He was a 109-pounder
with piercing eyes, a walrus mustache, and a pen of penitence that
dug furrows in the conscience of East
When his words
evoked the wrath of northern carpetbaggers, they arrested him. Lacking
a jail, they tied him to a tree on Jasper's
courthouse square. But he had his revenge. When he died, he
was buried with a Confederate flag.
He was Captain
Edward I. Kellie, a plucky little publisher who in 1865 founded
the Jasper News-Boy.
have called Kellie the Mark Twain of East
Texas because their lives were remarkably alike. Twain dreamed
of being a cowboy. So did Kellie. Twain labored in a print shop
as a boy. So did Kellie. Twain loved the river and longed to captain
a steamboat. So did Kellie.
Both Twain and
Kellie possessed in their writings a biting wit that almost drew
blood. A Kellie biographer could have been alluding to Twain when
he wrote in the 1920s: "His editorials were witty and colorful,
and one was never left in the dark as to his views."
Kellie's parents died of yellow fever at New Orleans in 1856. Three
years later, he headed for Texas with the cowboy fever, landing
Hunting for work, he landed a job as a printer's helper. He stayed
there a year, moved to Sabine Pass, and found another printing job.
In 1861, when the Civil War erupted, he quit his job and joined
the Confederate Army. "We drilled on the prairie for about six months,"
he wrote. "Seeing no chance to fight, six of us under age packed
our duds without asking anybody and went up to Jasper County, where
we learned a company was going to war."
into battle came at Elk Horn, Arkansas, but he wrote disgustingly
of the experience: "I never did know which whipped what, as the
federals quit and so did we, they going north and we going south."
In 1865, with
the battle flag of his Confederate company hidden in his uniform,
he returned to Jasper.
From the ruins of an old newspaper, he found a hand press and a
box of jumbled type, rented an office, and started the weekly
his scoldings as the News-Boy's editor.
On crime: "A
Missouri horse thief was hung to a telephone pole on his way to
election...this manner of polling a voter is calculated to deaden
one's interest in politics.
"We always thought Masonry was a good thing...but this stripping
a fellow and tearing his undershirt all to pieces, we don't like.
We ain't got but two undershirts."
During his editor's
career, Kellie left Jasper
with a mystery. In 1872, he reported that the News-Boy had received
a cable from Queen Victoria asking that a subscription be sent to
Buckingham Palace, claiming the News-Boy "is impossible to live
without." Kellie never said if the wire was genuine or a hoax.
In 1880, Kellie
left the News-Boy to fulfill a lifelong ambition. He joined a steamboat
crew at Sabine Pass an eventually became a captain and pilot, but
continued his New-Boy columns. He later entered politics and won
a county office. "I made such a record that I got beat by a Prohibitionist.
I did not believe in prohibition, and nearly every preacher took
to the stump and succeeded in beating me by 100 votes," he wrote.
On his deathbed,
Kellie extracted from his daughter a promise to bury him with his
cherished Confederate flag in his casket.
historian pleaded with the daughter to preserve the old flag in
a museum. But she was resolute and Kellie went to his grave with
the flag next to his body.