Lincy’s Luck Captain of the Reading Militia
At various times in his checkered career Hugh Lindsay made his home in Reading. Certainly the life of an itinerant clown did not permit long residence in any one place but Lindsay honored Reading with his longest tenures. In 1835 he made the acquaintance of Samuel Perry of Bern Township, Berks County. Perry was a violist in the troupe of actors that worked in Miller’s Allentown Circus. (In 1859 Perry was a storekeeper in Bern Township). We cannot say whether it was the close friendship of these two that brought Lindsay to Reading, but in 1835 we find him operating the Eagle Hotel. There his son, Charles Franklin Lindsay, was born and there the clown suspended his antics for a time to settle down as a substantial citizen.
Actively he engaged in Berks politics. He made speeches advocating the establishment of the Common School Law which was then a keen issue. He came out in support for Henry A. Muhlenberg for governorship in the three cornered race between Muhlenberg, Wolf, and Ritner. He was not opposed to Wolf except insofar as he felt that Wolf had had the office long enough. Ritner won.
It was 1835 while he was a hotelkeeper in Reading that the erstwhile comedian was made a captain of the militia in a regiment commanded by Col. John Frill. Read his description of battalion day. Remember it was in 1836.
“At one of our spring trainings, one of our members without the fear of his officers or shame of devil, allowed himself to be shot in the neck by a bowl of whiskey which caused great confusion among the ranks. Whereupon by my orders he was seized by 16 able-bodied soldier-like men and was placed in a hollow square and four men holding him on his feet; and by the whole command marched through the principal streets and alleys, music and flags flying, up to my headquarters and there by my orders placed in a bed on a bundle of straw in an empty cowstable and a glass of whisky administered to him. Before morning he had evaporated.
After the company being dismissed they gave 13 loud hurrahs for their gallant captain. They then boldly, thirstily, faced my bar, wet their whistles, paid down their clinck, and each man with a cigar in his mouth, retired to their respective homes, safe and sound.”
Such was the character of the young American republic more than a century ago.