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
(Front)
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
(Back)
The Battle of Fallen Timbers
To Chief Little Turtle and his brave Indian warriors


Friday, August 19, 2011

Da Plane! Da Plane!

1928 Time magazine cover

Orville Wright was born in 1871 on this date in Dayton OH. He never graduated from high school and did not attend college but he and his brother Wilbur changed the world forever due to their ambition and nurturing childhoods. Orville said of his upbringing, "We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity."
Much of their research and work was done in their Dayton bicycle shop but they chose Kitty Hawk, NC for their first test flight based on a suggestion by the U.S. Weather Bureau for that areas excellent wind conditions. The first flight in 1903 lasted 12 seconds and covered only 120 feet but a second flight that day was nearly a minute of controlled flight. By 1905 the brothers were making 30 minute controlled flights as they improved their designs. It's pretty amazing to think that in less than 50 years from these test flights there would be jets and spacecraft!
People all over the world at first were skeptical that such a thing even occurred and much debate ensued on whether they were "flyers or liars". They had to demonstrate this accomplishment many times before it became widely accepted as a fact. Even the US Military was dubious of the claim and practicality when the Wright Brothers tried to sell their design to them.

Wilbur (who was born in Indiana) died in 1912 of typhoid fever but Orville went on to be an aviation superstar and consultant eventually serving on the board of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which was the predecessor to NASA. Orville died of a heart attack in 1948 just a few month after the first supersonic flight.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Happy 151st Birthday Annie Oakley

The famous American sharpshooter Annie Oakley was born on this date in 1860 as Phoebe Ann Mosey in Darke County OH just north of my favorite Treaty town of Greenville. Annie had a tough childhood even by 19th century standards. She spent part of that time in an abusive foster home with her eight siblings after her mother gave them up. When she ran away she discovered she had a knack for sharpshooting.
While visiting a sister in Cincinnati OH she met her future husband Frank Butler at a shooting match and derived her stage name from the local neighborhood of Oakley. She and her husband toured for a bit on their own but eventually joined  Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1885 and traveled all over the world in the show until 1902 performing her trick shots for heads of state such as Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm. She became one of the most famous women in the world.
Due to her 100 lb 5 ft stature, she was given the Indian name Watanya Cicilla by the legendary Sioux War Chief turned performer Sitting Bull who also adopted her as his daughter into the Sioux nation. The term translated into her famous nickname of "Little Sure Shot". Her most famous trick was to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground with a .22 rifle at 90 feet.

In later years she raised money for women's suffrage and other various causes and charities and continued demonstrating her shooting skills for audiences through her 60's. A terrible auto accident in 1922 caused her to retire so Frank and Annie moved to Greenville OH near her hometown where she eventually died from anemia on November 3rd, 1926 at the age of 66. Frank, out of despair for Annie, refused to eat and died 18 days later. She is buried in near Greenville OH in Brock Cemetery where the Garst Museum has an entire wing dedicated to her. Nearby is a little park with an Ohio Historical Marker and statue you see here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy Bitchin' 44th Birthday Chevy Camaro!

The Chevy Camaro was born at the GM plant in Norwood, OH in 1966 on this day in Ohio history. The name is derived from the French word for "comrade" and was intended to be a competitor to the Ford Mustang. The 1967 model cost $2466 and were made in the Cincinnati suburb until 1987. I never owned one myself but I did own a Chevy Cavalier once.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Happy 58th Birthday to our 49th State...Ohio!

We've been led to believe that Ohio was the 17th US State and the 1st State admitted to the Union under new rules set up in our blossoming country on March 1st, 1803.
It's a lie.
In 1953, while people were preparing for the 150th birthday shindig, laughing to I Love Lucy and enjoying the sweet sounds of Ohio native Dean Martin's hit song, "That's Amore", it was discovered that in 1803 President Jefferson signed off on the borders and State Constitution. Congress, however, didn't formally declare Ohio a US State. Essentially the right paperwork was not done. Oops!

No one was even sure if Ohio's laws were even valid now. So everyone got to work, rolled up their sleeves, took a break from racial segregation and bringing suspected communists to the Loyalty Review Board and they united as one to solve this important problem.
I'm just kidding. No one really took a break from McCarthyism or segregation. This was 1953 and that would go on for a while in the "good ol' days".
Ohio's first statehouse, sort of

They did solve the problem of this low hanging fruit. To remedy this odd situation, the Ohio General Assembly (that technically wasn't even legal when you think about it) approved a new petition for statehood in the old 1803 capital of Chillicothe. Then, in the spirit of 1803 delivered it on horseback (yes really) to Washington DC where Congress then formally declared Ohio a state and President Ike signed it on August 7th, 1953. What about those 150 years? Never fear my dear Ohioans, they made it retroactive to March 1st, 1803.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Treaty of Greenville

Today is the 216th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Greenville. It was a visit to Greenville, OH that sparked my interest in this time period. I have visited there several times my kid's gymnastics meets but also again to see the Garst Museum and some geocaching in this historical area.

I will save those stories for a proper blog post at another time but I couldn't let this day go by without acknowledging this very important event in Ohio and US history.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

the 1921 build-it-yourself Sears home

Across the street from Hosbrook Park, a little wild bird and flower preserve (with a geocache), in a suburb of Cincinnati called Madeira, there is a fairly nondescript average yet attractive little house. I really wouldn't have paid much attention to it but it had a plaque in front of it out by the street and I am drawn to those things like a bird to seed in my quest for history.
This house I learned was built from a kit purchased from a Sears & Roebuck catalog for $1,704 in 1922!

Between 1908 and 1940 Sears sold 75,000 homes like this across the country to folks eager to leave the crowded cities and become first-time homeowners. Sears supplied the nails, boards, screws, paint, shingles, and windows via the new-fangled railroad system but the masonry was done locally to keep the prices lower. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book and contained 10,000 - 30,000 pieces. Sears would finance the kit homes for 25% down at an interest rate of 6%. The average American income in the 1920's was about $1200 so it would take more than 25% of your income to afford a home like this. The idea was you could build it yourself with a lot of help from friends like a barn raising or contract someone to do it for you in less time but at a slightly higher cost. Sears even numbered the boards to make it easier to build any one of their over 300 different designs through the years.

This particular home is the 1921 Crescent model and was originally built by the Fournier family in 1922. It is known as the Miller House for its second owners who bought it in 1948 and lived here until 1998. The house has 5 rooms with a solarium, an attached greenhouse and a fruit cellar. The garden in back was a pond at one time where the original owners kept an alligator.
The Great Depression caused a lot of people to default on their loans and the sales also declined forcing Sears to discontinue their Modern Homes department in 1940. In 1998, a few years after Bruce Miller died, his widow Elizabeth generously gave it to the Madeira Historical Society to use.

Many people still live in these homes today but since they are not the original owners many have no idea it was a kit home. One way to check is to first find out if your home was built during these years. If it was, look for shipping labels on the back of millwork and moulding as well as stamped numbers on exposed wood on staircases and joists.