21 June 2007

Francis Buck Livesey


This is my great-great grandfather, Francis Buck Livesey. They called him "America's Champion Letter Writer" (or maybe that's just what he called himself). A farmer in Maryland, he wrote over 20,000 letters to newspapers across the country, mostly on the topic of education reform (he got a 2-line obit in Time Magazine when he died in 1925 at the age of 80).

He was quite a character. His letters advocated abolishing public schools and radically revising the American educational system. The Baltimore American called him a "strong and rugged character whose pen cleaves like a sword." I really like him.

In 1959, Time Magazine quoted him in an article about educational reform (it's the only quote from him I've found online):
Pamphleteer Francis B. Livesey blamed public schools for "the Negro problem, the servant problem, the labor problem, the tramp problem, the unemployment problem, the divorce problem, the eyesight problem, the juvenile problem, the bribery problem and the pure-food problem.
I can guess what the unemployment, divorce and bribery problems are... not too sure what he meant by the juvenile problem or (sorry!) the Negro problem. From his other writings, it is clear he was concerned about the treatment of African-Americans. In fact, there's a funny story about some KKK members threatening him, in response to something he wrote in a letter to a newspaper. Apparently, he and his sons waited on the front porch, shotguns in hand, and the KKK left him alone.

My mother's mother's mother (my great-grandmother) was his daughter. He named her Lavinia, but let her chose her own name when she was "old enough." She picked Mabel.

I have one of his papers at home somewhere... I'll try to track it down and may post an excerpt one of these days.

10 comments:

Kim said...

Did you know that Great Granny was not only allowed to pick her own name but also her own religion? She was raised as a Quaker but later became Catholic.

Dan said...

Can you imagine if he'd had a blog back then?

Kim said...

Yes, it would probably be similar to yours!

Kim said...

BTW, I'm pretty amazed at how accessable the Time archives are online.

Kim said...

I mean, accessible.

Trevor Gay said...

Fabulous Dan – what a great character you GG grandad was! It must be great to look back and find out things about our forefathers. I keep promising myself I will do some research about my family history but sadly it is one of those jobs I never get round to.

Deb said...

I'm still working on those journals for you too ~ I've seen them and they are SUPER neat, but for some reason, dad wouldn't let me have them "just yet".

David said...

I've got more information on your great-great-grandfather, too. He was, as he wrote in a letter to the Canton, Ohio, Repository of August 22, 1897, a "leading defender" of the doctrines of the nineteenth-century healer and messiah Francis Schlatter, who treated tens of thousands of sufferers in Denver in 1895 before suddenly disappearing. Livesey wrote an article about Schlatter in the Baltimore Jewish Comment on August 6, 1897. If you find it, I'd appreciate seeing it for a book I'm writing on Schlatter. Be happy to give you my email address.

The Dan Ward said...

@David - Fascinating! Thanks for the comment. I haven't come across the article you referred to, but I'll keep my eyes open. My cousin has some papers from FBC - maybe that article is among them.

You can reach me at the.dan.ward at gmail.com

David said...

Did it. Hope it reaches you.