I would like to meet editor Theodore M. Glancey, but unfortunately I cannot do so, since he was murdered Sept. 26, 1880, in Santa Barbara County.
I can, though, visit the beautiful Scotch granite monument that marks his grave at the St. Helena Cemetery.
On that 15-foot-high monument are the last words he ever uttered: “Tell my friends that I die like a man, die for a principle; and that I would not go back on it now if I could.”
Glancey’s grave site will be one of the stops during St. Helena Historical Society’s 13th annual “Spirits of St. Helena” Cemetery Tour, which will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7. Tours depart at 1 and 2:30 p.m. and each tour will last an hour. Admission is $10 and RSVPs are not necessary. Leading the tours are Mariam Hansen, research director for the Historical Society, and Lin Weber, local historian and author.
Hansen promises a stop at the grave site of John Greer, who was in his 80s when he died on April 22, 1988. He and his daughter were on a small coastal boat, the City of Chester, which was headed from San Francisco to Eureka and was just outside the Golden Gate Bridge in thick fog when it was rammed by another ship coming in from Asia.
Greer helped his daughter get into a lifeboat and headed back onto the ship to get his belongings when the City of Chester sank.
Back to editor Glancey and the story behind those words on his monument.
Hansen researched the life and times of Glancey, who was a native of Illinois and came to California in 1873, at age 36. (Interestingly enough, I, too, am a native of Illinois and came to California in 1979 at age 25.)
Before being named editor of the Santa Barbara Press, a Republican newspaper, Glancey was editor and general manager of the Los Angeles Herald. According to a published history of Santa Barbara County, Glancey was a veteran of the Civil War, “a man of nerve, and true to his convictions. He was a man of liberal education with legal training, and just views of matters in general. He was polite and urbane in manner.”
The county’s Republican Party nominated Clarence Gray for district attorney, but Gray was not a good man. In his 10 years in Santa Barbara, he was convicted of 13 misdemeanors and was noted for savagely beating a Catholic priest. The history states that Gray was a “natural leader” of a gang of “the lawless element composed of the roughs, the gamblers and disorderly parties in general. While there were not more than 200 of these characters, they were formidable, holding in many instances the balance of power.”
John P. Sterns owned the Santa Barbara Press and hired Glancey. When Gray was nominated for district attorney, Glancey wrote that the nomination “was disgraceful in every respect.” Further, he advocated that all “such candidates should be beaten” and added “the decent people of Santa Barbara County will not submit to having the officer for the administration of justice chosen from among the hoodlums and lawbreakers.”
Gray read the article and first confronted Sterns. The history notes that Sterns was with Judge Hatch and that “something induced (Gray) to defer shooting (Sterns) until a more convenient season.”
Gray then went after the editor, drew his revolver and attempted to shoot him. But Glancey grabbed his wrists and told him he was unarmed. People separated the two, although Gray shot Glancey in the back as he walked out the door. Even though he was attended by doctors, Glancey died 19 hours later.
A jury found him guilty at his first trial and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His friends sought and obtained a new trial for him. Gray was ultimately acquitted in December 1882.
After his murder, Glancey’s family moved to Calistoga and interred his remains at the St. Helena Cemetery in early October 1880. The Rev. James Mitchell officiated at the large funeral service, which included many St. Helena residents and representatives from the Sacramento Record Union, the Santa Barbara Press and The Associated Press.
Not a bad legacy for any editor, either in the 1880s or today, don’t you think?