Dispelling myths on Fred Funston

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July 22, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Jarrett Robinson hangs his hat in Thompson’s Station, Tenn., but he is more at home in long-ago battles in the Philippines or weaving his way through the debris of the 1906 San Francisco with Gen. Fred Funston.
 At the Allen County Historical Society’s summer meeting Tuesday evening, Robinson gave the 150th birthday anniversary for Iolan Funston a rousing start by refuting errors that have plagued reports about the general’s life.
Robinson has spent untold hours over the past 25 years researching Funston’s varied and illustrious life. During the course, he has found errors, and called those responsible to task. Robinson blames the errors on laziness, sloppy research, coming from a jaundiced angle for self aggrandizement and the anonymity and unaccountability of the Internet, particularly Wikipeda. “Internet sites feed off one another,” Robinson charged.
It’s gotten so bad that even educational institutions are adopting bad resources as undisputed that mislead students and, perhaps worst of all, denigrate the memories and records of historic figures such as Funston.
Quoting a teacher of his youth, Robinson said recourse was to “study, read and research on your own,” and question any information that seemed out of place or difficult to verify.
“Chop down the tree with poisonous fruit,” he said, referring to the legal tenet about the inadmissibility second-hand information.

ROBINSON railed about misinformation used by Stuart Miller, a professor at San Francisco State whose book “Benevolent Assimilation” has become a go-to source for war in the Philippines of 115 years ago.
“Funston had a wonderful career,” Robinson told a small but appreciative crowd. Funston fought in Cuba and the Philippines, captured the Filipino rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo, was instrumental is San Francisco’s recovery from the 1906 earthquake and led the largest American military force assembled between the Civil War and World War I in the early 1900s confrontation with Mexico.
“But,” Robinson said, “I want to focus on inaccuracies,” many of which he found in Miller’s book.
Two sterling examples were that Funston ordered the execution of 35 Filipino rebels and had another 24 put to death in retaliation for a Lt. Edgar Koehler being killed by the rebels.
After thorough research, Robinson said he was able to refute the first allegation as apparently materializing out of thin air. The second was dismissed because when 24 Filipinos supposedly were killed, Funston was in a different part of the Philippines, far away from where Koehler died.
In response to a letter Robinson wrote to him, Miller responded in 2004: “(I) accepted newspaper reports and editorials at face value, and should have gotten collaboration … as the (San Francisco) Call’s editor was pretty down on Funston.”
Another error, though not as shocking, was that Funston failed his West Point entrance exam: Truth is he didn’t fail, just didn’t have the top score. He never commanded the Presidio, an Army base in San Francisco, rather was in charge of the Department of California, which carried greater responsibility.

THE FUNSTON birthday celebration continues Saturday with music at 9 a.m. followed by wreath-laying at his statue in downtown Iola. Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, Kansas adjutant general, will have comments.
At 3 o’clock that afternoon at the Kansas National Guard Funston Memorial Armory on North State Street will be three short talks and a panel discussion, featuring Iola attorney Clyde Toland.

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