April 9, 1894: Coxey Puts Up Toll

Headline from The Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, April 10, 1894

“One dollar eighty-seven cents,” said Mrs. Clabaugh resolutely. Coxey paid the money in nickels and pennies, took a receipt, and the army marched on.

UNIONTOWN, Pa., April 9.-[Special.]– One lone woman met Coxey’s army of the commonweal in combat today and ignominiously defeated it. The woman’s name is Mrs. Annie Clabaugh and she is tollkeeper at the toll-gate two miles east of Brownesville. Mrs. Clabaugh, with no more deadly weapon than a woolen fascinator, hold up Coxey’s army on the high road and forced it to pay toll. Carl Browne delivered along harangue to which the little woman listened with becoming patience. At its close she said:

“I don’t know anything about reincarnation at all, I want you to pay your toll.”

“Commonweal, halt,” shouted Browne. This order appeared somewhat superfluous because the army was comfortably roosting on the wayside fences. “Madam,” continued Browne. “You, no doubt, believe you are doing your duty, but I want to tell you that I shall order the commonweal to camp right here until you decide to let us pass.”

‘You can do all the camping you want to.” replied Mrs. Clabaugh cheerfully, “but you won’t pass this gate until you have paid toll.” The army continued to roost, and the horses cropped grass at the roadside. In ten minutes Coxey got tired of sitting in solitary grandeur In the middle of the turnpike. He called Carl Browne, and the two drove back to town to consult a lawyer. After a little they returned.

“I understand,” said Browne as Mrs. Clabaugh again came for the toll, ” that funerals and church gatherings pas free. That lets us out. This is a funeral procession; it is the funeral of all the existing parties and the birth of a new one.”

“I guess this isn’t a funeral according to my notions,” replied Mrs. Clabaugh quietly.

“Then we go through as a church,” argued Browne, “this is the greatest church on earth -the Church of the Commonweal of Christ.”

“It isn’t what I call a church procession,” said the tollkeeper

“Well, I’ll pay this toll then,” said Coxey in a rage, ” but I pay it under protest; and reserve the right to try this case in the courts. Do you want to take the responsibility?”

“One dollar eighty-seven cents,” said Mrs. Clabaugh resolutely. Coxey paid the money in nickels and pennies, took a receipt, and the army marched on.

“Little Bobby” marches with Coxey’s Army – 1894.
“Little Bobby” was the bagpiper who played from Uniontown, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C.
By Washington Area Spark on Flicker. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Today’s twelve-mile march along the National Turnpike was the best walking the commonweal has yet had. No lunch at all was given the men, and they had to walk from 9 o clock in the morning until 6 o clock at night without either food or water.

Several delegations met Coxey at small villages along the road and got him to deliver speeches. Uniontown is treating the army with unusual hospitality. A big delegation and a band met the army a mile out of town and escorted it to the limits. There twelve motor cars were in waiting to transport the army to its company ground at Mountain View Park, but the men preferred to march through town and take the cars on the other side.

At the camp the army was met by Jasper Johnson, “Weary” Iler, and Astrologer Kirkland. These men have been on exhibition at a Pittsburg dime museum and have been dis- honorably discharged from the army. They want to, probably because they have in their pockets offers from a New York museum if they make the trip. The three men invaded the camp and tried to raise trouble, but were put just beyond the ropes by the Unknown. The astrologer Is much exercised over the matter. He says he will go along anyhow. and will try to raise an army of his own. Tomorrow the army will march to Farrington, which is way up in the mountains and consists of one house. The real hardships of the trip will begin when the army leaves Uniontown in the morning.

From The Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, April 10, 1894.


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