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August 17, 2017

The Noblesville Iconoclast

The Noblesville Iconoclast

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Looking at some more Hamilton County newspaper history, it’s interesting to note the various short-lived journals that would appear, run a few issues, and fold or move to another city.   One that had a very short run was the “Iconoclast” edited by W. H. Lamaster, which was notable for being completely out of character for the city.  Being anti-temperance and skeptical about religion was diametrically opposed to the usual Noblesville mindset.

Lamaster’s overall career is covered in a blog post by the Indiana Historical Bureau.  It’s not clear why he came to Noblesville and started publishing.  There may be a connection to an 1879 notice for settling the estate of a Jonathan Lamaster presumed to be deceased.  W. H. is first mentioned as being a resident of Noblesville in August of 1881.

The first appearance of the paper is in an editorial in the Noblesville Republican-Ledger 0n August 12, 1881:

“We are informed that W. H. Lamaster, the notorious infidel, will about the 1st of October, begin the publication of a full-fledged infidel paper in Noblesville.  Like the Seymour Times, its motto will doubtless be: ‘Goodness without a God; Happiness without a Heaven; Salvation without a Savior; and redemption without a Redeemer.’  As Mr. Lamaster is a bold and fearless writer, infidelity right in our own midst even in its most unsavory forms to the tastes of Christians may be expected to be

advocated by him.  How well such an enterprise will be sustained we cannot say, yet as infidels, as a class, are mostly reading men and women of infidel literature, we will venture to guess that such a paper, under Mr. Lamaster’s management, when started in Noblesville will come among us to stay.”

This was reprinted in the Seymour Times.  The word “infidel” in this editorial means a religious skeptic or agnostic.  It’s important to note that one of the most significant “infidels” or Freethinkers in Noblesville had died just one year earlier – Dr. Haymond W. Clark.  Dr. Clark was known in his day for having a unique worldview and it would be interesting to find out if he had encouraged Lamaster in some fashion.

A blurb stating “The Iconoclast is and infidel paper edited by W. H. Lamaster, of Noblesville” appeared in the Angola Herald and Bristol Banner.  Lamaster started promoting the paper by running want ads in November that said, “Wanted – 5000 people to read the new paper, the Iconoclast”.  He announced in December that Robert Ingersoll would answer a series of questions put forth by Indianapolis clergymen which would be reprinted in the Iconoclast.  It didn’t come out until mid-February of 1882 and Lamaster had other plans by then.

An editorial in the Indianapolis News on January 14, 1882, said:


“W. H. Lamaster, editor of the Noblesville Iconoclast, which he says is “an infidel paper”, is in the city to arrange to publish it here in the future.  The letter of Col. Ingersoll in the current number is in great demand, and he has had application for it from all parts of the country.  Lamaster says that he finds that most of the infidels are republicans, the democrats do not seem to think enough to form opinions of that nature, and are often so intolerant that they will not allow or encourage the faintest attempt at liberalism.  Lamaster is thoroughly in earnest in what he thinks is rescue of humanity from dogmatism, but does not go to the lengths reached by many of the same school.  He says for instance that he does not believe there is any such thing as an unquestioning down-right atheist, though he fails to find evidence of the existence of a God of love in the works of nature.  He thinks it probable that wicked Dr. Monroe, of Seymour, will also move his paper to this city.”

The paper started publishing as a weekly in Indianapolis in March.  It had been an exciting couple of months, since this was a time when making contrarian remarks about Temperance and religion in Noblesville was about as edgy as a person could be.