Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for June, 2012

York, Slave of William Clark, Once Felt Freedom

Tracker… Negotiator…Ambassador…Doctor.  All these words were used at one time or another to describe York, Captain William Clark’s black manservant, who was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Ocean and back to the East. York’s story was told under the red and white striped tent at the 2012 Chautauqua celebration in Marietta, Ohio on the campus of Marietta College. This year’s theme, “When Ohio Was the Western Frontier”, introduced characters that played a role in Ohio’s early history. York, being from Virginia, spent much time on and along the Ohio River.

As the first recorded black explorer, York created much excitement as he traveled across the Western frontier.  Due to his large size and black skin, his presence amazed and intrigued the Indians along the way. Thinking perhaps that he was painted black, at many stops the Indians would spit on their fingers and try to rub the black color from his skin. Indian tribes considered him a friend and referred to him as Big Medicine, since he frequently gave them liniments and herbs to heal their ailments. Some even called him Giant Medicine due to his size, and felt that his skin had sacred power.  This was a time in York’s life when he said, “How great it felt to be admired.  I felt ten feet tall.”

Because he enjoyed storytelling and drinking, York was very popular in taverns wherever he went. His speech was much like “the white man’s” since he had grown up in his master’s household. Never having been taught to read or write, he relied on his tall tales, some higher than the mountains, to entertain the explorers and those he met along the way. The Indian squaws favored him with special treatment, and he entertained the children with stories of being wild. His contribution as a peace maker with the Indians helped make the expedition more successful.

Life was not easy on the journey as they were often cold and hungry. They drank bear fat and even ate candles to survive. At times when food was scare, York was entrusted with a musket, something that never would have been permitted this slave while in Virginia. There were times when they were fortunate to encounter a herd of elk.  Then they ate elk, elk, and more elk all day long. If no other meat was available, they even ate their dogs and found them quite tasty. The children in the tent at Marietta that evening were quite concerned about the expedition eating dogs, and were assured it was only done during an emergency when no other food was available.

When they returned to the East, York reverted to his position as a manservant. He only wanted freedom to be with his wife but this was not to be. Instead he was flogged, even jailed and then hired out to a severe master where he was given spoiled food and further mistreated.

Even though York was married, he seldom saw his wife as she too was a slave. They lost contact completely when she was sent to Mississippi to work on a plantation. So even though he knew she was expecting their child, he never got to see the child or even know of its whereabouts. When he asked Captain Clark if he could be sold as a slave with his wife, Clark said it was out of the question. York said the most painful time he encountered in his life was saying goodbye to his wife.

What really happened to York? Some accounts say that he was eventually freed, but given the fact that he had no knowledge of business was not able to make his way in the world.  Other accounts say he was spotted later with the Crow Indians in the Rocky Mountains. Hope it was the later!

As York sat at the tavern on the Chautauqua stage, he said he was thankful for the Expedition as for a short time he knew what freedom felt like. There his color was not a curse but a blessing. His dream was to eventually go back to the Indians.  His presentation concluded with a toast to the Great Expedition, the beauty and majesty of our great nation, Captain Clark, the Indians, and Big Medicine.

Marvin Jefferson did a very believable portrayal of York. His background as an educator and historical scholar has given him incite into Civil Rights issues and he frequently portrays Martin Luther King, Jr and Paul Robeson in his stage performances.

2012 Ohio Chautauqua continues throughout the summer with week long performances and workshops in Urbana (June 26-30), Gallipolis (July 17-21) and Warren (July 24-28).  Hope you find time to join them and learn a little more about “When Ohio Was the Western Frontier”.


Margaret Blennerhassett Prosperity to Poverty

More is better! That was the feeling of Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett as they came to the United States from England in 1797. Their marriage was frowned upon by friends and family in England since Harman was Margaret’s uncle; therefore, their best chance at a happy life together would have to be in a far away country.  Having sold his castle in England, the Blennerhassetts arrived in the United States with lots and lots of money…$140,000! While this fortune seemed limitless at that time, the Blennerhassetts spent their fortune recklessly and unwisely, always wanting more.

The aristocratic Margaret Blennerhassett was the first historic character for  “When Ohio Was the Western Frontier”, the theme for  2012 Ohio Chautauqua in Marietta, Ohio on the campus of Marietta College.  She received a warm welcome as temperatures soared to near 100 in the red and white striped tent.

Margaret’s story continued with their search for a place to built their new home, and ultimate discovery of  a beautiful tree covered island in the middle of the Ohio River. Margaret thought this would be the perfect place for the elegant home she had in mind so they bought half of the island, approximately 180 acres, for $4500.

One corner of the island was cleared of the huge trees so the mansion would appear as a pearl against green velvet as the boats passed by on the Ohio River. Here they built a luxurious twelve room mansion that had thirty-six glass windows, something not common at that time of log cabins with tar paper windows. Two covered porticos flanked the main house leading to its two appendages: Harman’s office and the summer kitchen.

Not only was the house a beautiful spot but there were acres of gardens and a greenhouse where citrus fruits grew all winter long. There was even special shrubbery trimmed in the shape of the original thirteen colonies.  Margaret especially enjoyed riding her white horse, Robin, over the island appearing as an exotic bird in her scarlet riding cape and feathered hat. Yes, more was definitely better.

But their happy life was short-lived here on the spot they called Blennerhassett Island. Some compared it to the beautiful Garden of Eden, but both seemed to have a snake that spoiled their pleasure. This time it was a snake in the form of Aaron Burr that wanted something forbidden.

Margaret said that Aaron Burr was a genius who applied to college at the age of eleven and graduated from Princeton at an early age. Burr was a very handsome man who loved fine things especially when procured through other people’s money. After a tie in a presidential election between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, the recount made Jefferson the President, and the loser, Aaron Burr, the vice-president. Things did not start out on a good foot here, and Burr was more than a little dissatisfied.

In 1805, Burr visited Blennerhassett Island for dinner as he was curious about the eccentric foreigner … or perhaps he had heard of the money Blennerhassett had available to “invest” in his plans. Burr led them to believe that this was an easy way for them to increase their fortune.  These events took place at a time when the Blennerhassett funds were running low.

Margaret felt that Thomas Jefferson was the real serpent that crawled into their Garden of Eden in order to destroy them. There was a lot of animosity between Jefferson and Burr.  Margaret said that Jefferson was not the wonderful president that many thought he was.  She felt the Louisiana Purchase was illegal, and while considered an inventor said he only had invented two things: a wheel cypher secret decoder and a plow. Thomas Jefferson was said to even cut parts out of the Bible that he didn’t like or wish to follow in his life. It was quite obvious that Margaret did not have fond feelings for President Jefferson.

Jefferson tried to destroy Aaron Burr and by association, Harman Blennerhassett. He attempted to use his power to have Burr found guilty of treason.  However, Chief Justice John Marshall stood up to Jefferson, and the jury found Aaron Burr not guilty. Burr and Blennerhassett were both released from prison.

By this time, their house on the island had been looted with most of the fine things being carried off. The remainder of the items were sold at auction to pay off debts accumulated by the Blennerhassetts. In 1811, their beautiful mansion was burned to the ground. At this point, the Blennerhassett family fell into hardships and eventual poverty for the remainder of their lives.  Their hopes and dreams were shattered.

Debra Conner’s portrayal of Margaret Blennerhassett was outstanding. Debra actually spent much of her youth in the Marietta community and graduated from Marietta High School.  Often during the year, she presents similar programs to the area schools on both sides of the Ohio River as part of their Ohio or West Virginia history curriculum.

2012 Ohio Chautauqua continues throughout the summer with week long performances and workshops in Urbana (June 26-30), Gallipolis (July 17-21) and Warren (July 24-28).  Hope you find time to join them and learn a little more about “When Ohio Was the Western Frontier”.

The Town Too Tough To Die Tombstone, AZ

“The only rock you will find out there will be your own tombstone,” was the advice given to Ed Schieffelin when he headed to the mountains of Arizona to hunt for ore samples.  When Schieffelin filed his first claim after discovering silver, he suitably named his first mine Tombstone, and organized the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company.

If you want an informative trip through Tombstone, Arizona, hop on the guided horse-drawn stagecoach tour. Here you will hear the basic history of the town with lots of humorous stories thrown in. Don’t be surprised if you see a gunfight or stagecoach robbery along the way. Then you can walk or ride to your favorite places throughout the town for a closer look.

The stagecoach is pictured in front of the Crystal Palace Saloon, which was originally built in 1882 but restored in 1963.  Prominent citizens of Tombstone liked to congregate here as the saloon was know for its “Good Whiskey, Tolerable Water, and Best Food in Town” as well as an honest gambling room. Add to that the fact that upstairs were located offices that furnished all the latest news, and you can see why it was such a popular spot. The second floor contained offices of Marshall Virgil Earp – in the front, Dr George Goodfellow, leading surgeon, and Atty George Berry.

Since plants are one of my pleasures, couldn’t help noticing this huge century plant located in a resident’s yard. This plant’s name is derived from the fact that they only bloom once in a long, long time, but not quite a century. Usually they grow for around twenty five years before the plant puts forth its tall wooden seed stalk filled with blooms.  This blooming spike grows so fast that it takes all the nutrients out of the plant causing it to die.  But the seed lives on!  These plants are used for their medicinal properties, fiber, food, and even needles.

As you can imagine this was rough territory with tough, lawless characters calling it home. Being only twenty miles from the Mexican border, a group of bandits called The Cowboys, led by Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers, began rustling cattle from Sonora, Mexico to the fields near Tombstone. That brought lawmen onto the scene in the form of the Earp brothers. The Cowboys were welcome in town since they spent a lot of money there, but shootings often occured. Here you will also find The Hanging Tree, which was used for executions when the gun just wasn’t enough punishment.

Early in 1881 however, one story reports that The Cowboys attempted to rob a stagecoach of $26,000 worth of  silver, and killed two passengers. The events that ensued culminated in the now famous Gunfight at the O K Corral where US Federal Marshall Virgil Earp, his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and Doc Holliday shot and killed three of The Cowboys.  They are buried today on Boothill, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

Boothill reportedly received its name because so many died violent deaths in that area and were buried with their boots on. Wording on the tombstones tells a lot about the life of those times. Some simply say: MURDERED or HANGED. The tombstone of Lester Moore is one of the most often viewed and remembered on Boothill as it has the epitaph:


The world’s largest rosebush is also in Tombstone so growing conditions must be exceptional. Planted in 1885, this Lady Banksia Rose covers the roof of an inn as well as this terrace. The trunk of the rose bush is twelve feet wide, which you may be able to spot in the shadows. That rose bush must also have been Too Tough To Die.

Since 1880 until the present day, the local publication, The Tombstone Epitaph…The Old West’s most famous newspaper, has kept locals and visitors informed regarding what’s happening in Tombstone. There are now actually two editions: a monthly historical national and a bi-monthly local.  Check out some of their historical issues at The Tombstone Epitaph online.

Even though this two-fisted, trigger-happy boomtown has settled down quite a bit, Tombstone is proud of its Wild West history.  This is a real town with real inhabitants today and in the past.  That is why they are pleased to call it: The Town Too Tough To Die.

Tombstone is located in the southeastern corner of Arizona, just 70 miles from Tucson. Follow I-10 to exit  303 and head southeast on route 80 for about 23 miles. If time permits, head on down to relaxing Bisbee and tour their Queens Copper Mine, one of the richest copper mines in history.

Colorful Hot Air Balloon Festival Up, Up and Away

“Up, up and away, my beautiful, my beautiful balloon” could be the theme song for any hot air balloon festival.  Even though there wasn’t a chance to hit the skies personally, it still was a pleasure to watch the colorful balloons take to the air at the 31st annual Coshocton Hot Air Balloon Festival. The scene in the middle of the Coshocton Fairgrounds doesn’t appear very exciting at first glance…just filled with trucks and trailers. But this would all change before the evening was over.  This scene could occur at two times of the day since just before sunset or near sunrise are the best two times for flying.

Seems that man has always wanted to fly! The first hot air balloon ascended way back in 1783 in France.  The Montgolfier brothers, paper manufacturers, created a special balloon using a combination of linen and paper. Capturing the magical smoke from the fire, they were able to  lift a basket, for about fifteen minutes, carrying animals: a sheep, duck and rooster. At Coshocton Fair Grounds, the Montgolfier name lives on through a business called Montgolfier Balloon Gift Shoppe, where you can find everything imaginable for the balloon enthusiast.

The father of modern day ballooning, Ed Yost, made the sport more practical by building the balloon from nylon, later taffeta, and heating the air inside with a propane burner. The Balloon Works developed a parachute valve so the amount of air inside could be controlled to vary altitude and even land. Rattan wicker baskets carry pilot, passengers, propane tanks, and equipment needed to control the balloon. A variometer shows vertical speed, a digital temperature gauge reflects balloon and air temperatures, and an altimeter tells how high the balloon is above sea level.

In the center of the track is a flag pole with a red flag hanging, which indicates the launch isn’t ready to proceed. Sometimes shows must be cancelled if weather analysis determines there is either not enough wind to fly or if the wind direction is constantly changing. But tonight the wind blows favorably and the crowd cheers as the flag is changed to green. It’s  time for the men to start blowing up the balloons with their handy propane tanks. Anticipation is the name of the game as each balloon is stretched out on the ground, slowly filled with gas, and finally launched into the sky.

Out in the countryside, two targets have been placed to make the evening a little more challenging. Whoever comes the closest to these targets will receive the highest score. Just being part of this spectacular balloon launch would be reward enough. Approximately twenty balloons headed for the hills to see where they would land, which basically depends on where the wind takes them. The only real control the pilot has is to either make the balloon ascend or descend by controlling the heat in the balloon.

At dusk,  a special Night Glow lit up the evening sky while the balloons were anchored instead of being launched. This spectacular sight is created as the  hot air balloon burners illuminate the colorful fabrics of the balloons against the twilight sky. Only six groups participated in the finale here, but displayed some beautiful synchronized lighting patterns.

The only way this day could have been more spectacular is to have been riding in one of the baskets below the hot air balloons. Perhaps someday you can experience the thrill of soaring through the air as there are places in Ohio. such as Hot Air Balloon Rides, that have some pretty exciting trip packages. Look for a hot air balloon launching wherever you happen to live or visit.

The Irish, in typical tradition, added this toast to hot air ballooning, which describes the journey very accurately:

The winds have welcomed us with softness.                                                                           The sun has blessed us with it’s warm hands.                                                                         We have flown so high and so well                                                                                             that God has set us gently back                                                                                                           into the loving arms of mother earth.        

Come fly with me!. As you soar into the air like a bird on the wing and feel the touch of the air on your skin, relax and enjoy the serenity of this beautiful adventure.

Every June, The Coshocton Hot Air Balloon Festival is held at the Fairgrounds in Coshocton, Ohio. Coming into Coshocton on Route 36 , exit at Roscoe Village then proceed over the bridge on Chestnut Street past the courthouse. Make a left turn on 7th Street and after several blocks you will arrive at the Coshocton Fair Grounds on the left side of the street. 

The Crazy Horse Memorial : Never Forget Your Dreams

A very great vision is needed, and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. ~ Crazy Horse

In the Black Hills of South Dakota at Crazy Horse Memorial, the beginning of the largest mountain carving in the world sets in the glowing sunlight high on a mountain top, or perhaps it is the shining spirit of Crazy Horse that lights up the sky. This memorial to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians was started back in 1948 inside an army surplus tent.

Rattling Blanket Woman gave birth to a son, Cha-O-Ha, later called Crazy Horse, in this Black Hills region. Crazy Horse was a legendary Lakota Sioux hero, who was a true leader of his people for his  time on earth of approximately thirty-five years. His short life  was devoted to serving his people through caring for the children, the elderly and the sick. In the late 1800s, Crazy Horse attempted to defend the Indian lands from encroachment by the US Federal Government. He is best remembered for being one of the leaders in a war party, inspired by visions of Sitting Bull, which  led to the defeat of General Custer at The Battle of Little Bighorn, or as the Indians called it, The Battle of the Greasy Grass.  “All we wanted was peace and to be left alone,” were among the last words of Crazy Horse.

Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began work in 1940 designing Crazy Horse to be carved in the granite of Thunderhead Mountain. Korczak originally worked with Gutzon Borglum in the carving of Mount Rushmore, but left the area for a while to serve in World War II where he took part in the Normandy Invasion. Upon his return, he was approached by Chief Henry Standing Bear to design the statue of Crazy Horse because “Indian chiefs would like white man to know the red man has great heroes too. ”

The statue of Crazy Horse astride his horse, Vice Ganda, will stand 563 feet tall when completed. The horse’s head itself is 22 stories high, while Crazy Horse’s head is nine stories tall.  All four heads on Mount Rushmore would fit in the head of Crazy Horse. No wonder it has taken so long to complete!

Seems that Korczak loved sculpting as this was just one of his many projects.  The list is quite impressive and includes: Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Noah Webster, Wild Bill Hickok, and Chief Henry Standing Bear just to name a few of his major works. Another creation is a plaster model of the Crazy Horse mountain carving which is 1/34 scale and located on the main grounds. With some help from his sons, Korczak even carved a tomb for his final resting place at the base of the Crazy Horse sculpture where he remains today after his death in 1982. The epitaph reads: KORCZAK Storyteller in Stone.

This project has many dreams as seen in this illustration from the Master Plans of Crazy Horse Memorial. A poem written by Korczak will be carved in the side of the mountain in letters three feet high. To encourage education, American Indian Training and Medical University Center will be along the Avenue of the Chiefs.

This is a grand work in progress and they rely on fees for entry to the site and donations to continue and complete. The Crazy Horse Foundation decided  this was a project for the public and has never received government funds. While visiting there be sure to explore the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, the home of sculptor Korczak, gift shops and restaurant.

A plaster model made to a 1/1200 scale sets on my mantel as a reminder of the courage and caring nature of Crazy Horse. Sculptor Korczak left us these words of wisdom:

“When the legends die, the dreams end;  When the dreams end, there is no more greatness. Don’t forget your dreams.”                                                                          

Today his wife, Ruth, and their ten children continue developing his dream. The spirit of Crazy Horse still challenges young men to be the warriors of their generation by getting an education.

Crazy Horse Memorial is located five miles north of Custer, South Dakota on US 16 -385. Admission at this time is $10 per adult or you can take a carload for $27. Free admission is given to: children under age six, Native Americans, active military personnel, scouts in uniform, and Custer County, South Dakota residents. While in the area visit Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park nearby.

Tag Cloud