July 23, 1828 A Virginia Housewife

Mary Randolph, Pocahontas’ direct descendant and cousin to Thomas Jefferson, was the cousin of George Washington Parke Custis, adopted step-grandson of George Washington, and the godmother of Custis’ daughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, wife of Robert E. Lee.

The first military burial at Arlington National Cemetery was that of Private William Henry Christman, 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, interred on May 13, 1864. Two more joined him that day, the trickle soon turning into a flood. By the end of the war between the states, that number was 17,000 and rising.

Private Christman’s was the first military burial, but not the first. When he went to his rest in our nation’s most hallowed ground, Private Christman’s grave joined that of Mary Randolph, buried some thirty-six years earlier.

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In 1929, cemetery workers were doing renovations on the Custis Mansion, at the top of the hill. They couldn’t help being aware of a solitary grave, 100′ to the north, but knew little of its occupant.

Marked with the name Mary Randolph, the stone was inscribed with these words:

“In the memory of Mrs. Mary Randolph,
Her intrinsic worth needs no eulogium.
The deceased was born
The 9th of August, 1762
at Amphill near Richmond, Virginia
And died the 23rd of January 1828
In Washington City a victim to maternal love and duty.”

Little else was known about Mary Randolph.

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In 1929, journalist Margaret Husted wrote about her in the Washington Star newspaper. Descendants came forward and, piece by piece, the story of the first person buried at Arlington, came to light.

Mary Randolph, Pocahontas’ direct descendant and cousin to Thomas Jefferson, was the cousin of George Washington Parke Custis, adopted step-grandson of George Washington, and the godmother of Custis’ daughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, wife of Robert E. Lee.

mary_isham_randolph_1660_-_2_largeThe last line of the inscription, “a victim to maternal love and duty” refers to her youngest surviving son, Midshipman Burwell Starke Randolph, who suffered a fall from a high mast in 1817, while serving in the Navy. Both of his legs were broken and never healed properly. When Mary passed away in 1828, Randolph remarked that his mother had sacrificed her own life in care of his.

Mary Randolph is best known as the author of America’s first regional cookbook, “The Virginia House-wife”.

The Virginia Culinary Thymes writes that “It is interesting to note that all the cookery at that time was done in kitchens that had changed little over the centuries. In Virginia, the kitchen was typically a separate building for reasons of safety, summer heat and the smells from the kitchen. The heart of the kitchen was a large fireplace where meat was roasted and cauldrons of water and broth simmered most of the day. Swinging cranes and various devices made to control temperature and the cooking processes were used. The Dutch oven and the chafing dish were found in most kitchens. The brick oven used for baking was located next to the fireplace. A salamander was used to move baked products around in the oven and it could also be heated and held over food for browning“.

51fUed9IGOLMrs. Randolph was an early advocate of the now-common use of herbs, spices and wines in cooking. Her recipe for apple fritters calls for slices of apple marinated in a combination of brandy, white wine, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon rind.

She was well known as a Virginia cook and hostess, so much so that, during an 1800 slave insurrection near Richmond, the leader “General Gabriel” said that he would spare her life, if she would become his cook.

I believe that General Gabriel may have been on to something.

Feature image, top of page:  Custis Mansion, Arlington National Cemetery, H/T Paul McGehee

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July 8, 1776 Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land

In Denver, a group of blind girls were allowed to touch the Bell. One of them wanted to read the letters. You could have heard a pin drop, as a hushed crowd heard a small, sightless girl, pronounce these words:  “Proclaim…Liberty…throughout…all…the…land.”

For thousands of years, bells have rung out to announce religious and civic occasions, weddings, funerals and other public announcements. The rich tones of a well-cast bell is capable of carrying for miles. Great Britain has so many bells, the place has been called the “Ringing Isle”.

The first bell in the city of Philadelphia would ring out to alert citizens of civic events and proclamations, and to the occasional public danger.  Originally hung from a tree near the Pennsylvania State House, (now known as Independence Hall), that first bell  dates back as far as the city itself, around 1682.

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Eighty-foot-high replica of the Liberty Bell, built for the Sesquicentennial International Exposition in 1926

The “Liberty Bell” was ordered from the London bell foundry of Lester and Pack in 1752, (today the Whitechapel Bell Foundry), though that name wouldn’t come around until much later.   Weighing in at 2,080 lbs, the bell arrived in August of that year.  Written upon it was a passage from the Book of Leviticus, the third book of the Hebrew Bible; the third of five books of the Torah. “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”.

Mounted to a stand to test the sound, the first strike of the clapper cracked the bell’s rim. Authorities attempted to return it, but the ship’s master couldn’t take it on board.  The bell was broken into pieces, melted down and re-cast by two local workmen, John Pass and John Stow.

The recast bell used 10% copper, making the metal less brittle.  Pass and Snow bragged that the bell’s lettering was clearer on this second casting than the original. The newly re-cast bell was ready in March 1753, when City officials scheduled a public celebration to test the sound. There was free food and drink all around, but the crowd gasped and started to laugh when the bell was struck. It didn’t break this time, it was worse.  Somebody said the thing sounded like two coal scuttles, banging together.

Humiliated, Pass and Stow hurriedly took the bell away, and once again broke it into pieces, and melted it down.

The whole performance was repeated, three months later. This time, most thought the sound to be satisfactory, and the bell was hung in the steeple of the State House. One who did not like the sound was Isaac Norris, speaker of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly.  Norris ordered a second bell in 1754 and attempted to return the old one for credit, but his efforts proved unsuccessful.

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Chief Little Bear with Liberty Bell, 1915

The new bell was attached to the tower clock, while the old one was, by vote of the Assembly, devoted “to such Uses as this House may hereafter appoint.”  One of the earliest documented uses of the old bell comes to us in a letter from Benjamin Franklin to Catherine Ray, dated October 16, 1755: “Adieu. The Bell rings, and I must go among the Grave ones, and talk Politiks.

Legends have grown around the bell, ringing in the public reading of the Declaration of independence on July 4, 1776.  The story is a myth.  There was no such reading on that day.  The 2nd Continental Congress’ Declaration was announced to the public four days later on July 8, to a great ringing of bells.  Whether the old bell itself rang on this day, remains uncertain. John C. Paige, author of an historical study of the bell for the National

Liberty bell, 1908
Liberty Bell, 1908

Park Service, wrote “We do not know whether or not the steeple was still strong enough to permit the State House bell to ring on this day. If it could possibly be rung, we can assume it was. Whether or not it did, it has come to symbolize all of the bells throughout the United States which proclaimed Independence.”

Bells are easily melted down and recast as bullets, and the bell was removed for safekeeping before the British occupation of Philadelphia, in 1777. The distinctive large crack began to develop sometime in the early 19th century, around the time when abolitionist societies adopted the symbol and began calling it “The Liberty Bell”.

The Philadelphia Public Ledger reported the last clear note ever sounded by the Liberty Bell, in its February 26, 1846 edition:

“The old Independence Bell rang its last clear note on Monday last in honor of the birthday of Washington and now hangs in the great city steeple irreparably cracked and dumb. It had been cracked before but was set in order of that day by having the edges of the fracture filed so as not to vibrate against each other … It gave out clear notes and loud, and appeared to be in excellent condition until noon, when it received a sort of compound fracture in a zig-zag direction through one of its sides which put it completely out of tune and left it a mere wreck of what it was.”

The bell would periodically travel to expositions and celebrations, but souvenir hunters would break off pieces from the rim.  Additional cracking developed after several of these trips, and the bell’s travels were sharply curtailed after its return from Chicago, in 1893.

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With the 1915 World’s Fair about to open in San Francisco, there were discussions of sending the Liberty Bell to California.  The bell had never been west of St. Louis at that time, and the Philadelphia establishment balked. Former Pennsylvania governor Samuel Pennypacker complained that “The Bell is injured every time it leaves…children have seen this sacred Metal at fairs associated with fat pigs and fancy furniture. They lose all the benefit of the associations that cling to Independence Hall, and the bell should, therefore, never be separated from [Philadelphia].”

With the California tour off for now, Philadelphia Mayor Rudolph Blankenburg offered the next best thing. Bell Telephone had just completed a new transcontinental line, 3,400 miles of wire suspended from 130,000 poles. Three hundred dignitaries gathered at Bell offices in Philadelphia and San Francisco on February 11, 1915. With Alexander Graham Bell himself listening in from his own private line in Washington DC, the Liberty bell was sounded at 5pm, with all of them listening in on candlestick phones.

The California trip gained fresh impetus following the May 7 sinking ofn the British liner Lusitania.  A cross-country whistle stop tour was planned for the bell, using the “best cushioned” rail car, in history.

As the nation’s most prominent German-American, Mayor Blankenburg himself came along, delivering “loyalty lectures” to immigrant groups on the importance of devotion to their adopted home country.  “It is important to prepare against a possible foe abroad“, he would say, “….Let us, therefore, abolish all distinctions that may lead to ill feeling and let us call ourselves, before the whole world, Americans, first, last and all the time.”

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“A quarter of the U.S. population (including a girl in Moline, Illinois) turned out for the Liberty Bell”. H/T Smithsonian

The Liberty Bell drew crowds beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.  Fully one- quarter of the American population turned out to see the liberty bell, a generator rigged so the bell could be seen by day or night.  In many cities, those on the train couldn’t see where the crowd ended.

“Big Jim” Quirk, one of the police officers assigned to the train, recalled “In Kansas City, an old colored man who had been a slave came to touch it—he was 100 years old.” When the train pulled into another town, “an aged Mammie hobbled to the door of her cabin near the tracks, raised her hands and with her eyes streaming tears called out, ‘God Bless the Bell! God Bless the Dear Bell!’  It got to us somehow.”

In Denver, a group of blind girls were allowed to touch the Bell. One of them wanted to read the letters. You could have heard a pin drop, as a hushed crowd heard a small, sightless girl, pronounce these words:  “Proclaim…Liberty…throughout…all…the…land.”

Liberty Bell, Atchison, Kansas
Liberty Bell 1915, Atchison, Kansas. H/T Smithsonian Magazine, for this image

The Liberty Bell was enlisted once again in 1917 as the United States prepared to send her soldiers “over there” in the first democratically financed war, in history. Americans hurried to buy up war bonds, far exceeding the national goal of $2 Billion.

Today, two other bells join the Liberty Bell in the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, PA. Weighing in at 13,000lbs, a half-ton for every original colony, the Centennial Bell was cast for America’s 100th birthday in 1876. To this day, this enormous bell rings once an hour, in the tower at Independence Hall.

In 1976, the people of Great Britain presented a gift to the people of the United States, in recognition of the friendship between the former adversaries.  Weighing in at six tons and cast at the same foundry which produced the original bell, the “Bicentennial Bell” was dedicated by her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth, II, on July 6, 1976.  On the side of the bell are inscribed these words:

FOR THE
PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES
FROM THE
PEOPLE OF BRITAIN
4 JULY 1976
LET FREEDOM RING

Back in 1893, the Liberty Bell passed through Indianapolis.  Former President Benjamin Harrison may have had the last word on the subject, a sentiment fit to be inscribed on the old bell itself, below that verse from the Torah. “This old bell was made in England”, Harrison said, “but it had to be re-cast in America before it was attuned to proclaim the right of self-government and the equal rights of men.

liberty-bell-museum

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July 5, 1742 The Last American Colony

Governor Montiano bought the ruse, hook, line and sinker.  The Spanish invaders left St. Simons island for good on July 25, never to return. One of the most brilliant head fakes in colonial history had ended the invasion, leaving the 13th colony in the undisputed hands of the British Crown.

colonial-georgia-3The territory which would come to be occupied by the colony of Georgia was a subject for dispute between Great Britain and Spain, since long before the state became a colony.

Spain had taken Florida for its own, dating the claim back to explorer Ponce de Leon’s first mapping the territory in 1513 and claiming Georgia to be part of it. James Oglethorpe founded the 13th colony as a buffer colony for the British in 1733, serving as a protective zone against Spanish invasion, for her twelve sister colonies to the north.

The Convention of Pardo concluded in early 1739 attempted to settle issues relating to smuggling and to the slave trade, but Spain suspected “cheating” and continued to board foreign vessels at will. The War of Jenkins’ Ear broke out later that year, when Commander Juan de León Fandiño hacked "Sword in hand, the Spanish coastguard captain lunged at Captain Jenkins."off the ear of Commander Robert Jenkins, informing the unfortunate ship’s master that he could   “Go, and tell your King that I will do the same”, to him.

Spain immediately began to draw up plans to invade the Georgia colony.

One day, St. Simons Island would be made notable for having provided the 2,000 southern Live Oak trees, forming the hull of the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides”.  On July 5, 1742, that day was far in the future.  On this day, a Spanish invasion force of somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 men landed on the island, in 36 ships.

A much smaller force of approximately 950 British Regulars, Colonial Militia and Indian Allies was under the command of James Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia Colony. Oglethorpe withdrew his forces in in the face of the much larger invasion, and later attacked a Spanish reconnaissance in Force at a place called Gully Hole Creek. The Spanish were routed, with almost a third of their number either killed or captured. Falling back in the face of superior numbers of Spanish reinforcements, the British attacked the Spaniards a second time as they stacked arms and pulled out their pots and pans preparing for dinner. The “Battle of Bloody Marsh” was another victory for the British, and would prove to be decisive.

Bloody Marsh, 2008
“Bloody Marsh” in 2008

A few days later, Oglethorpe launched what can only be described a a psychological warfare operation.  A Spanish prisoner was released to the other side, with information that a massive British force was on the way.  Fearing that Montiano might learn the true size of his puny force, Oglethorpe spread drummers out until their sound seemed to come from all directions.

Governor Montiano bought the ruse, hook, line and sinker.  The Spanish invaders left St. Simons island for good on July 25, never to return. One of the most brilliant head fakes in colonial history had ended the invasion, leaving the 13th colony in the undisputed hands of the British Crown.

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Georgia colony, 1764
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June 20, 1782 American Eagle

Benjamin Franklin objected to the selection of the eagle, preferring the national symbol be the turkey.  He complained that the eagle tended to steal its dinner from other birds, and that he’d seen one driven away by a tiny Kingbird, no larger than a sparrow.

Since the age of the Greek phalanx and before, individuals, institutions and nation-states have distinguished among themselves by means of heraldic symbols.  From medieval times and lasting to this day, such symbols are incorporated into elaborate coats of arms, used to identify individual persons and families, government organizations, corporations and other entities.

Town seal, 1570
Town seal from the Czech Republic town of Náchod, 1570

Eighteen states in addition to the United States itself have officially adopted coats of arms, in addition to the formerly independent republics of Texas and Hawaii. These and other symbols are incorporated into official seals, to authenticate passports, certificates, proclamations, and other documents.

Every state in the union has its own seal, as well as the federal district, the five inhabited territories of the United States and the three largest Native American tribes.

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When the 2nd Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain in 1776, there remained several pieces of unfinished business.  Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were appointed to a committee of three to take care of one such detail – the creation of an official seal.   The Congress rejected their first draft, approving only the “E pluribus Unum“, (of the many, one), attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

Six years and two such committees later, it was May of 1782.  The brother of a Philadelphia naturalist provided a drawing showing an eagle displayed as a symbol of “supreme power and authority.”  An earlier submission used a phoenix instead of an eagle, representing a nation risen from the ashes of the Revolution.  That bird would be replaced in the final design, by the bald eagle.

Greatseal

Individual states adopted the eagle as their own symbols, as early as 1778.  The Continental Congress officially adopted the current design on this day in 1782.  The final design of the obverse (front) side of the seal, depicts a Bald Eagle, symbolic of liberty and freedom.  The eagle grasps thirteen arrows in its right talons, symbolizing a strong defense.  An olive branch symbolizing peace is held in the other claw.  A banner containing Jefferson’s E pluribus Unum, is held in the eagle’s beak.

Prominently displayed on its breast is a shield, the thirteen red and white stripes symbolizing the states, arranged in support of the federal government, symbolized in blue.

great-sealFinally, a constellation of thirteen stars breaks out of the clouds above, signifying a new people, now ready to take its place among the sovereign nations of earth.

Benjamin Franklin objected to the the eagle’s selection, preferring the national symbol be the turkey.  He complained of the eagle stealing its dinner from other birds.  He said that he’d seen one driven away by a tiny Kingbird, no larger than a sparrow.

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Franklin later wrote a letter to his daughter, saying, “For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Some versions of the symbol used between 1916 and 1945 showed an eagle facing to its left, toward the arrows, giving rise to the urban legend that the seal is changed to have the eagle face towards the olive branch in peace, and towards the arrows in wartime.

On the reverse (back) side of the Great Seal, the pyramid represents strength and duration, like the great Pyramids at Giza.  The Roman numeral MDCCLXXVI at its base translates as 1776. The Latin phrase “Novus ordo seclorum” refers to a “New Order of the Ages.”  The pyramid itself has thirteen levels, atop which is the Eye of God, with the Latin phrase “Annuit Cœptis,” loosely translating as “favors undertakings.”

The hand of Providence would favor the United States and its endeavors, for all time.

the-reverse-side-of-the-great-seal-of-the-united-states-in-sepia_mediumThe militant atheist type wishing to divest himself of all that “church & state” stuff may, at his convenience, feel free to send those dollar bills, to me.  I’m in the book.

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June 2, 1763 Pontiac’s War

Benjamin Franklin may have had the last word on the collectivist nonsense which afflicts to this day, when he asked “If an Indian injures me, does it follow that I may revenge that Injury on all Indians?”

The Seven Years War, experienced in the American Colonies as the French and Indian War, ended in 1763 with France ceding vast swaths of territory to the British.

Unlike their English counterparts, the French had cultivated friendships with their Indian allies.  Many had married native women and been adopted into tribes.  There were annual gifts of blankets, firearms and other European manufactured goods.  The British under North American Governor-General Lord Jeffrey Amherst ceased such gifts, treating indigenous populations with contempt as English fortifications were built and settlers moved into traditional native lands.

The first grumblings among the tribes coalesced around a native visionary known only as the “Delaware Prophet”, who preached for a return to traditional ways and a rejection of the British.  The cause was taken up by the Ottawa chieftain Pontiac (c.1720-1769).  A powerful speaker, Pontiac’s message resonated with the Delaware, Seneca, Chippewa, Miami, Potawotomi and Huron, among others.  The full-scale uprising known as “Pontiac’s Rebellion” broke out in May, 1763.

Pontiac's_warIndigenous nations of the time divided more along ethnic and linguistic rather than political lines, so there was no monolithic policy among the tribes.  At least one British fort was taken with profuse apologies by the Indians, who explained that it was the other nations making them do it.

The brutality of the period was anything but one-sided.  The British “gift” of smallpox-infected blankets wasn’t the first instance of biological warfare in history, but this may be one of the nastier ones.

The siege of Fort Detroit beginning on May 7 was ultimately unsuccessful, but a series of attacks on smaller fortifications beginning two weeks later would all result in Indian victories. The fifth and largest of these fortifications, Fort Michilimackinac in present-day Mackinaw City, Michigan, was the largest such fort, and it was taken by surprise.

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Siege of Fort Detroit

Local Ojibwas staged a game of baaga’adowe on June 2, (an early form of lacrosse), with the visiting Sauks in front of the fort.

Native American stickball had many variations, but the object was to hit a stake or other object with a “ball”. The ball was a stone wrapped in leather, handled with one or sometimes two sticks. There could be up to several hundred contestants to a team, and the defenders could employ any means they could think of to get at the ball, including hacking, slashing or any form of physical assault. Lacerations and broken bones were commonplace.  It wasn’t unheard of that stickball players died on the field. The defending team could likewise employ any method they liked to keep the opposing team off of the ball carrier.  The game took place on a field that could range from 500 yards to several miles.

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Soldiers at Fort Michilimackinac enjoyed the game, as they had on earlier occasions. When the ball was hit through the open gate, both teams rushed in as native women handed out weapons previously smuggled into the fort. Fifteen of the 35-man garrison were killed in the ensuing struggle.  Five others were tortured to death.

Three more forts were taken in a second wave of attacks, when survivors took to the shelter of Fort Pitt, in Western Pennsylvania.

fort

Here’s when the chapter is written, about the smallpox blankets.  The episode has taken on aspects of legend and remains the subject for debate, to this day.

Smallpox had broken out at this time, among the besieged garrison at Fort Pitt.  At a June 24 parlay, Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a 22-year veteran Swiss mercenary in the British service, gave besieging Lenape warriors several items taken from smallpox patients.  Ecuyer wrote that “We gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital”. Captain William Trent of the garrison militia later wrote in his journal: “I hope it will have the desired effect.”

This appears to be the only documented case of such a tactic, but the stratagem was by no means disapproved. The use of smallpox infected items was discussed in positive terms between Amherst and another Swiss mercenary, Colonel Henry Bouquet, but the siege at Fort Pitt was ended by more conventional means.

Hudson-bay-blankets-vintageSome sixty to eighty Ohio valley Indians died of the disease following the Fort Pitt episode, but the outbreak appears isolated.  Meanwhile, Indian warriors had looted clothing from some 2,000 outlying settlers they had killed or abducted.

Six years earlier, native Americans ignored terms of surrender negotiated between their French allies and English at Fort McHenry in upstate New York, and broke into the garrison hospital, killing and scalping a number of patients.  At least some of these were suffering from smallpox.  The episode reportedly touched off an outbreak among native populations.

The siege of Fort Pitt culminated in a bloody fight on August 5, when an incoming relief force of some 500 troops met the Indian besieging force at the bloody Battle of Bushy Run.

Battle of Bushy Run
Battle of Bushy Run, August 5, 1763

All the while, Delaware and Shawnee war bands raided deep into Pennsylvania territory. Panicked settlers fled eastward, as unknown numbers of men, women and children were killed or taken captive.   The “Paxton Boys”, a group of Scots-Irish frontiersman from the modern-day Harrisburg area,  murdered some twenty Conestoga, a mostly Christian band of subsistence hunters and farmers who had nothing whatever to do with the fighting.

Many of these peaceful Indians fled east to Philadelphia for protection.  Several hundred Paxton residents marched on the city in January, 1764.

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1841 lithograph depicts the massacre of Conestoga Indians by the “Paxton Boys”, in December 1763

The presence of British troops and Philadelphia militia prevented further violence, as Benjamin Franklin met with leaders of the two sides to negotiate an end to the crisis. Mr. Franklin may have had the last word on the collectivist nonsense which afflicts to this day, when he asked “If an Indian injures me, does it follow that I may revenge that Injury on all Indians?”

Pontiac’s Rebellion ended in a draw, in 1765.  The savagery inflicted on both sides meant that segregation and not interaction, would characterize relations between Indians and whites.

1_2929243The British Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763, drew a line between the British colonies and Indian lands, creating a vast Indian Reserve stretching from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River and from Florida to Newfoundland. For the Indian Nations, this was the first time that a multi-tribal effort had been launched against British expansion, the first time such an effort had not ended in defeat.

The British government had hoped through such a proclamation to avoid conflicts like Pontiac’s Rebellion, but the decree had the effect of alienating colonists against the Crown.

For native Americans, the terrible smallpox epidemic of 1837 – ’38 all but wiped out the Mandan and decimated the Arikara and Hidatsa, Missouri River bands who farmed corn, beans & squash and hunted buffalo only as a sideline.  Estimates of the number killed in the epidemic range from 17,200 to an implausible high of 150,000, merging with the blanket episode of seventy-five years earlier and spawning a narrative of deliberate white genocide against indigenous Americans.

Smaller bands of isolated plains Indians were less hard hit, tipping the balance and forever altering the world’s ideas of what American Indians, looked like.  Works Progress Administration murals from the 1930s depict Pilgrims interacting with coastal tribesmen, wearing Sioux war bonnets and war shirts decorated with glass beads. No Lenape, Wampanoag, Pokanoket or Nauset of the time would have so much as recognized such an outfit, let alone dress that way.

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May 25, 1738  That Other war between the States

The problem comes about when you realize that 40° north latitude is north of Philadelphia, well into territory controlled by the Maryland colony.

The Pennsylvania Charter of 1681 specifies the southern boundary of the colony to be “A circle drawne at twelve miles distance from New Castle Northward and Westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of Northern Latitude, and then by a streight Line Westward“.

The problem comes about when you realize that 40° north latitude is north of Philadelphia, well into territory controlled by the Maryland colony.

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Maryland insisted on the boundary as drawn by the Charter, while Pennsylvania proposed a boundary near 39°36′, creating a disputed zone of some 28 miles.

In 1726, Quaker minister John Wright began a “ferry” service across the Susquehanna River. Starting as a pair of dugout canoes, “Pennsylvania Dutch” farmers were soon settling the Conejohela Valley on the eastern border between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

cresap2Business was good.  By 1730, Wright had applied for a ferry license. With Lord Baltimore fearing a loss of control in the area (read – taxes), Maryland resident Thomas Cresap established a second ferry service up the river. Maryland granted Cresap some 500 acres along the west bank, serenely unconcerned that much of the area was already inhabited by Pennsylvania farmers.

Cresap went to these farmers and began collecting “quit-rents”, (an early form of property tax) for the government in Maryland. Pennsylvania authorities responded by issuing “tickets” to settlers which, while not granting immediate title, amounted to an “IOU” of title under Pennsylvania jurisdiction.

When Cresap and his ferry worker were thrown overboard by two Pennsylvanian farmers, probably over a debt, Cresap took the matter to Pennsylvania authorities for justice. After the magistrate said that he couldn’t expect justice in his court because he was a “liver in Maryland”, Cresap filed charges with Maryland authorities, claiming that, as a Maryland resident, he was no longer bound by Pennsylvania law.

Cresap and his gang members began confiscating York and Lancaster county properties as early as 1734, handing them over to supporters. Maryland militia crossed colonial borders twice in 1736, and Pennsylvania militia were quick to respond.

thomas-cresap
Thomas Cresap

When the Lancaster county Sheriff arrived with a posse to arrest Cresap at his home, Cresap fired through the door, striking and mortally wounding deputy Knowles Daunt. When Daunt died of his wounds, Pennsylvania Governor Patrick Gordon demanded that Maryland arrest Cresap for murder.

Samuel Ogle, Governor of Maryland, responded by naming Cresap a captain of the Maryland militia.

Cresap resumed and expanded his raids, destroying barns and shooting livestock. Sheriff Samuel Smith raised a posse to arrest him in November. When the Pennsylvanians set his cabin on fire, Cresap ran for the river. Grabbing him before he could launch a boat, Cresap shoved one of them overboard, shouting, “Cresap’s getting away!”, whereupon the other deputies proceeded to pound their colleague with oars until one of them discovered the ruse.

Cresap was taken to Lancaster, where he decked the blacksmith who had come to put him in shackles. He was finally subdued and hauled off to Philadelphia in chains, but even then the man was anything but broken. “Damn it”, he said, looking around, “this is one of the prettiest towns in Maryland!”

DSCN8422-1Maryland authorities petitioned George II, King of Great Britain and Ireland, imploring the King to restore order among his subjects. King George’s proclamation of August 18, 1737 instructed the governments of both colonies to cease hostilities. When that failed to stop the fighting, the Crown organized direct negotiations between the two. Peace was signed in London on May 25, 1738, the agreement providing for an exchange of prisoners and a provisional boundary to be drawn fifteen miles south of the southernmost home in Philadelphia, and mandating that neither Maryland nor Pennsylvania “permit or suffer any Tumults Riots or other Outragious Disorders to be committed on the Borders of their respective Provinces.”

So ended the “Conojocular War”, the bloody eight-year conflict between Philadelphia and surrounding area and sometimes referred to as “Cresap’s War”. The matter was settled once and for all, when Penns and Calverts, each descendants of their colonial founders,  hired surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to establish the modern boundary in 1767. Today, the area in conflict is part of York County, Pennsylvania.

And now you know where that line comes from.

Afterward: During the French & Indian Wars of the 1750s Thomas Cresap and a party of 100 pursued an Indian war band over the present-day Savage Mountain and onto the next. Along with the party marched a free black man, a frontiersman known only as “Nemesis”. A fierce fight ensued on May 28, 1756.  Nemesis, described only as “large and powerfully built”, fought bravely, but lost his life. He was buried on the site, where Cresap named the mountain in his honor. “Negro Mountain”, the long ridge of the Allegheny Mountains stretching from Deep Creek Lake in Maryland, north to the Casselman River in Pennsylvania, stands to this day as his monument. Feature image, top of page, the painting “Shades of Death” by artist Lee Teter, depicts Colonel Thomas Cresap comforting the mortally wounded, heroic frontiersman.

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