The Battle of Baltimore, 12th-15th September 1814

A full-size replica of the "Star Spangled Banner" of 1814 flies over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.

A full-size replica (30 by 42 feet) of the “Star Spangled Banner” of 1814 flies over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.

Today is “Defenders Day” (a legal holiday in the State of Maryland) and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore (also known as the Battle of Fort McHenry), which occurred from 12-15 Sep 1814 during the War of 1812.  My family has no direct connection to the battle that I am aware of, but I grew up in Baltimore and visited the Fort many times as a youngster, both with my family and on school field trips.  Like all Maryland schoolchildren, I learned of the battle and the “Star Spangled Banner” from an early age.  During the battle, American forces repulsed sea and land invasions of the busy port city of Baltimore, Maryland, and killed the commander of the invading British forces.  The British defeated an American force at North Point, however they made no further progress and later withdrew.  The resilience of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during bombardment by the Royal Navy inspired Francis Scott Key to compose the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry” which later became the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States of America.

The Battle Monument is located in Battle Monument Square on North Calvert Street between East Fayette and East Lexington Streets in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Battle Monument is located in Battle Monument Square on North Calvert Street between East Fayette and East Lexington Streets in Baltimore, Maryland.

Tied down in Europe until 1814, the British at first used defensive strategy, repelling multiple American invasions of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada.  However, the Americans gained control over Lake Erie in 1813, seized parts of western Ontario, and ended the prospect of an Indian confederacy and an independent Indian state in the Midwest under British sponsorship.  In the Southwest, General Andrew Jackson destroyed the military strength of the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814.  With the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending in three large invasion armies.  In August 1814, British forces sailed from the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda to attack the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C., and on 24 Aug 1814, the British Army overran confused American defenders at the Battle of Bladensburg and marched into Washington, which had been abandoned by the military.  After burning and looting the White House, Capitol, Treasury, War Department and other public buildings and forcing the destruction of the Washington Navy Yard, the British carted public and private possessions back to their ships.  President James Madison and the entire government fled the city and went North, to the town of Brookeville, Maryland.  The British also sent a fleet up the Potomac to cut off Washington’s water access and threaten the prosperous ports of Alexandria, just downstream of Washington, and Georgetown, just upstream.  The mere appearance of the fleet cowed American defenders into fleeing from Fort Warburton without firing a shot, and undefended Alexandria surrendered.  The British spent several days looting hundreds of tons of merchandise from city merchants, then turned their attention north to Baltimore, where they hoped to strike a knockout blow against the demoralized Americans.  Baltimore was a busy port and was thought by the British to harbor many of the privateers who were raiding British shipping.  The British planned a combined operation, with Ross launching a land attack at North Point, and Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane laying siege to Fort McHenry, which was the point defensive installation in Baltimore Harbor.

Aerial view of Fort McHenry

Aerial view of Fort McHenry

At Fort McHenry, some 1,000 soldiers under the command of Major George Armistead awaited the British naval bombardment.  The attack began late on 12 September, as the British fleet of some nineteen ships began pounding the fort with rockets and mortar shells from vessels offshore.  After an initial exchange of fire, the British fleet withdrew to just beyond the range of Fort McHenry’s cannons and continued to bombard the American redoubts for the next 25 hours.  Although 1,500 to 1,800 cannonballs were launched at the fort, damage was light due to recent fortification that had been completed prior to the battle.  As the attack began, an American lawyer and poet, Francis Scott Key, was on a mercy mission for the release of Dr. William Beanes, a prisoner of the British.  Key showed the British letters from wounded British officers praising the care they received from Dr. Beanes.  The British agreed to release Beanes, but Key and Beanes were forced to stay with the British until the attack on Baltimore was over, and Key watched the proceedings from a truce ship in the Patapsco River.  On the morning of the 14th, Key saw the American flag waving above Fort McHenry.  Inspired, he began jotting down verses on the back of a letter he was carrying.  He composed the words to the tune of an old British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven”.  When Key reached Baltimore, his poem was printed on pamphlets by the Baltimore American.  His poem was originally called “Defense of Ft. McHenry”, and the song eventually became known as “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  It was declared the National Anthem by an act of Congress in 1931.

American victories in September 1814 and later in January 1815 repulsed all three British invasions in New York, Maryland and Louisiana. (12)

405 Years Ago Today – My First Ancestor to Reach America Lands at Jamestown (1609)

John Smith, played by Dennis Farmer, claims the beach for England during a re-enactment ceremony on the 400th anniversary of the First Landing in the, "New World." Settlers from the ships the Godspeed, Discovery and the Susan Constant landed at Virginia Beach and stayed for four days before moving to Jamestown.

John Smith, played by Dennis Farmer, claims the beach for England during a re-enactment ceremony on the 400th anniversary of the First Landing in the “New World.” Settlers from the ships the Godspeed, Discovery and the Susan Constant landed at Virginia Beach and stayed for four days before moving to Jamestown.

Today there are approximately 30 million Americans (perhaps 10% of the population) who can trace their ancestry back to at least one of the Mayflower passengers of 1620.  Of course, most of these people have no idea whether or how they are a descendant.  I am descended from four of these adventurous pioneers, but they were not the first of my family to arrive on the shores of North America.  More than a decade before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, my 11th great grandfather, Capt. William King, landed at Jamestown.

In 1609, he commanded the ship Diamond (along with a Capt. Ratcliffe), as a member of the so-called “Third Supply” mission to Jamestown, Virginia.  The first English colonists had reached Jamestown in 1607.  The “Third Supply” mission was undertaken at a critical time of the beginning of the Jamestown Colony and of the English colonization in the New World.  Other colonization attempts were made prior to Jamestown, but all had failed prior to this time.  The supply fleet consisted of nine ships and 500-600 colonists (including the first group of women and children).  During the voyage, a hurricane sank one ship, Catch, and wrecked the flagship Sea Venture on the coast of Bermuda.  The remainder of the fleet (minus Catch and Sea Venture), including the Diamond, arrived in Jamestown on 18 Aug 1609 (reckoned by the “old style” calendar).  In late 1609, on the return voyage, Diamond was wrecked in a storm near the English coast, and Capt. William King was lost at sea.  My first ancestor to reach Virginia never actually settled there.

Some years later, Capt. William King’s son, Capt. John King, of the ship Falcon (who went first to Barbados and then to Virginia), ultimately settled in Virginia and established the family line in that colony.  However, it was his father, who never settled permanently in the colony, who was my first ancestor to visit American shores.

Godspeed sailing off the coast of Hampton, Virginia (2012).  This is an 88'  replica of one of the ships that brought settlers to Jamestown in 1607.  She was built in Rockport, Maine, and completed in early 2006.  Replicas of the Godspeed and her sisters in the 1607 voyage, the larger Susan Constant and the smaller Discovery, are docked in the James River at Jamestown Settlement (formerly Jamestown Festival Park), adjacent to the Jamestown National Historic Site.

Godspeed sailing off the coast of Hampton, Virginia (2012). This is an 88′ replica of one of the ships that brought settlers to Jamestown in 1607. She was built in Rockport, Maine, and completed in early 2006. Replicas of the Godspeed and her sisters in the 1607 voyage, the larger Susan Constant and the smaller Discovery, are docked in the James River at Jamestown Settlement (formerly Jamestown Festival Park), adjacent to the Jamestown National Historic Site.

You can read more about Capt. William King and his family line —> here, as well as the fascinating story of what happened to the Sea Venture castaways on Bermuda.  Elsewhere on this site, I have compiled the stories the this Southern branch of my family.  Over the course of three centuries, the family followed the great waterways of Virginia (the James, the Rappahannock and the Potomac) to the falls of the Piedmont and beyond.  Various tributaries merged, including an influx of French Huguenot refugees at Manakintown (near modern-day Richmond) around 1700, then continued over the western mountains of Virginia, through the Cumberland Gap (a decade or so prior to 1800), into Kentucky, across the prairies of Missouri and Kansas, and settled in the Colorado Territory during the second half of the 19th century.  In Colorado Springs, the Southern branch converges with the more numerous Yankee branches of the family, whose roots extend back almost as far in the colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Netherland (New York). (27)

232 Years Ago – The Siege of Bryan’s Station, Kentucky

Lithograph of the women of Bryan's Station, Kentuckyy supplying the garrison with water and defeating the stratagem of the Indians led on by Simon Girty the renegade 1782. You can see indians spying behind a tree. (Print by Nagel & Weingartner, 1851 - Library of Congress)

Lithograph of the women of Bryan’s Station, Kentucky supplying the garrison with water and defeating the stratagem of the Indians led on by Simon Girty. You can see Indians spying from behind a tree. (Print by Nagel & Weingartner, 1851 – Library of Congress)

During the Amercan Revolution, an episode known as The Siege of Bryan’s Station, Kentucky began on 15 Aug 1782.  My 5th great grandparents, John Suggett (1751-1834) and his wife Mildred Davis (1758-1834) were among the defenders of the fort. On the 15th, Indians and British forces under the command of William Caldwell and Simon Girty attacked the fort.  John’s seven year-old son, James, was also reportedly in the fort at the time of the attack, and his sister, Jemima (my 5th great aunt), is considered a heroine for her actions at the time.  The traditional story runs as follows: As Girty’s forces surrounded the fort, the occupants discovered that there was no water inside.  A number of Indians concealed themselves near the spring from which the settlement drew water; however, the fort’s inhabitants believed it unlikely that they would show themselves until they believed they could capture the stockade.  Jemima (Suggett) Johnson was the first to approve of a plan to allow the women to go and draw water from the spring as usual.  There was a risk that the Indians would assault the women, and many of the men disapproved of the plan, but devoid of other options, they eventually acquiesced.  Less than an hour after sunrise, the women drew the water and returned safely.  Soon thereafter, the raid commenced.  A band of Indian warriors managed to set fire to some houses and stables, but a favorable wind prevented the fires from spreading.  The fort’s children used the water drawn by the women to extinguish the fires.  One of the enemy’s flaming arrows landed in the crib of the infant, Richard Mentor Johnson (my 1st cousin 6x removed, and later the hero of the Battle of the Thames in the War of 1812 and Vice President of the United States), but it was quickly doused by Johnson’s sister Betsy (also my 1st cousin 6x removed).  During the afternoon, reinforcements arrived from Lexington and Boone Station, and the fort was saved.  The attackers lifted the siege after Indian scouts reported that a force of Kentucky militia was on the way.  The militiamen pursued Caldwell’s force but were defeated three days later at the Battle of Blue Licks, about 60 miles to the northeast.  The Battle of Blue Licks, fought on 19 Aug 1782, was one of the last battles of the American Revolutionary War.  The battle occurred ten months after Lord Cornwallis’s famous surrender at Yorktown, which had effectively ended the war in the east.  Follow the link —> the more information on the Siege of Bryan Station and the history of the Suggett family.

Bryan Station historical marker placed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Bryan Station historical marker placed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky

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How Old Were the “Founding Fathers” on July 4, 1776?…

…Younger than you think.

Portraits of George Washington (1732-1799)

Portraits of George Washington (1732-1799)

Here’s the answer from an article written last year (8 Aug 2013) by Todd Andrlik in the Journal of the American Revolution:

It’s a simple question — perhaps so basic that it’s been overlooked. How old were the key participants of the American Revolution?

Authors often reveal the age of a particular soldier, politician or other main character in books about the Revolution, but I routinely find myself wondering about their peers at the same time.  As it turns out, many Founding Fathers were less than 40 years old in 1776 with several qualifying as Founding Teenagers and Twentysomethings.  And though the average age of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was 44, more than a dozen of them were 35 or younger!

“We tend to see them as much older than they were,” said David McCullough in a 2005 speech.  “Because we’re seeing them in portraits by Gilbert Stuart and others when they were truly the Founding Fathers — when they were president or chief justice of the Supreme Court and their hair, if it hadn’t turned white, was powdered white.  We see the awkward teeth.  We see the elder statesmen.  At the time of the Revolution, they were all young.  It was a young man’s–young woman’s cause.”

A list of ages of important American Revolution characters seems elementary enough, and certainly easy to assemble, yet I wasn’t able to find such a list anywhere I looked online.  And I don’t recall ever stumbling upon such an appendix while researching my book, so I figured I’d just make one.  This is a list of ages, from youngest to oldest, of key American Revolution participants, providing the precise age as of July 4th, 1776:

Andrew Jackson, 9; Thomas Young, 12; Deborah Sampson, 15; James Armistead, 15; Sybil Ludington, 15; Joseph Plumb Martin, 15; Peter Salem, 16*; Peggy Shippen, 16; Marquis de Lafayette, 18; James Monroe, 18; Henry Lee III, 20; Gilbert Stuart, 20; John Trumbull, 20; Aaron Burr, 20; John Marshall, 20; Nathan Hale, 21; Banastre Tarleton, 21; Alexander Hamilton, 21*; John Laurens, 21; Benjamin Tallmadge, 22; Robert Townsend, 22; George Rodgers Clark, 23; David Humphreys, 23; Gouveneur Morris, 24; Betsy Ross, 24; William Washington, 24; James Madison, 25; Henry Knox, 25; John Andre, 26; Thomas Lynch, Jr., 26^; Edward Rutledge, 26^; Abraham Woodhull, 26; Isaiah Thomas, 27; George Walton, 27*^; John Paul Jones, 28; Bernardo de Galvez, 29; Thomas Heyward, Jr., 29^; Robert R. Livingston, 29; John Jay, 30; Tadeusz Kosciuszko, 30; Benjamin Rush, 30^; Abigail Adams, 31; John Barry, 31; Elbridge Gerry, 31^; Casimir Pulaski, 31; Anthony Wayne, 31; Joseph Brant, 33; Nathanael Greene, 33; Thomas Jefferson, 33^; Thomas Stone, 33*^; William Hooper, 34^; Arthur Middleton, 34^; James Wilson, 34*^; Benedict Arnold, 35; Samuel Chase, 35^; Thomas Knowlton, 35; William Paca, 35^; John Penn, 35^; Hercules Mulligan, 36; Andrew Pickens, 36; Haym Solomon, 36; John Sullivan, 36; George Clymer, 37^; Charles Cornwallis, 37; Thomas Nelson, Jr., 37^; Ethan Allen, 38; Charles Carroll, 38^; King George III, 38; Francis Hopkinson, 38^; Carter Braxton, 39^; George Clinton, 39; John Hancock, 39^; Daniel Morgan, 39; Thomas Paine, 39; Patrick Henry, 40; Enoch Poor, 40; John Adams, 40^; Daniel Boone, 41; William Floyd, 41^; Button Gwinnett, 41*^; John Lamb, 41*; Francis Lightfoot Lee, 41^; Paul Revere, 41; Thomas Sumter, 41, Robert Morris, 42^; Thomas McKean, 42^; George Read, 42^; John Dickinson, 43; John Glover, 43; Benjamin Edes, 43; Samuel Huntington, 44^; Richard Henry Lee, 44^; Charles Lee, 44; Francis Marion, 44; Lord North, 44; George Washington, 44; Joseph Galloway, 45; Robert Treat Paine, 45^; Friedrich von Steuben, 45; Richard Stockton, 45^; Martha Washington, 45; William Williams, 45^; Josiah Bartlett, 46^; Henry Clinton, 46; Joseph Hewes, 46^; William Howe, 46; George Ross, 46^; William Whipple, 46^; Caesar Rodney, 47^, John Stark, 47, Mercy Otis Warren, 47; William Ellery, 48^; Horatio Gates, 48; Artemas Ward, 48; Oliver Wolcott, 49^; Abraham Clark, 50^; Benjamin Harrison, 50^; Lewis Morris, 50^; Lord Stirling, 50; George Wythe, 50*^; Guy Carleton, 51; John Morton, 51*^; Comte de Rochambeau, 51; Lyman Hall, 52^; James Rivington, 52*; Samuel Adams, 53^; Comte de Grasse, 53; John Witherspoon, 53^; John Burgoyne, 54; Johann de Kalb, 55; Roger Sherman, 55^; Thomas Gage, 56; James Smith, 56^; Israel Putnam, 58; Comte de Vergennes, 58; Lewis Nicola, 59*; George Germain, 60; Philip Livingston, 60^; George Taylor, 60*^; Matthew Thornton, 62^; Francis Lewis, 63^; John Hart, 65*^; Stephen Hopkins, 69^; Benjamin Franklin, 70^; Samuel Whittemore, 81

* Evidence may exist that this age is not precise, or only a birth year is known
^ Signers of the Declaration of Independence (average signer age was 44) (51)

Colorado Labor Wars & the Explosion at Independence Depot: 110 Years Ago Today

Men stand on the tracks surveying the damaged Independence Depot building after a bomb exploded, killing 13 non-union miners in Victor, Colorado, 6 Jun 1906 (photo by Schedin & Lehman, from Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District)

Men stand on the tracks surveying the damaged Independence Depot building after a bomb exploded, killing 13 non-union miners in Victor, Colorado, 6 Jun 1906 (photo by Schedin & Lehman, from Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District)

Today is the 110th anniversary of the explosion at the Independence Depot near Victor, Colorado, a turning point in the struggle known as the “Colorado Labor Wars” of the early 20th century.  Many scholars who have studied American labor history have concluded that there is no episode in which violence was as systematically used by employers as in the Colorado labor war of 1903 and 1904.   My great-grandfather, Clarence C. Hamlin, was a key leader representing the interests of the mine owners against the demands of the workers – the WRONG side of history, in my opinion – although there was disgraceful behavior on all sides of the controversies.  Of course, the facts remain in dispute down to the present day.

The “Labor Wars” had origins in the Cripple Creek and Leadville strikes of 1894-96 and even earlier, but the spiral of violence that culminated in the Independence Depot explosion began in 1903 when smelter workers in Colorado City went on strike over the crucial issue of the eight-hour work day.  The response of the mine owners was brutal and heavy-handed, and the mining interests were backed politically by the Republican Party of Colorado and militarily by the Colorado National Guard, which was essentially a private militia financed by the mining interests.  Violence on both sides intensified over the course of several months, culminating in an explosion at Independence Depot on 6 Jun 1904, that killed 13 strikebreakers.  The culprits behind the explosion were not brought to account, and remain unknown.  In the aftermath of the explosion, much ugliness ensued, and the situation became very volatile, with throngs of angry men gathered in the streets in Cripple Creek.  The Cripple Creek Mine Owners’ Association (MOA) and an anti-union vigilante organization, the Cripple Creek District Citizens’ Alliance (CA), called a meeting at the Victor Military Club to formulate a response to the violence.  A short time later, Sheriff H. M. Robertson, whom the MOA deemed too tolerant of the union, was confronted and ordered to resign immediately or be lynched.  Robertson was replaced with Edward Bell, a member of both the MOA and the CA.

In a hostile environment ripe for provocation, the MOA and the CA called a public meeting in a vacant lot across from the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) union hall in Victor.  In her book All That Glitters, Elizabeth Jameson describes how my great grandfather, Clarence C. Hamlin, delivered a passionate speech under fire from union sharpshooters on nearby buildings, blaming the WFM for the Independence Depot explosion and demanding that the union be destroyed.  “The badge of the Western Federation of Miners is a badge of murder,” he declared, “and everyone who is responsible for the outrage at Independence should be driven from the district.”  Alfred Miller, a union miner carrying a rifle, spoke up to challenge Hamlin. Miller was standing next to his brother Christopher, who had, incidentally, earlier been deputized by Sheriff Robertson and assigned to guard evidence at the explosion site and then been relieved of his responsibility along with Robertson.  Fearing trouble, Chris Miller tried to take his brother’s gun, but his action was misinterpreted as a hostile gesture.  In the ensuing riot, two men were killed, five more were shot.  Around fifty union miners fled and took refuge in their union hall across the street.  The Colorado National Guard surrounded the hall and laid siege, firing into the building from nearby rooftops.  Forty union members eventually surrendered, with four of them sporting fresh wounds.  The CA entered the building and trashed it.  Vigilantes subsequently destroyed every union hall in the area.  This was followed by martial law enforced by the state militia, the absolute rule of a military dictator, imprisonment, the exile of guilty as well as innocent men by force, and the crushing of organized labor.

Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868-1940). My great grandfather was an official of the Cripple Creek Mine Owners Association during the labor-management showdown in the Colorado gold fields in the early 20th century.

Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868-1940). My great grandfather was an official of the Cripple Creek Mine Owners Association during
the labor-management showdown in the Colorado gold fields in the early 20th century.

On the morning of 7 Jun 1904, Clarence Hamlin announced the employers’ plan to deport union miners from Colorado.  The CA set up kangaroo courts and deported 38 union members.  In the weeks that followed, unionism was scoured from the Cripple Creek mining district.  Deportation procedures were approved by Gen. Sherman Bell, who had been sent to the district by Republican Governor James Peabody to deal with the civil unrest.  Peabody saw the WFM as a threat to his own class interests, to private property, to democratic institutions, and to the nation itself.  He had promised in his inaugural address to make Colorado safe for investments, if necessary using all the power of the state to accomplish his aims. General Bell converted the examining committee into a “military commission,” which tried 1,569 union prisoners.  More than 230 were judged guilty – meaning they refused to renounce the union – and were loaded onto special trains and dumped across the state line.  For all practical purposes, in a matter of days the Western Federation of Miners had been destroyed in Colorado’s mining camps. The National Guard stopped all work at the remaining union mines, where miners were arrested at shift change and deported.  The owner of the Portland mine filed lawsuits to challenge the mine closing, but he was stopped by stockholders who preferred a non-union mine.

General Bell then ordered that all aid to families left behind by the deported miners had to be channeled through the National Guard.  By such means he hoped to starve them out, insuring that the miners would have no reason to return to the district.  Members of the Women’s Auxiliary who distributed food in secret were arrested, taken to the bullpen and intimidated, although they were not held.  Over the coming weeks other incidents of intimidation, gunfire, beatings, and expulsion erased every visible trace of unionism in the district.

Clarence C. Hamlin, the secretary of the MOA who delivered the speech that may have incited the riot on 6 Jun 1904, would later be elected District Attorney, and when court cases were brought against mine owners, mine managers, mill owners, bankers, deputy sheriffs, and other members of the CA for deporting the union men, and for beatings and destruction, Hamlin refused to prosecute any of the cases.

A Telluride merchant, Harry Floaten, had been deported for his union sympathies.  He, along with others, tried for three days to meet with Governor Peabody about their treatment at the hands of an anti-union mob, but Peabody refused to see them.  Floaten supposedly penned the following bitter parody (to the tune of “My County ‘tis of Thee”) that channeled the miners’ frustrations:

Colorado, it is of thee / Dark land of tyranny/ Of thee I sing: / Land wherein labor’s bled / Land from which law has fled / Bow down thy mournful head / Capital is king.

 

Famous Western Federation of Miners poster entitled "Is Colorado in America?"

Famous Western Federation of Miners poster entitled “Is Colorado in America?”

  (61)

The Greatest Generation: D-Day – a lifetime ago tomorrow…

There’s a reason why they’ve been called the “Greatest Generation”…

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France)

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt observed in his speech to the Democratic National Convention delivered at Philadelphia in 1936:

“There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny”.

Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of D-Day: the Allied invasion of France in World War 2. The operation was years in the making and involved hundreds of ships, thousands of planes, hundreds of thousands of men in uniform and millions at home supporting the effort in factories, farms and communities. And it all happened while America was already fighting and winning another war halfway around the world. Between the Allies in the West and the Russians in the East, Hitler’s war machine was crushed within a year. The cost was beyond calculation, everyone knew it going in, and as One Nation, America rose to the challenge, along with many others. We owe a tremendous debt to all those who have been ready and willing to defend freedom when called upon. And let’s hope it never happens again… (35)

Union Village: The Shaker Community of Warren County, Ohio

Sign marking the location of the Union Village Shaker community, near where the Morris family made its home in Warren County, Ohio in the early 1800s (front), photo credit: Arne H. Trelvik; taken 4 Aug 2004

Sign marking the location of the Union Village Shaker community, near where the Morris and Spinning families made their home in Warren County, Ohio in the early 1800s, photo credit: Arne H. Trelvik; taken 4 Aug 2004

My 4th great grand uncle, David Spinning (1779-1841) became a Shaker convert and joined the Shaker community at Union Village, Turtle Creek Township (near Lebanon), Warren County, Ohio before 1812. At one time, Union Village was one of the largest communities of Shakers in the United States. By 1830, David Spinning was “First Elder” of the Gathering Order on the North Family Lot, where he lived until 1832.

Lynley Dunham, Archivist & Assistant Curator of the Warren County (Ohio) Historical Society (WCHS), wrote an article entitled “A Short Sketch of the Life of David Spinning”, which appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of The HistoricaLog (the newsletter of the WCHS):

 

By Linley Dunham:

In 1861, twenty years after his death, Richard W. Pelham described his old friend David Spinning as “the best man I have ever known.” It was at this time that Pelham transcribed his friend’s Life Sketch, written by Spinning in the four months preceding his death. This memoir offers a rare and honest glimpse into life on the Ohio frontier and the first decades of Union Village.

David Spinning was born on August 30, 1779 in New Jersey to Mathias and Hannah (Haines) Spinning [my 5th maternal great grandparents]. In 1790 the family left the relative comforts of the east for the wilderness of the Northwest Territory, settling first close to modern day Cincinnati. The Spinning’s eventually settled on the Little Miami River and later near what would become Union Village. David was privileged to earn an education. Beers History of Warren County notes that he taught school under Francis Dunlavy. By the time of his conversion to Shakerism, Spinning had a wife, children, and a farm to support. He only briefly mentions his family in the entirety of his autobiography. Records show that David Spinning, brother Stephen, and their wives and children were among the first converts at Union Village. Family sources note that Spinning was disinherited by his father because of his conversion. It is clear that once Spinning joined the Shakers, he was wholeheartedly devoted to his faith.

David Spinning’s Life Sketch, written from August 30 to November 11, 1841, is 29 pages long. It includes two pages of poignant reminiscences and a poem written for Spinning’s funeral by Richard Pelham. Much of the narrative concerns Spinning’s spirituality, a subject he pondered seriously from childhood. He was ill and barely able to speak during the period he wrote the memoir. He used this opportunity to reflect on his life and spiritual beliefs.

Shakers used dancing as part of their religious ritual. They did not follow set figures as did dancers of more mainstream dances but rather freely engaged in several distinctive moves, such as whirling and marching. The Shakers would whirl rapidly, propelling themselves in circles by having one foot continually stepping around the other. Much of the time the whirling would continue for ten or fifteen minutes, though it was known in some instances to have lasted for up to forty-minutes. The Shakers believed that in order to obtain religious revelation one had to labor; part of this endeavor involved writhing and twirling of the body. Though seemingly eccentric, this ritual was a key part of Shaker religious culture.

Shakers used dancing as part of their religious ritual. They did not follow set figures as did dancers of more mainstream dances but rather freely engaged in several distinctive moves, such as whirling and marching. The Shakers would whirl rapidly, propelling themselves in circles by having one foot continually stepping around the other. Much of the time the whirling would continue for ten or fifteen minutes, though it was known in some instances to have lasted for up to forty-minutes. The Shakers believed that in order to obtain religious revelation one had to labor; part of this endeavor involved writhing and twirling of the body. Though seemingly eccentric, this ritual was a key part of Shaker religious culture.

Another major concern throughout the dialogue is diet. Spinning adhered to the Graham Diet, much to the concern of those around him. He also gave up excess in food, including coffee, butter, pie and other foods that were wasteful in preparation time or ingredients, because such waste went against the teachings of Mother Ann Lee. He struggled with his decision to give up the food he loved, especially pie and butter. Spinning compared giving up buttered potatoes to “plucking out a right eye.” But in the end he determined that these sacrifices were right, and of little discomfort because ultimately it was “wrong to waste the least thing” and anything that can be spared should go to the poor.

Spinning’s recollection offers a source of reference to many of his Warren County and Shaker contemporaries. He mentions Francis Dunlavy and the Beedle/Beadle family, notable pioneers of the county. Spinning’s wife is named as “Louise Budle” in some records, but she was possibly from the Beadle family. He makes several references to Richard McNemar and the early days of the Shakers of Union Village. He blames notorious Shaker thief Nathan Sharp for contributing to his medical ailments: “His tyrannical and oppressive dealings with young believers became a source of frequent and ultimately almost constant distress.” He credits fellow Shaker Freegift Wells for providing him with the reading materials that led him to the Graham Diet. Spinning mentions various Shakers with whom he associated while living at Union Village and North Union. His work can be cited as a reference for early life in Ohio and the founding of Union Village.

David Spinning died from consumption “in great peace without a struggle or groan, on the 22nd of December, 1841,” according to Richard Pelham. The last weeks of his life were spent encouraging younger Shakers to stay true to their faith. As his health slowly faded, his convictions remained strong. Pelham remained his “constant companion” during this period.

November 11th

I am very far reduced, and I have a feeling to write and to testify that I am more and more confirmed in the doctrine taught and lived by Jesus and Mother; “Save all, that you may have to give to them that need — If you have but little to spare give it to the poor… And furthermore I believe that if anyone from a sincere desire to do God’s will as manifested through Jesus and Mother become a doer of this heavenly principle, will find it to be a greater means of humbling his heart and subduing his selfish nature, so that his soul may be prepared to receive the Love of God and his neighbor than by all burnt offerings and sacrifices; by all music and dancing; by all prayers and fastings, and by all outward forms and ceremonies. I leave this as my last testimony of what believe.

David Spinning

The last known whereabouts of the original were with the Ohio State Archaeology and Historical Society in 1941, when a copy was made for the Dayton Public Library. WCHS received a copy of the transcribed Dayton Library copy from researcher Tor Hylbom, whom we graciously thank. This copy is available for view in our library Tuesday through Friday 10-4, and Saturdays from 10-5.

[Pelham, Richard W. (ed.). A Short Sketch of the Life of David Spinning, written by himself, August 30 - November 11, 1841 and A Sketch of the Life and Religious Experience of Richard W. Pelham, written by himself, 1862. Typescript of the original manuscript notebook (in Pelham's handwriting) in the collection of the Ohio State Archeological & Historical Society, borrowed and copied by Dayton (Ohio) Public Library, November 1944.] (48)

“Gunnell” Photos from the Denver Public Library Digital Collections

I found some great old photos of “Gunnell Hill” and other sites in the area of the Central City mining district, through a search of the Denver Public Library Digital Collections online.  Gunnell Hill was named for my 2nd great grandfather, Allen Thomson Gunnell (1848-1907), who was involved in the early politics and mining industry in Colorado.  Click here —> for more on the history of the Gunnell family in America.

Studio portrait, head and shoulders, of Judge Allen Thomson Gunnell, Colorado attorney and politician; arrived in Lake City 1875; state legislator, 1878; County Judge in Leadville (1883-?); appointed to State Court of Appeals, 1889; arrived in Colorado Springs, 1893. (Denver Public Library Digital Collections, Rose & Hopkins, taken 1886-1901)

Studio portrait, head and shoulders, of Judge Allen Thomson Gunnell, Colorado attorney and politician; arrived in Lake City 1875; state legislator, 1878; County Judge in Leadville (1883-?); appointed to State Court of Appeals, 1889; arrived in Colorado Springs, 1893. (Denver Public Library Digital Collections, Rose & Hopkins, taken 1886-1901)

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The Great San Francisco Earthquake & Fire of 1906

Street scene in the aftermath of the Great San Francisco Earthquake & Fire of 1906

Street scene in the aftermath of the Great San Francisco Earthquake & Fire of 1906

The Great San Francisco Earthquake & Fire of 1906 occurred 108 years ago today.

According to the memoir of my grandfather, Tor Emil Hylbom (1900-1966), the first Hylbom to touch America’s shores was his uncle and namesake, Emil Reinhold Hylbom. Emil left Sweden as a young man for a life on the sea, and his family heard very little of his fate after that. He may have been in San Francisco in 1906. His last known whereabouts was in a home for destitute victims of the quake and fire, and a correspondent in California described him as a blind, old man.

On 18 Apr 1906, in the early morning hours, San Francisco, California, was rocked by an earthquake registering an 8.0 on the Richter scale. This massive quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault, which runs along the west coast of the united States, and its effects could be felt from Oregon to Los Angeles. In San Francisco, where buildings were constructed primarily of wood, numerous structures toppled, killing hundreds of the city’s residents. In addition, the quake and its aftershocks started fires throughout the entire city, and with the city’s water supply destroyed by the earthquake, firefighters could not stop them. Huge firestorms swept through the city, forcing city officials to dynamite large sections to be used as firebreaks. 20,000 people had to be evacuated to the USS Chicago on 20 April because they were trapped by fire. The chaos in the city got so bad that Mayor E. E. Schmitz was forced to call in U.S. troops from Fort Mason, telling them to implement a dawn to dusk curfew and to shoot any looters on sight. By 23 April, most of the fires had been extinguished and the city began the difficult task of rebuilding. 3,000 people had died because of the earthquake and the fires that followed, and 30,000 buildings had been destroyed in what was one of the most costly and deadly disasters in U.S. history.

Refer to Tor Emil Hylbom (edited by Ingrid Hylbom Hetfield). Reminiscences: Childhood Memories of Stockholm at the Turn of the Century (typescript – from the papers of Elizabeth Hamlin Hylbom) 1969, page 3. (52)

It’s Maryland Day: March 25

The Ark and the Dove, 1934 Issue

The Ark and the Dove, 1934 Issue

Today is Maryland Day!   It is observed on the anniversary of the landing, in 1634, of the first European settlers in the Province of Maryland, the third English colony to be settled in British North America.  It is from this event that both Maryland and the city of Baltimore got their names.

On 25 Mar 1634, settlers from the Ark and the smaller Dove first stepped foot onto Maryland soil, at St. Clement’s Island in the Potomac River.  The Maryland settlement was authorized under the charter granted 20 Jun 1632, by Charles I of England to Cecilius Calvert, Baron of Baltimore.  Traveling on the Ark to the new colony, Leonard Calvert, Lord Baltimore’s brother, led the Maryland settlers.  In thanksgiving for the safe landing, Jesuit Father Andrew White celebrated the Mass for the colonists led by the younger brother of Lord Baltimore, Leonard Calvert, (1606-1647), who served as the first governor, and perhaps for the first time ever in this part of the world on the first landing at Blackistone Island, later known as St. Clement’s Island off the northern shore of the Potomac River, which was the new border between the new colony and the earlier English settlements in Virginia) and erected a large cross.  The landing coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation, a holy day honoring Mary, and the start of the new year in England’s legal calendar (prior to 1752).  Later the colonists and their two ships sailed further back down river to the southeast to settle a capital at St. Mary’s City near the point where the Potomac flows into the Chesapeake Bay.  The formal observance of Maryland Day began in 1903 when the State Board of Education chose one day in the school year to be devoted to Maryland history.  March 25th was named Maryland Day by the Board.  In 1916, the General Assembly authorized Maryland Day as a legal holiday (Chapter 633, Acts of 1916).

The Pride of Baltimore exchanges cannon fire with Fort McHenry on her way to Annapolis for Maryland Day festivities. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun / 24 Mar 2014)

The Pride of Baltimore exchanges cannon fire with Fort McHenry on her way to Annapolis for Maryland Day festivities. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun / 24 Mar 2014)

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Moses Wheeler, early settler of New Haven, “Blue Law” exile and Ferryman of Stratford, Connecticut

The Moses Wheeler Bridge has been a Connecticut icon since its construction in 1958, carrying I-95 over the Housatonic River between Stratford and Milford. Due to decades of unforgiving New England weather, the bridge is currently undergoing reconstruction that is scheduled for completion in 2016, so that it can continue supporting the 135,000 cars and trucks that cross the Housatonic River on I-95 every day, making it one of the busiest bridges in the state.

The Moses Wheeler Bridge has been a Connecticut icon since its construction in 1958, carrying I-95 over the Housatonic River between Stratford and Milford. Due to decades of unforgiving New England weather, the bridge is currently undergoing reconstruction that is scheduled for completion in 2016, so that it can continue supporting the 135,000 cars and trucks that cross the Housatonic River on I-95 every day, making it one of the busiest bridges in the state.

Driving on I-95 through Connecticut, you may find yourself on one of the busiest bridges in the state – the Moses Wheeler Bridge – that spans the Housatonic River between Stratford and Milford.  The bridge, opened in 1958 and undergoing major reconstruction from 2011-16, was named for Moses Wheeler (1598-1698), my maternal 9th great grandfather, who operated the ferry crossing in the early days of Stratford.  For many years, Wheeler, a ship’s carpenter, operated a ferry across the Housatonic River at this location.  His son and later his grandson also ran the ferry.

Moses Wheeler was born in England, very likely in the county of Kent, in 1598.  He sailed from London in 1638 and settled in the New Haven colony, where he was among the first to receive an allotment of land in 1641.  At New Haven, Moses married Miriam Hawley, a sister of Joseph Hawley (1603-1690), one of the first settlers in the colony and my 10th great grandfather.  Evidently, Moses was cited for a violation of the community’s strict laws regarding the Sabbath.  It seems that he returned home on the Sabbath after an out-of-town absence and greeted his wife and children with kisses.  Apparently, he was (or felt) compelled to leave, and they subsequently settled in Stratford, where his sister was wife to the settlement’s minister Rev. Adam Blakeman (1598-1665), my 9th great grandfather.  At Stratford, Moses Wheeler purchased a home site from the Indians on the shore, near what is now known as Sandy Hollow.  He afterwards bought a large piece of land in the upper part of the town, extending from the river to some distance above the site of the present-day railroad line.  He operated the ferry crossing, he was a ship carpenter by trade, and, in addition to building vessels, he was engaged in farming the lands of which he was an extensive owner, and he became one of the leading and influential men of Stratford.  He lived to the age of 100 and died in 1698. (92)