Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘When Ohio Was the Western Frontier’

Ohio’s Johnny Appleseed Ap*peel*ing to the Core

An apple a day keeps the doctor away is a saying we have heard most of our lives. But John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, has a slightly different version:  Eat an apple before you go to bed, and make the doctor beg his bread.

Each evening before the appearance of historical scholars, local musical groups entertained with songs from frontier times.  This particular evening a group called Unwound presented lively music on two hammer dulcimers accompanied by guitar and tapping Limberjacks.  They got the crowd in the Chautauqua tent at Marietta Ohio ready for the appearance of Johnny Appleseed, an excellent yarn spinner.

John Chapman wanted to do something useful with his life that would also support his ministry. Apples seemed to be the perfect tool as they were the only fruit that could stay fresh for an extended time. There was a litany of uses given by John regarding his favorite fruit: apple chips, apple butter, apple brandy, and even payment for taxes…to name a few. Would you believe his favorite color is apple red?

Starting a nursery for Johnny was a simple affair: poke a hole, plant a seed, cover it up. He tried to anticipate where people would be settling in two or three years and would start a nursery in that vicinity. Johnny said that in order to claim the land, the homestead law required settlers to plant fifty apple trees during the first year. Sometimes you might see him going down the Ohio River with two canoes:  Johnny in the first one, 50 apple seedlings or apple seeds in the second.

In 1812 when troubles in America erupted with the British and the Indians, Johnny said the fear grew deeper than the snow. These war years were painful for Johnny, as he had always been friends with both Indians and whites.  Trying to make peace was like trying to put out a fire – while you were stomping on one, you were fanning the rest. At this time, he felt the Indians were like a tornado – you never knew where they were going to strike.  But you couldn’t always trust the British either as they burned whole villages – another white man’s promise up in smoke!

With his constant good humor, he admonished listeners not to believe everything they heard about him, “Gossip is like the measles, sooner or later it will turn your face red.”  For example, barefoot Johnny Appleseed did not walk over the entire country.  His travels and consequent apple tree plantings only occurred in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and often in a State of Confusion.

Johnny was deeply religious and felt his religion gave him a peaceful path to tread. His was the perfect life in his eyes because sometimes he was with people… but sometimes by himself.  He often enjoyed being alone and said he was not “the marrying kind”.

He spent his life doing good deeds for others and planted more than just apple trees. He also planted spiritual seeds that nourished the soul.

Along the way to Marietta, stopped just south of Dexter City on SR 821 to see a monument dedicated to Johnny Appleseed.  It is made of small rocks contributed by people in areas where Johnny planted apple tree.  The grave sites of his family are located nearby.  The tree to the right behind it is, of course, an apple tree.

Hank Fincken displayed a great sense of humor in his portrayal of Johnny Appleseed /John Chapman.  Johnny was the first historic figure that Hank ever developed. He feels it opened doors for him much the way Johnny’s seedlings opened doors for early settlers.

2012 Ohio Chautauqua continues throughout the summer with week long performances and workshops in 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”.

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Peaceful Chief John Logan Propelled to Revenge

Dressed in buckskin clothes, the appearance of Chief Logan transported the audience back to frontier times. Silver armbands, bracelets, a nose ring and earrings – one a cross- glittered in the sunlight as he took the stage at the Ohio Chautauqua during the 225th Anniversary of Marietta – The Crown Jewel of the Appalachians.   Tattoos also adorned his body with a tobacco leaf tattoo on his ear symbolizing “truthful hearing” while a red hawk on his head denoted his tribal connection.

John Logan began his life on the Susquehanna River and followed his father’s Jesuit teachings where John’s “sins were washed away”. Friendly with the white settlers, John was always a peacemaker for the Iroquois, who were usually called Mingos when settling in the Ohio Country, and John Logan is most often referred to as Chief of the Mingos. Perhaps his role as peacemaker gave him reason to learn eight different Indian dialects as well as English, French, Dutch and even Latin. However, Chief Logan could neither read nor write.

The Ohio Land Company kept expanding their boundaries to include more and more of the Indian lands. The Mingos ignored the marks of surveyors saying, “You can’t sell the wind in the sky or the water in the river.”

Along the Ohio River, settlers frequently met at the tavern for stories, nourishment and ale.  One evening, Logan’s camp along Yellow Creek, near present day Wellsville, Ohio, was invited by a nasty frontiersman, Jacob Greathouse, to a tavern across the Ohio River.  During the course of the evening, some of Logan’s family was shot and killed in an ugly massacre.  This changed Logan’s peaceful ways in a hurry.  In the words of Logan, “It made me want to raise my hatchet that had long been buried and color it with the blood of the English.” Sometime during this period, he walked away from the Christian teachings.

While he told the settlers of his anger, he also said the Indians were not all angry…just Logan, as they had killed his people.  Known as Logan’s Revenge, he vowed to take ten white man’s scalps for every Indian that had been murdered on the Ohio River that evening. Every time he took a scalp, he made a mark on his hatchet. According to Native American custom, he had a right to this retaliation.

Chief Logan refused to attend peace talks in 1774 at Camp Charlotte on the Scioto River, but issued his now famous speech, Logan’s Lament, under an elm tree. While the beautiful old elm no longer exists, the words of his speech can be found today engraved on his memorial at Logan Elm State Memorial near Circleville, Ohio. His speech concluded:

“Logan feels not fear. He would not turn on his heel to save his life for who is there left to mourn Logan? Not one.”

The remainder of his life was spent as a kind man who sold deer skins for a dollar each, so he could bury his sorrows in the taverns he visited.  In 1781, he was killed by his nephew, because John Logan was no longer considered an asset to his people. Today there is not a drop of Logan’s blood in any living creature.

Dan Cutler portrayed Chief Logan with ease as he has spent about a dozen years in that role in West Virginia as well as the Ohio Valley.  Frequently he also slips into the roles of The Cornstalk Warrior, Tecumseh and Simon Girty. Dan is currently active in a new outdoor drama, “Drums Along the Mohawk”, which will premier late this summer in New York.

2012 Ohio Chautauqua continues throughout the summer with week long performances and workshops in 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”.

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