Friday, April 26, 2013

Tales of Brave Ulysses

Grant's birthplace in Point Pleasant OH. It toured the US.

April 27th, 1822 is President U.S. Grant's 191st birthday!
I'm not going to attempt a biography of Grant in a mere blog post. His service during the Civil War is heavily documented. I'll just touch on some items you may not know.
Born in a modest home in Point Pleasant OH and moving a year later to Georgetown OH, his given name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. When he entered West Point at the age of 17, a clerical error made him Ulysses Simpson Grant because his Mother's maiden name was Simpson. Including Grant, there are three US Presidents who were born with different names than the name they were elected under. The other two are Ford and Clinton.

During Grant's military career he developed a reputation for binge drinking which may have been exaggerated by his enemies. Some historians think he probably drank as much as any other 19th-century man which is to say, a lot.
 After the Civil War, he became a huge celebrity and became involved in politics. In 1869 became 18th President of the US serving two terms. His Presidential legacy is marred by a series of corruption scandals and economic crisis' during a violent and pivotal era in post Civil War America but he accomplished several great things such as furthering the rights of African-Americans and overseeing the passage of the 15th amendment. I do kind of get the feeling that Grant could have burned the White House to the ground in a drunken rage and he still would be forgiven because of his service in the Civil War. He was that big of a deal to Americans.

Grant may  have been reported on his own highway
Grant's Presidency began a tripleheader of Republican Ohio born Presidents (Grant, Hayes, Garfield) that controlled the White House from 1861 to 1881. Most people don't know that an attempt was made to nominate Grant for an unprecedented 3rd term in 1880 but the deadlocked and divided Republican convention became enamored by fellow Ohioan James Garfield's speech in support of another contender named James Blaine. Grant lost the nomination to Garfield who was shot 4 months into his term by a crazy lone gunman who had written speeches in favor of Grant. There was, of course, no connection to Grant but it is an interesting fact nonetheless.

In 1884 Grant learned he had throat cancer, a sure death sentence in those days. At the urging of supporters, he decided to write his memoirs which he finished just days before he died. I suppose if Grant did get that third term he very well could have been added to the list of Ohio Presidents who died in office. Those Buckeyes can't catch a break.

Being a national hero and all, after he died on July 23rd, 1885 they put his birthplace cottage on a train and toured it all over the US and then they put it back in Point Pleasant OH. I don't think anyone really cared or knew that he lived there for only a year and really grew up in Georgetown OH.
Grant was laid to rest in New York City. Why wasn't he buried in Ohio? NYC was where he and his wife lived after leaving the White House and Julia, who outlived him by 20 years, wanted him nearby so she could visit.
Grant's Tomb in NYC

So who is buried in Grant's Tomb? No one. Grant and his wife Julie are in an above ground vault.

"Grant was himself the supreme example of American opportunity."
-President and fellow Ohioan Warren G. Harding
speaking in Point Pleasant on the
1922 100th Anniversary of Grant’s birth

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Gateway to the Old Northwest

18th century Marietta

The first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory officially began at Marietta, Ohio on April 7, 1788.
General Rufus Putnam and 48 men arrived on flatboats and named the new city "Marietta" after Queen Marie Antoinette in honor of France's support during the Revolutionary War.
21st century Marietta
Hostilities with Native Americans, who had occupied the region for thousands of years, would become a fact of life for the next half-century as treaties were made (and broken). By 1843 no Indian tribes would remain in Ohio. Evidence of the Hopewell culture (100 BC - AD 500) can still be seen in what remains of the Marietta Earthworks.

Marietta flourished during the riverboat and railroad era through the 19th century but surpassed in importance as the era of the interstate and air travel took over. Today Marietta has a flourishing tourism industry because of its significant place in history.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Place of the Devil Wind

National Weather Service photo of the F5 tornado

I didn't live in Ohio when this tragedy happened but the very mention of this event strikes fear in many Southwestern Ohio residents. A super outbreak of 148 tornadoes occurred in 13 states beginning on April 3rd, 1974 and ending on April 4th. It still ranks as one of the largest natural disasters in American history. Xenia OH was the hardest hit community. Half of the city was removed from the map in a matter of minutes.

I remember when I first moved to Cincinnati Ohio in 1979, there was a tornado warning in effect one evening. I was at a friends house whose family was from Dayton OH, which is right next to Xenia. I'd been in tornado warnings before and it is scary but my friend's family was really freaking out. This is why.

What is interesting is that this area was well known by American Indians for severe weather events and warned settlers not to build permanent settlements here. The Shawnee called it  "the place of the devil wind". There have been twenty recorded tornadoes in this area since 1884.

Xenia Tornado
April 3, 1974

OHS marker in front of the 1799 Galloway Log Home
On April 3, 1974, at 4:40 p.m., a devastating tornado touched down here, destroying a large portion of the City of Xenia. The mile-wide tornado entered in the southwest quadrant of the city and did not leave the ground until it had demolished hundreds of homes, schools, and commercial buildings. A total of 34 lives were lost, including two National guardsmen who were in a building when it caught fire. Hundreds of people were injured with property losses exceeding more than $100 million. For weeks following the tornado, the sound of trucks was heard throughout the city carrying the remains of homes, schools, churches, and businesses. This marker stands directly in the path taken by the tornado and serves to remind us that-"Xenia Lives."

more info and photos