Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Up Caesars Creek with a paddle

I knew that the popular enormous flea market called Caesar's Creek near Wilmington OH derived its name from the nearby Ohio State Park.
What I did not know and never thought about much was where the name came from. Like the name Cincinnati, I assumed it was a nod to the Roman era. The billboards for the flea market seem to emphasize that angle too. It turns out the billboards aren't exactly historically accurate and as usual, there is more to the story.

The name comes from an escaped or possibly captured black slave named Caesar who was adopted by the Shawnee, a fairly common American Indian practice in those days. Sometimes these adoptees escaped but many they stayed with their new Indian families. Caesar stayed, preferring this new life to his old one. I'll bet that wasn't a hard decision for him. He was eventually given his own hunting land by the local Chief.  I wish there was more information on Caesar himself but his significant place in history was recalled by the famed frontiersman Simon Kenton who owed him his life...

marker near Xenia OH has been stolen
In 1778, Kenton was captured by the Shawnee in Ohio and forced to run the gauntlet..nine times. The gauntlet was a form of a furious beating torture used to test the mettle of captives, who were then considered for adoption themselves. Simon, already well known among the Shawnee, was a prized captive and paraded from village to village for all to see. Kenton was then condemned to die near present-day Xenia OH. The Shawnee named him Cuttahotha meaning "condemned to be burned at the stake", something that was attempted three times, yet each time circumstances resulted in his escape. The Shawnee saw this as a sign he was protected by the Great Spirit, Monetoo. They commuted his death sentence and he was adopted into a Shawnee family.

During his captivity, Caesar, now a full member of the Shawnee, took some pity on Simon who was barely clinging to life from his ordeal. Caesar could not offer direct assistance or face punishment himself, but he did give him information on how to escape if given the chance. By following the creek on his hunting land he named for himself...Caesars Creek, to the Little Miami and then to the Ohio River, a trip of at least 60 miles, he could then reach the safety of the settlements in Kentucky.

Simon Kenton never got to use the advice from Caesar but his words gave him hope when all hope seemed lost. He finally did escape in 1779 during a stop at the British Fort Detroit and made it back to American settlements thereby securing his status as a living legend, feared and respected by whites and Indians alike. But this post is really about Caesar. You can look forward to a full Gehio post about Simon Kenton one day!

Simon Kenton (1755 - 1836) in Covington KY
The area around Caesar's Creek fittingly became an important part of the Underground Railroad in the 1850's by the area Quakers who helped slaves escape.
No one knows what happened to Caesar, but without his encouragement, Kenton would surely have perished or been forgotten himself and changed American history.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Special Thanksgiving Edition of Gehio

As we gather with family and friends and slip into our food-induced comas, we should also reflect on the greatest event in Thanksgiving Day history that took place in 1978 in Cincinnati OH.

Today marks the first ever Turkey Drop orchestrated by WKRP radio station manager Arthur Carlson.
33 years ago, live turkeys were dropped from a helicopter at two thousand feet before a curious but well-behaved crowd at Pinedale Shopping Mall.  Things got pretty strange after that as witnessed by news commentator Les Nessman on this momentous occasion in local history. Not since the Hindenberg tragedy had there been anything like this.

Let's have a closer look at the events as they unfolded in this documentary footage...

Friday, November 18, 2011

WKRP in Losantiville

the first settlement happened right here 11/18/1788
Cincinnati folks learn that their city was founded in 1788. There are signs around the perimeter of the city on the different highways that seem to confirm this.
There was actually no such thing as a community called "Cincinnati" until 1790. It also wasn't incorporated as a village until 1802 and not incorporated as a city until 1819. Let me explain.

After the Revolutionary War formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the US Congress established 260,000 square miles called the Northwest Territory in July 1787 which was previously under British rule. This paved the way to establish the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in the 19th century.

John Cleves Symmes came along and purchased a chunk of this land between the two Miami rivers, had it surveyed, and began reselling it to potential settlers. Out of these land sales, 3 settlements along the Ohio River were established:

Stites has a nice grave marker in Columbia
Columbia was the first settlement by a man named Benjamin Stites and 26 settlers on November 18th, 1788.
Columbia was a Romanesque term widely used then to refer to America and American things in the early days and was, of course, derived from the name of Christopher Columbus. Stites had been to the area previously while pursuing Indian raiders who had stolen horses in Kentucky. He decided to purchase land from Symmes when it became available. This settlement was on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Little Miami River near where present-day Lunken Airport is located. This original settlement was destroyed by flooding and the subject of frequent Indian attacks. Today, the "East End" is one of modern Cincinnati's oldest neighborhoods called Columbia-Tusculum with 3000 people. Benjamin, along with many of the other original settlers is buried near the original landing in a cemetery across from Lunken.

Cincinnatus gets a statue at Yeatman's Cove
The second settlement, Losantiville, was about a month later on December 28th, 1788. Colonel Robert Patterson and Israel Ludlow and their party arrived at a spot a few miles up from the Little Miami on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Licking River. This is near present-day Yeatman’s Cove in downtown Cincinnati. The expedition was financed by Mathias Denman. This is the date and place that is credited with the founding of modern Cincinnati.
John Filson, who surveyed this area earlier in 1788, created the name Losantiville which meant "the city opposite the mouth of the Licking River" from the following:
"L" for the Licking River in KY on the other side of the Ohio.
"os" from the Latin for mouth.
"anti" from the Greek for opposite.
"ville" which was French for city.
Filson actually disappeared earlier in 1788 near Losantiville during a survey. No one really knows what happened to him and his body was never found. He may have been captured by Shawnee or he may have gotten lost and died in the wilderness. Either is plausible since Filson really wasn't much of a frontiersman and more of an historian and bureaucrat.

Now for some Cincinnati related Daniel Boone trivia!...It was Filson's mostly factual 1784 "Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone" that made Boone one of America's best known legendary folk heroes and made him famous worldwide. It was also Daniel Carter Beard's 1905 "Sons of Daniel Boone", founded in Cincinnati, that became the modern-day Boy Scouts. The I-471 yellow "Big Mac Bridge" bridge that crosses the Ohio near Yeatman's Cove is officially named for Beard.

Symmes got a nice sign near his grave

The third settlement, North Bend, was February 2nd, 1789 a few miles East of present-day Cincinnati near the mouth of the Great Miami on the Ohio River and was the town that John Cleves Symmes himself started.
It was named so because it was the most northern bend in the Ohio River. This was the settlement that Symmes thought would become the most successful but it turned out that the area, like Columbia, was prone to constant flooding and not sustainable. This area did later became the home of future President William Henry Harrison who married Symmes daughter Anna but this area did not grow as much as Symmes had hoped. Harrison's Tomb is here as well. The grave of father-in-law John Cleves Symmes is adjacent to the tomb. North Bend remains today as a small 1.2 sq mi village of about 600 residents.

Ft Washington Marker near Lytle Park
Besides the flooding, what really made the second settlement of Losantiville take off was the 1789 addition of Fort Washington  by Northwest Territory Governor Gen. Arthur St. Clair near present-day 3rd & Broadway. This certainly made would be settlers feel a bit safer.
St. Clair wanted to make that area the seat of the territorial government but he didn't like the name Losantiville and renamed the new city to Cincinnati in 1790. There really wasn't much objection to this as it was the now dead Filson who came up with Losantiville anyway.
It is an often repeated falsity that Cincinnati was named directly for the Roman farmer turned leader turned farmer Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. St. Clair actually named the city after the club of Revolutionary War veterans he was president of called the Society of the Cincinnati that honored George Washington. The members saw Washington as a modern day Cincinnatus. This, of course, pleased his friends and his boss George Washington, very very much. In 1791, after St Clair lost a major battle to the Indians at St Clairs Defeat, Washington fired him from the Army but let him remain as Governor of the Northwest Territory. Several years later, over political differences about the territory, after 15 years as Governor, President Jefferson fired him in 1802 and Ohio became our 17th State in 1803 or the 49th in 1953. I find it ironic that a man who presided over a club nobly named for a farmer turned leader turned farmer had no intention of doing so himself. Politicians always have like the "do as I say not as I do" motto.

St Clair got a rock at a busy intersection
So, while the area which grew to become known as Cincinnati was formally settled in 1788 there were actually earlier settlements in the area (such as the 1785 Fort Finney near North Bend) but it was not officially called Cincinnati for 2 more years until 1790 when a gouty fat cat governor by the name of Arthur St. Clair tried to impress his boss and his friends. That's probably too much to fit on a sign on I-75.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oh My Stars, John Quincy Adams visits Cincinnati

version 2 of the Cincinnati Observatory
On November 9th, 1843, a 77-year-old John Quincy Adams helped lay the cornerstone for the new Cincinnati Observatory in Mt Ida OH and the following day November 10thdelivered what would be his last public speech to 3,000 citizens. The 6th US President was a bit of an astronomy buff and came to the area for the dedication despite his ailing health. Adams was the first US President to visit Cincinnati. The observatory was one of the best astronomical research centers in its time and is still in use today. It is the oldest professional observatory in the United States, a National Historic Landmark, and considered the Birthplace of American Astronomy.

But there is more to the story....

If you live in Cincinnati, you might be thinking, "Where the heck is Mt. Ida?" 
Mt. Ida was renamed to Mt. Adams to honor the former President following this event. Land was donated by Nicholas Longworth, a prominent banker, winemaker and general rich guy. The man responsible for raising the funds for the observatory was Astronomer Ormsby MacKnight Mitchela professor of mathematics and philosophy at Cincinnati College, which later became the University of Cincinnati. Mitchel later served as a Major General for the Union during the Civil War. Nearby Ft Mitchell KY gets its name from the fort he built to defend Cincinnati against the Confederate Army. An extra L was added to the end of the city name due to an oversight. (It is Kentucky after all and <obligatory Kentucky hillbilly joke goes here>). Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel died in South Carolina of yellow fever in 1862 during the war.

You might be thinking, "But there is no observatory in Mt. Adams!" You are correct. Cincinnati was really on the rise at this time. So was the pollution and smoke from the local industries that ruined the view in the Mt. Adams area by the 1860's. This made it nearly impossible to view the heavens from this location.

John Quincy Adams touched this stone
So, in 1873 the equipment at the original observatory (the present day site of Holy Cross Monastery and Church) was moved to a new observatory building built on a different nearby hill on land donated by a local businessman, John Kilgour. The old cornerstone was re-laid for the new building.This area near Ault Park, then known as Delta, was then renamed to Mt. Lookout. The Cincinnati Observatory has been owned and operated by the University of Cincinnati since that time. 
In 1904 a second smaller building was built on the property for another telescope.
In 1935, an asteroid was discovered by Edwin Hubble and named, 1373 Cincinnati after the observatory staff who did the orbit calculations on Hubble's discovery. 
One of the telescopes housed here is the oldest continually used telescope in the world but more importantly, there is a really nice multi-level geocache here that takes you on a tour of the property and the Planet Walk which my kids and I did in July 2010.
my kids are standing on Uranus on the planet walk

John Quincy Adams died 5 years later on February 23rd, 1848, two days after suffering a massive stroke on the House floor.

The Cincinnati Observatory Center is open to the public where you can tour the facility and use the two 19th and early 20th-century refractor telescopes. 
For more information and the calendar of events, visit their website:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Straight Outta Tippecanoe

The November 7th, 1811 loss at the Battle of Tippecanoe near Lafayette IN was a devastating blow to Tecumseh's Pan-Indian Confederation but it wasn't just the military skills of William Henry Harrison that won the battle. Not to disparage Harrison or anything. He showed great leadership rallying his troops when under fire. Most observers say that if it were not for Harrison's boldness and courage, many of his troops would have cut and run. He was an impressive military leader overall and had a great resume but fair is fair. The "win" by the American's can be attributed mostly to the rise of Shawnee religious fundamentalism by Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa or "The Prophet" rather than any brilliant strategy by Harrison. From what I understand, much of Tenskwatawa's "prophecies" were based on natural phenomena that Tecumseh had read about in almanacs that he had access too. I suppose with any prophet there will also be a large degree of luck before and much interpretation after the fact. For a while, this strategy worked but it would ultimately be their undoing.

Prophet's Rock where Tenskwatawa rallied his troops
Up until this point, much of Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa's plan in building the confederation of Indians involved returning to the old ways to please the Moneto, their supreme being. The Prophet taught that Indians were suffering and losing ground to the "Shemanese" (AKA Americans) because they had lost their way and had succumbed to the influence of the whites and their lifestyle. He taught that they should refrain from the use of alcohol, trading for European foods and goods, marrying whites, practicing Christianity, etc. There were exceptions to this. In this case, it was the use and trade of European weapons which they received from their British allies.

While encouraging abstinence from alcohol was a noble cause, as it had an especially devastating effect on Native American culture, the other items came with quite a heavy price. For example, in the autobiographical captivity story of Chippewa adoptee John Tanner, he writes of encountering Shawnee parties who were quite literally starving to death because of this lack of trade goods that the Native Americans had come to rely on.

The Prophet also taught that the Moneto, the Shawnee Supreme Being, would protect them in battle. Literally. As in bullets would not harm them. Up until this time The Prophet had been on a pretty good run of prophecies that seemed to have come true. There was much faith in this man at this time. In fact, Tenskwatawa, had so much faith in himself at this point he felt he could make his own decisions without his brother who had already been instructed him not to engage the enemy at Prophetstown and wait for his return. The Prophet had other ideas and decided to strike first as Harrison's army moved in to quell what Harrison rightfully perceived as an Indian uprising in the making.

at Tippecanoe battlefield
In keeping with the assurance and words of The Prophet at about 4am on November 7th, the Indians uncharacteristically attacked and fought openly and did not seek cover. When they saw that their warriors were easily being cut down by the soldiers this shook their faith and saw it as a bad sign and withdrew their attack. They had no way of knowing that they were actually winning the battle at that point. They likely would have overrun the advancing soldiers in this surprise preemptive attack if their ammunition held out. Harrison meanwhile, rode alongside his troops boosting their morale and encouraging them. In the number casualties at the battle, the Indians were technically winning when they withdrew. Their number of fatalities was 50 to Harrison's 62 and an even lower number of wounded to Harrison's men and after 2 hours of fighting that was the end of the Battle of Tippecanoe.

After this loss, many Indians retreated back to their villages and Tecumseh, upon learning what had happened nearly killed his own brother but instead chose to strip him of all rank and prestige. Not much is known of Tenskwatawa's life after this event. He died 25 years later in 1836 near Kansas City, Kansas in relative obscurity.

Tecumseh died two years after Tippecanoe in the War of 1812 at the Battle of Thames in Canada fighting with the British against General Harrison.

1840 Yard Sign
In 1841 after 30 years, William Henry Harrison who after his military career served as the Governor of Indiana, US Representative for Ohio and a US Senator from Ohio was inaugurated as the 9th US President. His campaign was based heavily on his military career, most notably this battle, using the slogan Tippecanoe and Tyler Too. People seem to think that modern politics invented political spin to get elected but opponents of Harrison characterized him an out of touch drunkard of an old man. Harrison's people touted him as a common man who grew up in a log cabin. He was anything but a common man and gave speeches that would rival Roman emperors. Harrison was certainly wealthy and privileged by the standards of his day. As usual, the truth is in the middle somewhere.

the tomb of #9 in North Bend OH
What Harrison is mostly known for now will help you win at Trivial Pursuit. He caught pneumonia and died 30 days after his lengthy inauguration speech and became the first President to die in office with the shortest Presidency. His death was supposedly the beginning of "Tecumseh's Revenge" that killed 7 US President elected every 20 years from 1840 - 1960. In 1980 Reagan broke the supposed curse, but just barely. As for the origins of the "curse", there is no record of one until someone noticed the pattern and published it in 1934s Ripley's Believe it Or Not.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

the baddest US President is from Ohio!

Warren "sex and booze" Harding
I actually knew very little about Warren G Harding, the 29th US President when I saw that it was his birthday today. So I learned some fun facts about him that I will share with you.

He was born in Blooming Grove OH in 1865 and was President from 1921-1923. Now that the boring stuff kids learn in history textbooks is out of the way...

When I say "baddest" I mean the worst. Harding was a bastard.

Most historians rank Harding as one of the worst US Presidents. One historian even said he was "a bumbling fool who stumbled into the presidency".

He spent several weeks in a sanitarium after a nervous breakdown when he was 24.

Harding was a drunk and had all night parties with bootleg liquor at the White House...during Prohibition. Apparently, he was a big believer in "do as I say...". Prohibition was for the poor and middle class as far as he was concerned.

Several women claimed extra-marital affairs with him resulting in at least one child. All things he denied. However, in the 1960's, about 100 intimate letters between him and one long-term lover, Carrie Phillips, were discovered but a court order sealed them until 2014. Someone who has viewed the letters said some were quite erotic. I know I've got my calendar set! UPDATE: The letters were made public on July 29th, 2014 and erotic they are. When he says "Wish I could take you to Mnt. Jerry. Wonderful spot" he is talking biology, not geography.

Oddly while at the same time being accused of being a secret member of the Ku Klux Klan (likely false), at a time when white supremacy was at an all-time high in the US, he was also accused of being black because of the one drop rule (likely true) in an effort to make people not like him. Remember, this was at a time when being Catholic could get you lynched as well. In fact, the one bright spot I know about Harding is, he urged Congress to pass an anti-lynching law during a Birmingham AL, so I'm not buying the Klan thing, that actually may have helped him in those days.

His administration was subject to many scandals, most notably the Teapot Dome bribery scandal which sent a member of a Presidential cabinet to prison for the first time in US history. Two other officials enveloped in the scandal committed suicide. Until Watergate, this was considered the worst US Presidential scandal.

Harding Tomb in Marion OH
Harding's sudden death in office on August 2nd, 1923 was officially listed as a heart attack but no autopsy was performed. There is evidence that he was poisoned by his wife or a political enemy. Seriously. Google it. This development probably saved him from being impeached in the growing Teapot Scandal closing in around him. The one that sent one guy to prison and two others committed suicide. That scandal.

After Harding died, his wife Florence, in an attempt to protect his legacy destroyed most of his papers. Presidents usually like to preserve them for posterity and Presidential libraries and such. She knew he was a bastard and as a result of this, we know very little about his personal life and thoughts while in office or how involved he was in the Teapot Dome scandal.

Despite this legacy, he has a very nice and elaborate tomb in Marion Ohio. He was the last US President to have such a grandiose resting place.

Happy Birthday, Warren! You make Ohio proud! They sure don't make presidents like you anymore!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oh Columbus!

In July 2011, before visiting the Museum of Science and Industry in Columbus OH called COSI, my family and I decided to visit the Santa Maria Museum on the other side of the Scioto River. For about $15 the whole family could take a short tour of the full-scale replica of the Santa Maria that Christopher Columbus sailed on August 3rd, 1492 (along with the Pinta and Nina) from Palos de la Frontera, Spain with 39 men in 1492. This, of course, became the first voyage to have a lasting impact on the New World.
The replica ship was built in the 1990’s as part the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Columbus expeditions. It seemed like a good opportunity to get a hands-on idea of what it was like to live on a 15th-century sailing vessel.

Founded in 1812 the city of Columbus, is named after Christopher Columbus and was designed to be the state capital to replace Chillicothe in that role for it's more central state location and it's proximity to the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers. Prior to 1812, Columbus OH did not even exist as a settlement, it was just forest.

that's Chris back there
Walking to the ship we happened to pass by City Hall on Broad Street which has a gift from the people of Genoa Italy, a colossal statue of Christopher Columbus sculpted by artist Edoardo Alfieri in 1955.

On our tour, we learned that this Santa Maria was built on the US East Coast and it then had to be transported to Columbus in two halves by truck. It was reassembled on the West side of the Scioto River (where COSI is) and then sailed to the East side of the river where it is today. That is the extent of the voyages of this Santa Maria.

This ship, like the original, was only about 75 ft x 26 ft which seems even smaller when you are standing on it. During our 45 minute tour, as our guide described the living conditions of the men with a few livestock aboard along with the rats, filthy drinking water, bathroom considerations, etc, you could get a real sense of how cramped and filthy this ship must have been for those 2 months although history books seem to up the ante on the trip. While it was a long hard trip, they did enjoy relatively good weather most of the time per Columbus’ journal. There was a long stopover in the Canary Islands for storm damage repairs which made the actual voyage only 5 weeks. Still, it's hard to imagine 40 men living here even under the best conditions.

15th-century toilet paper
We were able to see demonstrations of the capstan to raise and lower sails and anchors, the navigation process using a compass and pegs, the rudder, (there was no stereotypical ships wheel). She also discussed how they went to the bathroom (over the side of course), how the primitive cannon worked (they were small and inaccurate and shot smooth round stones mostly), how they caught the rats on board (they trapped them in wooden boxes and drug the boxes behind the ship so they would not come into contact with them).
It was a good tour of the ship and I was pretty happy to NOT hear a single word about the myth that people then thought the world was flat. The flat earth myth so often reported by history books was invented by historian Washington Irving in 1828 who decided to add some flavor to this story to make it more exciting and romantic and have a story of sailors risking sailing over the edge of the Earth. Pure make-believe. This story appears nowhere before his time. Mariners and educated people knew the Earth was a sphere back then.

Oh Columbus!
Knowing that I am an Indian sympathizer, you are probably wondering if I will editorialize on the impact of this voyage. No, not really. Entire books have been written on Columbus that are way over the top with praise as a great explorer and some that portray him as a monster for beginning the first slave trade from the Western Hemisphere and everything in between. I suppose he was both. He did explore where no European had before but he also became a disgraced brutal dictator of these new colonies only 8 years later. Like the tour, this post is mainly about the ship and its men but I couldn't help take a cheap shot in the photo to your right.

I do feel compelled to comment on a couple of items mentioned on the tour that I feel are inaccurate.
She remarked that the "natives" Columbus encountered in what is now San Salvador Island (she didn't refer to them as Arawaks or Indians at all) "were naked and had nothing and were eager to trade". This may be true but not for the reason she implied. They were certainly impressed by the items Columbus had that they had never seen before but the Arawak were self-sufficient for thousands of years and in good health even by Columbus' observations. A Spanish writer wrote in 1518 that "these islands were full of people lacking nothing they needed" but after European contact "they were laid waste". That's a bit different than the suggestion these were stupid poor savage natives which is what was implied. If she was going to gloss over contact with the Arawak and not even mention them by name, she should just leave this simplistic Disney story out of the script completely or at least call them by their name. The book 1491 is a good read if you want to know more about pre-Columbian Indian culture.
no ladies allowed in 1492
Our tour guide also mentioned the two different sets of books with Columbus' routes and calculations. One set was correct and one that was not. She mentioned the idea that this was done to keep his men less fearful on their voyage since one set of records had a much shorter route and they might freak out if they knew the real distances they had really traveled. However, most experts agree that this may have been done to keep others from knowing the exact route, to keep it a secret from even his men so they wouldn’t spill the beans to others eager to get rich quick. It was very hard expensive work and the pay off was high, so they wanted to protect this route. 
On Christmas Day 1492 after the initial landing in the Caribbean in October, the Santa Maria ran aground on present-day Haiti. An attempt was made to repair it but the damage was too severe and the ships wood was used to build a settlement there that they named La Navidad which is modern day Môle-Saint-Nicolas, Haiti. The 39 men remained here to wait for Columbus’ return on another ship but when he returned in 1493 he had found they had all been killed at the hands of the Taíno people after a dispute with the Spanish colony. Supposedly the anchor is the only item from this ship that survived to modern times and is in the Haitian National Museum.

Overall it really was a great tour despite some slight historical inaccuracies. I would recommend it to anyone who is in the area who would like to see a great reproduction of 15th-century sailing vessel. That's not something very common anywhere in Ohio!  One recommendation...just maybe go when it's not 90+ degrees.

UPDATE 2017: I that the ship is now in storage due to various factors but mainly because of extensively needed repairs. There are no current plans to re-open.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The death of Tecumseh

"He's not really dead as long as we remember him"
Tecumseh 1768-1813

-Dr. Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy, 2285

On this day in history October 5th, 1813, the 45-year-old Shawnee American Indian leader Tecumseh, born near Xenia OH in 1768, was killed at the Battle of Thames in Canada during the War of 1812.
He was fighting for his cause and his people alongside British soldiers against the Americans near present-day Chatham-Kent, Ontario. This event pretty much ended the pan-Indian Confederation he organized several years earlier and changed the course of American history in many ways.
A multitude of people over the years had bragged to be the one who killed him but the consensus based on historical recollections and evidence from this battle indicate that he was killed by a man serving under General William Henry Harrison named Richard M. Johnson, but I call him Dick. This claim to fame was used politically years after the fact with the campaign slogan "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh*"  and Dick was elected VP under Martin Van Buren in 1837.
Another Tecumseh related event also helped Harrison win the 1841 presidency with the slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" for his win at the Battle of Tippecanoe which occurred 30 years earlier in 1811. The legend of Tecumseh was big in those days. It even helped win elections.

" one of those uncommon geniuses which spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things. If it were not for the vicinity of the United States, he would, perhaps, be the founder of an empire that would rival in glory Mexico or Peru."
-William Henry Harrison, 1811

*Today most people pronounce the same as Tecum-suh, while in the 1800's it was commonly pronounced Tecum-see. The original Shawnee name is believed to have been Tecumtha or Tekamthi.

me and a man who portrayed the man
Various stories have cropped up over the years regarding what happened to Tecumseh's body. Everything has been suggested from the body being removed from the battlefield and buried in a secret location in Ohio or Canada by the Shawnee, to him being left on the battlefield, or his body being mutilated for souvenirs by the winning soldiers (a common practice at the time). The historian Allan Eckert's account is depicted in the “Tecumseh!” outdoor play adapted from his book. In this version, the frontiersman Simon Kenton who was at the battle and had met Tecumseh previously was asked to identify the body. Simon and Tecumseh were of course on different sides but Kenton had a great deal of respect for Tecumseh and knew his body would be mutilated and scalped by the winning soldiers and felt he deserved better, so he falsely identified a different body so that the great leader he knew could be taken away by the other Indians and given a proper burial by his comrades. I like Eckert's version of events but the truth will likely never be known.
UPDATE 02/08/2016: I've recently become aware that there is evidence suggesting that Tecumseh's remains may be buried on Walpole Island in Canada.  Tecumseh was known to have had a broken thigh bone. According to an examination of the bones in the 1930s before the skeleton was reburied, the thigh bone was missing. That seems convenient. I'll let the reader decide.

"Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers."
-Tecumseh, 1811

I've been to many Tecumseh related historical sites in Ohio but I haven’t been to the location of this battle...yet. According to Google Maps, I can be there in 6 hours 4 mins. There is, of course, an historical marker and memorial near the location the battle took place in Canada since Tecumseh is also considered a hero in Canadian as well as Native American history.

Xenia OH marker placed by the Shawnee
While no fully authenticated portrait of Tecumseh exists, the famous color portrait of Tecumseh seen at the beginning of this blog entry was created in the late1800's long after his death. It is based on a sketch from life by French trader Pierre Le Dru who also sketched his brother Tenskwatawa "The Prophet" in 1808 and believed to be the only accurate depiction of Tecumseh.

Tecumseh has garnered the respect and admiration of friends, foes, whites, Indians alike over the years. Even the famed General William Tecumseh Sherman was named for the Indian leader and he, in turn, passed that name to one of his sons. US towns, parks and streets have been named for him. The US Navy even has a bust of an Indian they call Tecumseh that is considered good luck. This all a paradox. Why did an enemy of the United States garner so much respect from the very people he fought against? Historian John Sugden summed up Tecumseh's qualities well, "courage, fortitude, ambition, generosity, humanity, eloquence, military skill, leadership . . . Above all, patriotism and a love of liberty." In short, to his contemporary adversaries, he did what they would have done in his place, he fought the fight and he did it to the best of his ability.

"Show respect to all people, but grovel to none."
- Tecumseh 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brown's body & the 1st Purple Heart

Pioneer Cemetery and Brown's marker near Lunken
Pioneer Cemetery near Lunken Airport is the site of the 1st settlement called Columbia in 1788 that would later become modern Cincinnati. The man who led that landing, Benjamin Stites, is buried here along with many other of those early pioneers.

Sgt. William Brown (1764-1804) a member of the 5th Connecticut Regiment in the Revolutionary War received the newly created Badge of Military Merit by George Washington in May of 1783. It was a purple cloth badge. Only 3 were awarded (the other two were Sergeant Elijah Churchill and Sergeant Daniel Bissell) and none were given again until it was later re-named in WWI to the Purple Heart as a revival of the original badge. While not entirely clear, it is believed that the badge 1781 Siege of Yorktown. Only two of these badges are known to have survived. Brown's was found in the 1920's in an old barn and is currently in the possession of The Society of the Cincinnati, New Hampshire Branch. Brown, like many other Revolutionary War veterans seeking cheap land, eventually settled in the newly developed booming river-town of Cincinnati OH where he lived and later died.
was awarded for Browns efforts in the

recently renovated Fulton Cemetery
So where is Sgt Brown's body? It’s not here with the marker. In 2004, the marker seen in my above photo was placed in the nicer maintained Pioneer Cemetery where others from this time period are buried. His body was thought to be about 1000 ft away next to some old railroad tracks in what was the once weed-filled and trash strewn forgotten Fulton Cemetery with no legible tombstones. I actually tried to locate Fulton once to no avail. It was that bad and a bit dangerous. However in early 2011, thanks to a geocache that led me back to the area, I discovered that because of the Ohio River Trail Bike Path that was extended past the older unkempt cemetery, it generated an interest in renovating the old cemetery. On my second visit, it was easy to locate and I saw they placed new markers for the seven other Revolutionary War Veterans buried in Fulton. The volunteers of the Cincinnati Preservation Association also tried to reassemble the old tombstones for these men as best as they could but all are badly worn and mostly unreadable. They also added some nice historical plaques about the old cemeteries, the Purple Heart, the Flood of 1937, the railroad and Columbia at the Carrel Street Station next to the new bike path.

some of the original Fulton tombstones
It is nice to see the efforts of the many individuals to honor and respect Brown and these other men who fought for their new country.

There are more pictures of the Pioneer Cemetery here and the Fulton Cemetery here.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

OH the humanity! - Ohio's Airship Disaster

Greenville honors its native son
The 1937 Hindenburg disaster in New Jersey was pretty dramatic with the "oh, the humanity!" and the fancy newsreel coverage but did you know Ohio was home to another airship disaster that predated the Hindenburg by 12 years on this date in 1925? It's true!
The first US airship was called the 1923 USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) built by the Navy for the purpose of being a scout ship. I heard you thinking, "Shenandoah...that sounds sort of Indian..." well you are correct! This is, in fact, an Algonquin word that means Daughter of the Stars.
The Daughter of the Stars was 600' long and traveled at 60MPH. The Americans decided to use helium instead of flammable hydrogen like the German airship program. Nowadays we just go the party store and fill our kid's balloons with it but not in 1923. Helium was hard to come by and expensive to produce in those days. In fact, it cost $235,000 to fill the Shenandoah in 1923 which equals about $3 million in 2011 money.
She crossed North America several times and went on one military scouting mission but spent a lot of time grounded because of that darn helium shortage. 
The Shenandoah was piloted by Lt Commander Zachary Lansdowne who was born in 1888 in Greenville, OH. Yes as in Treaty of Greenville Greenville! You are catching on! Anyway, Zach was in the Navy and had become an accomplished airship pilot, received the Navy Cross due to his mad dirigible skills and was awarded the command of the USS Shenandoah in February 1924.
On September 3rd, 1925, while on one of her goodwill trips that started from Lakehurst NJ (sound familiar?) the USS Shenandoah encountered a violent storm after reaching Ohio and broke up over the skies of Noble County OH while cruising at 1700'. A wind from the storm swept the Shenandoah up to 6000' and down again several times which tore the control car free killing Lansdowne and 13 others as it fell from the sky. A stern section glided safely to the ground with 22 men aboard. By safely I mean no one was killed but I'm sure it was several terror-filled moments of grown men screaming for their mommies. The bow of the ship with 7 others glided on low to the ground for 8 more miles. A local farmer named Ernest Nichols intervened and was able to secure a cable to stop it and then the crew members exited the ship and shot it with shotguns to release the helium.

Supposedly 2 civilians witnessed the event unfold and said (now say this in the Pepperidge Farm commercial voice) “It looks like it’s breaking in two!” The other then said, “My God, it is!” but they weren't on the radio sobbing like Herbert Morrison did for the Hindenburg coverage so they aren't famous.
The wreckage site became a tourist attraction for a few days while 10,000 people visited and took pieces for souvenirs. The Garst Museum in Greenville OH has a nice display for Lansdowne and the Shenandoah with a memorial marker outside to honor Lt. Zach who is interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The crash landed him the cover of Time magazine in September 1925 and the WWII destroyer USS Lansdowne (DD-486), was named in his honor. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Ballad of St Clair

Today is the anniversary of the death of my favorite US frontier general, Arthur St. Clair (which is pronounced "Sinclair").
Art, once an important man, died alone and penniless August 31st, 1818 at his home in Greensburg Pennsylvania.
I like the old guy because he was so bad at being a frontier general and he also gave Cincinnati it's new name. If the US had more generals like him in the late 18th Century then maybe the Indians would have had a longer stay in Ohio. Maybe. And if it wasn't for him then we would have had WKRP in Losantiville. Maybe.

Arthur St Clair and Thomas Jefferson at a crossroad
You see, Artie was known for disliking the name Losantiville and re-naming it Cincinnati in 1790 after the name of the club he presided over while he was Governor of the NW Territory.

A short time later, November 4th, 1791 he suffered the worst military defeat in the history of US and American Indian warfare known as "St Clair's Defeat", sometimes referred to The Battle of the Wabash in 1791 near present-day Fort Recovery OH. This was three times worse than the more infamous Custer's Last Stand in 1876.
By this time Little Turtles' Pan-Indian Confederation had already defeated US forces led by General Harmar in 1790 and tensions were rising in the Ohio country. President Washington ordered Arthur St Clair to raise an army and finish what Harmar had failed. On November 4th, 1791, St Clair was camped and preparing for his assault when the combined forces of the Miami Chief Little Turtle, the Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket, and the Lenape Chief Buckongahelas struck first and caught the US forces by surprise. Major General Richard Butler was mortally wounded here. Supposedly, St. Clair who already had a horse shot out from under him, was in such poor health with gout during this battle that he had to be carried in a litter between two horses at one point yelling "where's my hasenpfeffer!"** while 3/4 of his army was being slaughtered and the rest were running for their lives rather after 2 hours of fighting. Even St Clair later referred to it as a "flight". Many fell back to nearby Fort Jefferson to the south with the Indians following for several miles. Forces evenly matched in the number of men at 1000 each, St Clair had a casualty rate of 952 vs. Little Turtle's 61.
Arthur was ultimately forced to resign from the military by President Washington but he remained as Governor. The resulting loss to the US boosted the morale and security of Little Turtle's Confederation for a few more years until Mad Anthony Wayne's successful win at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.

**he didn't really yell that but in my potential movie version he does

Why did such an important man die penniless and not so important? These are great questions! Washington was a good friend but his successor Thomas Jefferson was not and Tom fired him as Governor over a dispute on the boundaries of the future State of Ohio. He was very wealthy at one point but had made generous loans to various individuals and organizations including the US Government while he was Governor of the NW Territory. The US never bothered to pay him back because they didn't really have any money either. Some things don't change.

<< I've never been to the grave of Arthur St. Clair but I did stumble upon the grave of his grandson Arthur St. Clair III while looking for a geocache in Greendale Indiana.

A couple of folksingers named Bob Gibson and Bob Camp recorded a song in 1961 called "St. Clair's Defeat". You can listen to it and read the lyrics here.

Related Gehio links: 
Gehio: Great Scot, it's St. Clair's Birthday!
Gehio: WKRP in Losantiville
Gehio: a visit to Chalahgawtha
Gehio: The Battle of Fallen Timbers

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Where Paddock meets Vine at the big Indian sign"

Chief "Pontiac" at Paddock and Vine
Cincinnati folks all know the 50' Chief Pontiac sign from the old car dealer slogan “where Paddock meets Vine at the big Indian sign”. The sign was built in 1954 by Jake Sweeney and was the place to go if you wanted to buy a brand new Pontiac sedan. The car lot changed hands over the years. Keeping with the Indian theme, it was Cherokee Motors then later Miami Motors. The sign used to light up with neon (broken now) & the arm waved a bit (not allowed anymore this close to the road). The current owner, Motor Time, has the sign repainted annually to keep this Cincinnati landmark looking nice. Thanks!

A geocache led me to the iconic location again.  I did a bit of research after I noted the signs of history all around me in this older somewhat disheveled Cincinnati suburb called Carthage. Here is what most long-time Cincinnatian's may not know:

Technically, Vine St, which comes up all the way from the Ohio River (sort of) and becomes Anthony Wayne Ave while Paddock (Rt 4) becomes Vine for a short jog until it continues North as Springfield Pike (Rt 4). Or you could say Paddock and Vine join here and Wayne begins...It's confusing and you really have to look at a map.
1928 Pontiac Indian Head Mascot
About 1000' from Chief Pontiac, where Wayne Ave crosses the Mill Creek, there is an historical marker for White’s Station.  This was a 1790 stockaded settlement that took on a big Indian attack in October 1793. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne (note the street intersection here above) camped here later in 1793 on the way to the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers near Toledo. This was the final major battle of the Northwest Indian Warr that resulted in the 1795 Treaty of Greenville. Settlers then flooded the area and Ohio became a state in 1803.

The historical marker was sponsored by the National Distillers Producers in 1953 (1 year before the big Indian sign was here). They built a new distillery nearby to produce Gilbey's Gin in 1935 right after Prohibition ended. There is sad irony here in that that Native Americans have a propensity toward alcoholism. This was a significant factor capitalized on by traders and negotiators in gaining the upper hand in negotiations. Alcohol pretty much destroyed the Indian family structure as well.

1950's Pontiac logo

The automaker Pontiac had a popular car line called the Chieftain during the 1950s. They'd been using Native American imagery in its logo since their beginning in the1920s. One wonders if Jake Sweeney was aware of the nearby historical connection or if the sign just seemed like a good attention grabber? This was a time when The Lone Ranger was the biggest show on TV. The Pontiac headdress logo was discontinued in the late 1950's. It was replaced by the red arrowhead design used until they stopped making Pontiac cars in 2010.

Mad Anthony Wayne slept here
There was a real Chief Pontiac. He was an Ottawa who led Pontiac's Rebellion from 1763 to 1766. This was the first known confederacy of American Indian tribes to fight Europeans. This would inspire Little Turtle in the late 18th century and later inspire Tecumseh in the early 19th century. I wonder if the car maker ever considered naming a model the Rebellion? Might be a good SUV name...anyway...
Finding themselves with no European ally after The French and Indian War, when the Brits booted the French, Pontiac's Confederation struck British settlements, forts, and posts across the Great Lakes region on their own.  It was during Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763 when the British infamously gave smallpox infested blankets during a negotiation at Fort Pitt to intentionally infect the Indians. Germ warfare.
This resistance ended as a military stalemate but considered successful for the Indians. The war resulted in British policy changes toward the Indian land claims and required colonists to stay east of the Appalachians. That part kind of helped cause the American Revolution. 
Chief Pontiac was murdered in Cahokia, Illinois in1769 by another Indian with an unclear motive, possibly a revenge killing. Some historians suspect he was bribed by the British who still saw him as a troublemaker. Times would change and treaties would get ignored and the British would find themselves allied with the Indians for the next round, this time to fight the Americans during their rebellion. That would continue throughout the rest of the 18th century until the end of the War of 1812.
Oh. The sign. There have been recent efforts to remove old signs like this as some feel it is derogatory or racist toward Native Americans. I won't get into that here. I go back and forth. Sometimes I think it does belong in a museum. More folks may see it that way and appreciate it for what it is. On the other hand, I would miss it as I drove by and maybe I never would have discovered all the great history that day. Also, this Pontiac looks like a white man playing Indian dress up to me.

Pontiac from 1950-1959 - I took the 1928 mascot photo from this site, great pics of early use of Indian imagery and themes by Pontiac

Note: some edits and revisions were done to this post on 07/24/2015

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Battle of Fallen Timbers

Wayne, an Indian and a militiaman overlook the battlefield
With history, it's important to gain perspective on specific events or they don't really make much sense. Like many battles, this didn't just spontaneously erupt one day. So with that in mind, the first half of this post is to give some background on what led up to this important but overlooked conflict. I did my best to be brief so it is certainly not all-encompassing and just covers what I feel are the major points. The second half concerns the actions just before the battle, the battle and its result which was ultimately the State of Ohio.

The prelude:
In the late 18th century, the newly formed United States was trying hard to eject the Shawnee, Miami, Delaware and other Indians from the Ohio country and open it for further settlement per the terms of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War. It seems the British gave away this territory to the Americans with nary a mention of the Indian claims to that land. The idea was that the British surrendered and since the Indians were allies of the British they were just included by proxy. The Brits back then had a problem with this concept it seems. As a result, the Americans felt they had a legal claim to this territory and began settling the area in droves. This did not sit well with the Indians currently living there and they fought back with somewhat covert British assistance. Yep, the same Brits who betrayed them at the Treaty of Paris! Ya see the Indians didn't have much choice but to trust the British again. It was either that or go at it alone but that would be disastrous since the British could provide much-needed supplies and intelligence from nearby Canada. The British would also benefit from this somewhat strained relationship by allowing them to keep a foothold in the territory they lost without really sacrificing any troops of their own. In a sense, the British really funded a long guerrilla war against the Americans after the end of the Revolutionary War. Sore losers.

Fallen Timbers Monument
After the end of the Revolutionary War, the US had already been badly defeated twice in 2 years by the Indians. At Harmar's Defeat in 1790, a campaign of a series of losses to the Indians in Ohio and again at St. Clairs Defeat in 1791 near present day Fort Recovery, where the Indians wiped out 1/4 of the US Army with a 97% casualty rate and minimal losses for the Indians. It was a slaughterhouse. No...really. This was the worst military defeat per capita ever in US history, much worse than the more famous Battle of Little Big Horn.  These victories buoyed the spirits of the Native Americans in Ohio and they held on to most of Ohio for another couple of years without much major resistance.

the Great Spirit over the battlefield after a downpour
The problem with these first two major US campaigns was that the soldiers were mostly undisciplined militia and not regular Army. It didn't help that Harmar and St Clair were not very skilled in the ways of frontier fighting and ignored warnings on Indian tactics by President Washington himself who had fought in the French and Indian War. It also didn't help that the Western Confederacy of Indians led by the Miami Chief Little Turtle, the Shawnee Blue Jacket, and the Delaware Buckongahelas were pretty skilled and knew the lay of the land more than the Americans. There were peace talks between the various Indian Chiefs and the Americans during 1792 where the US simply tried to buy the land to avoid more bloodshed. It was well known to the Indians that these new settlers were the poorest of the poorest whites and one observant Chief said that they didn't want the money and suggested that the US government just give the money to the poor whites and let the Indians keep their hunting grounds! Win-Win right? Eventually, the talks broke down and everyone went home. Some speculate that there was never really a serious attempt on the Americans behalf to settle this peacefully and peace talks were just a time killing ruse since while the talks were going on a new Army was being raised to finish what St Clair and Harmar had failed. President Washington appointed General "Mad" Anthony Wayne who had studied his predecessor's mistakes and included more disciplined regular soldiers.

my historical assistant Kelsey
The Battle:
In 1793 Wayne set out from Cincinnati's Fort Washington, building new forts, posts, and camps along the way and training his 4,600 men well in the ways of frontier battle. He also utilized some Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians serving as scouts that provided crucial information.

Wayne also knew the Indians well and played upon the fact that per tradition that the 1,500 Indian warriors would fast before the upcoming battle so he intentionally delayed the expected battle that was to be August 19th by one day which weakened his enemy.

just a sign at nearby British Ft Miamis
The area where the battle took place was already referred to as Fallen Timbers due to a large number of trees that had been uprooted from a tornado. The battle itself on August 20th, 1794 near present-day Toledo lasted about an hour and casualties were low, roughly 30 for each side but it was evident to the Indians that they would be overrun with this large organized force so they decided to retreat back 5 miles Northeast up the Maumee River to the British fort of Ft Miami which was being used as a supply post. The British, still supporters of the Indians against the Americans, were not eager or authorized to engage in battle with the US and refused to lend support or let them into the fort. The demoralized Indians decided to continue north while Wayne's men slashed and burned the crops and villages left behind which resulted in a very harsh winter for the Indians. This demoralized them even further over the next year and although skirmishes still occurred in Ohio many felt there was little choice to continue fighting. Over the next year, Wayne and many the various Chiefs negotiated the resulting 1795 Treaty of Greenville which ceded most of Ohio to the Americans.
It's important to note that one young Shawnee warrior named Tecumseh who was at the Battle of Fallen Timbers did not sign the treaty and would lead a resistance movement to reclaim this land 10 years later culminating in the War of 1812 on the side of the British with his own confederation inspired by Little Turtles confederation and Pontiac's before that. Tecumseh's confederation gets more attention in the history books but Little Turtles confederation actually enjoyed a longer, larger and more successful run.
Turkey Foot Rock

For many years the exact site of this important battle was lost to time and was thought to have been to the Southeast between where The Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument sits and the Maumee River but archaeology evidence in the 1990's was able to help determine the location is actually to the Northeast of the monument about a quarter mile away.
Fallen Timbers Battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark on October 9, 1960. The main monument and statue placed in 1962 at the site of the battle in Maumee OH is unique because it honors both sides of this battle and depicts Wayne, a militiaman, and an Indian fighter. Nearby is a plaque honoring and listing the soldiers slain here. Another marker placed in 1994 by the American Indian Intertribal Association commemorates the 200th anniversary of the battle and honors their ancestors and the site of Ottawa Chief Turkey Foot's battlefield's death as well.

Fallen Timbers Battle Monument
The Greenville Treaty
To General Anthony Wayne who organized the “Legion of the United States” by order of President Washington and defeated Chief Little Turtle’s warriors here at Fallen Timbers August 20, 1794. This victory led to the Treaty of Greenville, August 3, 1795. Which opened much of the present state of Ohio to white settlers.
(Right Side)
Indian Warfare
In memory of the white 
settlers massacred 1783-1794
(Left Side)
Onward in peace
To the pioneers of Ohio
And the great northwest
The Battle of Fallen Timbers
To Chief Little Turtle and his brave Indian warriors