The Chautauqua was a hit so far in our city 100 years ago. All three newspapers carried glowing reports about the presentations and attendance. This article was on the front page of The Havre Plaindealer’s August 12, 1916 issue:
“HUNDREDS ENJOY THE CHAUTAUQUA
“All the Numbers Prove Interesting the Entertaining
“Hundreds of Havreites and many visitors to the city have taken advantage of the Chautauqua that opened in the city Tuesday evening, and the large tent has been well filled at both the afternoon and evening shows. Among the lecturers who have already appeared are Victor Murdock of Kansas, Franzke, and others who proved good entertainers. The musical features are of a high order and have been greatly enjoyed.
“The Chautauqua closes with the appearance tomorrow of the Hawaiians and a noted lecturer.
“Concerning the Chautauqua lectures, Rev. T. S. Dulin had the following to say to The Plaindealer:
“’The Chautauqua lectures have all been of a high order. Each number seems to be the best. And each number gives a strong argument for the Christian ideal. Dr. Boyle, Victor Murdock and Prof. Franzke all gave great addresses. Each orator presented the Man of Galilee as the solution of all of the world’s problems. Victor Murdock, war correspondent for Colliers, gave a most graphic description of the European conflict, of midnight battles in the sky both in London and Paris. Then he spoke for preparedness in the United States. He assured us that we have serious problems, that we must stand for the right and for the interests of the people. Christ in the sacrifice of himself, spoke the lads words in the interests of universal brotherhood. Adherence to the Christ principles in the heart of the individual, will bring in the golden age of America. Ernest J. Sias spoke on “Boosting our Home Town”. It was an effort worthy of the occasion. The musical numbers have all been most excellent. It is hoped that the Chautauqua has come to be a permanent institution in Havre. It certainly stands for the higher ideals. It was born in the brain of Dr. J. H. Vincent, and is deservedly popular in practically all the larger towns in all of the states. Montana is justly proud of Prof. Franzke, who brought to us greetings from the great Judith Basin country. He is one of the foremost educators in our state.”
Unfortunately, the Chautauqua would not be a “permanent institution” in Havre. Chautauquas, an adult education movement that traveled throughout the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, started in New York in the town of the same name. It featured speakers, musicians, teachers, entertainers, preachers and popular figures of the day. Oftentimes, it also had a “Junior” session meant for the youth of the community, and it was offered in Havre as well. The circuit Chautauquas died out in the 1920s, but “daughter” Chautauquas, independent from the circuit and in communities willing to give it a more permanent place in their towns, took hold in some places in the U. S., but today there are only three. The “Mother” Chautauqua still exists in New York State, and there is controversy over the original Amphitheatre being razed and replaced with a replica containing modern amenities. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has declared the building a national treasure (and it is), and is assisting a group dedicated to the preservation of the original structure and offering a preservation based alternative to upgrading the building rather than tearing down history for the sake of “progress”.
The Chautauqua would later play a role in the scandalous, so-called “murder-suicide” of Reverend Leonard Christler and Margaret Carleton, estranged wife of the District Judge. Popular legend has it that a “crazed” Margaret shot and murdered her lover, Reverend Christler, in his home then turned the gun on herself. “Poor crazy Margaret. Isn’t that a shame?” was the story given by Havre authorities, but further examination, thanks to the coroner’s inquest and news reports from papers outside of Havre’s borders, strongly suggest a double murder with the perpetrator getting away with it.
However, you can attend a gathering in the spirit of the Chautauqua! The Russell Museum in Great Falls is hosting two entertainers on August 20, 2016.
Plans continued on the Hill County Fair. A hot air balloon race was planned, and of course the rodeo.
Here is an entry in the ever popular “Society” column in the Plaindealer:
“Entertains for Visitors
“On Thursday evening this week Mrs. John Koerner was hostess at a box party given at the Lyric theatre honoring a number of young ladies who are visiting in Havre this summer. After the performance the guests repaired to the Koerner home where a three-course lunch was served. Pink and white were the colors used in decorating, and dainty cards marked places for Misses Marian Grey of Minneapolis; Florence Dale, of Renville, Minn.; Florence Lepper; Marian and Katheryn Broadwater; Clara MacKenzie, Cecelia de Lorimer, Virginia Stringfellow, Marjorie Williams and Mrs. Leonard Larson.”
This article was published in the August 12, 2016 issue of the Havre Daily News.