise of 1850 recognized in principle that each state and territory should decide for itself what local or domestic institutions and laws the people should have.

Apparently, however, according to historians of that era, his personal life was not above reproach. Writers of that era are fully agreed as to the immediate reason for Dawson’s sudden departure and it was not because of his speech, or, how badly he was injured in the beating. Cowley, in his Life of Wilford Woodruff, accuses Dawson of a “social and moral delinquency.” He says that Woods Reynolds, a stage coach driver, and others, avenged an insult by “Whipping his Excellency (Dawson) at a way station.” Critical J. H. Beadle concedes in his Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism that Governor Dawson was mixed up in a discernable affair and, in consequence of many threats on his life, hurriedly fled the territory. He (Governor Dawson) was waylaid, he states, in Weber Canyon and received a terrible beating by horse whip, which he deserved for his cowardice, and, if the charge be true, “for his detestable bad taste.” In any case Governor Dawson proved to be a terrible disappointment both to the Mormons as well as to the officials in Washington who had sent him to Utah in the spirit of friendliness. Dawson’s personal peccadillo’s, temperament, his moral laxity, false rumors and the Mormons opposition to the federal policy of abolition of polygamy were all factors in causing tension between Dawson and the Utah Territory.

Dawson was replaced by Stephen S. Harding, also of Indiana, and returned to Fort Wayne; he never fully recovered from his beating and public humiliation. During his brief tenure as governor in the Utah Territory, Dawson had kept in touch with the people in Fort Wayne by editorial correspondence. Both before and after his experience as governor, Dawson was not averse to making political statements. He took a definite stand against Buchanan. He accused him of having a “weak and vacillating character,” and “glaring inconsistency” and “inordinate love of place.” It is interesting to note in the paper that the names of all males in the country who were exempt from the civil war were listed with their reasons: no teeth, leprosy, short leg, crazy fits, club foot, and hernias. Considering that Fort Wayne had a population of between ten and eleven thousand in the early 1860s, Mr. Dawson did a very credible job of newspaper publishing and editing. In 1872 he wrote a series of articles for the Fort Wayne Daily Sentinel which he called “Charcoal Sketches of Old Times in Fort Wayne.” Dawson died on September 10, 1877.

What a newspaper does in reality is to assemble a reading audience and then sell to advertisers the right to address that audience after the newspaper has finished talking to them. Most people have at one time or another expressed and felt exasperation with a newspaper or with the person who edits the newspaper, no doubt feeling that they could do a better job than the man who was editing it. To be continued.

The Waynedale News Staff
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John Stark

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