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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

A Drunken Brawl Among Settlers

Editor's Note:

Perhaps Rev. Marsh, raised in a small New England town, educated at Dartmouth, and trained for the church at Andover Theological Seminary, had never witnessed a scene like this before. Seeing people reduced to unrestrained greed and anger, he could only call up in his mind Miltonic visions of Hell.

The paragraph beginning "Never before have I heard..." occupies an entire page of rapid scrawl, which Marsh later violently crossed out. It's possible that in retrospect he felt his pleas to be kept from such people and his claim that God had brought them into his life intentionally, so he could show them a better way, were too self-centered.

July 18th

P.M. 18th July. Whilst sitting in the house and waiting for dinner, a party came across the river who had been over to the traders' store and had probably drank very freely also of the intoxicating cup, and an affray soon took place betwixt two men in which one was struck by a son of one of the men engaged in it, in defense of his father, and some blood was drawn.

And drunk with passion and rage as well [as] by liquor, such horrid oaths and blasphemies were uttered as I never before heard, nor could scarcely conceive that men could utter such, had I not been obliged to hear them. The quarrel lasted for some time, and then ended for short time with the most awful imprecations on the part of one and the blood of the other, before it was done with.

Never before have I heard so much profane language in the same space of time as since I came here upon the W. side of the R. Des Moines in the state of Missouri. Intemperance also abounds, as might naturally be expected, to a very great extent. O Lord, gather not my soul with the congregation of such, nor my life with bloody men. It seems almost as though the forces of darkness are let loose here and even in hell it hardly seems possible they could curse their God & King more horribly.

For a long time those horrid blasphemies sung in my ears and as they died away seemed like the belchings from the infernal pit.

They have little preaching here: once in a while a Methodist Preacher passes along and preaches on a week day. The Sabbath is very little regarded by most, and profaneness, intemperance and gambling abound.

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