Understanding the Nature of “Idolatry”

The following is informative only. It is not intended to damn the practitioners of any faith, nor to prove that any practices are correct or are incorrect. Please read objectively, and do not read into what is written, read only what is written and take it at face value. What I DO encourage, is you to do your own, independent research into the matter. Learn as much as you can, and draw a well informed, logical and intelligent conclusion.

Idolatry in our day and age is completely misrepresented and misunderstood. Those who “worship” idols of stone and of wood and of metal and of gems no more believe that the representation of a god fashioned by their hands is a god than you believe a picture of a person is an actual person. From the most developed society to the most primitive, it is understood that these creations are representatives of the divine.  What the God of the Judeo-Christian books says seems confusing, and indicates that people are in fact, worshiping statues.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”

“Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal…”

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!”

“A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk.”

“Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.”

“And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know…”

“Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.”

Many people, reading such things in the sacred books of the Jews and of the Christians are left with the idea that the people actually believed that their creations WERE gods, and that the people were in fact serving the hand-crafted idols themselves. This simply isn’t true, and never has been. Even the ancient story of Abraham, (Midrash Bereishit 38:13) the father of the Jewish faith, makes clear that the idols were nothing more than statues.

“One time a woman came with a basket of bread. She said to Abraham, “Take this and offer it to the gods”. Abraham got up, took a hammer in his hand, broke all the idols to pieces, and then put the hammer in the hand of the biggest idol among them. When his father came back and saw the broken idols, he was appalled. “Who did this?” he cried. “How can I hide anything from you?” replied Abraham calmly. “A woman came with a basket of bread and told me to offer it to them. I brought it in front of them, and each one said, “I’m going to eat first.” Then the biggest one got up, took the hammer and broke all the others to pieces.” “What are you trying to pull on me?” asked Terach, “Do they have minds?” Said Abraham: “Listen to what your own mouth is saying? They have no power at all! Why worship idols?”

Now then… This story makes clear that Terach, the maker of the idols, and Abraham, the one who took offerings to the idols were both aware that the idols themselves were not gods. So we are again left baffled at why the Divine would be so upset about these little statues. Clearly the Jews were extremely concerned with the practice of idolatry to they point where they exclaimed:

“Whosoever recognizes idols has denied the entire Torah; and whosoever denies idols has recognized the entire Torah” (Midrash Sifre, Deut. 54 and parallel passages)

“As soon as one departs from the words of the Torah, it is as though he attached himself to the worship of idols” (Midrash Sifri, Deut 43)

It was forbidden to look upon images (Tosefta to Shabbat 17.1), and even thinking of idolatrous worship was prohibited (Berakhot 12b); if one saw a place where an idol had once stood, he was commanded to utter a special prayer (Berakhot 61a). Sacrifice to an idol or anything which in any way might be associated with idolatry was forbidden. It was even insufficient to reduce an idol to powder and scatter it to the winds, since it would fall to earth and become a fertilizer; but the image must be sunk in the Dead Sea, whence it could never emerge (Avodah Zarah 3.3); nor might the wood of the “asherah” be used for purposes of healing (Pesachim 25a).

Indeed, even in his The Guide to the Perplexed, I:36, the RaMBaM (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon / Maimonides) holds the view that in the original form of idolatry, no one actually believed that their idols were gods; he states that idol-worshipers understood that their idols were only representations of a god, or G-d Himself. Idols are “worshiped in respect of its being an image of a thing that is an intermediary between ourselves and God.”. The RaMBaM, however, goes further in defining idolatry than other Jewish thinkers before or since; he states that it is idolatry to believe that G-d is subject to any affections at all. Not only believing that God has a body, but merely believing “that one of the states of the body belong to Him, you provoke His jealousy and anger, kindle the fire of his wrath, and are a hater, an enemy and an adversary of God, much more so than an idolater.” The RaMBaM spends the first one-third of the Guide attempting to show that a literalist understanding of the metaphors, idioms, and homonyms in the Torah are idolatrous in this regard. For the RaMBaM, and other philosophers in the neo-Aristotelian mold, it is idolatry to believe that God has positive attributes. The RaMBaM’s negation of positive attributes to God reaches its epitomes in the Guide I:56, where he states that “the relation between us and God, may He be exalted, is considered to be non-existent.”

“Know that likeness is a certain relation between two things and that in cases where no relation can be supposed to exist between two things, no likeness between them can be represented to oneself. Similarly in all cases in which there is no likeness between two things, there is no relation between them. An example of this is that one does not say that this heat is like color, or that this voice is like this sweetness. This is a matter that is clear in itself. Accordingly, in view of the fact that the relation between us and Him, may He be exalted, is considered to be non-existent – I mean the relation between Him and that which is other than He – it follows necessarily that likeness between Him and us should also be considered nonexistent.”

Now, we find ourselves even more confused than before. We see the RaMBaM explaining that no one ever believed they were serving a created object, rather they were using it only as a representation of a god or as an attribute of the One True G-d, and yet he goes further than any Jew prior and indeed further than our modern sensibilities and equates even believing that the Divine actually possesses an arm with idolatry. So we are left with the understanding that idols were never worshiped, people never believed in them, and that they were merely “windows to the Divine”.

Let’s look at modern examples of this very same (in explanation) practice which exist within the oldest existing Christian faiths: Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Catholics erect statues of saints, and decorate them with flowers, lighting candles in front of them. The Orthodox adorn their churches with icons of saints, and pray before them, bowing before the icon and kissing it. “You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”. So, how do they explain their creating of statues and writing of icons, as well as their bowing to, kissing, lighting candles and incense before and veneration of these items of wood, stone, metal and jewels? The same exact way that the Hindus and the Buddhists and the tribesmen and any other conceivable faith inclusive of statues, and indeed the same way the RaMBaM described the ancients whom G-d Himself in the Torah accuses, describe their act of creating statues/paintings.

They create these items as a focal point. A focal point of worship. A window into heaven. The created object places their mind onto the Divine or the ascended god/being/human being represented by the manufactured item. The item becomes a representation of the Divine, much as a photograph reminds us of our loved ones dead and gone, or separated by miles. How many people believe that they are engaging in idolatry by printing a photo of their mother to hang on their wall? The same is true of idols. No one in their right mind believes that a shaped and created object, embellished with gold and with jewels, is a god. It is merely a reminder of things divine. A focal point – comparable to a telephone receiver by which they may contact the divine. Ask an Orthodox child about an icon, and he will tell you that he talks to the saint pictured therein, while gazing at the icon. Ask a Catholic who prays while gazing at a crucifix, and they will tell you that they are praying to Christ Himself, while gazing at a reminder of His suffering.

It is no different in any faith. All of these images, statues and shapes made, are representative of a divine being. They are conduits by which the divine may be reached through focus and prayer. But they, themselves, are not gods, nor are they being worshiped. So the question is still not answered… If the assumptions we have made about the ancients, and the explanation given by those engaged in the same or similar practices in the modern world are true, why is the Divine so upset about these little statues and paintings? Are stained glass windows, paintings, statues, even carvings of animals – idols? Are the modern Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Aboriginals and others all guilty of idolatry?

Interestingly enough, the Talmud states (Yoma 69b) that the Men of the Great Assembly managed to remove the idolatry component of the Satan (Evil Inclination) from Jewish life, and it ceased to be a problem. The Talmud also records (Sanhedrin 102b) that Rav Ashi had a debate on Jewish law with idolatrous King Menashe of Judah, and lost. When asked by King Menashe in a dream what the halacha is when eating bread, Rav Ashi responded that he did not know. When Menashe responded with the well-done part first, Rav Ashi, surprised at his knowledge, responded: “As you are so learned, why then did you worship idols?”. Menashe replied: “The drive for idolatry was so strong in my time that, had you been there, you would have lifted your robe to run after me and do the same!”

Happy New Year, 2017!

My dearest friends and family; I wish for you nothing but the best in this new year. May it be filled with happiness, prosperity and success. May none of you experience pain, neglect or sorrow. But most of all, my wish for you is that you will grow in faith, good deeds and in your prayer life. The world isn’t getting any safer, better or more secure. There simply is no better time to decide to make the change. If not now, when? And if you are not for yourself, who will be for you? May the Almighty Creator and Master of the Universe Himself, bless each and every one of you, and give you the strength to serve Him and your fellow man with mercy and with true love.

New Year’s thought:

“When we begin to form good resolutions, G-d gives us every opportunity of carrying them out.” – Ioannis Chrysostomos

My youngest, wishing you a happy new year!



A Final Goodbye

It is with great sorrow that I attended funeral services for a very dear and close friend, the Reverend Father Archimandrite Seraphim Graham Turland following his long battle with cancer. He entered into repose on the evening of December 25th, or early morning of December 26th, 2016. Seraphim was a kind soul, and a man of great consideration for all of creation. A man who would do anything for anyone and not think twice.

His final funerary liturgy was held Tuesday (12/27) at Saint John’s Orthodox Church, 20043 Highway 36, Covington, LA. Services took place at 11:00 AM.

My daughters and I took the very long (13.5 hrs.) overnight drive, to celebrate the life of one of the greatest men I’ve ever had the honour to know. With his death, I lost a very dear friend. A kind soul, a man of great consideration for all of creation. A man who would do anything for anyone and not think twice. He was much like my father, and I feel as if I’ve just lost a second father. May his memory be eternal. My loathing for cancer continues to grow.

Burial took place at 2:00 PM at Memorial Gardens Cemetery located at 2618 MS 43, Picayune, MS. May his memory be eternal!

Below is his Funerary Liturgy Service Booklet:


To those who knew my father Seraphim Graham Turland, he passed away sometime last night. He’d been suffering with cancer for several months and was in a lot of pain; it’s likely that he died in his sleep and did not suffer in his final hours. He was able to get his affairs in order and designate a family friend as the executor of his estate before his passing. I know he requested funeral services and that he be buried in his vestments, but no arrangements have been made yet. I will post more information as I receive it. My condolences go out to all who mourn him. Thank you for being part of his life in his last years.

Matthew Turland

I wanted to say something during the final moments we were with him, but the sleep deprivation coupled with the overwhelming emotion and tears prevented me from doing so. So, at the very least, I wanted to say it here. Firstly, thank you everyone who attended the proceedings and thank you to those that could not physically attend but were there in spirit. My father wasn’t a perfect man…none of us are perfect people. He was stubborn, sometimes argumentative, occasionally a grouch…but those things pale in comparison to how much joy he brought into people’s lives. He lived a very colorful life. Some things that we were so proud of, and other things he was so ashamed of that we will never know as he took with him with his passing. We are all like that, we have our proud moments and our shameful ones. But that goes back to the very moving sermon given by the Bishop during Divine Liturgy. He spoke about aspiring to be more like Him. That is indeed quite the impossible task, but…He knows that. All that He asks, is that you try. That is something my father did in spades. He reached out to many people, helped them with anything that they asked. Whether it be assembling a deck, making Orthodox icons or rosaries, or just transporting someone to a destination. He was there for people he cared for most. Sometimes he didn’t know how to express it, but if you knew him, you knew he always meant well in anything that he did. The joy that he had, wasn’t just joy that he enjoyed on his own, but joy that he shared with everyone around him. If there was a problem, he would mull it over in his head until he had a solution to it, and would also help you fix it…no exceptions. He wouldn’t give up, he was bound and determined to take care of it. And he didn’t give up on being here in this world with us, until he couldn’t go any longer. I thank everyone who surrounded my father, and shared in that very joy that he embraced wholeheartedly. Please pray for him, and cherish every memory that you have of him. Thank you so much for all the support everyone has given to the Turland family, and thank you for allowing my dad to take part in your lives. I hope that he touched you as much as he touched us. God Bless.

Josh Turland

His dog Lucky, is with Laurie (Jim’s daughter I believe) and is doing well.

His Facebook profile has been established by his son Matthew, as a memorial and may be veiwed HERE.

Google Allo and Me

Well, Google is changing things up again. Whether for the good or for the bad remains to be seen.


I downloaded Google Allo to give it a go, but none of my contacts appear to be using it. From initial toying about, it seems to be nothing more than a Googlized Kik with Google Now assistant integrated. It is essentially an advanced Google Hangouts with SMS and a host of other features.

I have for a while, used Google Hangouts as my exclusive SMS solution (though Google provides an exclusive SMS/MMS app Google Messenger), and was very disappointed when the extremely useful in decluttering Hangouts and SMS merging feature was taken away. Additionally, video conversations have moved to Google Duo, while text + stickers + photos etc has moved to Google Allo. I assume Hangouts will remain as a Facebook Messenger competitor for Google+, though with Google’s track record of killing apps and features that people love, it may be in the hot seat. For now, the web site and the app still offer Video Call, Phone Call and Message as options, and if you have a Google Voice number, it still works to call to and from as well as text to and from using Hangouts. It’s very disappointing that they aren’t just bundling all of these features into a single app, if for no other reason than to save space and reduce confusion. Several other companies allow video, photo, SMS, MMS, stickers, drawing etc all from one app, so Google’s reasoning remains unknown.

Their features as touted on the Allo site areas follows:

Respond without typing, in your style.

Smart Reply lets you keep the conversation moving with a single tap by suggesting text and emoji responses based on your personality. For example, it learns if you’re more of a “haha” or “lol” person so the more you use Google Allo, the more “you” the suggestions become.

*Feature only available in English.

Shout, or whisper it, to get your point across.

Add more meaning to your words by adjusting the size of your text. When you need more than ALL CAPS to get your point across, simply slide up to shout, and down to whisper.

Turn any photo into a work of art.

Get creative with the photos you send by doodling on them or adding text. Draw a smiley face, turn your friends into memes, and mix in some color.

*Feature only available on Android.

Say it all with the perfect sticker.

Stickers in Google Allo are designed by independent artists and studios from around the world. From Drama Llama to Food Party, add some fun to the conversation when words aren’t enough.

Meet your personal Google Assistant.

Allo brings you the Google Assistant, preview edition.

Get help from your Google Assistant without leaving the conversation.

Your Assistant can suggest restaurants nearby or movies to check out, right in your conversation. Find videos to share, get directions, and seek answers together with your friends. Just add @google, and your Assistant is ready to help.

Chat one-on-one with your Google Assistant, whenever you need it.

Get the latest scores from the game. Find out how far you are from the airport, and when your flight leaves. You decide what to share with your Assistant, and the more you use it, the more useful it gets.

Say it privately in Incognito mode.

Start an incognito chat to send a message with end-to-end encryption. Incognito mode also comes with expiring chats so you can control how long your messages stick around and private notifications to help keep your chats more discreet.

And of course, the partner app, Google Duo for video calling. Their features as touted on the Duo site are as follows:

Be together in the moment. Get closer to everyone you love with simple, high-quality video calling on iOS and Android.

Face to face with just a tap. Simple one-tap calling and super smooth switching from cell to Wi-Fi make it easy to check in from anywhere.

See what’s up before you answer. Preview incoming video calls from everyone in your contacts with Knock Knock. So whether it’s your mom’s first skydiving trip or your friend’s shiny new ring, you’ll never miss a moment.*

Common Homonyms/Homophones Most Often Abused

Basic words to remember, with their meanings. There are many more less common homonyms/homophones, but these are the most often abused. These words and their meanings are taught in school from second to fourth grade, and reviewed from sixth to eighth grade. Adults really should know their correct usage by now.

Accept – Receive
Except – Exclude
Affect – Impact
Effect – Impression
Allude – Hint
Elude – Evade
Bare – Unclothed
Bear – Endure/The animal
Cite – Give credit
Sight – Vision
Site – Location
Farther – Measurement of distance
Further – Promotion of growth or progress
Pray – Entreat a diety
Prey – Victimize
Precede – Come before
Proceed – Come from
Then – Point in time
Than – Method of comparison
Their – Belonging to them
There – Location
They’re – They are
Two – Number
To – Indicative of motion
Too – Also/Excessive
We’re – We Are
Were – Past tense of are
You’re – You are
Your – Belonging to you

19th Century Guide to Letter Writing

Because of my new pen pal relationship with a Facebook friend, my interest in proper letter writing has been renewed. As a result, I researched a great deal prior to penning a response to the letter I received from Phil. The result is an absolute gem that I discovered which is from the nineteenth century. Below is a public domain version of the manual “How to Write Letters: A Manual of Correspondence” published in 1883. A great resource for anyone that simply wants to do things “the old way”, and re-establish a long forgotten tradition of actually connecting with others on a personal level.

How to Write Letters

The Camon Band Massacre – Mass Murder in Winfield in 1903 – Gilbert Twigg

At present, the Winfield Courier (The Courier Traveler – Stupidest name ever) is running a story on one of the United States first white on white (several white on Native American pre-exist this shooting) mass shootings ever. Interestingly, rather than using their own archives, they are using this BuzzFeed article, broken into four installments. While I admit that the BuzzFeed article is a more interesting read, The Winfield Courier account, as it happened, should also be remembered as written, rather than interspersed with narrative. Not saying that the author of the BuzzFeed article did poorly, just that the paper’s narrative should be read and preserved. Props to Bill Bottorff  for the preservation of the original article, though the site is extremely old and none of the links at the site seem to function. Last update to the author’s site seems to have been in December of 2012.

Winfield Courier, Friday, August 14, 1903.

Last night at 9:15 Gilbert Twigg, a demented young man, deliberately fired into the crowd of promenading people, at Ninth Avenue and Main Street, as Camon’s Band was in the midst of its regular weekly concert. As a result of his wild episode, three men were killed outright, four more were carried from the street in a dying condition and no less than twenty five men and one woman were injured some fatally.57c4c2041a405.image


  • Gilbert Twigg (shooter)
  • Sterling Race
  • Will Bowman
  • Dawson Billiter
  • Otis Carter
  • Roy Davis


  • Elmer Farnsworth reported dying.
  • Port Smithreported dying.
  • Charlie Thomasknee. He is dying at the Winfield Hospital.

Revised list of those who are seriously wounded.

  • Jim Clarkson Shot in the back and arm, serious.
  • Will Moore reported dying.
  • Mrs. John BallardNeck.
  • Rev. Olivershoulder and back, serious.
  • Clyde ReedHip and kidneys.
  • J. B. StoryElbow and side.
  • Billy WilkinsKnee.
  • Charles BairdHead.
  • Arthur Hansford, Troy, West Virginia Hand and has lost sight of one eye.
  • Bill Couchman
  • Arlie Bournette
  • Claude Wagoner
  • Sam Compton leg.
  • Everett Ridgeway Shoulder and lung.
  • E. E. Urie Wrist.
  • H. M. Williams Scalp.
  • Mrs. John D. Brooks
  • Florence Gregg Throat, hand, and leg.
  • Jack Simpson Breast.
  • Al ShoupLeg.
  • Charley Thomasis dying at the Winfield Hospital.
  • Artie Cutler Foot.
  • J. W. Paris.
  • Ben Armstrong’s boy, three miles south of town, leg.

All social events have been declared off on account of last night’s episode. The Catholic ladies who were to entertain Saturday night, announce a postponement. The town is in mourning and every minute brings reports from the hospitals and sad as it is many of the reports are for the worse. Possessed of an hallucination that he was being shadowed by detectives and others who meant him harm. Gilbert Twigg opened fire on the crowd at Ninth and Main last night and after he had meted out cursedness to his hearts content, he took his own life rather than be taken alive.

longform-30216-1458847050-3Twigg lay on his face on the sidewalk about thirty feet west of Main on Ninth, and emptied eight shots into the mass of humanity before him. The weapon used was a number 16 gauge (Later corrected to a 12 gauge) double barreled shot gun and each shell was loaded with twelve bullets, each as large as a good sized pea. At the first shot fired, Clyde Wagoner’s horn was shattered in his hand and at the next, Re Oliver fell from his chair on the band stand.

It would beggar fancy to attempt to describe the suffering of the injured and the sight of prominent young business men dying in pools of their own blood, made strong men turn aside their heads. A hand full of brains on the pavement in front of the Craig book store, with young Dawson Tillitson (later corrected to Dawson Billiter.) laying within a few feet in a pool of his own blood, is a representative picture of the vengeance meted out to an innocent public by the demented man.

After firing his first two shots, Twigg arose and each time he fired he took a step backward, until he was in the alleyway back of Craig’s where he came face to face with night watchman George Nichols and Cal Ferguson, who out of the crowd of several thousand people, were the only men who displayed any disposition to follow the veritable human canon, and then still believing himself innocent and the victim of plotting enemies, Twigg took his own life, rather than be taken alive.

Gilbert Twigg was a smooth faced rather handsome man of about thirty years. The body of the desperado was carried to the street where it was identified by Chance Wells, manager for the Baden Produce company and who was at one time Twigg’s employer. He was a miller, having learned his trade at Burden, this county, and was afterwards employed by the Baden’s in this city. Twigg was somewhat of a globe trotter and has spent several years in the wilds of Old Mexico and Montana, and had been back in Winfield only a few weeks. Twigg had a room in the Thompson block, and when officers went to this room they found a letter in the trunk addressed to the public. It was in an envelope, written of good paper, and in a good, steady handwriting. It is as follows:

“Winfield, Kansas, August 1903.

“I would like to say to those who have interested themselves so much in my welfare (that seems to be the public in general), that I do not and most likely never will know the real cause of being treated in the manner in which I have been treated. I do know that I have never killed any person, that I have never stolen anything, and that I have always been honest, and never violated any laws of our country to my knowledge. These things I know to be true. Now the question arises in my mind as to the real cause of the trouble. Can it be that I have been followed up since I was suspected of something in Winfield over four years ago, or can it be because of something I might have said about having been shadowed, or is it because of my girl affaire here some eight or nine years ago? I am inclined to believe that it is the latter, and if so, it is certainly very unjust. If I was sure that it came from the girl affair, I would go into details and tell everything, but as I am not sure and have no way to find out, I will keep it for her sake, what I have not already told to a friend of mine. Now, there is one thing that I have to regret, and that is because I did not settle this thing with Lieutenant Myron C. Bowdish and Contract surgeon O. W. Woods while I was a patient, at the Banate, in the Phillippines. Then I could have gotten what was due me, and this thing would have been over long ago. I would have settled these things then and there, but lived in the hopes that there would be some end to the thing some time, but it seems not. At least, there is no end in sight yet, and have no way of knowing that there ever will be. The past few years have been a long, long time to me. Of course, you people who have been deeply interested know the way you have treated me. You know you have `doped’ me until I was forced to give up about a $100 a month position. You know that you drove me from place to place in the same manner and forced me to give up a neat little sum of my hard earned money to railroad companies money that I went through the danger of war and diseases, both in Cuba and in the Phillippines to get. You also know that you watched my mail and after finding out my friends and correspondents, you told them some kind of a story about me that caused everyone of them to drop me and turn me down cold.

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, knowing this as you do, and as I do, do you think I will give up and sit down in a corner someplace and hold my hands and do nothing? Nay, nay, Pauline, not I. I have given up positions, I have taken your dope, I have taken your insults, and I have done nothing. But you will find me then delivering the goods in the end. You should let this be a lesson to you in the future, and when you are about to make big things out of little ones you should cough this up and look at it on both sides and be sure you are right before you go ahead. You may think your theory is all right, but if common sense does not teach you, experience will. Your brain may be all right in quality, but there may be a chance for them to be lacking in quantity. I believe this as all I have to say, so, `Adios.'”

Signed / Gilbert.

The following letter from Twigg to Chancey Wells written nearly a year ago serves to give an indication of his bent of mind. The letter is written in a beautiful hand, and shows that Twigg was way above the average in education and ability. It is an exceptionally good letter, both in form and expression.

Great Falls, Montana.

September 1, 1902

“My Friend Chance;

“I have been thinking of writing to you ever since I have been here, but have neglected it until now on account of being very busy. On Sunday and Fourth of July is the only time I have had to myself up to the present time. This being Labor Day of course gives me a day off. In the past I have been working twelve and fourteen hours every day, so you see that gave me but little time to write letters. Sunday is not observed here like it is through the eastern states. We have run the mill all day several Sundays since I have been here, in fact we have been running day and night all the time and the flour goes out as fast as we make it. My old friend Sutherland is head miller and I am working second under him at $3.00 per day. Sutherland is a fine business man and an excellent miller. I like the work and the place here very much and would like to stay here. This is a beautiful town of about 14,000 population with all the advantages of an eastern town. The town is located on the banks of the Missouri river and there are three of the largest and prettiest water falls in the river here I ever saw, and in fact I believer they are the largest we have outside of Niagara Falls: Only one of the falls, however is being utilized for power at the present time, bit I think it is only a matter of a short time now hen the other two will be utilized for the same purpose, and when it is, it will run an unlimited amount of machinery. These improvements are almost certain to come to Great Falls, for the irrigation bill has passed congress. A new land office has been opened here, and government lands throughout the state are rapidly being taken up and the irrigation work will soon commence; when this is completed the country will naturally improve and I think it is only a matter of a few years when Great Falls will be a great city.

“Well, Chance, I often think of the old days gone by when we use to have so much fun together in our little crowd. Those were the happiest days in my life, and it would have been much better for me if I had gotten married and settled down as you have doneI have no doubt but what you are very happy, while I am not.”

Very sincerely your friend, S/ Gilbert A. Twigg.

longform-original-8020-1458834371-4Gilbert Twigg’s body lays at the Axtel undertaking establishment where crowds have spent the day in an endeavor to catch a glimpse of the dead body. Elmer Farnsworth’s father and mother can not be located and Harry Coffin is exerting every effort to get some trace of the party supposed to be in the vicinity of Los Angeles. Twigg was a subscriber to the Courier, both in Cuba and the Philippines. Our records show that he subscribed the weekly, August 2, 1900, at Onemada, Cuba, and on January 1, 1902, his address was changed to Banale, Panay, Philippine islands. Twigg seemed possessed with the idea that Winfield had not treated him right; that he ought to have a good position here for the asking and that to revenge himself he must kill as many people as possible, regardless of whether they were friends or enemies.

Following the first shot and at the sight of the band boys falling the crowd made a wild rush toward the band stand. Then as the lead was poured down the street in broadsides of regular intervals, the crowd as quickly scattered until in a moment the street was deserted by all but the dead and wounded. The firing covered about three or four minutes, but to those in the immediate vicinity it seemed like an hour. Ed Mounts heard the first shot when in front of the Mooso livery barn. He walked a block and a half (about five hundred feet) to the band stand by the time the last shot was fired.

Descriptive band music is a thing of the past in Winfield. The next time our band congregates at Main Street and Ninth Avenue there will be no descriptive music, no gun plays or war whoops to even keep fresh in the memories of citizens and relatives and friends whose dear ones were so unceremoniously shot down, the horrible scenes of that eventful evening, August 13, 1903.

While the destruction wrought by the demented condition of a naturally bright intellect, is appalling, the fact that it was done without motive and without individual malice, does much to calm excitement and inspire pity. Poor Twigg was not responsible for his insane acts. His disordered mind led him to the conclusion that the whole world was against him and he came back to the home of his boyhood to wreak vengeance and end it all.

Twigg was a bright young man of good character and attainments. He was a good miller but his diseased mind made him restless and roving. He had a fair record in the Army. With all he was an egotist, having supreme confidence in himself. His lack of success was really due to his diseased mind, but he attributed it to the hostility and unfairness of those over him in business or his officers in the Army. This condition of mind finally concentrated in the plans for the revenge and suicidea revenge which would be general and terrible. In the carrying out of this revenge his military training came in good play. He chose the one evening of each week when most people congregate in a central place, he chose the spot from which to fire with the skill of a general; he commenced firing at a range of about one hundred and twenty five feet from the band stand; he dropped on one knee at each fire, then retreated backward, while reloading, then dropped on his knee again and fired. these are the skirmish line tactics of the army and give a level body line' to the volley. the employment of the tactics is due the terrible execution of his volleys. He remembered his training andshot low.’


  • Port Smith died at the Holcomb and Boyle hospital at twenty minutes till three o’clock p.m. He was a young man about nineteen years of age and a son of B. E. Smith, who lives one and a half miles southeast of town. Smith is a brother of Mrs. Clarence Jarvis.
  • Everett Ridgeway a plasterer. He had two buckshot removed from his back today, the third shot entered his spine and lodged in a lung. His recovery is considered hopeless.
  • Ben Cochranleft shoulder.

The Pilcher Hospital was visited just before press time, and the patients, six in all, were resting easy with the exception of Charles Thomas, on whom they had begun operating. He is in a dangerous condition, as the intestines are perforated, but there is a chance that he may recover.

Gilbert Twigg had a conversation with one of our citizens about assembly time in which he clearly showed sign of the dementia which possessed him. He insisted that he was being `talked about but would not tell what was being said. His auditor told several persons of his queer action. About the time Murderer and Suicide Twigg purchased his shot gun, he is said to have drawn his bank account, some $600 in two drafts of $300 each which he sent to his brothers who reside in Pennsylvania. He purchased the buckskin hinting coat which he wore the morning before the killing. Twigg bought shells from several different hardware stores and when taken he had some ninety rounds for his six shooter besides boxes of shot gun shells, all of which he had placed in a small express wagon which stood in the mouth of the alley.

Several small boys have been located by Coroner Cooper who were near Twigg on West Ninth Avenue when he first made his appearance. To one of these boys he is said to have remarked, “I am going to do some tall shooting son and you had better run, as I have no desire to hurt you.” Another boy says he heard Twigg say as he loaded his gun, ” I wonder if I can get Caman.” And then there was all confusion as the first warning shot rang out, and as the smoke cleared, helping, sympathizing hands, at the same time being ignorant ro the cause of the shot, hurried to nearby physicians office with trap drummer Re Oliver who no doubt got the shot which it seems was intended for Bandmaster W. H. Caman.

Sterling Race was killed. Elmer Farnsworth, who is not expected to live, and J. B. Story, the grocer, who was severely injured are all members of the local I. O. O. F. and faced death on the stairway as they came out of the lodge room, almost over the position held by the murderer. (Note – from this I deduce that these three men came down the stairs from the lodge hall and were shot as they left the building. This must have been as Twigg was backing north into the alley. RKW)

Winfield Courier, Friday August 14,1903.

Gilbert Twigg purchased the shotgun, with which he did such deadly work, Thursday evening, from the hardware firm of Winfield & Miller. Twigg went into the store Saturday August 1, and after a careful selection purchased a twelve bore, double barrel gun. Of course there was nothing unusual about the purchase of the gun, but when he went to select some ammunition he aroused the curiosity of W. D. Winfield who was standing close by and watching the sale. “What are you going to do with that kind of a shell?” asked Mr. Winfield, to which Twigg replied that “he had not yet decided.” Twigg bought two boxes of shells loaded with 3 and a quarter drams of semi-smokeless powder and ten number 5 buckshot each. “He had not yet decided.” was an answer that can now be construed as suggestive and full of poisonous meaning, but at the time it went by almost unnoticed.

An instance where innocence and thoughtlessness and not nerve, played an interesting part in the story of Johnnie Colt, the popcorn boy, who stood his ground during the whole of Thursday’s massacre “because papa was gone and he ought to look after the stand” Johnnie is a boy of about twelve summers. Johnnie’s father owns and operates the popcorn stand which is always pulled to the corner of Ninth Avenue and Main Street, on concert nights. Johnnie was across the street from his stand when the first deluge of number five buck shot mowed down two good citizens. Was his first thought safety, and did instinct take him with the surging crowd, to a place of shelter? No. His first thought was his father’s business interests and he crossed the street and faced the music, “because papa had gone and he thought he ought to watch the stand.”

Winfield Courier, August 15, 1903.

The coroner’s inquest over the bodies of W. R. Bowman and Dawson Billiter, the two victims of Gilbert Twigg’s gun, who died on the spot where they fell Thursday evening, was held at the courthouse Friday evening by coroner H. D. Cooper, with the following jury: Dave Irwin, Hop Shivvers, E. L. Wyatt, Joe Greenlee, H. H. Colt, and T. W. Schwantes. The inquest began at 7:50 p.m., and the first witness called was Mrs. Sallie Milligan, wife of J. P. Milligan, the Famous Shoe shop man.

Mrs. Milligan said her attention was attracted by the first shot. She could not see who was doing the shooting but could see the flashes of the gun. He seemed to be standing near the walk just opposite the alley between the Swartz lumber Co’s yard and Nickel’s hide shop. She thought eight shots were fired. He seemed to fire three shots, right at the sidewalk, and retreated into the alley. She thought when she saw him he was standing erect while firing. She also saw him afterwards on the bandstand after his body had been taken there.

Link Smith was the second witness. He was sitting on the southwest corner of Manning Street and Ninth Avenue, when he heard the first shot, and ran up towards where the firing was going on, met his aunt, Mrs. Milligan, in the middle of the street and asked her what was wrong. She did not know and he ran over to where his uncle was standing in the door of the Famous Shoe shop. Twigg then stepped out and deliberately shot at him, the bullets going through his coat sleeve. He asked his uncle for a gun to shoot the man but his uncle told him not to do it. He then ran upstairs into the rooms occupied by the Swartz family from where he heard the last shot, a smuggled, smothering report. He then ran downstairs and toward Main Street and about half way between Craig’s back door and the alley he met George Nichols and Cal Ferguson who were each carrying guns. He asked Cal for his gun, but he would not give it to him. He then went around the alley with them where the body was found, and found a revolver under Twigg’s body which he gave to Sheriff Day. He did not hear Twigg say a word at anytime. Hop Shivvers then asked Smith if he could see the man so as to describe him, but Smith said it was to dark for him to notice anything except a duck coat which he was wearing. This tallied with that found on the dead man. Didn’t think seven or eight minutes elapsed between the time the shooting began and ended.

John Herington was the next witness. He was attracted by the shooting and could see the flashes of the gun. The man shooting stood about twenty feet east of the alley in front of Reed’s paint shop. It seemed to him that the man would shoot twice, then step backwards and he reloaded the gun. There were in all eight shots fired from this gun, but he heard ten shots in all. There was one shot from a revolver from the west side of the building where he was on the south side of Ninth Avenue. He did not know who fired this shot or in what direction it was fired. Twigg’s last two shots were fired from the alley, as he leaned out around the corner. They were fired high but all his other shots were fired low. He thought the shot from the south side of the street was fired about thirty seconds after Twigg had ceased firing. He did not see Twigg either before or after the shooting. The other shot he heard was a revolver shot and was fired about where Twigg’s body was found but witness could not state in what direction this shot was made, whether at the crowd or at himself.

W. D. Winfield was the next witness called, said he knew Twigg by sight, and had sold him the shot gun used and two boxes of nitro shells, 3 ¼ drams each, loaded with ten Number 5 buckshot. He asked Twigg where he was going and what he intended shooting with that sized shot. Twigg replied that he had not decided yet. Mr. Winfield saw the body on the band stand Thursday evening and at Axtell’s undertaking establishment. Said he was unable to identify him at the former place, but was positive when he saw the body at Axtell’s . Mr. Winfield also identified the gun, a double barrel gun, made by Dumoulin & Co., as the one he had sold Twigg and also identified the shells picked up by the body as similar to the ones he had sold.

The next witness was Benedict Skalicky, jr. who was sitting in a buggy in front of the Famous Shoe shop when the first shot was fired, listening to the band. He heard a shot fired and saw a man drop out of a buggy. He turned around west in his buggy and saw the flash, as the second shot was fired. He then know there was something up and turned his horse around to get out of the way as soon as possible. As he turned, he noticed that the man shooting had on a duck coat and striped shirt. He then drove west to the corner, south one block and back into Main Street where he hitched his horse and went on up to the band stand where by this time the body of Twigg had been taken. He readily identified him as the man whom he had seen doing the shooting. He did not hear Twigg say a word at any time. He thought the first shot was fired near the front of the Famous Shoe shop and the second shot in front of Nickel’s Hide office near the alley.

A. Twigg, uncle of Gilbert the murderer, was the next witness. He said he knew nothing about the shooting whatever, as he was home in bed at the time he first heard about it. He thought that Gilbert was a little off in his mind. Had first noticed a few days ago. Could not remember just when. Was first attracted to it by Gilbert’s telling him that he had gone back on him, that the public was all against him, and had it in for him, that he had been doped' at his boarding place at Great Falls by his enemies and forced to give up a position that was paying him $100 to $120 per month. He seemed very much dissatisfied but could give no reason for it. Talked a great deal about peoplebeing after him.’ He also talked about going back east to visit his relatives. His uncle advised him to do this and Gilbert did son. He thought this was about February. Gilbert said on his return that even his brother had gone back on him and was against him. Gilbert left his uncle’s home here one night about midnight, gave no reason for going whatever.

Mr. Twigg testified that on Thursday evening Gilbert came into his yard dressed in the coat he wore when found, and carrying the gun. He supposed that Gilbert had been hunting somewhere and was on his way to town. He stayed but a minute or two and said nothing of his intentions. This was about 7 o’clock. He retired rather early; said he had been in bed about ten minutes when he was called; ;was told that there had been some shooting up town and that Gilbert had been shot. He immediately dressed and went up to Axtell’s where he saw the body and learned the particulars. Upon being cross-examined by Coroner Cooper, he admitted that he knew Gilbert was `a little off.’ but did not think he was dangerous, and said that he had kept it from the authorities for that reason, hoping that he would soon recover. He said that Gilbert had lived with him partly for some time but was not doing so at the time of his death. He did not know why he left his house. Said that the deceased was about 34 years of age; that his parents were dead and that his other relatives lived in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He wished the body and effects turned over to him. He was then dismissed but was called back by Coroner Cooper who asked him if there had ever been any insanity in the Twigg family on either his mother’s or father’s side. Mr. Twigg said there had not. Mr. Twigg made a poor witness, and the Coroner had considerable trouble in confining him to the case.

Cal Ferguson was then called. Mr. Ferguson was in his room in the Ferguson block when the first shot was fired. He got his revolver and went out on the street but learning that the shooting was being done at long range, went back and got his shot gun. He then went on West Ninth Avenue and met George Nichols. They went north to Friedenburg’s Pharmacy, through the store, and into the alley towards the place where Twigg had been shooting. He was crouched on his hands and knees with his head on a iron pile near where the alley opens onto Ninth avenue. He saw the wound in Twigg’s head. Twigg was then breathing very heavily. They found a revolver by his side, some empty shells, cartridges and a few loaded shells in a small tin wagon nearby which had been left at Nickel’s by some lad who had sold iron there during the day. The shot gun was in Twigg’s arms. There were no shells except those in and near the wagon. He then helped carry Twigg down Ninth Avenue to the bandstand where he tried to call a Doctor but was unable to find one. Ferguson said he and George Nichols were the first ones to reach the body. There were in all about eight or ten empty shells scattered around. He heard all the shots, but could not state positively how many were fired or whether or not Twigg had fired them all.

57c0ec3c21c2d.imageGeorge Nichols the night watch was then called. He was standing by Dauber’s store when the first shot was fired. He ran north to Ninth avenue, when the second two shots were fired. He secured his Winchester and ran down the alley as he had been told the shots were being fired from there. We went on until he saw Twigg leaning against a telegraph pole. He stopped about forty steps from him and watched him until he saw him fall, and heard him groan very heavily. He watched him then a couple of minutes. He then went back to get his dark lantern and then met Mr. Ferguson, and they went back and approached Twigg. He was lying on his face and hands and knees, they met Sheriff Day and Guy Marsh. They carried the body up to the band platform. When found, Twigg was lying with his head toward Craig’s wall with his head a little out of the alley. He heard one shot after he went into the alley. It was a much lighter shot than the others. He heard no other light shots. He heard nine shots in all. When he first saw Twigg, he was leaning toward the east; he stood possibly a minute before he fell, which was probably three or four seconds after the last shot was fired; was back of Parker Bros. at the time, not quint in the alley. Nichols had a Winchester and a 44 caliber Colt’s revolver with him.

J. S. Day, sheriff of the county was then called to the stand. Mr. Day said he was sitting in front of the jail when he heard the first shot. He came but Marsh thought it was merely some descriptive piece of the band’s. Day walked out to the curbing. could not see the the crowd was moving about much. At the second volley, they started up town. Had gotten along by the first National bank nearly to Main Street when the last shot was fired, and a shower of buckshot went over their heads. They went on across the street. Went down the alley between Ninth and Tenth avenue, but saw nothing. Crossed the street at Ninth avenue and met George Nichols and Cal Ferguson. They helped pick Twigg up and carry him up to Main street. He heard one revolver shot after the gun shots, but could not see the flash. He then showed the revolver picked up by Twigg’s body to the jury. It was a double action, 32 caliber, Harrington & Richards six shot gun with one shell fired. A cheap gun worth probably $4 or $5.

Guy Marsh was then called and corroborated Sheriff Day’s testimony in every respect. He staid with Twigg at the band stand until after he died, and the undertaker came for the body. Mr. Marsh was the last witness, and the jury went out about 10:30 p.m.

A cornorer’s inquest was held over the body of Gilbert Twigg at Axtell’s undertaking rooms at 10 a.m. today and after learning the testimony of the following witnesses, J. S. Day, Guy Marsh, George Nichols, Jr. Jacobus, Link Smith, Joe Hetherington, T. H. Swartz. — Otis, the jury returned a verdict. “The jurors upon their call do say that Gilbert Twigg came to his death on the 13th day of August by a gun shot wound from a 32 calibre revolver fired by his own hand.”

  • The remains of Dawson Biliter were taken to Wilmot today where he will be laid to rest by the side of his mother.
    The remains of W. R. Bowman were interred at the Oxford Cemetery today. The funeral service was held at the home of Mrs. Conrad, his sister.
  • The funeral service of Port Smith was held hat home, two and a half miles south of Winfield. Interment was in Union cemetery.
  • The funeral of Sterling Race was held from the residence today. Interment was in Union Cemetery. He was 27 years old and left a mother and one sister. Burial was in Union cemetery.
  • Everett Ridgeway is at the home of George Abbott on east Eighth avenue. He is in a critical condition.
  • The funeral service of Otis Carter was conducted by Rev. Stophlet, from the residence of J. W. Carter, on south Main street. He was twenty three years of age and had lived in Winfiled all hos life. Besides his father, J. W. Carter, he leaves one sister, Miss Ione Carter of this city, and four brothers, loren, Clem, and Clyde of Winfield and Jim who lives in Chautauqua county.
  • The funeral of Charles Thomas was held from the late residence on East 7th avenue today at 3 p.m. The Uniform Rank Knights of Phthias conducted the service. Charles Thomas was thirty-one years of age had had lived in Winfield ten years. Eleven years ago he was married to Miss Jennie Sparks. This union brought the deceased one son Leonard, aged nine years. Charles was at one time a locomotive fireman but was retired on account of being disabled in the service. At the time of his death he was working at the carpenters trade.

1463415_673623299324087_580211000_nAlthough a headstone stands on this spot, it was believed he was not buried there. At the time of burial, neither Highland Cemetery nor Union Cemetery wanted Twigg buried in their grounds. But Highland eventually allowed burial on the other side of the fence in the northwest corner of the cemetery and away from all the others buried in Highland. C. H. Adams, in the book Cowley County Heritage remembers “As a boy he hunted rabbits west of Highland cemetery. In the northwest corner of the cemetery, where the old path led down to the gravel bar near the whirlpool below Tunnel Mill Dam, there was an unmarked grave (just inside the fence.). He believed that is the final resting place of Gilbert Twigg.   Another story of Twiggs burial surfaced years later. That Twigg was buried in the location of his military marker at Union Cemetery. The story is told that he was buried face down with his head facing the East and his feet to the West. This would prevent him from rising on the Second Coming of Christ.

There were a couple more shots heard by the crowd in the alley Twigg disappeared into. When Twigg was found, he was lying in the alley and appeared to have taken his own life. The first person to see Twigg in the alley was Night Watchman George Nichols. He stated he seen Twigg leaning up against a utility pole before falling to the ground. Sheriff J.S. Day was next on the scene and witnessed a .32 caliber lying on the ground next to Twigg. It was in agreement by the men who found Twigg that he took his own life. The reason for the agreement, George Nichols was African American and although he was well liked by everyone in Winfield and Twigg deserved what he got; it would have not looked good that a white man was shot and killed by a black man.

Winfield Courier, August 19, 1903.

The remains of Elmer E. Farnsworth were laid away at 10 a.m. today. The service was held at the Grace Episcopal church and Rev. Talbott preached the sermon. The funeral was under the direction of the I.O.O.F, the Masons’ and the Red Men being present. Three Masons and three Odd Fellows, namely, Clint Bull, w. A. Farringer, Ed. R. Byers, M. L. Wortman, S. R. Mogle, and Will Hudson, acted as pall bearers.

The funeral of Elmer Farnsworth is numbered among the largest Cowley county has ever known. Elmer was known to nearly everyone in the county and was known by his business associates as a man who would always give them a square deal. He was in business in Winfield for twenty years continually and added much stability to her administration and her people

Taken early in the thirties he leaves a father and mother, two sisters (Mrs. Kleinstuber of this city and a sister who resides in faraway California who was married there some years ago), and a wife and baby boy, two years old, who will miss a kind husband, father and protectory.

Elmer died at 8 o’clock last Friday. His father and mother just arrived from the Pacific coast in time for the funeral which was being held until their arrival and of which it is said they were ignorant until they stepped from the train last night.

Winfield Courier, August 20, 1903.

Editor Courier;

In the report of the sad affair that took place last week, you reported Dawson Billiter as being buried at Wilmot, which is an error. Dawson was one of our near neighbors, an exemplary young man 33 years old last July and held in high esteem in this township, no bad habits. In fact a model young man.

He went to a barber college last spring and got a diploma. In June he bought a location on Ninth avenue, Winfield, and was doing a nice business. His parents settled here five years agon, coming here from Milan, Sumner county, and bought 320 acres of land. Soon after locating here his mother died. She was taken back to Milan and buried. Dawson was taken to Milan Friday night and buried beside his mother on Saturday, accompanied by his fater, sister, and a few of his most intimate friends of the community, Elanora Slaon, Felix Sloan, Jackson Welfelt, and Robert Swain. His father, and sister were making preparations to move th Winfield this fall to make their home with Dawson. They have the sympathy of the entire community in this sad hour.

Yours truly. S. Arthur Swain.