and a Gunfight
In an emerging town,
Charles Edwin Gilbert soon had competition. The Magnetic Quill
was established in 1882, exact date unknown, by William L. Gibbs,
a part-time preacher who for a time preached a religion based
on a literal interpretation of the Bible. He believed in triple
immersion, once for "The Father," once for "The
Son" and once for "The Holy Spirit."
and Gibbs took opposing positions on many issues. Gilbert pushed
for immigrants to settle West Texas. Gibbs favored the open range
cattlemen. Gilbert promoted the Fair. Gibbs suggested that some
of the crops Gilbert had displayed in the 1884 Fair had not been
grown locally. Gilbert wanted Abilene to incorporate as a town.
Gibbs thought the village was doing well without that expense.
Gilbert wanted the land to be fenced. Gibbs opposed fencing.
The two fought their own printed
version of the Barbed Wire War. The editorial battles soon became
financial warfare. Gilbert was supported by farmers and struggling
businessmen. Gibbs had support of the "cattle barons."
Gilbert recalled later that for
18 months in a row he operated at a net loss averaging $150 per
month. In March 1884, Gilbert took two bold actions. He turned
his struggling weekly into a daily publication. And he helped
promote a "back fire," a third newpaper.
Gilbert had on his staff an excellent
printer, James L. Lowry, a native of Illinois, resident of Abilene
since 1883. Gilbert suggested that Lowry start a new paper, offering
him several options. Lowry decided to go it alone. He began The
Taylor County News on March 27, 1885. It was a readable,
informative journal, filled with news about the development of
the rolling plains.
About a month after he started
publication, Lowry had the opportunity to cover a big local event
-- the duel between Gilbert and Gibbs. No copies of their papers
are available, but Lowry proclaimed the story, "San Jacinto's
Day Celebrated by a Shooting Match -- An Editorial Encounter
in Which They Try to Prove That the Sword is Mightier Than the
In her thesis on The Abilene
Reporter-News, Mrs. Naomi Kincaid wrote that the oldtimers
said the fight came about because of Gibbs' remarks about Gilbert's
opposition to labor unions.
The two met on Pine Street, Gilbert
armed with a loaded buggy whip and a pistol, Gibbs with a "pepper"
pistol. Five shots were fired. "Gilbert received a glancing
blow across the forehead and Gibbs had a bruised arm from a blow
with a loaded whip," Lowry wrote. Gilbert, who had gone
hunting before the fight, was charged with aggravated assault
and fined $25 and costs. Possibly as an act of apology, Gilbert
resigned as Methodist Sunday School superintendent.
The Magnetic Quill went out of business in September 1885,
and The Abilene Reporter and The Taylor County News continued.
The papers were competitive, but without personal bitterness.
The Reporter was a sometime daily, sometime weekly paper,
according to the degree of local prosperity.
Gilbert sold The Reporter
in May 1886 to Dr. Alf H.H. Toler of The Colorado (City)
Clipper and moved to Dallas where he purchased The Dallas
Times. Later, he merged The Times with The Dallas
Herald and for many years was editor-publisher of the newspaper
which bore the name he created for it (The Dallas Times-Herald)
until it ceased publication.
Owners and Closing the Saloons
(Abridged from Katharyn Duff's
April 19, 1981 "The Story of a Prairie Newspaper" You
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