Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Giving back at the CHM

In January I decided to become a volunteer at the Cincinnati History Museum at Union Terminal. I figured it would be nice to share my existing local history knowledge with interested folks as well as learn some new things myself.
I already went to the volunteer program orientation, got my badge, ordered a shirt and shadowed a few shifts. I also helped out with Ohio History Day on March 1st for high school students competing in the National History Day competition, which is basically like a Science Fair but for history. To be honest I never knew such a thing existed. I got to talk to a few very bright kids while escorting them to their interviews about papers they wrote.

I will mostly be working the AM shift on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month and will likely be in the Early Settlement and Regional Capital sections. They are also going to start up their guided tour program again and I may look into that but right now I'm just learning the ropes.
They are always looking for volunteers so check that out on the CHM website. If you happen to be there on a Sunday morning stop by and say "Hi!".

Friday, April 4, 2014

RIP WHH

On this date, April 4th 1841, William Henry Harrison, an adopted Buckeye like myself, died one month after taking office as President. At 68, his detractors said he was too old and sickly to be President. That IS pretty old by 1841 standards so I suppose they were right. It's too bad he is mostly only remembered for this event as he had an impressive resume and life.
I kind of hate how folks list him as a "worst President". He was consumed by office seekers lining up and looking for jobs in the new administration for the first three weeks and then the fourth week he was bedridden, filled with opium and brandy. He didn't even have a chance at a Presidential legacy.
The doctors said he died of "bilious pleurisy", an archaic term for pneumonia. Recently a new theory has emerged that he died of typhoid due to the poor Washington DC sanitation in those days. Who knows. Life was rough back then and medical treatment in the early 19th century sometimes killed you faster than if they just left you alone.

WHHs Cincinnati funeral was here
His death was officially at 12:30 AM on April 4, 1841 just 30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes after taking the oath of office.
On April 7th, an Episcopalian funeral service took place in the East Room of the White House. Lying on a table in the middle of the room was the glass-covered open casket of William Henry Harrison.
Other memorials and funerals took place across the country on the same day. One was at the Methodist Wesely Chapel on 5th Street between Broadway and Sycamore in Cincinnati OH where the P&G Garden Pavilion is now.

WHH's eternal view in North Bend OH
Following the White House funeral he was loaded up and the funeral procession, led by Whitey his riderless horse, took him down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Building where he laid in state for mourners to see. WHH spent the Spring of 1841 in the public vault of the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Later in June 1841 after Winter had passed, a train carried him to North Bend, Ohio where he was laid to rest overlooking the Ohio River near Cincinnati.




Here are a few previous Gehio posts on William Henry Harrison:
Tippecanoe and Trivia too!
WWWHH Do? Free Booz!
Straight Outta Tippecanoe

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pyromania pays

battling a fire in Cincinnati 1854 style
On April 1, 1853, Cincinnati, Ohio, established the first professional and fully paid fire department in the United States. The same year, Cincinnati was the first city in the world to use steam fire engines too.
You might think this was a swell gesture to properly compensate hard workers for a dangerous job well done. Nope. It was arson. Firefighters were being paid on an as needed basis. No fires meant no pay and only the first team of firefighters that arrived on the scene got paid. It seems fireman started setting fires to get work and on top of that rival fire companies were sabotaging each others equipment in order to be the first responders. And the professional US firefighter was born. Don't get me wrong, modern firefighters do a fantastic job but they certainly have come a long way since the mid 19th century.

Click here for more info on Cincinnati's firefighting history.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Tecumseh!

in Old Town, North of Xenia OH
I've written a few things about the Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh, the Pan-Indian Confederacy leader and William Henry Harrison's adversary in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are some links at the end of this post or you can use the search box to your right. This post will just focus on his date and place of birth, both of which are somewhat speculative.
Since American Indians of this time period had no written records, historians have to rely on statements and observations by whites who interacted with them and deduce from there.
It is generally agreed upon that Tecumseh was born in the Spring of 1768. The month of March is derived from Stephen Ruddell, a captured white who was an adopted brother of Tecumseh for 17 years that had the Shawnee name Big Fish. Ruddell was born on September 18th 1768. In later years Stephen told his son that Tecumseh was 6 months his senior which would be about March 1768. This is also backed up by a letter that Ruddell wrote where he refers to Tecumseh being the same age as he when they met at age 12 in 1779. Putting all this together let's just call it March 18th 1768.

possible Tecumseh birth locations in 1768
There is also a question of the specific location of his birthplace in Ohio. I have read several books and articles on Tecumseh and historians don't all agree on this. Many agree that it was probably a Shawnee town called Chalahgawtha. The problem is, this band of Shawnee called their "principal village" Chalahgawtha and the town was relocated at least six times and the same name was used each time. Incidentally, modern day Chillicothe OH derives it's name from the Shawnee town so that adds to the confusion. This means his place of birth could have been in present day Springfield, Piqua, Xenia or Chillicothe. It turns out that the Ohio Historical Society thinks his place of birth is in Old Town just north of Xenia OH. The Absentee Shawnee of Oklahoma agree and have placed their own marker there too. That works for me.
So Happy Birthday to Tecumseh or perhaps in Shawnee/Algonquin, Minowaazon Tibishkaman Tecumtha!

Additional Gehio posts about Tecumseh:
The death of Tecumseh
Tecumseh! - the play
The War to End All Indian Wars
How It All Began

Saturday, March 1, 2014

It's Ohio Statehood Day! Now about that flag...

weirdo Ohio flag
I have to be honest. I used to hate the Ohio flag because it tried to be different than the other flags. Now I love it for its uniqueness.

The pennant shaped Ohio flag is called a burgee, also known as a guidon. Ohio is the only US state to have a silly flag like this. Because of its odd shape there is also a specific procedure for folding the Ohio flag and since 2002 even has its own pledge:
“I salute the flag of the state of Ohio and pledge to the Buckeye State respect and loyalty”
Never in my life have I heard anyone recite that.

Now, on with the obligatory symbolism explanation...
15 star US flag
Sorry Ohio, you have to wait 15 years for a star

The 5 stripes for the 5 states that came from the NW Territory as well as the the roads and waterways.

The 17 stars are for the fact that Ohio was the 17th state. It is interesting to note that while Ohio was the 17th state in 1803, there was never a 17 star US flag. Or 18 and 19. Or 16 for that matter. The 15 star US flag (the one that inspired the Star Spangled Banner) was used from 1795-1818 until the 20 star flag was created. What a ripoff!
at the McKinley Library in Canton OH

The blue field represents Ohio's hills and valleys. Um, sure!

The O seems obvious to most sane people, however when Barack Obama ran for President and was doing a photo op in front of the Ohio flag, an ignorant radio host was outraged and alarmed that Obama had his own flag.
The white circle with red in the center, is for the the "O" in Ohio and symbolizes the "Buckeye", Ohio's nickname. It's not an Obama flag. It's not a Puerto Rican flag either.

I wondered what flag designs were used before the "official" one but it turns out from 1803 - 1902 there was no official Ohio flag. I thought this was strange at first but it turns out that most States adopted their first official flags in the period between 1890 and 1925. Why? The same reason Ohio did it, to promote their State at various Expositions that occurred in those days. It was for PR to encourage new business which turned into jobs and taxes.
You see, the Ohio flag was created by John Eisenmann, a Cleveland architect to fly over the Ohio Building at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo NY where it was flown for the first time. Ironically at this very event is where Ohio born US President William McKinley was assassinated on September 6th 1901.
The Ohio General Assembly officially adopted it as the state flag of Ohio on May 9th 1902. Known state wide as "Ohio Flag Day". No, not really, I highly doubt anyone observes this except people that have read this far.

For more about Ohio Statehood Day and how it's really not, read this excellent blog post.

ORC 5.224 Ohio Statehood Day.

The first day of March is designated as "Ohio statehood day," in recognition of the date in 1803 when Ohio became a state. In addition to those duties imposed on the Ohio historical society under section 149.30 of the Revised Code, and those duties imposed on the superintendent of public instruction under section 3301.12 of the Revised Code, the society shall, throughout the state, and the superintendent shall, in all school districts, encourage and promote the celebration of "Ohio statehood day."
Effective Date: 05-31-1988

Monday, February 17, 2014

Breaking Buckeye

Billy's Tomb in North bend OH
I've written a few posts about our Ohio Presidents including another general one for President's Day. Having a 50% mortality rate of the eight Ohio Presidents along with the poor showing of the survivors is not a great legacy but an interesting one at least. They were also all Republicans with one Whig. Draw your own conclusions there. Just kidding. Republicans in those those days barely resembled the modern GOP and both the Republican and Democratic parties have produced fine Presidents. That is the closest I will get to modern political commentary on Gehio.

#9 William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia (and his treatment no doubt) 32 days into his 1st term. I have written about Billy (his friends really called him that) a few times on Gehio. OK, he is an adopted Buckeye (like me!). He was born in the colony of Virginia but spent nearly his entire adult life in the Ohio Valley when there was no opportunity for him in the failing Virginian planter class economy. He had an impressive political and military resume (Governor of the Indiana Territory and General in the Northwest Indian Wars and War of 1812) and decided to get back into politics late in life. At age 67 when he ran in 1840, they said he was too old and sickly to be President. They were right.

Now here comes the triple threat Civil War General, Ohio President domination from 1869-1881...

Grant's ironic sign near his birthplace
in Point Pleasant OH
#18 U.S. Grant was the only Ohio president to be elected to 2 (scandal ridden) terms and sought a 3rd later (Garfield became the nominee in 1880 instead). The end of his life wasn't as grand as his deserved war hero status from the Civil War. Good warriors do not always make good Presidents.

#19 Rutherford B. Hayes chose not to run for a 2nd (a campaign pledge). It's a good thing I guess. Hayes actually lost the popular vote and there was a backroom deal to decide disputed electoral votes similar to Gore v. Bush in 2000. His presidential legacy will always be known for that rather than anything else he did.

Garfield preaching it
in Cincinnati OH
#20 James Garfield finished out the Ohio Presidential hat trick but was shot by an angry office seeker named Charles J. Guiteau and died 6 months into his 1st term from infections caused by his poor medical treatment. This was standard at the time. In my opinion, he could have been a truly great President but who knows? Maybe he would be led down the path of power and corruption like many others. Read more about James' fascinating life in Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard. It should be noted that this could have been Grant's 3rd term and he may have been killed by Guiteau himself. Grant did die in 1885 when he would have been finishing that 3rd term. So no matter what, I think #20 was doomed.

After that hot mess, we go in twos from 1889-1923...

#23 Benjamin Harrison, William's grandson lost re-election for his 2nd term. Another Civil War General. He was sandwiched in between the two Cleveland wins. I guess people felt they made a big mistake with Ben. The Harrison's just couldn't catch a break in the state they helped create.

#25 William McKinley was shot by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz 6 months into in his 2nd term. he was a Major in the Civil War. Believe it or not it wasn't until McKinley was President that Ohio got a state flag (1902) and the first place it was flown was where he was shot and killed. Coincidence?
McKinley's not so modest tomb
in Canton OH

#27 William Howard Taft of Cincinnati lost his re-election thanks in part to Teddy Roosevelt's 3rd party run that siphoned off votes. The first Ohio president to have no military service. He was appointed a Supreme Court Justice later so he did pretty well for himself compared to the other Ohio guys. I am obligated to point out that he was very fat.

#29 Warren G. Harding ran and won against another Ohioan, a Democrat named James Cox. I believe that was the first Ohio vs. Ohio match-up. Then he died of congestive heart failure 2 years into his 1st term. Harding also had no military service.  My Great Grandfather sent a telegram of congratulations on his win in 1920. They were both from Marion OH. There are lots of weird things about Harding's Presidency and death.

Eight Buckeye's to a plate
Then that’s it. The end of the Ohio Presidents.
Americans gave up on Ohio after that. Too risky. Other Ohioans such as Dennis Kucinich have sought their party nomination and there has been talk of Senator Rob Portman or current Governor Kasich having a go but there has never been another major party nominee from the Buckeye State since 1920.  Ohio still plays a key role in modern presidential politics and her electoral votes are much coveted as no Republican has ever been elected President without winning Ohio. If I were a politician from Ohio thinking about a Presidential run, I would take a deep breath consider the legacy thus far.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

shameless plug for the Best of Cincinnati 2014

I mean, why not?



After filling in your name and such, choose the Public Eye link and write in "Gehio - gehio.blogspot.com" for the Blog award and click Save after making your other choices. Thanks!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Get to Know A River Part 1: The Mill Creek

There are four main rivers in and around Southwest Ohio that provided the main reason for the rapid growth and settlement of the region. This was the old highway system used by Native Americans, early explorers and settlers long before canals, railroads or paved highways. The Great Miami and Little Miami flank Cincinnati respectively to the West and East while the Mill Creek basically runs down the middle. These are all tributaries of the Ohio River. That's over 1200 miles of waterways in total which is the equivalent of going from Cincinnati OH to Denver CO.
In the 18th century the land between the two Miamis was a dangerous area for settlers and known as the Miami Bloodbath due to constant Indian skirmishes and battles. Dotted along the banks of all these rivers from 1788 to 1795, over 40 stations and forts were built as protected settlements for Americans rushing in to claim land after the victory in the American Revolution.

Now let's get to know a river...or a large creek in this case.

a non urban portion of The Mill Creek
The Mill Creek runs North to South for 29 miles from Butler County OH to the Ohio River just West of downtown Cincinnati.
Now technically it's not named a "river" but there really is no official distinction between rivers and creeks. A loose definition is that a creek is a smaller tributary of a river. However, the Mill Creek is part of the same watershed as the Little Miami River that also flows into the Ohio River. Basically it got called called a creek by John Cleves Symmes and the name stuck.More on that in a bit

The average depth of this waterway is only about 3' in most places and averages about 60' wide in the Cincinnati area making it 1/4 the size of the Little Miami, in length, width and depth. Flood stage is at 12' . Much of the urban portion of the Mill Creek has fortified concrete banks and is what most folks see as they speed down I-75 aka The Mill Creek Expressway. Yes, sadly it looks like a big cement ditch in those places which happens to also be a graffiti canvas for vandals.

Mill Creek Barrier Dam Pumping Station 
The 1937 Flood left thousands homeless in Cincinnati because of water from the Ohio River backing up into the Mill Creek. The Mill Creek Barrier Dam Pumping Station project was completed in 1948 as a result of the '37 flood. When the Ohio River is flooding, the gates of the Mill Creek Barrier Dam Pumping Station and Dam close preventing the Ohio River from backing up into the populated Mill Creek valley aka Cincinnati. The water in the Mill Creek is then pumped back into the Ohio. Despite this safety measure there was still flooding in '59 that left 50,000 homeless.


Before settlers came, the Shawnee called the Mill Creek "Maketeewah" which meant “it is black” because of the dark rich soil that made up the bed of the creek that at the time was rich in wildlife.
city life for the Mill Creek
The name "Mill Creek" was coined in the the 18th century by John Cleves Symmes as a marketing move to attract land buyers and millers to the area at a time when it was very dangerous to live in the area. Symmes needed to sell land so the river needed a name that wasn't so ethnic as well. Folks didn't want to think they were going to be killed by Indians. It did indeed attract much industry and growth but this once lush body of water was quickly transformed into an open sewer from all of the waste being continually emptied into it and eventually became known as "the most endangered urban river in North America".
Today, the Mill Creek, after 100 years of neglect has seen a revitalization due to efforts by several organizations such as the Mill Creek Watershed Council. People even canoe on the Mill Creek! As far as the name goes I'd like to see the boring Mill Creek name revert to the more poetic Makateewah, but you know me...

Approximate course of the Mill Creek

View Mill Creek in a larger map

For more about the Mill Creek history and it's ecology I highly recommend the book The Mill Creek: An Unnatural History of an Urban Stream

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Geocaching+History+Ohio = Gehio

Famous Shawnee Leaders of Ohio Series
I realized I hardly ever mention geocaching here. The Gehio blog was intended to not only highlight Ohio Valley history but also to showcase some geocaching as it relates to history. For me it adds to the experience when I run into an historical location with a marker or plaque and learn something new about how the world came to be.
Of the 27 geocaches I have hidden, 19 of them are history oriented. they are not difficult geocaches to find but more about the history of that immediate area. Consider them a teaching moment.

Earlier in 2013 I put out a series of eight hides along a paved walking and biking trail next to the Mill Creek in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Carthage. They are all titled after the Shawnee name of important Ohio Native American leaders in the 18th and 19th century that we know by their more commonly known name or English interpretation. Click on the links to get more info on each of them.

#1 Hokoleskwa - Cornstalk, Principle Shawnee Chief in the 1770s
#2 Cotawamago - Blackfish, Chalahgawtha Shawnee War Chief
#3 Catecahassa - Black Hoof, Mekoche Shawnee Civil Chief
#4 Weyapiersenwah - Blue Jacket, Shawnee War Chief
#5 Cheeseekau - Chiksika, older brother of Tecumseh and Kispoko Shawnee War Chief
#6 Tecumtha - Tecumseh, Shawnee born Confederacy Chief of multiple Native American tribes in the early 1800s
Maketewa Math - Shawnee Leader Bonus Cache - an easy math puzzle cache using Shawnee numbers
Maketewah - The Mill Creek

Asbury Historic Cemetery and Chapel
Cemetery geocaches are some of my favorite hides, especially historical cemeteries. In November 2013 I saw a string of old cemeteries that had no geocaches so I changed that.

Brethren Historic Cemetery 
This cemetery has a section with headstones moved from another cemetery but they left the bodies behind.
Willsey Historic Cemetery
One of the many Colerain Township historical cemeteries.
Asbury Historic Cemetery and Chapel
I wasn't able to find much information about this old cemetery and chapel other than it dates back to 1836, the original chapel was destroyed in a storm and was rebuilt in 1868.

The rest of my historically based caches are near my home or work and highlight some overlooked events in the area you may not know about as you go speeding down busy modern roads.

Cache & Cary geocache with my Gehio Travel Bug
Cache & Cary - Site of a still standing 1832 cottage occupied by pioneers to the area.
Dr. I.M. Wise - The father of reform Judaism in the US had a home near the plaque location. This is the same man who built the Plum Street Temple in downtown Cincinnati.
Splitting Linwood - An old neighborhood in Cincinnati split in two by a modern highway.
Wickerham's Mill - An 18th century gristmill location along the Little Miami River.
Garard’s Station - 18th century site of the first fortified settlement in Anderson Township.
The El Rancho Rankin Motel - The demolished infamous seedy and tacky motel site on Beechmont Ave.
Clough Cache - Clough Pike and Clough Creek (rhymes with ruff) in Anderson Township are named after a Revolutionary War Veteran named Richard Clough Anderson.
AndersEn with an E - My surname is AndersEn but I work in AndersOn. Just a little fun with the spelling and the origin of the name.

I also have one trackable item called a travel bug that is supposed to be moved from geocache to geocache but sadly the original disappeared in November 2012. Unfortunately people lose them or take them. I keep hoping it will turn up again.Sometimes they do.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Garfield & Friends

beginning
 James Abram Garfield, was born on this day November 19th 1831 in Moreland Hills, Ohio, near Cleveland. He rose from abject poverty, by a widowed Mother, worked as a janitor to attend college and became our nations 20th US President. He was shot in 1881 four months into his first term and died two months later from the treatment of his wounds ending up with the second shortest US Presidency and the second US president to die in office. That's usually all anyone knows about him.

Like William Henry Harrison, his legacy will mostly be his death, a mere footnote in history, one for the trivia games. That's too bad as he was a remarkable man. A Civil War veteran, a preacher and highly educated, it was said that Garfield could "write Greek with one hand, while writing Latin with the other."  If it weren't for a rotten political system and a lunatic with a gun you probably would know more about him.

It turns out Garfield wasn't even planning on running for President. The 1880 Republican Convention was split into 2 factions, the Half-Breed moderate faction wanted James G. Blaine, while the Stalwart conservative faction supported an unprecedented third term for former President U.S. Grant. Garfield gave a speech nominating an alternate Half-Breed candidate John Sherman. Because of the splits in the party, no one was getting the required number of votes in the nomination process. After 35 voting rounds Blaine and his supporters along with Sherman and his supporters decided to band together and nominate a compromise candidate, James A. Garfield, a Major General Civil War veteran and nine term Congressman from Ohio who eventually would go on to win the 1880 election. To make peace within the party, a Stalwart, Chester Arthur was nominated as VP.

middle
In the 19th century it was common practice for government office seekers to seek jobs via the Spoils System whereby the President would hire people based on their political and personal relationships and little or no regard to qualifications. Basically with no oversight whatsoever, if you were a big supporter or a family member you would likely get a cushy job. The system was rife with corruption and incompetence. People would line up by the dozens to beg for jobs at the White House which consumed much of the Presidents time. Garfield dreaded it and thought that should change.

Charles J. Guiteau, a Stalwart, was one of these office seekers who initially supported Grant but then switched to Garfield and somehow had the grand illusion that he was a major reason for Garfield's election. He felt he was owed a political appointment and became furious when he was rejected. Guiteau purchased a revolver and began stalking the President with the intention of killing him so the Stalwart VP could become President. But let's be clear, most of the folks that encountered him including his own family found him to be a bit a loon.

On July 2, 1881, Guiteau got his chance and shot Garfield twice in the abdomen on a train platform in Washington DC. He was quickly apprehended as he attempted no escape and shouted , "I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts. .. Arthur is president now!". Oddly, Guiteau later wrote Arthur and demanded a pardon and a job. He was eventually hanged.

end
Garfield was severely wounded but modern doctors speculate he would have survived if they just left him alone. It was fairly normal after the Civil War for men to be walking around with a slug somewhere in their body .  Erroneously thinking the bullet may be near a vital organ (it really wasn't), the American doctors who had not yet adopted Joseph Lister's new antiseptic techniques being practiced in Europe subjected him to much prodding and poking with unsterilized equipment and fingers which eventually led to multiple infections and then his death on September 19th 1881. The use of antiseptics was quickly accepted by American doctors after this event.

We will never know what would have been but as far as I can tell he may have been one of the most honest and incorruptible men that held the office of the Presidency. Or maybe corruption would have found him. It seems to happen to most people of power. Ironically one of his lasting legacies was his initiative for Civil Service reform which would away with the Spoils System, the very system that contributed to his death. It was that assassination by the disgruntled office seeker that eventually led to President Chester Arthur signing the bi-partisan Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act which handed out appointments based on merit rather than privilege or political party.

Another part of his legacy will be his support of civil rights by supporting education for black southerners and appointing several African-Americans including Frederick Douglas (who as a US Marshall also presided over the inauguration of Garfield) to government positions.

Garfield was laid to rest in in Cleveland Ohio's Lakeview Cemetery. It is a very nice tomb as seen above and the focal point of that cemetery that I hope to visit one day.

Here is a fun fact: Abraham Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln was present for three Presidential shootings. He witnessed his father's assassination in 1865. Then as a cabinet member, he was present during Garfield's shooting. He also witnessed the murder of President McKinley 20 years later. Strange.

For more information on Garfield, especially surrounding his assassination and death I highly recommend  "Destiny of the Republic" by Candace Millard , a 2012 best seller that got rave reviews. It is a highly engaging narrative account that reads like a novel. I was actually kind of shocked of how fun this book was to read.