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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Battle of the Pumpkin Fields

Little Turtle overlooking the Ohio
Today marks the anniversary of the end of a failed US campaign against Indians in the Northwest Territory. The goal was, as usual, to destroy villages and demoralize the Native Americans in the area to make way for white settlement. You may be thinking it was the infamous St Clair's Defeat but there was one before that. On this date October 22nd 1790 a final battle in Harmar's Campaign occurred in present day Fort Wayne Indiana. Referred to as Harmars Defeat by Americans, the Miami called it the Battle of the Pumpkin Fields. This was due to the steam rising off all the scalped skulls left on the riverbank. It reminded them of squash steaming in the autumn air. Just in time for Halloween.


General Josiah Harmar, commander of the U.S. army in the Northwest Territory, lost half of his 360 man force. Harmar was court-martialed for incompetence and acquitted. Indian casualty estimates vary from 40 to less than 200 out of 1000 men. There is no doubt this was a large Indian force but it is well known that when a US commander saw one Indian, he saw ten. In other words the military liked to inflate the numbers of the enemy to look better. By November 3rd 1790, the remaining Americans, some never firing a shot, fell back to Fort Washington in Cincinnati.  Up until then this was the worst defeat by the US against the Indians. Lucky for Harmar, St. Clair's overwhelming loss one year later in Ohio eclipsed this military blunder. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me...The US would eventually rethink their tactics of frontier warfare. Several years later The Battle of Fallen Timbers would more or less drive Indians from the area.

sources:
-Saving Private Boone
-Lane Library - Butler County Place Names 
-Ohio History Central  - Harmar's Defeat
-Journal of the Indian Wars Volume 1, Number 2

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Life of Reily - The Deneen Family Pioneers

Father (background) and Son
It's a real thrill finding these old cemeteries when I geocache. There always seems to be a history lesson waiting to be uncovered. On a beautiful March day in 2012 I found a marker at Bunker Hill Pioneer Cemetery in Reily Township OH that caught my attention.
It was for Samuel Deneen, a Private in the War of 1812. I noticed that his his father James Deneen, who fought in the Revolutionary War as a Private (Hunterdon Co NJ Militia), and several other Deneen's were nearby.

I wasn't able to find much more about younger Pvt Deneen's unit, Samuel Ashton's Co. of Ohio Militia but I did find an online roster. It confirms Sam Deneen served from February - August 1814. He is listed along with his brother Corp. Elijah Deneen (also buried here) and Private John M. Deneen another brother.
I also attempted to cross reference their service with known War of 1812 battles but I wasn't able to come up with anything solid. By 1814 most of the American Northwest land battles were occurring around Lake Erie on the Canadian side. Based on what I've seen they didn't keep or retain good militia service records from this period. These Deneens all survived the war and ended up here to start new lives in Reily Township.

This property was once all owned by the Deneen Family who I found were Huguenots that first fled religious persecution in France in the late 17th century. They later settled in Northern Ireland, eventually emigrating to the US in the early 18th century. They were one of the first pioneer families to settle in Butler County OH, The area around the cemetery is now Pater Wildlife Area.
In further research of the Deneen Family I found some other interesting but tragic history unrelated to their military service. Samuel had another brother named Alexander who also lived on this land. In 1826 while building a house he threw a wood plank out of the 2nd story which accidentally landed on their 2 year old daughter Mary and killed her instantly. Alexander became so distraught he never finished the house and eventually moved, selling the one acre cemetery to the local Universalist Church. Mary, along with Alexander are buried in nearby Springdale Cemetery.

sources: 
-James Deneen at Waymarking.com
-Deneen Family Document at Ancestry.com
-Ohio Genealogy Express
-FindAGrave.com
-Butler County MetroParks

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lt. Joseph Catterline - Miami Chapel Cemetery


In March of 2011 I was geocaching near Fairfield OH and spotted this replacement grave marker for Lt. Joseph Catterline in a tiny roadside cemetery called Miami Chapel. The original stone, like many from this period had been either stolen, vandalized or obliterated by the elements. In 2010, the Fairfield Historical Society, the Fairfield City Parks Department, and Tom Stander a Butler County Historian, placed new gravestones here. So thanks for that.

Like the marker says, Catterline fought in the Revolutionary War. In case you didn't know, the first United States national army was known as the Continental Army led by George Washington as opposed to the less disciplined and less equipped state militias. The New Jersey Line was a formation of infantry from NJ and made up part of the Continental Army along with other state lines.

Most don't think of Ohio as having much connection to the War of Independence but many vets settled in the Ohio frontier afterward since they were given parcels of this newly acquired land instead of cash payment for their service. It was a new start for many but also a hostile place in those days since the local Shawnee and Miami didn't quite agree on the terms of the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the war without their input.

I did a bit of research and found that Joseph Catterline (sometimes spelled "Catterlin") was a Lieutenant in the Army from 1777 to 1783 and engaged the enemy several times, most notably at Fort Lee NJ. When Thomas Paine wrote the famous line in The American Crisis, "These are the times that try men's souls" he was referring to events at Fort Lee.

Catterline had also been in charge of Signal Beacon No. 7 in New Jersey. In 1779 There were about two dozen Signal Beacons throughout the state. The types of beacons varied from tar barrels on top of poles, to pyramids, to wooden towers filled with dried grass or hay that could be ignited to warn others of a British attack.

Miami Chapel Cemetery is also the resting place of a War of 1812 soldier and four Civil War veterans.

Sources:
- Ancestry.com
- Findagrave.com

Friday, August 29, 2014

Confederate Spies in Kentucky

On March 12th 2012 near Mentor KY in Campbell County, while geocaching I ran into something I never see in SW Ohio, the grave of a Confederate Officer.

Confederate officer Lt. Thomas Jefferson McGraw was arrested by Union troops as a spy for actively recruiting men in KY for the Confederate Army. He was taken to Cincinnati on April 23 1863, tried and found guilty. He expected to be taken as POW but was instead sent to Johnsons Island on Lake Erie for execution on May 15th 1863. Abraham Lincoln himself rejected a family plea for a pardon. McGraw was blindfolded and sat on the edge of his coffin so that the gunfire would push him backward into the coffin for easy disposal. McGraws body was then returned and buried at Flagg Spring Cemetery in Kentucky.
The monument here was placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1914.



sources:
- FindaGrave.com
- KnowSouthernHistory.com

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in Ohio

Cemeteries are a big part of history and I find myself in them frequently while geocaching.
You can learn much from reading the stones from at various eras in American history and get a good idea of what people thought was important to remember. It's also interesting to see trends such as different types of materials and styles of grave stones.
Sometimes I just stop at those little roadside cemeteries and have a look around. Many times places such as this are literally falling apart and quite neglected since ownership is in dispute. Sadly, sometimes it is due to vandalism.
Please have a look at a fine website dedicated to cemetery preservation in the state of Ohio by Linda Jean Limes Ellis.

http://www.limesstones.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fortune Cookie Wisdom for Gehio

The perfect fortune cookie for an amateur field historian and geocacher! Maybe I should head to Orient OH?

Sidenote: at the bottom, I figured it was a typo and "kye" was "bye" or something but according to Google, yan-jiang means "magma" while "kye" is the plural of an archaic Scottish word for cows or cattle.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cincinnati Sioux and Botanical Garden

1896, Sicangu Lakota Sioux
at the Cincinnati Zoo
"Just four years shy of the 20th century, the Cincinnati Zoo kept one hundred Sioux Native Americans in a mock village at the zoo for three months."
That was the sentence I read. It sounded horrifying. I was intrigued by this (new to me) historical curiosity in Cincinnati, but something didn't sit right. Did the victors in this land grab display Sioux Indians along side wild zoo animals for people to gape at? I believe I saw this on a Twilight Zone episode. A Google search showed that same sentence repeated in many places, but more information was hard to come by. A forgotten atrocity perhaps? A zoo cover-up? Could it be true? Well no not really. It's not as deplorable as I thought but the story I found is is still interesting .

1895, Cree family at the Cincinnati Zoo
By the late 1890s the American Indians were a defeated enemy. They were forbidden to practice their traditions while living on squalid reservations dependent on meager government handouts. In most US states Indians were not even considered American citizens until the 1924 Citizenship Act. Oddly, a sense of nostalgia had been sweeping the nation for the "old west". Out of this longing was born the Wild West Shows. these were romanticized outdoor demonstrations that toured not only the US but the entire world. They had phony gun fights, mock Indian attacks and all the other sorts of things you would expect to see. They hired authentic American Indians as actors in these plays. The legendary Sioux Chief Sitting Bull toured in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the 1880s. They were not forced to, but lets get real. Given the choice of rotting on a poverty stricken reservation vs getting paid to see the world, which would you choose? I'm sure there wasn't a lot of work for unemployed Indians back then. Letters and articles from that period gave a sense that Indians didn't see themselves as victims and were trying to make the best of a bad situation. They seemed to enjoy performing and showing off their skills. It was far better than "rez" life and maybe some good could come of it.

Sicangu Lakota Sioux 
resting up between acts
So back to the Cincinnati Zoo. In 1895 a band of Cree Indians from Montana were abandoned by a Wild West showman in Bellevue KY near Cincinnati. It's not as if Indians in the 1890s could just hop the next expensive train home. Whites still saw Indians as "savages". The last Woodland Indian tribe, the Wyandot left Ohio in 1843. Custer's Last Stand  happened 20 years earlier and the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred just a few years earlier in 1890. With the Wild West nostalgia fad was going strong, the zoo officials invited the Cree to camp on the zoo grounds for two months and live like historical Indians. A pretty easy gig considering how they were Indians and had all their stuff with them. It was a big hit and boosted zoo attendance. The Cree made $25,000 which funded their trip back home. Later in 1896, the zoo invited a group of the Sicangu Lakota Sioux  from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to camp as well as put on reenactments like the Wild West Shows. The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved. 89 Sioux came to Cincinnati by train with their tee-pees, horses and other gear and put on two shows a day for spectators from June 6th to September 20th 1896. Along with horseback exhibitions and stagecoach attacks they re-enacted the massacre of Wounded Knee and the battle of Little Big Horn. Children earned $5 per month, female adults $15, male adults $25 and Chiefs earned up to $50 per month. No small sum at a time when the average US adult male earned just a dollar a day. Unfortunately the Sioux encampment and show didn't financially do as well as they hoped. There was  much rainy weather that summer along with competition from other travelling Wild West Shows.

1896, Some of the Sicangu Lakota Sioux
at the Cincinnati Zoo
So it looks like the zoo wanted to help out the Cree and make some money themselves in the process. Then they attempted to repeat it with the Sioux. Everyone was happy. That doesn't sound so bad I guess. It is difficult for us in this modern age not to look at history through our 21st century values. In those days this was considered a cultural program. These shows did have some detractors on both sides though. Some felt this interfered with "civilizing" the Indian which was the official policy in those days. Others felt this exploited them and exposed Indians to the bad elements of white society and reinforced negative stereotypes. Lakota Sioux Chief Chauncey Yellow Robe opposed the Wild West Shows and found them degrading and fraudulent. A participant, Pawnee Young Chief saw it as a way to make money and help those at home. It turns out that long before Hollywood Westerns gave us Indian stereotypes and bad history, these shows were doing it first. For example, mock attacks on Cincinnati's Fort Washington were re-enacted with the Indians in full regalia, war bonnets and all. The problem is, Indians never attacked Fort Washington. Woodland Indians didn't dress like that either. In fact, except for an occasional traveler, a Plains Indian never saw Cincinnati until the 1890s and they got there on a train.
 Blokaciqa or Little Stallion
AKA Arthur Belt, corresponded
with Meyer and other Cincinnatians
for many years
John Goetz Jr. , President of the Cincinnati Zoological Society justified the deal (in 1890s terms) saying "the presentation of wild people is in line with zoology, and so, when we exhibit Indians...or any wild or strange people now in existence, we are simply keeping within our province as a zoological institution." In short, he and many others felt it had educational value even if it was a bit off base. I still wonder if the Cree or Sioux fantasized about being more realistic and turning on those gawking white audiences just for old times sake? One last stand. Who could blame them? No one knows what went on in their hearts but sources show they struck up many friendships while they were in Cincinnati that lasted after they went back home. One such friendship several Indians made was with Cincinnati photographer and artist Enno Meyer. He corresponded with his new Indian friends for years afterward, exchanging notes and gifts. Letters still exist from Good Voice Eagle to Meyer where he inquires about coming back for more shows. Unfortunately by 1898 the zoo was having a financial crisis and could not afford to do so.
Draw your own conclusions but I feel that as usual the truth is in the middle somewhere and given the situation, none of this sounds as bad as I thought. These were human exhibitions but the conditions were not as bad as a dreadful and tragic the human zoos I'd read about. The participants had a choice, but just barely.

Sources: 
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden: From Past to Present by David Ehrlinger 
Images of America: The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden by Joy W. Kraft
Cincinnati's Wild West: The 1896 Rosebud Sioux Encampment by Susan Labry Meyn*
*Many thanks to Dr. Mark Fischer from the College of Mt St Joseph for supplying me with a copy of this PDF. 
Enduring Encounters: Cincinnatians and American Indians To 1900 by Susan Labry Meyn
Photos by Enno Meyer (1874-1947)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy Birthday to Thee. Gehio Is Three!

Gehio is three years old today with over 20,000 page views. Thanks to all those who read (I look at my stats), leave comments and those who subscribe. I started this blog to help me remember the interesting history I encounter, mostly while out geocaching, but it's nice to know others enjoy it as well.
Speaking of stats, I noticed there have been 88 posts prior to today which is the same number of counties in Ohio. I love it when stuff like that happens.
Stats. The post with the most page views is Some quick Ohio history for September, a hodgepodge of This Month in Ohio History with some cartoon references. I had fun doing that one. In 2nd place is Going Underground on Hamilton Avenue about the Underground Railroad and in 3rd place is The death of Tecumseh. An historical sign about that Shawnee Chief started it all for me.

The most fascinating thing I've run across was the story I did on Ohio pioneer and land speculator John Cleves Symmes' nephew, also named John Cleves Symmes, who thought the world was hollow and inhabited. His odd theory indirectly led to the discovery of the Antarctica continent.
Geocaching+History+Ohio=Gehio

Another crazy but true story is how they carved up and boiled the remains of the American General Mad Anthony Wayne.
The recipient of the first Purple Heart is also buried in Cincinnati in a previously overgrown abandoned cemetery.
Along the way I've learned that our brief 9th president William Henry Harrison wasn't just some insignificant rube. He played a vital role in the development of our country but then had the misfortune of ending on a bad note. He also passed out free booze at campaign stops in log cabin shaped bottles. Huzzah!

These sort of things continue to remind me that interesting history is all around us waiting to be discovered. Past events are the story of  who we are and how we came to be. Also, the weird stuff is just pretty damn cool.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Garfield documentary coming in February 2015

Who knew a book on an obscure Ohio born US President could be so excellent? Even I had my doubts. However, "Destiny of the Republic" by Candice Millard turned out to be one of my favorite history books. I wrote a blog post about President James A. Garfield after I read her NY Times best selling book last year and I was blown away by her engaging and gripping style that really brought these characters to life like a novel without any speculative padding. That's tough to do with history, which we all know can be a bit dry and tedious at times. Anyone could enjoy this book, not just history nerds. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I  learned a PBS American Experience documentary is being filmed for a scheduled release of February 2015. How exciting is that?

Even though her first book "River of Doubt" regarding Teddy Roosevelt's trip to the Amazon has nothing to do with Ohio history, I highly recommend that one as well. It is written in the same colorful and suspenseful style as her Garfield book. As I understand it Candice Millard is currently working on a book about Winston Churchill. I will definitely be looking forward to that. Now I wonder if I can talk her into a book about William Henry Harrison?....