ELKTON — Each week, we take a look back in time to examine what was on the minds of Cecil County readers. Rotating through the Whig’s 177-year history, we hope to not only provide direct text from our archives, but also context as to why the issue was important at the time.
Join us as we thumb through the pages of our history.
July 28, 1894 (125 years ago)
This story was a new one to us, and a fascinating bit of forgotten history. Coxey’s Army was a protest march by unemployed workers led by Ohio businessman Jacob Coxey. They marched on Washington, D.C. in 1894, the second year of a four-year economic depression that was the worst in United States history to that time. Officially named the Army of the Commonwealth in Christ, its nickname came from its leader and was more enduring. It was the first significant popular protest march on Washington, and the expression “Enough food to feed Coxey’s Army” originates from this march.
Coxeyism in Elkton
The incendiary and socialistic character of the Coxey Commonweal movement had its fitting illustration in Elkton last week upon the visit of Marshal Carl Brown and his contingent of seventy nondescripts. As stated in the Whig of last week, the tramps reached Elkton on Friday morning, and being refused quarters on the Fair Grounds, proceeded to Gilpin’s bridge on the northern limit and there encamped. Browne evidently expected the citizens of the town to welcome his gypsy band with open arms and well stocked pantries, as his commissary wagon was at once started out but which trip met with little success. The officers of the town very properly notified the lender that no public disorder or inflammatory speech would be tolerated. Browne became defiant, and in the evening, after ordering the men to cut clubs, formed a column and marched into town, he at the light mounted on a horse and followed by the army band: a bass drum, kettledrum, cymbals, two fifes and five dirty musicians. After marching down North and out East Main street, the column returned to the Court House, and at the command of Browne broke ranks and collected around a platform wagon from which Browne intended delivering his Coxey harangue. Apprehending difficulty, and as the streets were being blocked, the officials ordered the Commonwealers to continue their march out of the town limits and there continue the meeting. Browne, after making a retort to the effect that free speech was prohibited in Elkton and America generally, marched down Main street to the lot of George Shivery, in Little Elk, where the meeting was continued to quite a good sized audience, which had been attracted by curiosity. Browne’s pent up wrath and venom now came forth to behold itself. Mounting his platform wagon he hurled invectives and denunciations upon the civil authorities and drew caricatures of certain persons in Elkton who had not complied with his peremptory demands and wishes.
The Commonweal left Elkton Saturday night for Wilmington, the majority making the city on freight trains. While in that city Browne spoke of his Elkton experience as follows:
“ln Elkton they tried to stop us from encamping there and having a meeting, but Mr. Shivery, who has a large place, invited us to camp on his property, and we did so. They were not going to let us parade and bailiff met us outside of the town, who told us we could not parade, and that if we insisted be would call out the militia. All my men cut sticks along the Elk river and marched into Elkton and no one said a word.”
The band is en route to Now York to advocate the Coxey plans and will tramp by way of Philadelphia and Atlantic City.