The 981 Project Podcast

Tamela Rich

Join Tamela Rich for dispatches from all 981 miles of the Ohio River: people, places, history, culture, and more.

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Did you know the Revolutionary War had a Northwestern Front?
10-05-2024
Did you know the Revolutionary War had a Northwestern Front?
Every class I took on the American Revolution focused on the thirteen colonies. In my limited knowledge of the war, the French and Spanish were doing their own things west of the Mississippi, leaving the British-owned but lightly settled Illinois Country in between that saw no real action. I had no idea that the southern part of the old Northwest Territory had been a theater of war until I got a postcard advertising the Filson Historical Society’s Northwest & Indigenous Revolution Tour. It was time to expand my world view from where I’d left it in high school. Our main tour stops were Fort de Chartres, St. Genevieve, The St. Charles Heritage Museum, The Lewis & Clark Boat House Museum, Cahokia Mounds, George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, and its neighboring site Grouseland on the campus of Vincennes University.France and Spain in the RevolutionThe Bourbon kings of France and Spain were cousins. I would have had to know this to say that I forgot it. The two kingdoms were allied against the British during the Seven Years War, 1756–1763, (we call it the French and Indian War). France was badly beaten by the British during that war, and longed for vengeance. From the Seven Years War to the Revolution, the land west of the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains, called Louisiana, went back and forth between France and Spain and involved a secret treaty. Here’s a video to explain how and when it happened. You might have to watch it a couple of times—I did! The way these monarchs played with colonies reminds me of third-graders learning chess moves.Anyhow, the upshot of all this is that through 1777, France covertly supported the Revolution with guns, weapons, and cash through a shell company (thanks, Ben Franklin!). French volunteers poured into the continent, chief among them Lafayette. After a decisive American win at Saratoga, France formally declared war on England in 1778. Spain joined France as an ally in 1779 without declaring war on England itself. As had happened in the Seven Years War, the clash of empires began spreading across the globe, heavily in the Caribbean, and the British cut their losses in North America.Speaking of Franklin, I’m enjoying the AppleTV series of that name starring Michael Douglas in the title role. George Rogers Clark Takes Center StageBorn near Charlottesville, Virginia, the founder of Louisville, Kentucky, George Rogers Clark played a key role in this story. We talked about him at nearly every stop on our Filson Society tour. To set the stage for the Illinois theater of war, remember that the Seven Years War included the France relinquishing its Illinois territorial claims to England. At the start of the Revolution, the British relied heavily on native tribes to attack backcountry farms and settlements using guns and ammunition they provided. These attacks had the greatest threats to Virginians in Kentucky County (south of the Ohio River), which the Virginia General Assembly had created 1776. Yes, Kentucky was a Virginia county before it became a state.At the age of 26, Clark requested and was granted public orders from the governor of Virginia to proceed against the British in the Illinois frontier. He also got a secret commission to launch an attack west into British-held territory. His goal was to seize Detroit, but he started easier targets (see the map above) which had few British forces to defend them.In his most successful moments he (Clark) crossed over and acted as an Indian war chief: he used their tactics, employed their methods to create group cohesion, shared their sense of honor and justice, terrorized his opponents into believing in his savagery, and even committed what Europeans regarded as atrocities. At the same time, he could put on a uniform and transform himself into a Virginia gentleman. ~National Park ServiceWith Clark’s victories in hand, after France’s recognition of the new American Republic, the Virginia legislature created the county of Illinois in 1778, comprising all the lands lying west of the Ohio River to which Virginia had any claim. Clark’s Legacy: In 1783, the Revolutionary War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, and Clark returned to private life. Of importance to The 981 Project was Clark’s role in allotting lands across the Ohio River from Louisville to men who had taken part in his campaigns. He also was appointed a commissioner to make treaties with tribes north of the Ohio River who were continuing their raids into Kentucky. Fast forward to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dedication of the Clark memorial June 14, 1936. Here’s part of his address:George Rogers Clark did battle against the tomahawk and the rifle. He saved for us the fair land that lay between the mountains and the Father of Waters. His task is not done. Though we fight with weapons unknown to him, it is still our duty to continue the saving of this fair land. Now, let’s look at Clark in the present moment. An editorial for the campus newspaper, UVA Today, stands in counterpoint to the hero worship formerly bestowed upon Clark:Clark’s approach to Indian people was Jeffersonian. Jefferson had a scientific fascination with Indian people. But he shared the common view that Indians were a barrier to civilization. During the Revolutionary War, Jefferson…wrote (to Clark) that the best way to deal with Native people was “total suppression of Savage Insolence and Cruelties.”Clark followed Jefferson’s advice frequently following attacks on Shawnee villages, for instance, with the destruction of their houses and crops. His dealings with the Shawnees at the negotiations over the Treaty of Fort McIntosh in 1785—which the Shawnee rejected—further inflamed American relations with Native people and prolonged military conflict. No conquering occurred. ~Christian McMillen, UVA associate dean for the social sciences and professor of historyIndeed, Clark’s star has tarnished, mostly because our country is reckoning with the legacy of “white men as conquerors and empire builders.” His monument on the campus of UVA calls him the “Conqueror of the Northwest” and it features Indian people braced for violence—possibly murder. It has been removed with the approval of the Board of Visitors. Guy Lopez, a co-founder of the Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) at UVA, described seeing photos of the statue come down as “bittersweet.” Lopez had long advocated for its removal, but he also wishes the $400,000 bill to remove the monument could have been used to fund NAIS programs. His final point landed pretty hard with me: the Clark statue was the only public, large-scale depiction of Native Americans at UVA. I’ve tried to give a broad view of history here, and to acknowledge our current struggle to interpret, celebrate, and sometimes shun historical figures. As always, I welcome all civil comments and invite you to share this with someone who might find it interesting. I’ll be back with May Trivia mid-month. Please subscribe so you don’t miss a thing. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
April '24 Trivia Time!
17-04-2024
April '24 Trivia Time!
Welcome new subscribers! One monthly newsletter is devoted to Ohio River trivia, and always includes ten questions. It’s the rare person who can answer all ten correctly without a deep dive into each topic. Do your best and have fun while learning something new.Before delving into the trivia questions, I’ll prime you for this month’s topic with historical background on higher education in the Ohio Valley. * The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided for settlement and government of the territory and stated that “…schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” I talked about this when reviewing David McCullough’s book, The Pioneers. * Before the Northwest Ordinance was approved by the Confederation Congress, a group of Revolutionary War veterans became land speculators by forming the Ohio Company of Associates. They used their Certificate of Indebtedness (an IOU for unpaid service during the war), to buy half a million acres of Ohio land near the mouth of the Muskingum River. * “The appeal of this idea was that it offered to provide (a) a source of funds for the newly formed nation, (b) an opportunity for veterans of the Revolutionary War to get some value from the depreciated scrip in which they had been paid, (c) a scheme for orderly settlement of a frontier area, and (d) an opportunity for financial gain by the initial investors.” Source. * “Provisions of the contract with the Confederation Congress included setting aside two townships in the center of the purchase for a university. These two townships were called ‘College Lands.’" Ohio University was established on them in 1808. Source.QUESTIONSAnswers are in the footnotes.* In 1828, Ohio University conferred an A.B. degree on John Newton Templeton. What is Mr. Templeton’s historical significance ?* He is the namesake of the Templeton Prize, which honors people whose works “affirm life's spiritual dimensions” with an award of over one million dollars. Past winners include Mother Teresa, physicist Freeman Dyson, and ethologist, conservationist, and activist Jane Goodall* He was the first Black graduate of OU and the fourth Black man to graduate from a college in the U.S.* Both * In 1873, Margaret Boyd received her B.A. degree and became the first woman to graduate from Ohio University. Soon after, the institution graduated its first international alumnus from which country?* France* Turkey* Japan* This Indiana college was established in 1801 by William Henry Harrison (the ninth U.S. President) while he served as governor of the Indiana Territory. It is now a university. Name that university.* DePauw University* Valparaiso University* Vincennes University* In 2004, four college students set out to steal several volumes of some of the world’s rarest books from the first educational institution west of the Alleghenies. This institution was established in 1780 by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and its rare books were valued at more than $5.7 million. Name the university.* Spalding University* Transylvania University* Tusculum University* Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act on July 2, 1862. The Act committed the federal government to grant each state at least 90,000 acres of public land (30,000 acres for every senator and representative in the state). States could sell these lands to benefit higher education by building new institutions or improving existing ones. Which Ohio River Valley institutions are recipients of the 1862 Morrill grants? (choose as many as apply).* Ohio University* The Ohio State University* University of Kentucky* West Virginia University* “Who” were land-grant institutions designed to serve? (Choose all that apply)* “Sons and daughters of toil”* Residents of states where training in agriculture, mechanical arts, and military science were largely unavailable * Future farmers, teachers, and engineers* On Aug. 30, 1890, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, signed the Second Morrill Act of 1890 into law. This Act required states to either establish separate Land-grant Institutions for Black students or show that admission to a 1862 land-grant institution was not restricted by race. Which Ohio River Valley institutions received these funds? (choose as many as apply).* Kentucky State University* West Virginia State University* Lincoln University Missouri* Land-grant institutions were intended to emphasize pragmatic disciplines such as agriculture, science, and engineering without excluding classical studies. Riddle me this: if a land-grant university cuts majors or reduces faculty in foreign languages, public health, community planning, educational administration, and its math doctoral program (the only one in the state), is the university still aligned with the intent of the land-grant act? (choose as many as apply).* According to West Virginia University’s President, Gordon Gee, it is.* Perhaps it aligns, but it doesn’t pass the sniff test. * How did the federal government acquire the land used to finance land-grant universities?* Native American tribes, as ceded through treaties and agreements* Native American tribes, through seizure* Both a. and b.* Ohio State University (OSU) Professor Stephen Gavazzi has written two books on land-grant universities. Soon after publishing the 2021 book, he learned that 600,000 acres from 108 different Indian tribes and bands lands were taken and sold to fund OSU. Which of these states did this land come from? (choose all that apply)* Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin* Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska* Florida, Mississippi* California, Colorado, Oregon, WashingtonThe answers are in the footnotes. Good luck!Intermission MessageI’m on a research trip with the Filson Historical Society’s Northwest & Indigenous Revolution Tour. I’ll meet local experts, architectural historians, artisans, and curators at the conjunction of the Ohio River Valley at the Mississippi River Valley. Follow my daily highlights on Instagram.ANSWERS Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
March '24 Trivia Time!
16-03-2024
March '24 Trivia Time!
I heard from lots of folks about the last newsletter, “When Virginia Claimed Pittsburgh,” who were shocked by the power and rivalry of colonial governors. Heads up: to succeed in this month’s Ohio River Trivia quiz, you need to read it first. This month’s trivia is focused on Pittsburgh with a little Philly and Pennsylvania sprinkled in for flavor.Okay, as a reminder, the answers are in the footnotes. Good luck!QUESTIONS* Which of these nicknames is/has been used for Pittsburgh?* City of Bridges* The ‘Burgh* The Paris of Appalachia* All the above* Only a. and b.* “Hell with the Lid Off” refers to:* A book of that title exploring the ferocious five-year battle between Pittsburgh and Oakland for NFL supremacy during the turbulent seventies* Pittsburgh’s thick smog (coal smoke plus fog)* After a decade as a republic under Oliver Cromwell, England “restored” the monarchy under King Charles II in 1660. The restored king settled a large loan with William Penn's father (also named William) by granting him a “restoration colony” of roughly 40,000 square miles of land west and south of New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Which two of the following are also restoration colonies?* New York* New Jersey* The “Lower Counties” of Delaware (New Castle, Sussex, and Kent)* South Carolina* The British colony of Virginia fought Lord Dunmore’s War on two fronts. First was against the Shawnee and Mingo people of the Ohio Valley. Second was with another colony. Name that colony.* In what year was Pittsburgh finally established as being in Pennsylvania, not Virginia?* 1768, when the Mason-Dixon survey was completed* 1779, when Pennsylvania and Virginia agreed to extend the original Mason-Dixon line westward to a point five degrees from the Delaware river* In 1783, when Britain formally recognized the independence of the United States in the Treaties of Paris * When Pennsylvania’s Act for Gradual Abolition of Slavery was signed in 1780, were there more enslaved workers in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh? * One of the most-photographed scenes in Pittsburgh is the Duquesne Incline on Mt. Washington. The first Pittsburgh funicular was the Ormsby Mine Gravity Plane, built in 1844. In the course of The ‘Burgh’s industrial history, how many inclines were in service?* 11* 22* 23* Which of these foodie stories about Pittsburgh is true?* The Big Mac was invented there in 1967 by a McDonald’s franchisee* The Klondike Bar was invented there in 1929* To make any salad a “Pittsburgh Salad,” simply add french fries on top* Chipped ham was invented by the same restaurant that invented the Klondike Bar* All the above* Which of these is NOT a Pittsburgh first?* First PBS station* First Ferris Wheel* First Ice Capades* First nighttime World Series Game* First American hospital* This Pittsburgh native graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1962 and attended Pitt’s Graduate School of Child Development before going on to be a broadcaster in children's television. This TV personality is recognized by more than forty honorary degrees and several awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. Who is this native Pittsburgher?Intermission MessageI always put a little intermission between the questions and answers to keep you from inadvertently seeing the answers before you’re ready. With vacation season straight ahead, I’ve included two posts from my other newsletter. I hope you’ll enjoy them. The April 8 solar eclipse will be visible throughout most of the Ohio River Valley. NASA will livestream it. Here’s the official website with cool details and interactive features.ANSWERS Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
When Virginia Claimed Pittsburgh
07-03-2024
When Virginia Claimed Pittsburgh
The more I learn about the European kings who colonized the world, the more they blow my mind. For example, I was just in Barbados and picked up a book about its founding. Essentially, one of King James’s buddies fell into debt with some London merchants and figured the best way out was to start a colony in the Eastern Caribbean, as one does. He asked his king if he could have one, and the sovereign basically said, “Sure, take ‘em all.” It’s always who you know.Something not dissimilar happened when that same King James claimed North America from sea to shining sea and called it Virginia, after his cousin, Elizabeth I. Never did James mind the French and Spanish who had been there long before Jamestown failed, or the native people who’d been there for thousands of years before that. Colonizing kings were like toddlers, claiming everything as mine, mine, mine!We’re on a roll here, so let’s talk about how William Penn got that huge land grant for the colony of Pennsylvania. Once again, debt was a factor. King Charles II of England (grandson to James I) had a large loan with Penn's father (also named William). When Penn pere died, the king settled the debt by granting Penn fils about 40,000 square miles west and south of New Jersey. Penn called it the “sylvania” (Latin for “woods”). Penn + sylvania = Pennsylvania.Now, to the promised story about Virginia and Pittsburgh. This map will help. As you can see, there were boundary disputes aplenty, including the one in the southwest corner that’s of interest to us.To set the stage, the French and Indian Wars, which ended in 1763 with The Treaty of Paris, included a proclamation from King George III that forbade all settlements west of a line drawn along the Appalachian Mountains. The Ohio Country was delineated as an Indian Reserve. Surprise, surprise, white settlers kept exploring and moving into these western lands, leading to a series of conflicts, mostly with Shawnee people, who had historical hunting rights south of the river, from which they launched cross-river attacks.Enter Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of the colony of Virginia. In early 1774, he directed the Virginia militia to seize Fort Pitt and rename it Fort Dunmore to prepare for marching into war with the Shawnee. Dunmore used shrewd logic to justify this power play against Pennsylvania. He admitted that the land once belonged to Pennsylvania, but claimed that they lost the claim during the long French and Indian War, and the crown naturally absorbed title. Bottom line: Dunmore said Pittsburgh belonged to Virginia as a crown colony (Pennsylvania was a “restoration” colony). As the kids would say, what a baller.Dunmore/Virginia/Britain prevailed against the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk at the Battle of Point Pleasant in October, 1774. Before all of his troops arrived home, the Revolutionary War had kicked off with battles at Lexington and Concord. Dunmore, a British loyalist, was now in trouble.I can’t tell you Dunmore’s story any better than the The Baltzer Meyer Historical Society Library and Museum:Dunmore’s British Royal Governorship made him loyal to the crown. As a result, he became an adversary of the colonists. The day after the beginning of the Revolutionary War in April 1775, Dunmore ordered the seizure of weapons and gunpowder from the colonial magazine in Williamsburg, Virginia and had them transferred to a British ship. His deceptive reasoning for this action was his concern that rebellious slaves might get their hands on the arms. Furthermore, on November 7, 1775 Dunmore issued a proclamation offering freedom to all slaves if they became members of the British military and declared their loyalty to the British resistance. Because slavery was the dominant form of colonial labor in Virginia, Dunmore concluded that the fear of emancipation and the arming of slaves would quash colonial insurrection. These contradictory measures, indicating his British allegiance, put him in the crosshairs of colonial revolutionaries.Further angering the rebellious colonists was Dunmore’s engagement in biological warfare by inoculating slaves with smallpox and sending them into the Virginia mainland. This measure backfired because most of his enlisted slaves died from the disease. Despite his villainous attempts at sabotage, the gunpowder incident and Dunmore’s Proclamation, Fort Dunmore was regained and renamed Fort Pitt during the colonists fight for independence,But wait, how did Pennsylvania reclaim Pittsburgh? Dunmore’s ill-fated attempts at securing British power and increasing colonial hostilities led him to seek exile. His asylum took the form of boarding the British warship Fowey off the coast of Yorktown. With Dunmore out of the picture, the boundary line controversy was finally settled during the Revolutionary War when it was agreed to extend the Mason Dixon Line, which had been halted during Pontiac’s Rebellion of 1763. West Virginia Encyclopedia finishes the tale: Dunmore was one of the most unpopular figures of his day, accused of deliberately delaying his troops while the Indians attacked Lewis at Point Pleasant and despised for emptying the powder magazine at Williamsburg at the start of the Revolution. Most places in Virginia named in his honor were later renamed.Stay tuned for March Trivia…some of the facts covered here will help you win! Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
February '24 Trivia Time!
08-02-2024
February '24 Trivia Time!
Hello, beautiful people. It’s trivia time again!Those who read my last newsletter reviewing David McCullough’s book about settling the Ohio Territory will remember that the first white settlement on the Ohio River was named Marietta. In a prior quiz, we revealed that Marietta was named for Queen Marie Antoinette, whom Revolutionary veterans thought had done more than anyone else (even Ben Franklin) to convince King Louis XVI to support their effort. So let’s explore more of the French influence in the Ohio River Valley this month, shall we?QUESTIONS* What’s the name of the county where Marietta, Ohio, is the county seat:* Lafayette* Washington* Orleans* The French named the state of Illinois after:* An Indian name for warriors plus the French adjective ending “ois”* An Indian name for the Devil’s Kitchen Lake* It’s a combination of ILLegitimate and the French adjective ending “ois.” Together, referring to an illegitimate claim on the area by Spain* Terre Haute, Indiana, got its name from the French phrase terre haute meaning “high land.” French-Canadian explorers and fur trappers named it in the early 18th century to describe the unique location above the Wabash River. At the time of its founding, the area was claimed by both the French and British, making it the border between:* Canada and Louisiana* Illinois and Indiana* France and Spain* Napoleon Bonaparte sold the Louisiana Territory to fund:* A wedding dowry for his step-daughter Hortense Eugénie Cécile Bonaparte so she could become Queen of Holland by marrying Napoléon’s brother, Louis Bonaparte* A war with the British* Both* In the 1740s, French officials in Canada were concerned over British encroachment into the Ohio Country, which they claimed to be part of New France. They built a series of forts in the 1750s to create a permanent French presence. Their fort, built in what’s now Pittsburgh, was named for the governor general of Canada. What was the name of that fort?* Name the French marquis who fought in the Continental Army against the British in the Revolutionary War. If you’ve seen the musical Hamilton, you already have the answer. The same man became the first foreign citizen to address the U.S. House of Representatives on December 10, 1824. Citizens named dozens of cities across the country in his honor.* Which American helped Lafayette write the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen for the French? It inspired the French Revolution.* The French were famous for building their North American empire on the fur trade. Traders bartered marten, fox, otter, and mink, but beaver became the main staple of the fur trade. The silk hat replaced the beaver hat after a certain member of the British royal family began wearing one in the mid-1800s. Name this man.* Which city is home to the first Catholic university in the Northwest Territory? Hint: Founders named it for the “first and greatest Jesuit missionary.”* Louisville, Kentucky took its name from King Louis XVI of France in appreciation for his help during the Revolutionary War. The city was founded by the brother of either Meriweather Lewis or William Clark, leaders of the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804–1806. Was the founder of Louisville a Lewis or a ClarkIntermission SuggestionsLast year I wrote about Tecumseh and the outdoor drama that tells his story in Chillicothe, Ohio. Here’s a podcast about the Ohio-born Shawnee chief from “Ohio Mysteries,” written and narrated by Paula Schleis. Enjoy!You might enjoy this article I wrote about the transformative power of travel. ANSWERS Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
David McCullough's Ohio River Book, "The Pioneers"
21-01-2024
David McCullough's Ohio River Book, "The Pioneers"
The other night, my spouse and I were scrolling through the channels and came upon the 1972 pilot of M*A*S*H. Matt and I had watched the CBS reruns on a black-and-white TV every night as we pulled a meal together in his tiny college apartment. We loved the show’s zany characters and its stick-it-to-the-man pacifism and didn’t notice (much less mind) the laugh track. So we curled up on the couch to relive the experience. Here’s the pilot’s plot line: The Swamp’s Korean houseboy, Ho-Jon, gets accepted to study at Hawkeye’s alma mater, but he has to pay to get himself there. The camp raises money by raffling a weekend in Tokyo with a nurse, much to the chagrin of Hot Lips and Burns.Wow. How did we overlook this in the eighties?It didn’t end there. The original cast featured a third doctor in the Swamp with Hawkeye and Trapper John named “Spearchucker” Jones. Yep, he was Black. Our heads swiveled from the TV to each other fast enough to warrant a chiropractic visit. Spearchucker? That was a bridge too far. M*A*S*H will just have to remain a fond college memory in chez Rich. Why did I lead with this little “woke” anecdote when the headline promised a book review? Because the taste and experience of any reviewer grounds their review, and tastes change over time. David McCullough’s approach to his subjects is of a style that no longer appeals to me. He was one of America’s most decorated historians and that alone is reason to read The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West. To his credit, the title clearly tells us he will center WASP men in telling the history of settling the Northwest Territory. I could have chosen not to read it, but I’m not narrow minded. After a lifetime of reading history books that do the same thing—not noticing the bias any more than I noticed “Spearchucker” in M*A*S*H forty years ago—I see it everywhere now and have recalibrated the bar for historians writing today. If McCullough were submitting this manuscript to his publisher in 2024, I’d like to think he would have used his prodigious skills and massive platform to tell a more fulsome version of history. For example, The Pioneers could have included philosophical and religious differences in how native people and white settlers viewed the land. And if he didn’t want to go that broad, I’d have appreciated a good grounding in the scriptural interpretations of New Englanders who “settled” the “untamed wilderness.” Surely, the author came upon transcripts of sermons justifying the murder of fellow human beings in the process of establishing the first white settlement in the Territory, Marietta, Ohio, as a “City upon the Hill.” You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. ~Matthew 5:14Criticism aside, I learned a great deal from reading The Pioneers. McCullough emphasized throughout the book how these early settlers worked tirelessly to establish the Northwest Ordinance’s three “remarkable conditions” into their new communities:* Freedom of religion* Free universal education* The prohibition of slavery. I should say that these are New England values, not those of Virginia, which claimed much of the Territory before the Revolution and whose land and government bordered the southern shores of the Ohio River after the Northwest Ordinance. New Englanders settled southeastern Ohio first, but the Virginians entered soon after and started flexing.Meet the five pioneers of McCullough’s title:* Manasseh Cutler was a Yale-educated New England minister and a leader of the Ohio Company of Associates. This land company bought a large tract in what is now southeast Ohio from the United States after the British ceded it at the end of the Revolutionary War. He vigorously pushed for the Northwest Territory to be slavery free.* General Rufus Putnam also a founder the Ohio Company of Associates and led the first group of settlers in founding Marietta, Ohio. Later, he served as a judge and a member of the Ohio state constitutional convention.* Ephraim Cutler, the eldest son of Manasseh, was not as well-educated as his father had been, yet, he led the charge in establishing a common school system and the Territory’s first university, Ohio University, where he served as a trustee for 29 years. * Samuel Hildreth, a physician, naturalist, and historian who became a member of the Ohio Legislature. With the help of Ephraim Cutler and others, he published Pioneer History in 1848, followed by Memoirs of the Early Pioneer Settlers of Ohio in 1852. * Joseph Barker’s path to prominence was his important skills as a carpenter, architect, and shipbuilder. Some of the many ships he built at his farm were used for that scoundrel Aaron Burr’s expedition, which I must write about soon. Barker reached the rank of colonel of the militia during the Northwest Indian War, was named a justice of the peace in 1799, and elected to serve as the judge of Washington County's common pleas court from 1830 to 1842.Here’s a picture I took of Aaron Burr’s plaster death mask at the Blennerhassett Island Museum in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The placard on the left explains this custom. Slavery in OhioI want to zero in on the third “remarkable condition” of the Territory—the abolition of slavery. General Putnam and Ephraim Cutler were delegates to the Territory convention in 1802. Both were shocked when delegates of the Jeffersonian persuasion tried to find a way around the anti-slavery provision of the Northwest Ordinance. Among the ex-Virginians in the delegation was speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Edward Tiffin, who had manumitted his slaves before moving to the Territory in 1798 and evidently longed for the lifestyle of his birthright.He and the other wily Virginians figured they could get away with it if they simply redefined the meaning of slavery. Here’s what they proposed: “No person shall be held in slavery, if a male, after he is thirty-five years of age, or a female, after twenty-five years of age.” New Englanders Cutler and Putnam were very much opposed to slavery, but Cutler carried a special zeal for the issue that his father had championed before the Continental Congress when he negotiated the land deal. Before the vote came to the floor, Cutler fell ill. On the day of the vote, one account held that Putnam and another man carried Cutler to the convention on a stretcher to be sure he had done his part to vote the measure down, which they did.But wait, there’s more! Tiffin didn’t get his way in allowing slavery, but he cast a tie-breaking vote to deny the voting franchise to the new state's 337 African-American residents. Here’s an interesting article on how Ohio Blacks eventually prevailed many years later. I’ll definitely be writing about this in a future newsletter.I’m pretty sure I never learned most of this in Ohio History or American History. Did you? Did any of this surprise you?That’s all for me this month. I’ll be back in February with The 981 Project’s Trivia Quiz. Thanks for reading and sharing! Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
January, '24 Trivia Quiz
10-01-2024
January, '24 Trivia Quiz
Hello, friends. I hope your December was better than mine—I came down with Covid and basically napped my way through the last two weeks of 2023. I managed to listen to a couple of good books and catch up on my podcasts, some of which I’ll list in the intermission between questions and answers for this month’s quiz. Oh, and I knitted this scarf. If you come down with something this year, my best advice is to BE SICK. Don’t half-ass your respite, as it will only prolong your misery. Be sick, then be well. Of course, this advice applies to those who aren’t a brief illness away from homelessness, of which there are too many in this country.This month we’ll focus on the interesting history of America’s 35th state, West Virginia. Before we begin, ask yourself what you may have been taught (or picked up) about the reasons West Virginia split from Virginia. I knew it had something to do with slavery since it happened when Virginia seceded, but was slavery the point? I was a blank slate before starting The 981 Project. It never occurred to me that the Northwest Territory’s slavery boundary north of the Ohio River played an oversized role in the drama.I’ve taken several of this month’s quiz questions and answers from this new book, The Fifth Border State: Slavery, Emancipation, and the formation of West Virginia , 1829–1872, by Scott A. MacKenzie.The author argues that West Virginians experienced the Civil War in the same ways as the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. These states were both pro-Union and pro-slavery. With that hint of what’s ahead, let’s go to the quiz. QUESTIONS* Which was the largest slaveholding state before the Civil War?* Before the Civil War, which then-Virginian city on the Ohio River did a brisk business in slaves that were headed for New Orleans, the country’s largest market?* Virginia’s first constitution (1776) limited suffrage to (white male) property holders (slaves were definitely considered property). This tilted representation to slaveholders of the Tidewater and Piedmont regions. With planters setting the state’s legislative agenda and tax policy, the rest of the population felt it got short shrift in government services while paying disproportionately high taxes. By 1850, white European immigrants were entering the region in droves, notably the Irish and Germans, and the percentage of enslaved residents, while never high, was trending downward. What percentage of the population in the three largest northwestern counties of Virginia were enslaved in 1850?* 6.2%* 4.9%* 2.0%* Lincoln was elected in November, 1860. On New Year’s Day 1861, the white citizens of Parkersburg met to discuss secession after considering a move taken by South Carolina. Name that South Carolina event.* The Commonwealth of Virginia called a Constitutional Convention for February 4, 1861. The districts in northwestern Virginia sent thirty-two delegates to the convention of 135 in total. Was the predominating mindset of these northwestern delegates?* Fast-ultimatumists who insisted on demanding Lincoln acquiesce to southern demands or else face secession.* Anti-coercionists who sought compromises with the North until they became untenable.* Unconditional Unionists who opposed secession at all costs.* Tax reform became part of the secession debate. The northwesterners argued that if they were going to fight the Union to protect slavery, the slaveholders should bear that cost. In 1859, the Commonwealth’s tax on slaves amounted to $326,487.60. If the northwestern delegation’s proposed tax reform passed, how much would that tax revenue increase to in the following years?* $750,500 (more than 2x the existing)* $1,000,000 (more than 3x the existing)* $1,750,500 (nearly 6x the existing)* The tax reform proposal got a majority pledge of support on April 11, 1861. What national event prevented bringing it up for a floor vote the following day?* Secessionists’ attack on Fort Sumpter, South Carolina.* President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation calling forth the state militias, to the sum of 75,000 troops, in order to suppress the Southern rebellion.* On February 13, 1861, delegates representing all counties in Virginia met to decide how the state would respond to recent events, especially Abraham Lincoln's election and South Carolina's secession. They voted to remain in the Union and hoped that they could reach a compromise to defuse the situation. Two months later, the same men passed The Virginia Ordinance of Secession, dated April 17, 1861, which declared that “…the bond between Virginia and the United States of America, under the U.S. Constitution, is dissolved.” Delegates at the Virginia Convention of 1861 voted 88–55 to approve the ordinance on April 17 and a statewide referendum confirmed secession on May 23. This meant the northwestern counties needed to act quickly in order to remain part of the Union. What percentage of white men in the northwestern counties voted to stay in the Union?* 52%* 67%* 75%* Within three days of the vote to remain in the Union, General George B. McClellan’s army occupied the region, notably Wheeling, Morgantown, Parkersburg, and Clarksburg. Pouring oil on troubled waters, McClellan said, “I have ordered troops to cross the river. They come as your friends and brothers (and) as enemies only to the armed rebels who are preying upon you. Your homes, your families, and your property are safe under our protection. All your rights shall be religiously respected,” (which included the right to own slaves). The capital had to be moved from Richmond. Where was the first capital in (what would eventually become) West Virginia?* Charleston* Morgantown* Parkersburg* Wheeling* Technically, the part of Virginia that stayed with the Union was still Virginia. Rejecting secession required a reorganization of the state, which it did on June 13 in the “Declaration of the People of Virginia Represented in Convention at Wheeling.” The first governor’s inaugural address did not mention slavery, rather, emphasized loyalty to the Union. The June 13 declaration authorized Governor Pierpont to vacate disloyal state- and county-level officers, but he couldn’t find their replacements. Many prewar elites rejected the thought of submitting to the Lincoln-aligned regime. With all this in mind, and considering the esteem in which the Union-loyal citizens held Virginia, they named their new state West Virginia. Kanawah was a strong contender for the state name. What were the others? Choose three.* Allegheny* Appalachia* Vandalia* Western VirginiaQuiz Intermission MessageHere are the podcast and book recommendations I promised earlier. With the Napolean movie out (to lackluster reviews), you might enjoy this series on the emperor from real historians at The Rest Is History podcast. I was fascinated. * Part One: Young Napoleon: Teenage Revolutionary* Part Two: Young Napoleon: The Shadow of the Guillotine * Part Three: Napoleon in Egypt Harvard’s in the news a good bit right now. Here’s a memoir of a privileged white girl growing up in segregated Virginia who became active in the civil rights, student, and antiwar movements, and eventually became a historian of the very conflicts that helped to shape the world she grew up in. The author, Drew Gilpin Faust, became the first female president of Harvard. I listened to the audiobook, which she narrated. AnswersIf I were a presidential candidate and someone asked me what made West Virginia choose the Union over secession, I would confidently say that it was slavery, but not on a moral opposition to the institution. When the enslavers used their legislative power to extract disproportionate taxes from those in the northwest while demanding them to provide free protection against the Federal Army, they forced their fellow Virginians to remain in the Union. Most West Virginians approved of slavery and actually expected the Union to preserve the institution, as did residents of the other four border states: Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Why North of the Ohio River was Slavery-Free
17-11-2023
Why North of the Ohio River was Slavery-Free
The Ohio River was America’s longest slavery border. It shaped the culture and institutions of the entire region before the Civil War, and into the present day. As I continue expanding my body of work here, I’ll show you what I mean.First, a note about slave borders. We usually think of the Mason-Dixon as the dividing line between slave- and free-states, but it wasn’t intended for that use when it was surveyed to settle a colonial land dispute. The original was only 233 miles long and didn’t even cover the entire southern border of Pennsylvania because parts of it weren’t involved in the land dispute. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 made use of the old survey in defining free states.The Ohio River (981 miles) is significantly longer, and the 1787 Northwest Ordinance banned slavery on its north side. The map I’ve inserted below illustrates the Ohio River as an extension of the Mason-Dixon for political purposes related to slavery. This newsletter will not conflate the two borders. I’m a purist in this matter. Why ban slavery in the Northwest Territory?Growing up in Ohio, my childish mind assumed a moral superiority of ancestors who nobly rejected chattel slavery. It never occurred to me that Southern states actually insisted on the prohibition when the Northwest Ordinance was drafted.The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for the Study of the American Constitution has the clearest explanation for how this went down (bold words my emphasis):The sixth article of the Ordinance prohibited slavery and indentured servitude in the territory. When Congress considered the Ordinance in July 1787, Massachusetts delegate Nathan Dane, the author of the Ordinance, removed article six because a majority of the states attending Congress were from the South. Southern delegates, however, encouraged Dane to restore the prohibition because Southerners did not want a competing slave economy north of the Ohio River. It was also expected that most immigrants to the territory would come from Northern States and thus would probably oppose slavery. Furthermore, by overtly prohibiting slavery north of the Ohio, Congress tacitly would be allowing slavery in the Southwest Territory. With freedom just across the Ohio River, a fugitive slave clause was added to the sixth article. The Articles of Confederation had an extradition clause aimed at runaway criminals but no fugitive slave clause. When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention then meeting in Philadelphia saw the fugitive slave clause in the Northwest Ordinance they without much debate inserted a similar clause into the draft Constitution. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 proved to be somewhat inconsequential in returning runaway slaves, but the much harsher Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was one of the important steps leading to the Civil War.Truth being stranger than fiction…Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, signed the Northwest Ordinance. By that time, he was fathering children on the enslaved Sally Hemings. Their relationship is repugnant to my modern sensibilities, but not on racial grounds. Jefferson started exploiting her when she was 14 or 15. His eldest daughter was just a year older than Sally. In a bizarre twist, Sally was half-sister to Jefferson’s deceased wife Martha. Her father, John Wayles, took Sally’s mother as his “concubine” and fathered her five children. My mind reels at the mental and moral gymnastics required of everyone in slave cultures. As a white woman, I suppose it’s natural that I cogitate the white wives of planters. How did they cope with the billy goats they’d married and their enslaved progeny? Family values sure do shift over time. Let’s keep that in mind during the ongoing culture wars.Thank you for reading The 981 Project. Invitation to Winter BurrowCome to Eastern Kentucky for Winter Burrow, where I’m speaking on the racial history of the Ohio River Valley. I’ll start my session with a quiz, and faithful readers will have a leg up on the rest of the audience. The conference is December 15-17 at the Hindman Settlement School.There’s always someone in the audience who adds to my understanding of this topic. Maybe that will be you. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
November '23 Trivia Quiz
05-11-2023
November '23 Trivia Quiz
Readers (and listeners) loved last month’s Ohio River Trivia. More, more! Encore, encore! You asked for it, you’ve got it. My first newsletter each month will be ten trivia questions about the six states that border the Ohio River. I pull several questions from my prior newsletters, so faithful readers have a leg up! ANSWERS IN THE FOOTNOTES, so don’t click them until you’ve made your final choices. Free and paid subscribers never miss a quiz or newsletter.QUESTIONS* In which Ohio River city did the screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo serve his federal sentence for contempt of Congress in 1950?* What city’s famous overlook of the Ohio River features a huge bronze statue of George Washington and Guyasuta, a leader of the Seneca people? Hint: The statue is named “Point of View.”* What Americans call the French and Indian War was part of a global clash of European colonial powers known to them as the Seven Years War. Which two European countries fought at the edge of the Ohio River Valley? * Which Ohio town about 30 miles from the Ohio River suffered a fiery train derailment and exposure to vinyl chloride in February? Hint: It shares a name with a region in the Middle East.* Which Ohio River city was named for Marie Antoinette?* The German Triangle of the Midwest is where you’ll find the largest concentration of German-Americans in the country. St. Louis and Milwaukee are two points on the triangle. What Ohio River city makes the third point?* Which river city is home to the last government-owned uranium enrichment facility operating in the United States? Hint: Before enriching uranium, the site was known as Kentucky Ordnance Works.* Which American president’s father apprenticed as a tanner in Maysville, Kentucky? Hint: The father moved to Hudson, Ohio, and lived and worked with Owen Brown, the father of abolitionist John Brown.* Which American president from Ohio was the last to be born under foreign rule? Hint: The others were Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J. Q. Adams, and Andrew Jackson, who were all born as British subjects.* Which Ohio River town is home to the first Hindu ashram in the United States?Quiz Intermission MessageI hate taking a quiz when the answers are printed too close to the questions and spoil the fun of figuring them out. That’s why I’m taking this space to invite you to hear me speak about the racial history of the Ohio River Valley region this December:For longtime readers of my newsletter, yes, Hindman is indeed where I lost my new motorcycle to the thousand-year flood in 2022.ANSWERS Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
The Atomic River Valley
27-10-2023
The Atomic River Valley
Born in the 1960s, I missed the nuclear duck-and-cover drills, where school children knelt under their desks and covered their heads. We learned that same drill for tornado sirens, not nuclear annihilation. My first memory of anything nuclear (outside of history books) was Three Mile Island in 1979, not bombs. It wasn’t until 2023 that I learned that the Ohio River Valley had played a major role in the country’s uranium enrichment program because, once again, it was mostly over by the time I finished high school. The Atomic Energy Commission located plants, labs, and ancillary operations along a stretch of the river that was referred to as the Atomic River Valley. Can you place the Atomic River Valley on a map? Obviously it’s somewhere along the Ohio River, but do you have any idea where exactly? When the enrichment sites were built and operated? What’s going on with the sites today?I’ll answer these questions in order, based on an article in the journal Ohio Valley History by Dr. Jason Krupar.Where’s the Atomic River Valley?It’s roughly the area from Portsmouth, Ohio, to Paducah, Kentucky. The area was suited to uranium enrichment because of its water supply and relative safety from the range of Soviet bombs. That last advantage was short-lived, since intercontinental ballistic missiles were developed in 1958. Instead of building government towns like Los Alamos and Hanford, congressional budget hawks demanded that the Atomic Energy Commission build facilities near existing skilled labor forces. The commission's top choice was a site east of Louisville, which already had Rubbertown for manufacturing tire and synthetic rubber during World War II. As you might imagine, the Building Trades Council badly wanted the plant, but the strong opposition from residents and businesses prevailed.Greater Cincinnati was the second preference, but that also fell through. Piketon, Ohio (north of Portsmouth), and Paducah, Kentucky got the gaseous diffusion plants, which required massive amounts of electrical power, and that meant hydro.Here’s a video with history of the Portsmouth facility from its groundbreaking to its deactivation, demolition, and final remediation plans.The Paducah plant was the last government-owned uranium enrichment facility operating in the United States. It was originally a WWII munitions plant called Kentucky Ordnance Works. When did it all begin?The Atomic Energy Act was passed in 1946, and the Atomic Energy Commission inherited personnel and policies from the Manhattan Project. The commission’s expansion period ran from 1947 to 1956 and its “unlimited” funding dried up during the Cold War. What’s going on today?The projects continue providing jobs to their local communities, but I doubt anyone feels good about the reason these jobs exist: environmental remediation in the wake of destruction. Cleanup activities at Portsmouth will continue until 2039-2043. Paducah’s remediation might last until 2065-70. Gasp!Family history with nuclear componentsMy grandfather, now deceased, was exposed to a beryllium spill while working at the Air Force base in Heath, Ohio back in the late seventies. One of beryllium’s uses is nuclear weapons, but to my knowledge that wasn’t the work he did at the base. Heavy emphasis on to my knowledge. I remember family members talking about his exposure and “the cover up” but he would have been the only one who could have given me straight answers.This raises the question of whether anyone reading this newsletter has personal or family history with the atomic programs in the Atomic River Valley. If so, would you be willing to share them with me? Nuclear novel recommendationA couple of summers ago I read a novel based at the Hanford lab in Washington state, The Cassandra, by Sharma Shields. The protagonist moves from the typing pool to a plum role as one of the leading scientists’ administrative assistant, without ever knowing what exactly is underway, but feeling good about serving her country and getting on in the world.Like the Cassandra of Greek mythology, Mildred has the gift/curse of second sight. After a prophetic vision, Mildred confronts her boss, Dr. Hall, with her foreknowledge: After they drop the bomb, the men will look out of the windows of a plane named Mother. They’ll see the fires, the smoke. They’ll guess then what they’ve done. Some will celebrate but one of them will mourn. He will realize how those below them suffer.At first, Mildred mistakes Dr. Hall’s awestruck, appreciative look for belief, but he then dismisses her. “I could see from his face that he’d closed his mind to me. I was a woman, unpredictable and shrill. He muttered something about me nearing my menses.”What books do you recommend with nuclear plot lines? Have you seen the movie, Oppenheimer? Let’s keep the conversation going.Please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Ohio River Trivia Player?
04-10-2023
Ohio River Trivia Player?
Hello friends, I have been told I have a “trap mind” because it traps and holds onto random facts and scenes. For example, I remember the leopard-printed socks that my friend Carola bought 34 years ago when our oldest children were in their strollers. Obviously, my trap mind is unpredictable and undiscriminating, but it occasionally serves me well—for example, trivia nights and marital arguments disagreements discussions. How about you? Would you love some Ohio River trivia to whip out at your next office lunch or PTA fundraiser? Look no further. I’ve got you covered.Here’s a quiz about the six states that border the Ohio River. ANSWERS IN THE FOOTNOTES, so don’t click them until you’ve finalized your answers.QUESTIONS* Easy first question: name the six states that border the Ohio River.* After Alaska, which Ohio River border state has more navigable miles of water than any other in the union?* Blennerhassett Island sits between Ohio and West Virginia. Which former Vice President of the United States used it to stage a conspiracy for taking over the Texas Territories and the Louisiana Territory?* Name the only U.S. state with a continuous border of rivers running along three of its sides. * Before the Civil War, which river city was known as “The Northernmost Southern City”?* Before the American Revolution, which two states fought over the ownership of Pittsburgh?* Faithful newsletter readers will know this one: which two states fought over a large boulder in the Ohio River known as “Indian Rock” or “Indian Head Rock”?* What famous man was born in a small cabin on Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky in February 1809?* Name the four rivers that join within 40 miles of Paducah, Kentucky.* Southern Illinois has been called Little Egypt for two reasons. Name one of them.Quiz Intermission MessageI hate taking a quiz when the answers are printed too close to the questions and spoil the fun of figuring them out. That’s why I’m taking this space to invite you to hear me speak about the racial history of the Ohio River Valley region this December:For longtime readers of my newsletter, yes, Hindman is indeed where I lost my new motorcycle to the thousand-year flood in 2022. Alright, please comment with your favorite bits of Ohio River trivia and I’ll include it in the next round. ANSWERS Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Ohio Valley Books
15-09-2023
Ohio Valley Books
Say what you will about the algorithms of online sellers, for me, there’s no way to outdo a human bookseller near your research. During my June research trip to Kentucky, I went on book-buying sprees at Roebling Books and Coffee in Covington, and Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville. Here’s the scoop on some of the titles I bought and why.Germans in the Ohio ValleyMy recent post about Covington, Kentucky mentioned the large influx of Germans to the Cincinnati area after the Great War (WWI). I couldn’t have written it without the scholarship of Don Heinrich Tolzmann, whose books I pictured here. I will rely on them as I continue exploring the region. Thanks to Emily at Roebling Books for introducing them to me.The 981 Project is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.Underground RailroadEmily at Roebling also turned me onto these books set in Ripley, Ohio, 50 miles upriver from Cincinnati. I photographed them with a brochure from Clermont County’s Freedom Trail, because they are all linked to the Underground Railroad. Clermont County was home to several abolitionist communities, where many southerners moved and freed their enslaved workers. President Grant was born in Clermont County. Beyond the River brings to life the stories of men and women, both Black and white, who fought against slavery along the Ohio River through the Ripley line of the Underground Railroad. I’ve heard the Underground Railroad movement called “the war before the war.”His Promised Land is a slave narrative from John P. Parker, who may be the most interesting American ever born. Born to an enslaved mother and a white Virginian “aristocrat,” he was sold at the age of eight and eventually bought his freedom after many harrowing runaway attempts detailed in the book. When he made it to Ohio, he literally worked day and night; by day as an inventor and business owner, and by night as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. He was issued US patents for an improved tobacco press, a portable tobacco press, and soil pulverizer, and used his earning s to send his sons to university. Someone should make a biopic of him.LouisvilleSometimes the best way to absorb history is through the lens of a small community—instead of a metropolis, state, region, or country.If You Write Me a Letter, Send it Here, is a collection of essays by Russell residents about the neighborhood's history, current state, and future prospects. Honestly, I bought this book based on its cover, but I am reading the stories because they’re insightful. The gorgeous full-color book on thickly coated pages is a project of the Louisville Story Program. To the far right is a micro-history of another Louisville neighborhood, Portland. The Nearly Forgotten History of Portland Kentucky starts with pre-history and colonial history, then carries us through through the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War. We see how the Ohio River town shaped the destinies of Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, William Lytle, John James Audubon, and Lewis & Clark, as well as America’s first female riverboat captain Mary Millicent Miller.I’ll tell you about The Louisville Anthology (pictured center) in the section below. CincinnatiI bought two books about the 2001 uprising in Cincinnati that really bookend the spectrum of opinion on why the riots raged, what was at stake, and what was accomplished in the aftermath. This uprising took place five months before the bombing of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, so that may be why you don’t remember it.For those who like to “do their own research,”before making up their mind, here’s your big chance. The graphic story in Six Days In Cincinnati is from the viewpoint of a man who was in high school when he joined the protests against police violence. Behind the Lines, written by the former editorial page editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, it focuses on the major players in the conflict and concludes with what happened to each of them in the aftermath. Nary the twain accounts shall meet, which is still the case in present day discourses. Sigh.Kentucky HistoryI have always been a horsey girl. I’ve toured several Thoroughbred racing barns in the Bluegrass region, as well as the tracks at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, so you won’t be surprised that I’m reading Hidden History of Horse Racing in Kentucky. This slim book is full of historical photographs and etchings. I’ll knock it out in a weekend. The two other books pictured here explore aspects of Kentucky’s history as a slave state. When Congress established the Northwest Territory (north of the Ohio River) as slavery free in 1787, the river became the longest slave boundary in the United States. I’d love to do an experiment with average Americans and ask if Kentucky was a Union or Confederate state. I would have failed the quiz. Kentucky did not join the Confederacy, although it was a slave state. Creating a Confederate Kentucky, explains why Kentucky acts like a former Confederate state up to the present day, although it never seceded. This identity didn’t begin to form until the war was over. I’m being simplistic here, but in a nutshell, white Kentuckians had expected to be rewarded for their loyalty by being permitted to remain a slave state. In the words of one Kentucky soldier, “I enlisted to fight for the Union and the Constitution, but Lincoln puts a different construction on things and now has us Union Men fighting for his Abolition Platform and thus making us a hord of Subjugators, houseburners, Negro thieves, and devastators of private property.” I’m about a third of the way through it now, and will give you an update when I finish.Freedom on the Border is a curated collection of oral histories from folks who lived during the civil rights movement. Both white and Black voices are included for each topic. I’ve read the first chapter, “Living Under Segregation,” that includes a story from a white woman who had invited a college friend from New York home to Louisville for the weekend: …we’re walking down the platform to go into the station, and I turn around and Sandy is white as a ghost. I mean, she’s stopped in her tracks and she’s white as a ghost…I followed her eyes, where she was looking, and what she saw was white/colored: white drinking fountain, colored drinking fountain, white waiting room, colored waiting room. She was horrified…It took this experience with a stranger for me to see it…I had never seen it before.City AnthologiesBelt Publishing offers a wide range of city anthologies and neighborhood guidebooks for Rust Belt cities. They include essays, poetry, and sometimes graphic stories from writers with unique perspectives on what it’s like to live, work, and love in each city. I’ve seen some of the anthologies in indie bookstores (including Carmichael’s in Louisville) but you can buy them directly from the publisher or from any online retailer.Okay, now it’s your turn to recommend books from the Ohio River Valley. I’m especially interested in topics from Indiana and Illinois, as well as local booksellers in both states. I’ll be up that way again soon. The 981 Project is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Ohio River Podcast Recommendations
03-09-2023
Ohio River Podcast Recommendations
Now that summer’s over (sigh) you may be ready to get into a new podcast or two. Scroll down for a list of recommendations. I'd love to hear what you're listening to that comes from any of the 981 miles of the Ohio River. Did you know that the narrated version of my newsletter goes out in a podcast? Here’s a linked list to services that carry The 981 Project podcast:Apple. Audible. Amazon Music. Audacy. PlayPilot.The Road to NowHere’s a podcast I never miss, The Road To Now. It’s not focused on a particular era, region, or theme, but it always holds my attention and makes me reconsider something I thought was settled fact. Hosted by Dr. Benjamin Sawyer, a history professor (and stand-up comedian!) and Bob Crawford, a founding member of The Avett Brothers band, their banter is intelligent and well informed.In light of my recent newsletter on Tecumseh, I was buzzy listening to the latest episode: Tecumseh and William Henry Harrison’s Struggle for a Nation. The episode features an interview with author Peter Stark, whose book about Tecumseh and Harrison is out this week.Calling for Ohio Valley Regional PodcastsMy search for 981 Project-related podcasts is incomplete. Will you help? Give me your best recommendations so I can share them in a future update.Mysteries of the Ohio Valley is a short-form podcast averaging 10 minutes—perfect for taking the dog around the block. This is the only one I’ve found that overlaps with the region I’m covering, but with a narrow focus on mysteries. Everyone will enjoy this one on The Mothman, a folklore figure that played a role in the collapse of the Silver Bridge connecting West Virginia to Ohio between Point Pleasant and Gallipolis.Ohio Versus The World doesn’t cover the entire Valley, but the seven seasons of archives are terrific. Lawyer Alex Hastie looks at moments in history and Ohio’s role in that history, as well as Ohio-focused topics like Ten Cent Beer Night in 1974 when over-served Clevelanders stormed the Cleveland Indians field and attacked the players.Kentucky History Podcast has 100+ episodes worth browsing. A good bit of local (county) history, which I always find fascinating. Has a community radio station vibe that feels earnest and comforting.General History Podcasts The Rest is History is worth listening to for the rapartee alone! Historian and author Dominic Sandbrook and popular historian Tom Holland (both Brits) are serious scholars with a jocular chemistry. I love them. You’ll find a diverse range of subjects and eras. Here’s one about the American Revolution from an English perspective that includes ground I’ve previously covered here about the French and Indian War (featuring George Washington). Slate Presents: One Year. The people and struggles that changed America—one year at a time. The current season, focused on 1955, just concluded. I’m writing a novel with roots in 1942, a year with its own season.I’ll be back after Labor Day, hopefully to share your podcast recommendations from the Ohio Valley. You can reply to this email or comment below. Thanks in advance! Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Oh, Covington!
22-08-2023
Oh, Covington!
During my June motorcycle sojourn along the Ohio River, I spent a couple of days in walkable Covington, Kentucky, home to the south shore of the Roebling Bridge. Cincinnati is on the other side.You may feel you've seen this bridge before if you've seen Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge in New York. But Cincinnati-Covington’s predates Brooklyn’s by 14 years—think of this one as a model for the larger one in New York. Both are National Historic Landmarks, are defined by their iconic stone towers and suspension cables, and feature pedestrian footpaths. Floodwall Murals!Dedicated readers know I love me some floodwall murals! The foot of the Roebling Bridge is home to eighteen that document the city’s history from 8000 B.C. to 2008 A.D. Here’s an Instagram live video I took of the murals while I was there. Oh, you’re not following me on the ‘gram? Easily fixed! If you take your kids to see the murals, be sure to download the scavenger hunt that goes with them. I’ve pictured half of the questions here.Welcome, GermansOne thing you can’t miss in the Cincinnati-Covington-Newport area is the German influence, including our favorite bridge engineer. John Roebling immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1831 along with others in the professional/intellectual class who fled the political revolutions that flared up after losing the Great War (WWI). Ohio recognized this influx if immigrants by authorizing the printing of state law and its constitution in German. Hm, imagine that in 2023—honoring a large immigrant population with important documents in their native tongue. But wait! There’s more! In 1840, Cincinnati created the first public school system that taught in both German and English, showing that Germans were welcome in the city.In the half-dozen books I’ve read about Germans in the Ohio Valley region, experts agree they were anti-nativist and favored a bottom-up system of governance, which is why monarchies and other top-down institutions were under attack in the Old Country. This philosophy naturally led them to hold abolitionist views, and therefore, to support the Union in the Civil War. Other German cultural landmarks in Covington include:* Mainstrasse Village* The Glockenspiel Clock Tower in Goebel Park* The Goose Girl Fountain* Mutter Gottes Kirche “Mother of God Church”* Mother of God Church Cemetery, final resting place of many Catholic clergy* The Cathedral Basilica* Duveneck House and Duveneck MonumentIn a couple of fascinating books by University of Cincinnati’s Don Heinrich Tolzmann, I learned that the Cincinnati metropolitan area, including Covington and Newport, is one of the three corners of what’s known as the “German Triangle” of the Midwest, with the other two being Milwaukee and St. Louis. Roebling BooksHow can I possibly praise Roebling Books and Coffee to the extent it deserves? Their book-buyer, Emily, immediately jibed with my 981 Project, as well as the book I’m writing on race in the Ohio Valley, and recommended perfect titles for my library. THANK YOU!!Thank you for reading The 981 Project. Please share this post. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Revisiting Tecumseh
20-07-2023
Revisiting Tecumseh
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.~Attributed to Chief Tecumseh, 1768-1813, this poem is commonly known as the Chief Tecumseh Death SongLast month I spent a week exploring the Ohio River between Chillicothe, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky. Yes, I know Chillicothe isn’t a river city. I visited because I wanted to refresh my memory of the long-running outdoor drama about Shawnee Chief Tecumseh that I first saw in the 1970s.Tecumseh’s story (and legend) is an essential part of Southern Ohio’s history, and that of the whole Northwest Territory. Before I tell you his gallant and tragic story, watch this about conflicts between Native Americans and colonists.Tecumseh’s History in Three MinutesThe Shawnee homelands (covering most of the current states of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania) were the first epic battleground in the United States’ acquisition of new territory. Tecumseh’s father fought against Lord Dunmore and lost his life during a retreat across the Ohio River in 1774. As he lay dying, he supposedly told his eldest son, Cheeseekau, to never make peace with the Virginians (who were then still British), and to supervise the warrior training of his other male children, including Tecumseh.Cheeseekau was fatally wounded in 1792, while attacking a stockade near present-day Nashville, Tennessee. Two years after Cheeseekau died, another brother, Sauwauseekau, was shot and killed at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.Tecumseh had seen almost constant fighting since the age of twelve, and took part in numerous conflicts with settlers and militia by the time he reached fifteen. Yes, Tecumseh was a proven warrior, but his true gifts were diplomacy and leadership.You can’t understand Tecumseh’s story without also knowing about his younger brother, an alcoholic who took the name of Tenskwatawa. He became the leader of a purification movement after reporting that the Great Spirit revealed to him a paradise of honey and game for those who followed the traditional way of life, including abstinence. Tenskwatawa may have been a charlatan, but the brothers’ combined talents were initially good for native people both spiritually and militarily. Together, the founded Prophetstown (in what’s now Indiana) as the center of their community.Tecumseh left his brother in Prophetstown while he tried to create an alliance of Native Americans of many tribes in the Great Lakes region to resist American expansion. At its height, the movement included thousands of warriors.This post is public so please share it.Tecumseh had two meetings with the Indiana Territory Governor William Henry Harrison (who later became the ninth president). Harrison said of him that he was “one of those uncommon geniuses who spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things.” Harrison destroyed Prophetstown in the Battle of Tippicanoe, which is now accepted as the first engagement of the War of 1812.Tecumseh ended up working against his father’s wishes when he joined forces with the British in that war. He had no other hope of prevailing. General Henry Procter abandoned Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames, and Tecumseh died, ending any hopes of stopping white settlement in native lands.The Legend Lives OnDespite Tecumseh's views, William Tecumseh Sherman’s parents named their boy after him. Maybe the name was a good luck charm for the Civil War general, whose March to the Sea is regarded as the first example of the use of total war in the modern era.A recent book on the Shawnee brothers has gained critical praise, Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation. Its author says of their era, “It was their misfortune that the Shawnee people inhabited the ‘fault line between French and British interests, and as such was fated to become an imperial battleground.’”About the Tecumseh! Outdoor DramaThe Tecumseh! drama’s first season was 1973 and I remember it looking much like the picture of its construction that I’ve pasted here. Today it seats nearly 1700 in the comfort of stadium seats and offers a full-service concession area.If I hadn’t refreshed my memory of Tecumseh’s story, I would have been content to watch the acting and stagecraft (including live horses). The amphitheater is gorgeous and the sound system superb.If the producers ask me, I’d suggest revisiting the script and portrayals of historical figures. There were times I felt the story relied too much Indians-as-exotics, and a fabricated romance between Tecumseh and a white woman who taught him to read English. In the script he tells her he is unmarried, but the historical record shows otherwise. Please. We expect more from historical dramas in the twenty-first century, and Tecumseh’s story is plenty interesting without embellishment.To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a subscriber.If you’re interested in the show, it runs June 16, 2023 – September 3, 2023.Weeknight Tickets:from $26Weekend Tickets:from $36VIP Package:from $51Showtime: 8 PM Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Who Owns the Ohio River?
18-06-2023
Who Owns the Ohio River?
No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it's not the same river and he's not the same man. ~HeraclitusHeraclitus’ famous quote is philosophically inclined, but I thought of it recently when telling a friend about a legal case between Ohio and Kentucky concerning, of all things, a boulder removed from the river. Okay, when I put it that way, it sounds ridiculous (albeit true). It’s a little writerly device to keep you reading!Indian Head Rock Known as Indian Head Rock or Indian Rock, geologists think the boulder in question rolled into the river from the Kentucky hills of sandstone before the 19th Century. Someone carved what we would call a smiley face on the rock before pioneers discovered it and attributed the face to an Indian, hence the name. Back before locks and dams, locals used the boulder to gauge the water level—by how many inches they could see over the eyes, the nose, or the mouth. The first record in the log was dated November 10, 1839, when the mouth of the figure was said to be “10 1/4 inches out of the water.’” Boys being boys, several initials were added over the years, too. Indian Head Rock was permanently submerged around 1917 when the Ohio River Lock and Dam No. 31 was finished, although it made a brief appearance in 1920 when No. 31 suffered damage. The Portsmouth Daily Times reported that "Hundreds of Portsmouth people Sunday took advantage of an opportunity to view the famous Indian Rock, which is located just across from the old [Portsmouth] waterworks plant. Many pictures of it were taken from all angles Sunday."Did people forget about the boulder after 1920? Apparently, its memory was kept alive because an amateur historian set out to find it some eighty years later. Steve Shaffer assembled a team of divers and eventually located and photographed Indian Head Rock in 2002. By 2007, he and his crew successfully lifted the boulder from the riverbed and floated it to Portsmouth’s shore where a cheering crowd of locals waited. Shaffer made a pretty speech about Portsmouth's future generations once again being able to see the rock themselves and planned to place it on public display. Why in Portsmouth? The smiley face was seen from the Portsmouth side, so the locals presumably felt more sentimental about it. Possession and the LawAll the fanfare about the boulder’s removal stirred up possessive sentiments in Kentucky. The Kentucky Native American Heritage Council, passed a resolution on November 1, 2007, calling for the return of Indian Head Rock to its original location—Ohio River bottom. Then a Greenup County (KY)grand jury issued an indictment against Shaffer for violating Kentucky's Antiquity Act. The University of Kentucky protected it as an archaeological object in 1986. Eventually both the Ohio and Kentucky legislators got involved in the dispute until finally (cut to the chase) Kentucky got Indian Head Rock back by virtue of its original position on its side of the Ohio River. Folks, there are lots of serious aspects to this funny little story, as its documentary film will show you. All of them involve doing what’s right on principle more than the inherent value of a sandstone boulder with (supposedly) ancient markings. The Ohio River is an Exception to River Boundary RulesWhere a river separates two states, the legal boundary line is usually in the middle of the river. But not when it comes to the Ohio. Before the U.S. gained independence from its colonial overlords and before the Articles of Confederation, a good deal of the Midwest was claimed by the sovereign and independent states of Virginia, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Virginia laid claim to land on both sides of the Ohio River from the headwaters to the Mississippi.In 1784, the Continental Congress laid claim to Virginia’s claims north and west of the Ohio River. However, the Ohio River itself remained outside of the bargain—Virginia owned it. When Kentucky became a state in 1792, ownership transferred from Virginia along with the land. When Ohio became a state in 1803, it sought greater control appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to shift the boundary line to the middle of the river. The Court, however, ruled that because Virginia had owned the Ohio River originally, it should remain a part of Virginia’s domain i.e. Kentucky. By that precedent, when Virginia lost its westernmost counties to the new state of West Virginia in 1863, the river boundary went with West Virginia. The low-water mark on the western bank of the Ohio River is still the western boundary of West Virginia. In 1820, when Indiana became a state, the Supreme Court rejected Indiana's argument of taking ownership of the river from the middle. The Hoosier state tried again in 1890, arguing over Green River Island between Evansville, Indiana, and Henderson, Kentucky. Rivers change their course as is their nature. Little channels silt up or wash away with floods and erosion. Green Island is physically yattached to Indiana; it only appeared to be an island when the original boundary was drawn. But thanks to the Supreme Court, Green Island is still in Kentucky. While civic pride plays some role in boundary matters, as we saw with Indian Head Rock, the real issue is money: revenue from fishing, boating, liquor, and other licenses granted for use on any portion of the river. Follow the Money!To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.Should the Borders Change?In a day when we use satellite technologies for everything, it seems quaint that original surveying techniques sometimes relied on transitory objects like the white oak post marking a boundary in the West Virginia Northern Panhandle. We still rely on old boundaries, and as we see with Indian Rock, state legislatures are loathed to cede anything to another, especially when the monies that go with the land are significant. Here’s a quote from a story by public radio station WVXU that explains it better than I could summarize.(In) 1966…(Ohio )…wanted the border to be whereever the low water mark was.(University of Cincinnati's) Brad Mank says that challenge bounced around the courts for a few years. A special master assigned to the case rejected Ohio's argument saying it was difficult to determine where the 1792 boundary was, but it wasn't impossible.Finally in 1980, the case wound up in the Supreme Court. Mank says the three dissenting justices argued that the border should change as the river changes. Which is what happens with the Mississippi and Missouri rivers."But for the Ohio River, because it's based on what Virginia gave up in 1784 and 1792, it's all based on the historical boundaries and not where the river is," Mank says. "It seems awfully inconvenient, but that's what the Supreme Court said."That's why the signs welcoming visitors to Kentucky are close to the Ohio side on bridges. It's also why Kentucky is responsible for those bridges.I hope this helps you win your next trivia contest! The 981 Project is a reader-supported publication. Please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
West Virginia's Palace of Gold
15-05-2023
West Virginia's Palace of Gold
Everybody is looking for KRISHNA.Some don't realize that they are, but they are. ~George Harrison (former Beatle)I primarily remember the Hare Krishna movement of the 1960s and ‘70’s because it pushed the buttons of so many adults—adults who had no problem with the equally ecstatic so-called “Jesus Freaks”of the day. I grew up about thirty miles east of Columbus, Ohio, and I don’t remember seeing any Hare Krishnas there, but I remember seeing a group at Port Columbus Airport when we waited for my grandparents’ plane to land from California. About a dozen shaven-headed, bare-chested, young white men banged tambourines and chanted Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna…at the arrivals area. My parents scooted us kids out of their way, and while I don’t recall their exact words, their warnings would have matched what I heard everywhere else about the counterculture movement, hippies, LSD, brainwashing, and cults: STAY CLEAR.Fifty years later, I learned that the first American ashram (religious retreat) was built 150 miles due east of Columbus, just across the Ohio River near Moundsville, West Virginia. Back in the day, we would have called it a commune. The first swamiIn 1965, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, an Indian man from Bombay, made a 12,000-mile ocean voyage to New York City hoping to bring Krishna Consciousness to the West, preaching a monotheistic version of Hinduism. By 1967, his movement was well underway, and two of his disciples decamped to West Virginia on a mission to start an ashram just outside of Moundsville. The property, New Vrindaban, is named after the holy land of Vrindavan, India, the place of Krishna’s birth.On May 31, 1967, Prabhupada suffered a stroke and returned to India to recuperate. While recovering, he desired to establish a place in India for his foreign disciples to be trained. He planned to call it the American House; sometimes he called it the Indian-American House. He returned to America in December, 1967 to continue the expansion of Krishna consciousness. Then in 1970, he acquired the Los Angeles temple, which became the world headquarters of his ministry.That same year, New Vrindaban in West Virginia held its first annual three-day celebration of Krishna’s birth. Hundreds of devotees from as far away as Australia are reported to have attended. By 1985, it’s said that 600 people lived and worked at New Vrindaban’s temple, schools, dairy, and Palace of Gold. At its peak, 250,000 tourists visited each year.Visiting the ashramMy dear friend and longtime traveling companion, Jill, traveled with me to New Vrindaban by motorcycle in 2021. Do yourself a favor and click this link for pictures and explanations of what you’ll see. Here’s my account.If you’re considering an overnight visit, you’ll be welcomed to book lodging there, with no obligation to attend services or eat meals at the ashram. Jill and I did both. Checking in at dinnertime, we ate vegetarian dishes from a buffet in the dining hall off the temple, where we later watched a woman’s initiation into a holy order. The temple offers several services each day, and sometimes we saw various rituals taking place simultaneously at the various altars around the perimeter. Our affordable lodgings reminded me of a college dorm room—plain, clean, and serviceable. Most of the other weekend visitors seemed to be ethnically South Asian. Fellow visitors and staff were gracious and open to our questions, and we fell asleep with the haunting cries of the ashram’s roaming peacocks punctuating the stillness. The Palace of GoldThe next morning, we took a tour of Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. Constructed over a period of years by volunteers with no architectural plans, the local believers intended the palace to be Swami Prabhupada’s retirement home. While he visited the palace seven times, he returned to India to continue his work, then passed away in 1977 at the age of 81. While we waited for our tour of the palace itself, we lingered in the tranquil rose garden adjacent to the palace and beside the nearby lotus pond, where giant bullfrogs leaped and serenaded. At our appointed time, we doffed our shoes to enter the palace itself, which sits beneath a thirty-ton main dome with a 4,200-piece crystal ceiling. They imported the marble and onyx flooring from Europe, Asia, and Africa. While murals and other works of art cover ceilings and walls, 31 stained glass windows are reflected in crystal chandeliers. We could not take pictures inside, so you’ll have to take my word for its ostentation, which rivals that of Europe’s Baroque cathedrals. Why couldn’t they keep it up?Except for the temple itself, which is earnestly and continuously attended, the rest of the property was in a state of genteel decay: a bucket under a leaking ceiling here, rotted wood and blistered paint there. Sadly, whatever money and labor had built and maintained New Vrindaban to its height in the 1980s no longer flowed. Why couldn’t they keep it up?Jill and I opted out of dinner at the ashram on the second night and rode our motorcycles down the ridge to Grandma Jo’s Polkadot Cafe in Moundsville. Our waiter had the fuller story of New Vrindaban, claiming that the community was a viper pit from its start. Now, I wasn’t surprised by that remark because Americans in general can be pretty intolerant of non-Western religions. But then he started giving details so awful that I just knew they had overblown. He said the ashram’s leaders had engaged in sexual predation of children and adults; that financial crimes (including arson) had funded their operations; and its most powerful temple leader had ordered an assassination on dissidents during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. WHAT?Sadly, the public record backs the waiter’s story. Turns out, the ashram’s lavish buildings had been funded not by pilgrims or tithing, but by 10 million dollars in illegal fundraising schemes, including the sale of caps and bumper stickers bearing fraudulent copyright and trademark logos. A co-founder of New Vrindaban was found guilty of racketeering in August 1996. His crimes included conspiracy to murder. My heart sank to learn about yet another religion that can’t police itself. I had my answer to New Vrindaban’s descent. I can only imagine the difficulty of raising money and volunteers under clouds of so much criminality that runs counter to the movement’s peaceful teachings. I respect the true believers who work like Sisyphus each day to greet the visitors, weed the gardens, milk the cows, repair the roofs, and adorn the temple gods with fresh flowers. I would find it painful to continue living and working there in the wake of so much harm and deceit. Their faith is stronger than most.The 981 Project is a reader-supported publication. Please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.Hare Krishna in the wider cultureIn the two years since leaving New Vrindaban, I’ve noted the ways the Hare Krishna movement showed up in my life, and continues to do so. The Hare Krishnas made such an impact on the common culture that Hanna-Barbera (who gave us Scooby Doo) produced a 1973 episode of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home to lampoon the movement. The daughter, Alice, joins a commune so she learn how to farm and “get back to nature.” By the end of the episode, we learn a swami impersonator runs the commune so he can build a radish fortune on exploited labor. A radish fortune!By 1967 Jimi Hendrix’s second album was released with an appropriated version of a Hindu devotional painting and I remember seeing posters and t-shirts in this unique style. By 1969 the movement had reached and spread through the Beatles. * George Harrison produced a hit single, The Hare Krishna Mantra, one of five songs to his credit that mention Krishna, the most famous of which being My Sweet Lord. * John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded Give Peace a Chance in their room at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel, surrounded by Hare Krishnas and various celebrities who sang along. * The words "Hare Krishna" are included in Lennon's I Am the Walrus, and the background vocals of Ringo Starr's 1971 hit It Don't Come Easy. Then of course there’s yoga, which I practice several times a week. Here’s a fascinating history of yoga in America. In 1893, a Hindu monk spoke of it at an interfaith conference held during the massive World's Columbian Exposition. His version of yoga did not include the flowing sequences of the asanas or postures we practice today in YMCA classes and private yoga studios. Nevertheless, he paved the way for the 1920s and ‘30s, when Hatha yoga made its way to the West. Seeing the Beatles in lotus position and then the lovely Ali McGraw on VHS teaching us asanas and breathing techniques had to figure into the growth of what is today a $9 billion industry in the U.S. alone, with more than 40,500 yoga and pilates studios here.How about the common use of the Sanskrit word “mantra?” It’s supposed to mean “a sacred utterance” but it seems to only have caught on in the worst kind of business-speak.“, as in, My mantra is buy low, sell high.” I loved chanting the 16-word Hare Krishna mantra at the temple in West Virginia with devotees and found it to be hypnotic and uplifting.Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,Krishna Krishna, Hare HareHare Rama, Hare Rama,Rama Rama, Hare HareHere’s Krishna Das leading the mantra in call-and-response. If you’re a fellow oldster, you might recognize him from his Blue Oyster Cult days as Jeff Kagel.Okay, there’s a lot here to unpack. What do you remember from the sixties and seventies? Did you ever encounter the Hare Krishnas? Ever visit the Palace of Gold? Did a religion ever test your faith?Thank you for reading The 981 Project. This post is public so feel free to share it. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Stuff I Never Learned in Ohio History Classes
14-04-2023
Stuff I Never Learned in Ohio History Classes
Educated in Ohio public schools, I had an overly simplified understanding of slavery in America, making it easy to be proud of our state’s history on the right side of the Underground Railroad and Civil War. Enter The 981 Project, which required a ton of research. Oh, how much I didn’t know! Today’s newsletter covers two of the topics that took me 61 years to learn.Slavery existed north of the Ohio RiverAt its inception, the Northwest Territory was set aside as a slavery-free zone, and the Ohio River marked a bright line between slave- and free states. Law settled the matter. Cut and dried. Right? That’s how I learned it.Oh, no. What a fool I’ve been. While the river marked the legal boundary between slave- and free states—even before there were states in the Territory—slavery was practiced everywhere. Sometimes it just had a different name. Did I forget that? Or was it glossed over in the classroom? I am trying to find some of my old Ohio History textbooks to see for myself what was in my public school curriculum. I got a hot tip that Harvard’s Gutman Library might have copies of my textbooks along with others, so stay tuned. Thank you for reading The 981 Project. This post is public, so please share it.One of the books I’ve been reading to correct my understanding is Slavery’s Borderland: Freedom and Bondage Along the Ohio River.Historian Matthew Salafia Ph.D., brought me up to speed:* Chattel slavery became chattel servitude north of the Ohio River, despite article six of the Northwest Land Ordinance, which stated, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory…”.* Article six did not, and could not, free slaves already in the territory; neither did it include an enforcement clause. * Then-governor of the Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison (who became America’s ninth president) brought slaves with him to Vincennes, the territorial capital, and petitioned Congress to suspend article six. When Congress declined to do so, he passed a series of indenture laws that combined elements of chattel slavery and indentured servitude. * Cincinnati implemented the Overseers of the Poor to enforce the state's "black laws" which, among many other things, required blacks to register with the county clerk to ensure that they were not fugitives and to obtain a certificate to work in the city. Can you imagine coming up with $500 for a bond guaranteeing your “good behavior” in the 1800s? That’s about $12,000 today! Salafia also argues that the river was “both a physical boundary and a unifying economic and cultural force that muddied the distinction between southern and northern forms of labor and politics.” A “unifying economic and cultural force?” Do tell, Dr. Salafia.* Kentucky didn’t secede largely because “an unstable border between states within a union was better than a hostile border between enemy nations.” * “The diverse mixture of free and slave labor in their state left white Kentuckians less vulnerable and defensive than cotton planters in the Deep South and convinced them that slavery was somehow milder in their state than further south.”* “Their belief in the mildness of slavery in Kentucky led antislavery northerners along the river to view Kentucky as a state where gradual and peaceful emancipation was possible.” * “Neither Ohioans nor Indianans nor Kentuckians ever stopped looking to the federal government as the last resort to resolve interstate conflicts…Thus they could fight over slavery, but never lose faith in the Union.” The KKK Thrived in the Former Northwest TerritoryJust a month ago, I learned that the county where I grew up had hosted two of the largest Ku Klux Klan konclaves of the twentieth century. In 1923 and 1925, over 75,000 members of the “Invisible Empire” made their way to Buckeye Lake, Ohio, where hooded and robed Klansmen stood side-by-side with sheriff deputies directing traffic. I couldn’t help but wonder how this history shaped the community, which in turn shaped me. I’ve included a video on Buckeye Lake below.Last week, author Timothy Egan released A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them. While Egan mentions the two Buckeye Lake konclaves in passing, he hews to the main thread of why and how the Klan gained more traction in its second wave than its first. I had heard about the 1920s Indiana Klan some thirty years ago, from a friend whose father had been one (he was also a colonel in the US Army). In her telling, the Klan performed selfless acts of community service and claimed a membership thick with respectable ministers of mainline churches, businessmen, congressmen, and senators eager to improve their communities. I let her account sit until The 981 Project led me to dig into history. My friend wasn’t completely wrong in claiming the organization was involved in charity, but what she didn’t mention about Klan-built hospitals was the fact that they were for the exclusive use of white Protestants. Didn’t mention that the Klansmen on boards of education attempted to keep Jews out of public schools and outlaw Catholic ones.I’ll let Egan’s words explain how white Protestants used the Klan to deal with the onrush of modernity in the Jazz Age:The original hooded order directed most of its venom against Black people. With Jews and immigrants of an old faith based in Rome pouring into the country, the revived Klan would open up fresh categories of undesirables. Hate was tailored to the region—Asians on the Pacific coast, Mexicans in the Southwest, Mormons in the Rocky Mountains, Blacks in the South, Jews on the East Coast, and immigrants and Catholics everywhere. To this list was added sex—that is, all the new cultural expressions of sensuality. ~A Fever in the Heartland p. 23With so much research under my belt, get ready for a torrent of newsletters this year! And thanks to my paying subscribers for your monetary vote of confidence in what’s to come. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Calling for Underground Railroad Stops
28-03-2023
Calling for Underground Railroad Stops
I grew up in Licking County, Ohio, about 20 miles from Ye Olde Mill in Utica, which I had always been told was a stop on the Underground Railroad (URR). Today, the site is home to the Velvet Ice Cream Company, which moved its operations to the former gristmill in the 1960s after outgrowing its original location. Cloaked in secrecyThere isn’t irrefutable evidence that the property had been a URR stop, despite anecdotal evidence. I imagine there are several disputed depots in the region, after all, secrecy was essential to its operation.The US Department of Interior’s National Park Service commissioned a study for Congress (published in 1995), documenting Utica’s Ye Olde Mill as a stop. Of course what interests me are the sites along the Ohio River, documented here along with others north of the river. Ye Olde Mill is #52 on the map. Is Ashland, Kentucky, another location? As I’ve mentioned before, I have family in Ashland, Kentucky. The last time I visited there with my great-aunt Buntin, she took me to a home that “everyone knew” had been a stop on the URR, but it does not make the official map in the National Park Service report of 1995. Known as the Culbertson House, it sits on a hill overlooking the river. Aunt Buntin said there was a long tunnel from the basement to the river where the enslaved could hide and then continue their journey across the river. It seems plausible to me.Thank you for reading The 981 Project. This post is public so feel free to share it.I followed up with the executive director of Visit AK, who was interested in Aunt Buntin’s claim of the Culbertson House as part of the URR but couldn’t verify it. However, she said there’s a big project underway to discover URR sites in Kentucky. The Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau/ Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation (Ohio) has been awarded $1.5 million by the Appalachian Regional Commission to create a “regional collaboration of Underground Railroad cultural assets for coal-impacted communities with nearly 20 partners in 9 counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio.”Shawnee State University’s Center for Public History has received over $210,000 of that $1.5 million grant to assist the Appalachian Underground Railroad Heritage Tourism Initiative. That’s not the only federal agency interested in the URR. The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program was established in 1998 and has made generous grants in several states. My requestPlease tell me all the places you’ve been TOLD were part of the Underground Railroad anywhere within ten miles of the Ohio River, from Pittsburgh to Cairo. I’d love to know the stories and myths that went along with these places, and if they are being preserved for generations to come. Thanks in advance! The 981 Project is a reader-supported publication. Please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe
Whom to Trust?
19-02-2023
Whom to Trust?
I was sickened by the news of the February 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment and subsequent explosion in the village of East Palestine, Ohio. I think it was February 5 when I heard it described as an “American Chernobyl.” That’ll draw the hairs up on your forearms, eh?The closest I’ve come to the village is East Liverpool, some 28 miles south, a river town with a fascinating history that I’ll write about here soon. Twenty-eight miles is not a great distance for poisoned water to travel into the Ohio River, which provides drinking water to about five million people. But was that ever a risk? Is it now?In this age of extreme partisanship, disinformation, and information overload, it takes a savvy and committed news consumer to develop well-informed views. The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it's very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. ~Thomas J. Watson (Chair & CEO of IBM)Folks on the ground in East PalestineFellow Substacker Status Coup offers a compilation of interviews with people on the ground in East Palestine or who, in Erin Brockovich’s case, will take their calls seriously. Brockovich’s name may be familiar from the film made about her work in Hinkley, California, which featured Julia Roberts in the title role. On a personal note, my parents went to high school in Barstow, California, with folks who were a part of the settlement that Ms. Brockovich brought to fruition from Pacific Gas & Electric in 1996. She has earned my trust. Like many of us, Ms. Brockovich is not prepared to blindly trust the information provided by politicians who are on corporate payrolls or the underfunded agencies they control. She says the unhealthy symptoms that East Palestinians are reporting have been falling on disbelieving ears. This is similar to what residents experienced in Flint, Michigan. Follow Ms. Brockovich directly on Substack, on Twitter, and on her website. Social media optionsOver the last five years, I have built a list of Twitter folks with interests in the Ohio River and Appalachia (yes, this part of Ohio is Appalachia). That doesn’t mean I agree with everything they think, say, or do, but if you’re interested in what’s being said, done, and refuted, you might scroll through their posts. Get full access to The 981 Project at the981project.com/subscribe