Monday, July 13, 2015

The Fool and The Buckeye

Arthur St. Clair doodle
On this day in 1787 the Northwest Ordinance was enacted forming the Northwest Territory

People tend to think of history as some sort of concrete timeline where the occasional revisionist meddles with the facts. While that may be true at times, the fact is, some history just gets lost. Original sources like books, documents, paintings, etc turn up missing or get destroyed. Sometimes the original source is found to be wrong or subsequent authors didn't have access to good sources. Then folks use that as a source. You get the idea.

Back in the 18th century, seals were all the rage.. Not the adorable trick-performing fish-eating mammals but rather the circular emblem type with a Latin motto. It made things all official-ly looking. The Old Northwest Territory, which would give birth to six US States had its own official seal designed by my favorite terrible frontier General and Governor Arthur St. Clair himself. I hadn't really thought about the Seal of the Northwest Territory too much until I ran across a funny reference to it in a 1939 book called "Cincinnati: Story of the Queen City" by Clara Longworth de Chambrun.

Arthur St. Clair
The man who runs the Dust Jacket, a collectible bookstore in Mt Lookout in Cincinnati told me a little about the author. Clara was a Longworth, one of Cincinnati's first and richest families, related to Teddy Roosevelt and Marquis de Lafayette. That's pretty good breeding. She had lived just up the road and said the book had some "real gossipy stuff". I was intrigued. After reading it I understood more what what he meant. It wasn't scandalous like TMZ or something, it was full of unsourced and anecdotal historical stories. Don't get me wrong though, she meant well and it's still a very interesting and worthy book with lots of good local material and illustrations. Just don't take everything she says as the last word.

Clara Longworth de Chambrun
Clara Longworth de Chambrun states that the seal design by "Saint Clair" (her odd spelling) represents the planting of a buckeye among the stumps of the fallen forest. She says that the design was criticized by people insisting "the Fool had cut down a good apple tree and replaced it with a worthless buckeye" (her quotes). She goes on to say that many felt no seal was needed since statehood was in sight. This was accompanied by an image of the seal. Notice she also spells "St. Clair" as "Saint Clair". I guess she really was a blue-blood Francophile. I think she just took a shine to the original French spelling of this surname. While there were variations, Arthur definitely spelled it "St. Clair" in his signature and I've never seen spelled any other way. Most historians pronounce it "Sinclair" too.

At any rate, as funny as I thought that "worthless buckeye" comment was, something didn't quite sit right with her apocryphal statement. She makes it sound like the seal was only in use very briefly. While St Clair certainly made his mistakes, he was a scholarly and educated man. The Old Northwest Territory existed from 1787–1803. The seal's first recorded use was in a proclamation made on July 26, 1788 by Arthur St. Clair himself. Statehood certainly was not in sight in 1788. That wouldn't happen until 1803. So it it was in use for at least 15 years. In the image there also seems to be no way to tell what kind of tree that is in the design.

William Hayden English
In the late 19th century a man named William Hayden English (a one time 1880 VP Democratic candidate who lost to the Garfield team) did some research while serving as the President of the Indiana Historical Society. He found that no official record existed on the full description or on the symbolism of the seal. In fact it was difficult finding a copy of it that had all parts of it distinctly shown. Remember, these were nearly 100 year old papers and they weren't exactly stored in a sealed climate controlled room. English basically recreated it from six photographs of documents and a lead rubbing of an impression of the seal.

His research was published in the 1896 book, Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio, 1778-1783 and concluded:

The coiled snake in the foreground and the boats in the middle distance; the rising sun, the forest tree felled by the ax and cut into logs, succeeded, apparently, by an apple tree laden with fruit; the Latin inscription, "Meliorem lapsa locavit," "he has planted a better than the fallen," all combine forcibly to express the idea that a wild and savage condition is to be superseded by a higher and better civilization.

I think what English came up with reconciles with what someone like Arthur St Clair had in mind. White men civilizing nature and "savage" Indian country. Also, English's book was published over 60 years prior to de Chambrun's. Whatever image Clara was looking at was the one re-created by English's research. As amusing that remark is about the fool and the buckeye is, and as much as I wanted it to be true, I think have to go with English's more mundane interpretation. But where did Clara Longworth de Chambrun notion come from? I guess that's the story lost to time.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Whirlwind Weekend WHH History Tour

inside the 2nd gate at last!
Perhaps you've noticed that I have a zeal for our trivialized 9th President? My wife has. For my half century birthday she surprised me with a Whirlwind Weekend William Henry Harrison History Tour in Ohio and Indiana. How bout that? All the stops were presented to me in a sealed envelope along the way, so I didn't know what was next! She even packed my "got William Henry Harrison" t-shirt? for the occasion. Huzzah!

Stop #1 on Saturday June 13th was a short drive to the Harrison Memorial and Tomb in North Bend OH.
I've been here several times but my wife really went the extra mile on this one. You can usually only go into the 1st gate of the tomb and peer into the main area. The 2nd gate stays locked except on special occasions. I guess this was one those. Tricia got a hold of Terry Simpson who is in charge of the property. She arranged for him to meet us there at 7:30AM and let me in the 2nd gate to stand inches away from WHH himself!  I've spoken to Terry before over at the Harrison-Cleves Museum. It was fantastic of him to meet us there early on a Saturday morning. Oh and there appeared to be some empty spots in the tomb near William Henry and wife Anna Symmes. I called dibs on one of them. I just found out I'm related to WHH by marriage. My 4x Great Grandfather William Henry Smith was a cousin of the Symmes family.

Stop #2 was the main course, Harrison's home he had built in Vincennes IN, the Indiana Territorial capital in the early 19th century, population 700. He named his home Grouseland, for the many game birds on this 300-acre tract of land in this former French trading post. Harrison arrived in Vincennes in 1801 as Governor and once completed lived at Grouseland from 1804 - 1812. This has been on my "local" history bucket list for a while.
view of Grouseland from the historic walnut grove

William Henry Harrison moved from North Bend OH to Vincennes with his wife Anna Symmes after he was appointed Governor by President Jefferson. Tricia and I had the luxury of a modern highway that took a pleasant 4 hours. By contrast, land routes were rare, rugged and dangerous in 1801 so the Harrison family took the 4 week trip by boat down the Ohio River to Louisville KY and then to southern Indiana where they continued upriver by keelboat on the Wabash. By all accounts they had good weather or it would have taken much longer. I'm glad we live in 2015!

Our drive along Rt 50 was beautiful and highly recommended vs the somewhat faster but more boring I-74 to I-70 route. We passed through and by Hoosier National Forest Martin State Forest, a couple of wildlife refuges and many small historic towns. I would like to come back to that area and explore it a bit more. Indiana aint just corn fields. One would think it would all be flat (like the Interstate) but it was hilly and forested in many spots and reminded me of driving through parts of rural Kentucky. Of course if you enjoy billboards and chain restaurants take Interstate. Your call.
My friend and fellow geocacher Mark also helped Tricia  pre-plan some geocaches for me to find on the way so I didn't have to do that on the fly. Huzzah!
Harrison and Tecumseh met here!
Once we got to Grouseland we took the guided tour of the Virginian plantation styled brick home and its 17 rooms, including an attached one and a half story dependency.. The friendly staff there was great and rather than just be a good sport, my wife actually enjoyed it herself. Because it was a private collection, no photos were allowed in the home. There were signs everywhere about that. Did I cheat? Maybe once. This site and the official site have some pretty good interior photos and descriptions as well as some history of the home after Harrison moved back to Ohio during the War of 1812.
Some interesting tidbits I took away from the visit - The house was built to withstand attacks by hostile Indians, British or any general melee. The windows were shuttered inside and out as a defensive measure. There was in fact a bullet hole in the dining room shutter, an alleged attempt on Harrison's life by a rogue frontier ruffian. The basement windows also had bars with a clear view to the Wabash River so that any incoming river traffic could be observed and defended if necessary. Exterior and interior walls were three bricks thick and the basement had a water well, munitions storage and a French drain toilet in the case of any long siege. As I understood it reading elsewhere, Harrison started the first Indiana Public Library in this basement too.
It's worth noting that Vincennes University, across the street from Grouseland, was Indiana's first college and, you guessed it, founded by WHH in 1801.
gift shop stop
The home was quite spacious for his large family (I think five of his ten children were born here). We learned that the good Governor had an open door policy whereby any citizen that felt unsafe in this hostile frontier could find refuge at the mansion. It was common for one to find regular citizens and travelers sleeping in the upstairs hallways.
We could also see some minor structural damage from the powerful 1811-12 New Madrid Earthquakes. These were the quakes that caused the Mississippi River to run backwards in one section and the rumble was felt as far away as Boston. This is one strong house and it's clear that Harrison cared for the people he governed based on his protective policies and promotion of education. Huzzah!
One of the highlights for me was seeing the hat and sword that Harrison wore at Tippecanoe along with a remnant of the flag from his regiment in that battle. It was also great sitting in the walnut grove where the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and Governor Harrison had their parleys in 1810. One of those meetings almost ended in bloodshed but cooler heads prevailed. If that had turned out differently we may never had heard much of Tecumseh or Harrison, if at all. Lewis and Clark, whom Harrison knew from the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, also stopped here on the way back from their famous expedition.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indy
I was unsuccessful in playing matchmaker to my teenage daughter (unbeknownst to her back in Cincinnati) with the teenage docent who really seemed to enjoy his volunteer work and knew his stuff. He was taken, so I'll have to look for another future son-in-law. Because of my yakity yak with the wonderful like minded staff and my dawdling in the gift shop (where I picked up some great trinkets for my collection), we blew Tricia's timeline a bit for the next stop. That just meant we had to eat lunch on the run.

Stop #3 was an overnight stay at the Hilton in Downtown Indianapolis a block away from the mighty impressive 19th century Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Monument Circle which includes accolades to local early history including of course WHH. They were doing repairs so it was all covered in scaffolding. We had a nice dinner downtown that evening.

Stop #4 on Sunday was also near the hotel. It was the grandiose Indiana War Memorial which was dedicated by General Pershing in 1927. It had well done displays on Indiana's contributions to the various war efforts from the Revolutionary War to WHH's War of 1812 service up to the present day and ended with the 110' tall Shrine Room with its massive 24 marble pillar. You can see it in a virtual tour here. It is quite overwhelming to stand in that quiet and massive room.

Pez Prez WHH overlooks Downtown Indy
Alas, all good things must come to an end and we had to head home on Sunday afternoon. What a great way to spend a weekend for a WHH and local history fan like me!

Maybe for the 60th, Tricia will take me to Harrison's birthplace, Berkeley Plantation in Virginia? Fingers crossed!

Other Gehio related WHH posts you may find interesting:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The City of Seven (Three) Hills (Ridges)

Apparently #513Day is a thing now. In case you didn't know today is 5/13 and Cincinnati's area code is 513. So Happy 513 Day Cincinnati.
Now pardon me while I pull out my wet blanket.
Cincinnati is often referred to as the City of Seven Hills. No one can agree on a definitive list. What is the origin of this nickname? I'm sorry to report that there is no such thing. It's made up. Sorry.

1938 Cincinnati book
Let's review some geology! 
Cincinnati doesn't even have hills. Technically they are ridges.
The city of Cincinnati is in a peneplain, a plain carved out by the ancient Teays River millions of  years ago. This plain is surrounded by three ridges. The high points of these ridges are nearly all the same height and seem like hills from downtown Cincinnati. The city is actually in a valley. The Ohio River Valley. They just look like hills when viewed from the lower elevation of the Downtown area.

Let's review some history!
Northwest Territory Governor Arthur St. Clair re-named Losantiville to Cincinnati in 1790 after the Society of the Cincinnati, a veterans club tribute to George Washington named after the Roman farmer-leader-farmer Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. By the early 19th century Cincinnati was a growing metropolis, eager to draw new citizens and business. The steamboat era was in full swing and the Miami & Erie Canal had just been completed. The city was the gateway to the Mississippi and all points beyond. Cincinnati's location made it a major thoroughfare for commerce and travel. The population of Cincinnati went from 2,500 in 1810 to over 100,000 by 1850. In short, it was a boom-town. It seems likely that someone decided Cincinnati had Seven Hills just like Rome simply as a nod to the origin of the city's name. This reference didn't even show up until June 1853 in a periodical called Bickley's West American Review. By 1860 the population was at 160,000.

Now back to the "seven hills" themselves...
The Cincinnati area now has over a dozen places with the term "Mount", "Heights" or "Hill" but it wasn't always this way. Some "hills" have changed names over the years or have been combined into one name.
An obvious thing to do is go back to the original list. As I said before, no one mentioned "Seven Hills" until 1853 over a half century after Cincinnati's founding. This 1853 list is also strange because it includes College Hill way to the North. In 1881, someone came up with a new list. By then there were different hill names as the city expanded even more. Oddly the 1881 list replaces College Hill with Mount Lookout way over to the East. By the 20th and 21st century we had updated lists.
Six basic "hills" seem to be common in all of the era's but if you ask me the best list is from the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1958. That list hugs around those three ridges just perfectly. They can all be easily observed from the point of view of the downtown area.

  1. Mount Adams
  2. Walnut Hills
  3. Mount Auburn
  4. Clifton Heights
  5. Fairview Heights
  6. Fairmount
  7. Price Hill
A terrain map makes this more apparent:



On the terrain map you can see the flat plain at the bend north of the Ohio River and the three ridges to the Northeast, North and Northwest. (click on the icon in the upper left of the map to see the different layers with the different hills mentioned in 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.)
I'll agree that the City of Three Ridges doesn't have the same panache as the Romanesque sounding City of Seven Hills and this myth will never die. That's OK. We know the truth.
Now feel free to make your own list and argue with a lifelong resident about it.

other sources:
-Digging Cincinnati History
-Cincinnati Enquirer March 18 2012
-Cincinnati Magazine May 1985


Friday, April 17, 2015

I Red The News Today Oh Boy

Pete, you scoundrel!
In 1960 a band from Liverpool England formed and called themselves The Beatles. By 1970 The Beatles were finished. The members went their separate ways playing music under various other names.
In an alternate history, by 1981 another group of lads from Liverpool decided to form a new band and called it The Beetles. They have been recording music for the last 33 years. That makes The Beetles the longest running rock band in history!
The Beetles est.1960.

Stay with me. This post is about something sacred and holy to Cincinnatians. A topic you won't see much of here.
It's not politics.
It's not religion.
this sign skips from 1869 to 1876
It's not even chili.
It's sports. Namely, the Cincinnati Reds.
Now it's no secret to my friends that I'm not a sports fanatic but I do like history and I like debunking historical myths. In other words, I like the truth.

I'm sure you've heard the Cincinnati Reds referred to as the oldest professional baseball team, "established in 1869". Some Cincinnati Reds shirts and merchandise say "est. 1869". A big sign at the stadium even states this. It just isn't true.
It is certainly a fact that the first professional baseball team was the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. This was a baseball team from Cincinnati with "Reds" in the name, but this was a different team with a different genealogy. Let me explain how that happened...

you wear a t-shirt of lies!
The original 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings folded after a short run. The end.
In 1871 several players from that folded team moved to Boston and formed the Boston Red Stockings. There were several name changes in bean-town like my personal favorite, the 1893 Boston Beaneaters.
In 1913 they became the Boston Braves. This team then moved to Milwaukee in 1953 as the Braves and then moved once more to Atlanta in 1966 again as the Braves.
This is the modern Atlanta Braves, the oldest professional baseball team, est. 1871. Sorry.
I hear you screaming "Lies! Sacrilege! Heretic!".

There's more...


Cincinnati had no professional baseball team from 1871-1875. None. Zip.

There WAS a second Red Stockings team that formed in Cincinnati in 1876, but they folded in 1880. The end. Again.
A third Red Stockings team started in 1881.  This team dropped "Stockings" from the name when joining the National League in 1889. This is the same Cincinnati Reds franchise that exists today.

In the 1940s the idea began to appear that the Cincinnati Reds was the oldest team in professional baseball. I'm not sure of the reason behind this. Perhaps nostalgia or hometown pride. We did have that war going on. The point is, the notion did not exist prior to that time. It certainly didn't exist in 1883. Here is a excerpt from a Cincinnati Commercial Gazette article on 09/13/1883
"The Cincinnatis have played remarkable games during their career since 1882, but never did they accomplish such a feat as that of this game. Never was there such batting done in this city - in fact the slugging has not been equaled in this country in late years. From the time the first Red Stocking went to the bat up to the last one was extinguished (the NL Reds 1876-1880), it was a continuous larruping picnic"
(Larrupping means a "thrashing")
While the Reds Major League Baseball site does not make this claim directly, they do skimp on the timeline a bit much like Ohio Historical Marker #54-31 in front of the Great American Stadium . They both refer to the original Cincinnati Red Stockings as being the oldest team but omit the folding, subsequent franchise moves, and name changes. Keep in mind no one associated with the original 1869 Red Stockings had anything to do with the 1881 Red Stockings.
Here is another analogy for you. If Pete Rose lived at 1414 Main Street, Cincinnati OH, sells his house and moves away to let's just say... Philadelphia, then another man moves into 1414 Main Street and changes his name to Pete Rose, is that the same Pete Rose? I don't think anyone would say it was. It's a different man with the same name living in the same house.
angry revisionist history Reds fans
Apparently this topic gets debated from time to time so this is nothing new to the hardcore fan but to the casual rabid fan this is religious doctrine.

1881! Someone got it right!
Need more proof?
Baseball folks are all about stats right? Take a look look at the MLB Reds statistics page. Let's see, where is 1869.... Oh! They begin in 1882 for the 3rd Cincinnati Reds Stockings. Look at the Braves MLB site, their stats begin in...drum roll...1871. Yeah yeah, I know it says Boston Braves but almost all other online sources list them as the Boston Red Stockings for the years 1871-1875. Here is one source.
Atlanta Braves win by 11 years.

It's fair to say that Cincinnati's baseball tradition dates back to 1869. BUT the Cincinnati Reds franchise per the MLB stats began in 1881, 11 years after the Atlanta Braves and thus is not the oldest pro team.

Cincinnati Reds est. 1881

The next thing you know, I'll be telling you that the Wright Brothers from Ohio didn't fly the first airplane in 1903 but rather it was a German immigrant in Connecticut named Gustav Whitehead two years earlier. That's another topic for later.

Should I hire a bodyguard now?...er uh, play ball and good luck in 2015! Huzzah.

other sources: 
-the biggest Reds fan I've ever known: James L. Farmer Sr. of the Society for Cincinnati Sports Research
-Major League Baseball


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March Ohio History Madness!

March is rich in Ohio history goodness. 
OK, not all of it is good. Some of it is bad and downright shameful. It is interesting nonetheless and makes us who we are. Are we learning yet?


I've written up some things on most of the following items. The link will take you to that post.

Tecumseh was born in 1768 somewhere in SW Ohio. Historians don't agree on the exact day or place (probably Xenia) but the date is likely sometime in March based on conversations with a white man named Stephen Ruddell who grew up as his adopted brother.

The month also marks Ohio Statehood Day when Ohio became the 17th state March 1st 1803. So happy belated birthday.

Adopted son of Ohio, war hero, Tecumseh adversary and shortest term President William Henry Harrison gave that long speech on March 4th 1841. It contributed to his early demise one month later. March really sucked for him. You can follow him on Twitter.

A terrible scar...
"Adopt our religion and our ways, be farmers and everything will be fine"...that's basically what the Americans said to the Indians.
It made little difference when they complied.
The Gnadenhutten Massacre took place March 8 1782. Ninety farming Christianized Delaware Indians were slain by militiamen in Ohio as revenge for raids carried out by other Indians. They were even praying as men, women and children were executed en masse. This escalated tensions greatly in the area and led to years of bloody conflict and distrust.

Onto something more positive...
Ohio produced 24 astronauts including Neil Armstrong. March 16th 1962 marks his first trip to space aboard Gemini 8. He would later of course be the first man to walk on the Moon.

Back to bummersville...
Many Wyandot, like Leatherlips and Tarhe, sided with Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries but it didn't matter. Their reward? They were the last Indians get booted from Ohio to "Indian Country" upon the signing of the Treaty with the Wyandot on March 17th 1842. The last sentence of the treaty may as well have been "Thanks for the help with the British and other Indians, we'll take all the land now."

Time for some music!
March 21st 1951 was the first rock concert, Allan Freed's Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland OH. 20,000 people showed up to a venue that held half that. Pandemonium ensued. Headlining was Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers. Tickets cost $1.50. The fact that it was interracial was a big big deal too.

Ah well back to terrible good old days...
On March 27th 1884 a mob in Cincinnati, Ohio, attacked members of a jury who had returned a verdict of manslaughter in a clear case of murder, and then over the next few days would riot and destroy the Hamilton County Courthouse. This would become known as the Cincinnati Courthouse Riots. One of the worst riots in American history. 50 people died and many important historical documents and court records were lost in that melee.

Arthur St Clair, governor of the Northwest Territories was born in Scotland on March 27 1737. He was infamous for his major Indian defeat as well as naming Cincinnati.

March 31st 1933 marks the completion of Union Terminal which now houses the Cincinnati Museum Center. The citizens just passed a levy to save this fantastic building that needs plenty of work. Thanks for that! I no longer volunteer but my heart is there.

And last but not least, I acknowledge March 21st 2010 as my Ohio History Epiphany Day. This is when the local history lightbulb went off for me. Read all about it here if you like.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ship's Sensors Detect A Day of Birth

Nurse Chapel

Ohio has produced 24 NASA astronauts including Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Jim Lovell and Judith Resnik. Resnik was even recruited into the astronaut program in 1978 by Star Trek actress Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols who headed a project to attract women and minorities to the agency.
Ohio is also the birthplace of Cleveland native Majel Barrett on February 23rd 1932. So happy birthday!
Who?
Spock denies Nurse Chapel's interface attempts
While not having the direct influence or notoriety as Nichols, Majel was involved in nearly every single incarnation of the Star Trek franchise. Nicknamed "the First Lady of Star Trek" she is best known as the iconic female computer voice in five Star Trek series' and several of the movies including the 2009 reboot. She also portrayed several recurring onscreen TV characters such as Nurse Christine Chapel in the original series (promoted to Dr. Chapel in the movies) and lusty Betazoid Ambassador Lwaxana Troi in The Next Generation and Deep Space 9.

Hello Nurse!
Thanks to Gene Roddenberry's progressive visions of the future, her first Star Trek gig was in the 1964 pilot The Cage as Number One, the ship's first officer. NBC network executives thought Mr. Spock the alien science officer was too demonic looking and they didn't care for a woman playing such an uppity lead role. In 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act, Americans weren't quite ready for strong female roles on TV or in real life. Roddenberry was pressured to give the first officer spot to the now half alien, less demonic looking man and demote the Earth woman to a more suitable role for the 23rd century. A sexy blonde nurse. Because it was really 1964 America. I suppose the show would have been much different without the misogyny but...wow. It wasn't that long ago. Interestingly, Chapel's unrequited love for the mostly emotionless alien Mr. Spock would become a plot subject in the series. I guess by the end of the 60s, the network censors were okay with a little inter-species mind noodling, and Chapel even carried Spock's essence once.  I've learned this relationship has become the subject of some tawdry fan-fiction. Google it. I try to keep it PG-13 here.

Gene and Majel in the 80s on set
When the first series ended in 1969, Majel married Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Besides her Star Trek work she produced and played roles in other science fiction shows such as Andromeda and Babylon 5 as well as doing voice overs for animation and video games.
Gene died in 1991, Majel in 2008 and their ashes will be launched into space by the company Celestis in 2016. The space burial will include among others, fellow Star Trek co-star James "Scotty" Doohan who died in 2005.
Not a bad legacy for someone who's college dream was to become a legal clerk.

other sources:
-Majel Barrett Bio on roddenberry.com
- IMDB.com
-MemoryAlpha

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Yeatman's Cove. All Cincinnati folks know what this is. I'll bet most have no idea who this Yeatman person is.
For those unfamiliar, Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman's Cove is an outdoor recreational area along the Cincinnati Riverfront. It's popular for many outdoor events like the annual Riverfest Fireworks, Party in the Park and other large community events. The area has a spectacular view of the Ohio River and the bridges from many places including the sprawling Serpentine Wall. You can almost always catch a barge or a steamboat chugging down the river. There are playgrounds, tennis courts, and trails to enjoy. It's very nice place to bring a family, maybe catch some live music or just walk around on a nice day.
1869 sketch of Cincinnati in 1802. The tavern would have been just above the boats by the tree.

illustration of the Square and Compass
of unknown
 date/origin but it seems old ;-)
Griffin Yeatman, a Virginian born lawyer built the first public house in Cincinnati OH in 1793. Yeatman, a Freemason, called his 2 story log tavern the "Square & Compass", no doubt a nod to the symbol of Freemasonry. Located at Front and Sycamore (where the left field of Great American Ballpark is now) this became the center of social and political activity in the fledgling city with around 800 citizens. A "Who's who?" of the Old Northwest such as Marquis de Lafayette, George Rogers Clark, Andrew Jackson, Aaron Burr, William Henry Harrison, Arthur St. Clair, and Mad Anthony Wayne frequented the tavern. Over time the country became more partisan and so did the Tavern. By 1800 only old Federalists (who tended to be Freemasons) hung out at Yeatman's while the new up and coming Democratic-Republicans (who tended not to be Freemasons) started going to future first Cincinnati Mayor, David Ziegler’s general store next door. Things never change. The new generation always wants their own stuff, new ideas and cool places to hang out.

1936 marker on building prior to the
baseball stadium being built at the location.
Griffin Yeatman wasn't just some attorney turned bar owner. He was a real big shot. For 27 years Griffin served as the Hamilton County Recorder, County Clerk, and Justice of the Peace. Don't be fooled by the word "tavern" either.  Oh sure you could get a pint of ale and a meal at the "Square and Compass" but it wasn't the chicken wing, burger and craft beer type place we know today. Many taverns of that time served as multi-functional community spaces, much like the modern public park that bears his name. The "Square and Compass" also acted as a hospital, post office, court and town council. By 1819 Cincinnati,  now at 9,000 citizens, had 70 other taverns but I suspect they were more along the lines of our modern notions.

It is difficult to come up with much else on the man or his tavern. I can't find a single image of Griffin or his bustling public house. It's a bit surprising that no period sketches of this high profile spot seem to exist and one would think a man of such prominence would have sat for a portrait or two. Griffin died at age 79 in 1849 of "rush of blood to heart" (?) and like many Cincinnati VIPs is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.
It is worth noting that even though Griffin Yeatman's full story seems to be lost to time, there are attempts to honor his name with an annual Griffin Yeatman Award. The award recognizes people who work to help others understand historic preservation and promote public interest in the topic. <ahem>

sources:
FindAGrave.com - Griffin Yeatman
University of Cincinnati Historical Maps
Cincinnati Cemeteries: The Queen City Underground 
BeerMumbo - Yeatman's Tavern
OhioPix - Ohio Historical Society managed repository of Ohio images
- Cincinnati, a Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors (1943)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Finney & Sprong - Forgotten Pioneers, Forgotten Cemetery


The first Gehio post of 2015! I'll try to get some more non-cemetery traditional posts together for the new year so this doesn't turn into just a graveyard blog! Eh. Mebbe.

Finneytown OH was founded by Ebenezer Ward Finney and his son-in-law David Sprong in 1798. The area of land had been acquired by their families after the Revolutionary War from John Cleves Symmes.  Personally, I wish they called it Sprongtown! I do like the sound of that! "Finney & Sprong" also sounds like a fine bluegrass duo.

Pvts. Finney and Sprong are buried in what is now a hidden little cemetery that's had several names over the years. The Old Wesleyan or Old Finneytown Cemetery was also known as Winton Ridge Lane Cemetery and God's Half Acre Cemetery. Ironically, per Google Maps, the 1802 cemetery sits just outside the border of Finneytown in what is now College Hill.
The six foot tall by fifty foot wide mound in the center is a c.800 BCE Adena Indian burial mound. Seen in the last two photo, next to the graveyard, is the top of the immense 1930s era  Winton Road Water ReservoirI believe it is unused now but I wasn't able to find additional information.  You can clearly see it in the overhead and street view maps in the link above. If anyone knows anything more about the reservoir I'd love to know! I'd hate to see it torn down. Maybe it can be a skate park!

For a great deal of time no one knew who who owned the old cemetery and as a consequence became overgrown and run down. This actually happens quite a bit. It is especially sad here not only because the founders of the community are buried here but also because 59 other early settlers and several veterans of  the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 vets are interred here as well. Then of course there are the prehistoric Adena Indians buried in the mound. So much history in this half acre!

Finney and Sprong with their consorts
In 1935, President Roosevelt started the Work Project Administration or WPA to create jobs during the Great Depression. By then many old cemeteries, especially veteran cemeteries, were in sorry shape due to neglect. One WPA project was to record all the graves nationwide of those who served in all the US wars up until then. This cemetery and its occupants were recorded at that time along with the "old Indian Mound". I have a feeling that this place would have been lost forever without the WPAs involvement.

Since it still had no official caretaker or owner, the burial ground was pretty much forgotten about again for 50 more years.
In 1982, the Adena mound was rediscovered and partially excavated, but then was once again forgotten. We never seem to learn do we?

Over the years, such as in 1995 and 2004 Boy Scouts and other civic groups have cleaned up the cemetery grounds. They have replaced or fixed some of the stones and even rededicated it.

the grounds with the Indian mound
and the reservoir to the right
Unfortunately, in early 2009 the grounds became associated with a heinous crime. The burned body of murdered teenager Esme Kenney was found near here.

The current state of the grounds seems to depend on when you visit as it relies on volunteer help. I had been here on two occasions in the last several years. On one visit it was nearly impossible to see the mound because the weeds were so high. By the second visit I could clearly see the mound and the gravestones.
I don't believe in curses and am not typically creeped out by graveyards. However, seeing this mostly rundown cemetery with its nearly forgotten pioneers and ancient people, resting in the shadow of the hulking unused reservoir and then knowing about the horrible crime here certainly gave me pause and a major case of the willies.

A special thanks to the Prell Geneology Website for all the research of this property!

Sources:
- FindAGrave
History of Finneytown 
2012 Cincinnati Enquirer article 
Genealogical information and article on the cemetery re-dedication. (Includes maps,photos and archaeological information by a descendant of Finney and Sprong.)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pvt. Issac F. Cosbey - Typos and Typhoid


“We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.....In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth.” 
- Abraham Lincoln's State of the Union message December 1st 1862


While geocaching I see the graves of many soldiers. This one caught my eye since a new plaque was placed in front of it and I noticed that Pvt. Issac F. Cosbey died during the Civil War. Many times the soldiers that died during the Civil War were buried near where they died, typically far from Ohio, so this one seemed unusual.

Researching Private Coseby was difficult at first. I thought he was in the 82nd because it says so on the newer plaque but I wasn't coming up with much.


The older original stone reads:
PVT CO A, 83rd REG OHIO INFANTRY CIVIL WAR
Aged 19y, 4m, & 8d
Died in the service of his country at Memphis, Tennessee.

The newer marker reads:
PVT CO A 82 REGT OHIO INF

The 83rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry roster shows that an Isaac E Crosby age 18, was a member of the 83rd Co A. Issac entered the service on August 13th 1862 and died on December 1st 1862 at a hospital in Memphis TN. It then states Issac T Cosby as the name in the hospital. Aside from some typos on the middle initial and last name this all seemed to fit.

I did some more checking on the 83rds movements to make sure things matched up.
Camp Dennison, six miles East of the grave
The 83rd was made up of seven companies and organized at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati OH August - September 1862. The 83rd left Camp Dennison September 3rd for the Defense of Cincinnati. After relocating to support other units and participating in minor skirmishes the 83rd was moved via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Louisville KY to Memphis TN on November 23 1862. Since Issac died December 1st, this fits in well with his whereabouts at the time of his death in Memphis. I have to assume at this point that the "82nd" in the newer plaque is a mistake since none of the 82nd history matched up with Issac.

So here we have this kid who volunteers for the Union cause, doesn't really take on any action, likely acquired some awful disease like dysentery or typhoid while being transported on the river journey and then died 110 days after joining up. His fate was not the exception either. The reality is 2/3rds of casualties in the Civil War were due to disease instead of glorious movie-like battle. In fact, during the 83rds service, 56 men died in battle while 163 men died of disease or accidents. A reminder of the grim reality of war in those older times.

sources:
Sycamore Township Memorial Cemetery
FindAGrave
83rd Regiment Ohio Infantry History


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Price Thompson - First veteran of America's first war

Price Thompson 1756-1842
I tend to make note of Revolutionary War veterans graves when I am out and about. It's amazing what hardships they faced, before, during and after the war.
I was in Carpenters Run Cemetery looking for some of my pioneer Denman ancestors when I spotted Price Thompson's gravestone with an old flag and new plaque attached to it. Not only did I later uncover some interesting history, it turns out I am likely related to Price Thompson since he married a distant Denman relative of mine named Molly Denman.
Born in New Jersey on March 20th 1756, Price Thompson was 20 when he saw his first Revolutionary War action at the Battle of White Plains, October 1776, a British victory. Over the next six years he fought in several important battles.
Price enlisted for the duration of the war on December 18, 1776 with the 4th New Jersey Regiment. A week later, the day after Christmas, he fought at the Battle of Trenton against the Hessians, a force of Germans hired by the British. This was the first major American victory in the war. Most people recall this battle from history class because of the famous Washington Crossing the Delaware event that preceded the battle.
Private Thompson was also at the Battle of Brandywine September 1777. This was an American loss that forced a retreat resulting in the British capture of Philadelphia that lasted until 1778
Price then spent the harsh winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge where 2,500 of the 10,000 Americans camped there died of starvation, disease and exposure.
In June 1777, the 4th New Jersey Regiment took part in the Battle of Monmouth, an American-British draw.
By March 1779, Price transferred to the 1st New Jersey Regiment commanded by Colonel Matthias Ogden.
Americans tend think of warfare from this period as relatively honorable European style affairs where opposing forces square off neatly and engage in battle. That was generally true, but messy lesser known activities such as Sullivan's Expedition took place. Thompson's new regiment participated in this retaliatory campaign over the Summer of 1779. It was a scorched earth style of war against the Loyalists and British allied Iroquois that destroyed over 40 Indian villages and their food supplies. This led to a terrible winter with a death tolls numbering in the thousands from exposure and starvation.
Thompson survived all of this. He eventually made it all the way to the Siege of Yorktown and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in 1781, which would end the war. That hard life doesn't end here.

Molly ThomPson 1763-1823
Notice the typo in the last same.
He was discharged from the army in 1783 as a corporal.
Thompson then married his first wife Mary (Molly) Denman in 1783 and had thirteen children.
As a reward for his service , he received Bounty Land Warrant #8788 for 100 acres on July 31st 1789 from the Symmes Purchase in what would become Sycamore Township OH. This was just two weeks after the newly acquired Northwest Territory was formed by Governor Arthur St. Clair. In those days this part of Ohio was a violent and dangerous place due to ongoing hostilities with the British allied American Indians who still lived there. They didn't call it the Miami Bloodbath for nothing. Cincinnati/Losantiville was a brand new settlement, Ohio was not yet a state and the Treaty of Greenville was still six years away.
I never did discover Price's occupation but I found that sometime prior to 1824 he donated this acre of land to be used for a cemetery. In 1828 at age 72 he applied for his pension. He stated he served as a Drummer and a Corporal in the 1st NJ Line under Captain Holmes. US Pension Laws provided that every indigent person who had served to the war's close, or for nine months or longer, would receive a pension. Whatever his occupation was, he was unable to work at this point since the pension was essentially disability pay. Thompson being an enlisted man received $8 per month which equates to $200 in 2014 money. I thought it was worth pointing out that per the VA website, the amount of basic benefit paid in 2014 ranges from $127 to over $3,100 per month. Thompson would have received this meager pay with no other benefits in those days, until his death on March 1, 1842 at the age of 85. He served through nearly the entire Revolutionary War, into the 19th century, watched the US double from 13 to 26 states and lived through the first 10 US Presidencies!
There are thousands of "Price Thompson's" in old cemeteries across the US whose story is buried along with them. Remember their sacrifices and their stories, especially on Veterans Day.

other sources:
Battles of the American War of Independence - interesting site from the British perspective
Price Thompson at FindAGrave
Pension and land warrant information on Price Thompson
General info on Revolutionary War Pensions