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Prohibition, parochial schools often mentioned in 1920-22 - Arkansas Catholic - April 30, 2011
The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Prohibition, parochial schools often mentioned in 1920-22

Time Capsule 1920-1922A 33-part series on history mined from the first 100 years of Arkansas Catholic and its predecessors.

Published: April 30, 2011   
Arkansas Catholic file
The Brothers of St. Francis came to Arkansas in 1921 to renovate the Armstrong Springs resort into a protectory for boys, at Bishop John B. Morris’ request. The Morris School for Boys closed in 1993.

With the end of the war, The Guardian entered into a celebratory and more hopeful time, continuing to publish an eight-page broadsheet paper weekly with editor-in-chief Father Augustine Stocker, OSB., who continued to serve as Subiaco prior.

  • In The Guardian 1920-1922
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  • The pope’s work for peace continued to be explored in the paper. His reconciliation encyclical ran in the July 3, 1920, issue: "Benedict XV makes momentous declarations on world peace and means by which it may be preserved."

    Unrest continued in some countries in the world, including the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia. European countries contended with famine, which the pope called for famine relief in the Jan. 10, 1920, issue. The situation in Ireland, as was the continuing struggles in Mexico, received recurring coverage in the paper. All of the struggles in Russia, Ireland and Mexico carried a theme of fighting over religious beliefs, trying to limit or eliminate religion (and for some, specifically Catholicism) for people in their borders. "Peace in Ireland being halted by religious hatred," was a headline from Feb. 19, 1921.

    Anti-immigrant sentiment did exist in the state, and in the nation. It did not show up often in The Guardian, but an editorial on Feb. 19, 1921, shed light on the issue. In "Save the honor of Arkansas," Father Stocker writes of a proposed bill in the Arkansas legislature to ban all languages except English, even in printed material. "It is bad enough that anybody had the misfortune of conceiving it, so that the rumor about it got abroad to confirm the maligners of our state in their false opinions that Arkansas is hopelessly backward." Father Stocker himself was a master of seven or eight languages.

    Pope Benedict XV, who led the Church during the World War and advocated for peace and reconciliation among all nations, died of pneumonia on Jan. 22, 1922, after being ill for less than a week. The Jan. 28, 1922, issue announced his death with the headline of "World mourns death of Holy Father, Pope Benedict XV. The Pontiff of Peace during world’s great war passes away while nations are endeavoring at length to formulate the peace his wisdom and benign influence might have accomplished long ago."

    The College of Cardinals elected a new pope after seven ballots on Feb. 5, 1922. The Feb. 11, 1922, issue reported that Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, became Pope Pius XI.

    Father Stocker’s leadership for The Guardian would end with his death in late November 1922. The Nov. 25, 1922, issue announced his death. "As The Guardian goes to press this week a fateful wire informs us of the death at Fort Smith of our editor-in-chief, the very Rev. Doctor Stocker, OSB, prior of the New Subiaco Abbey at Subiaco, Ark." The next issue covered his life and contributions to the Diocese of Little Rock and Subiaco Abbey and Academy. Father George H. McDermott, who was managing editor under Father Stocker, took over as the leader of The Guardian at this time.

    War’s end brings anti-Catholic sentiment back to Arkansas

    During the war, Catholics in Arkansas enjoyed a relative peace. With the end of the war, the issues resurfaced again, much to their dismay. An editorial, "The secret behind persecutions," in the April 22, 1922, issue addressed this. "Some Catholics get faint-hearted when they notice that there is no pause in the persecution looming up against the Church, The war, they had fondly hoped, which had shown the equal patriotism of all classes of citizens, was the end of all religious animosity in this country. Vain illusion," Father Stocker wrote.

    The Ku Klux Klan emerged nationally as a force of racial and religious persecution, and Catholics were on the group’s radar. In 1922, the paper reported that in St. Louis, the Klan tried to donate $15,000 to the Boy Scouts of America, which they declined.

    No mention of the group was made specifically in terms of Arkansas, except for an article originally published in the Arkansas Methodist and reprinted in The Guardian in August 1921. "The anti-thesis of Americanism. Ku Klux Klan denounced after careful study by secretary of Methodist Home Missions Council."

    The issue of anti-Catholic hatred grew disturbing, as several priests were murdered, one in California by a Klansman and another in South Dakota, both after being lured out on the pretense of visiting someone who was sick.

    "Rev. J.E. Coyle Birmingham pastor murdered by minister," an article in July 23, 1921, reported the story of a priest who was shot by a Protestant minister. The minister’s daughter married a Catholic and Father Coyle performed the ceremony.

    In Arkansas, prohibition and education reform continued to worry Catholics and the Church. In an editorial in the April 27, 1921, issue Father Stocker wrote, "Temperance is a cardinal virtue primarily concerned with moderation in sense enjoyments. In its wider sense, however, it comprises every kind of moderation; and he possess the cardinal virtue of temperance in its completeness who is a master in those others kinds of moderation as well. While we are writing these lines, the Congress of the United States is endeavoring to come to an agreement about the enforcement of prohibition."

    The call from some to end parochial schools in favor of federal or state-mandated education continued during this time. An article in Jan. 27, 1920, discussed the problem. "School legislation of 1919 effecting Catholic interests. 800 new laws dealing with education were proposed in state and 12 in Congress." Other articles appeared in later issues that talked about the tremendous costs of some of the proposed bills and how parochial schools save the state money -- an estimated $100 million in regards to the costly federal Smith-Towner bill. The positive benefits of Catholic education was also a frequent topic with articles like the one on July 24, 1920, "Catholic schools teach religion and Americanism."

    In response to the influx of war veterans in need of education, the Knights of Columbus in Arkansas "maintained" an evening school at the Hotel Marion building in Little Rock. The March 17, 1920, issue reported that the school opened free of charge for those currently serving and ex-servicemen. On opening, the school had 320 registered. Both male and female teachers taught classes including accounting, bookkeeping, stenography, typewriting, elementary education and mechanical drawing.

    Bishop John B. Morris also asked the Brothers of St. Francis to renovate the Armstrong Springs resort in White County into a protectory for boys in 1921, which was known as the Morris School for Boys.

    Next week: Stories from 1923-1925

    In The Guardian 1920-22



    Pope Benedict blesses National Catholic Welfare Council’s News Service

    New church at Harrison. Bishop Morris dedicates the first church erected in the county of Boone.

    St. Vincent Infirmary now standardized in Class A. First hospital in Arkansas declared so by American College of Surgeons


    St. Joseph’s Orphanage back home again. Benedictine sisters and children now "at home" on Belmott Hill after temporary domicile in city: The Great War disturbed many homes in many ways. St. Joseph’s certainly did its part

    Indian virgin may be first North American canonized: Kateri Tekakwaitha, a Mohawk Indian maiden

    Eight novices pronounce first temporary vows. Impressive ceremony held at Mount St. Mary’s Convent of Mercy.


    Palestine clash feared as a result of Jewish policy

    Prominent citizen donates of his savings to St. Vincent Infirmary: Mark M. Cohn donates $300

    School children of Jonesboro give to seminary: St. Roman School children and teacher send check to seminary

    Pope Pius talks to women about modest dress: Immoral fashions were the theme

    Bishop Morris ordains six priests and three deacons at Subiaco Abbey. Largest class on record for the Benedictines

  • Click here to see the index of stories in Arkansas Catholic's time capsule series.

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