(Up Terrapin River. Slowly down at the rising suns command...)
Up Terrapin River. Slowly down at the rising suns command, like tears flowing along the wrinkles of a time-worn face. The soft air plays in gentle hide-and-seek, and the wild rose, leaning over, bathes its blushing face in the mirroring stream. The country -through which Upper Terrapin River flows is slow of agricultural development. Wild hogs abound in the cane-brakes, and on the hill-sides, where the dogwood saplings tangle their blooming boughs in perfumed network, the bristling deer kills the rattlesnake, and the wild turkey-gobbler struts in barbaric vanity. The shriek of the steam-whistle has never disturbed the blue jays noontide nap, but the water-mill, with its rhythmic splash, grinds the corn which the whistling boy, barefoot and astride, the sack, brings from over the hills. The rankest of corn grows in the bottoms, and on the uplands the passing breezes steal the fragrance of the mellowest of horse-apples.
Read attended Neophogen College in Gallatin. Now, this college is defunct.
While Opie was a student at Neophogen College in Gallatin Read met and befriended the typesetter Andrew Kelley. When Kelley became editor of the Franklin Patriot not long after, he gave the nineteen-year-old read a kind of apprenticeship, offering Read board and a small salary while he taught him the printer’s trade. Read, in exchange, did odd jobs while he eagerly learned to typeset. And a few months later, he had learned enough to get a job as a typesetter for the Neophogen College magazine, the Pen. After completing his studies, Read returned to work for Kelley at the Patriot, this time as a reporter.
His first published piece for the Kentucky paper was the kind of character sketch that he would later become known for. The piece, entitled “Crawfish,” described a local man named Bob Gardner who became so inflamed by Read’s description of him that he threatened the writer’s life. This was a reaction that would also come to characterize much of the reception for Read’s work as a journalist.
As a young man, Read also developed a bug for traveling. Searching for work and adventure, he worked for newspapers as a writer, editor, typesetter, and even part owner in places like Little Rock, Arkansas, Nashville and Bolivar, Tennessee, various towns in Kentucky, and Cleveland, Ohio. For a brief time, he worked for the New York Herald reporting on a yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, an assignment that helped to further his reputation as a journalist. Next, he returned to Little Rock where he worked as an editor and sketch writer for the Gazette and became friends with the businessman P. D. Benham.
Read's marriage to Benham’s sister Ada, led to a partnership between Read and P.D. Benham in business. In 1882, Benham suggested that he and Read start a newspaper of their own. The resulting Arkansaw Traveler was where Read did his most notable work as a journalist. Read had faced an earlier failed venture of starting a publication with a partner. But Benham proved to be a competent businessman leaving Read free to concentrate on editorial aspects. First appearing in June 1882, the paper was a speedy success, and in just three years, circulation grew to 85,000 subscribers. Circulation soon began to spread to out-of-state readers.
Because the Little Rock post office was ill-equipped to handle the increasing volume of subscribers and because many local people were, like Bob Gardner once had, beginning to take offense at Read’s humorous character portraits, Benham and Read de¬cided to move their office to Chicago in 1887. Circulation remained steady after the change but advertising dollars fell. The partners reacted by making the paper into a stock company.
In 1888, Read began a column that featured installments of his own novels which he had begun writing while still in Little Rock. His first serialized novel was Mrs. Annie Green, published in book form in 1889. Len Gansett (1899) and A Kentucky Colonel (1890) followed. All three were popular successes. Read gave up his position at the Arkansaw Traveler in early 1892 and began devoting his time to writing novels, lecturing, and participating in the new Chicago lifestyle he had come to love. This included golfing, attending clubs like the Chicago Press Club, and hobnobbing.
From 1891 to 1906 Read wrote an average of two books each year. Often under strict deadlines, Read turned out books at a hurried pace, sometimes writing as much as 10,000 words in a single day. After 1908, Read appears to have gone into semi-retirement. In addition to writing over thirty-five novels, Read wrote works of non-fiction towards the end of his life. In 1930 was published his autobiography.
(The Carpetbagger originally was written as a four-act com...)1899
(Up Terrapin River. Slowly down at the rising suns command...)1889
Read was a member of Chicago Press Club and White Chapel Club.
As a young man, the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin profoundly influenced Opie Read. Read took to heart the great statesman’s advice to “learn the printer’s craft” and set about to do just that, a path that lead to a career in journalism and writing.
Through anecdotes, Read reminisces about his career from his early days as a journalist to his late-in-life switch to a life as an author and lecturer.
Quotes from others about the person
“The whole panorama of life is good fun to Opie Read. He sees nothing to make him overly serious. He elaborates a trait of character, gets fun out of repartee. Memories to him are an opportunity to set you chuckling. I get the impression that many of these incidents have grown in the telling.” - Harry Hansen
On June 10, 1889, Read married Ada Benham. They had eight children.