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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Amos Harvey’s Tavern-Keeper License

Marietta resident Amos R. Harvey wanted to renew his liquor/tavernkeeper license in 1811. He figured it would be routine. But there was a glitch. A group of prominent citizens filed a petition recommending that his license not be renewed.

He had presumably been in the tavern business for a while. Taverns at that time were an important public institution; much more than a neighborhood bar. Taverns offered food, liquor, entertainment, and lodging. Public meetings and social gatherings were held at taverns. There were often “spirited,” if you get my drift, debates about issues of the day. The Ohio Company of Associates which founded Marietta held its initial meetings at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston. Taverns in early Marietta served locals and also visitors traveling on the Ohio River. 

The petition was filed with the Court of Common Pleas which had to approve the renewals. It stated: “...Amos R. Harvey has kept a house of such a character as is a public disgrace to the town of Marietta and such as tends to corrupt the public morals and serves only as a rendezvous for practising those vices and that species of licentiousness and laciviousness which demoralize and debase mankind and strike at the root of all decency and virtues in society...(the petitioners) pray the honorable court,...as the guardians of the public morals in this respect, to refuse a license to the said Harvey.

The petitioners were plainly upset with Harvey and invoked some powerful vocabulary to make their case. The original documents pictured in this article belong to Bill Reynolds, historian at Campus Martius Museum, and are used with his permission. The twenty-two signers of the petition included prominent names such as David Putnam, Timothy Buell, Gilbert Devol, Benjamin Ives Gilman, Samuel Hildreth, Ichabod Nye, Dudley Woodbridge, William Woodbridge, Griffin Greene.




Petition opposing renewal of Amos Harvey tavernkeepers license, above, signatures below. Image of original document courtesy of Bill Reynolds


There are two sides to every story. Amos Harvey had a group of supporters who also filed a petition, shown below, in his favor. It stated “We...do hereby recommend Amos R. Harvey as a suitable person to keep a house of public entertainment or tavern at his house in said Marietta.” Twenty persons signed that petition.

Petition in support of Amos Harvey’s license renewal. Image courtesy Bill Reynolds

The original licensing law adopted by the Northwest Territory in 1792 required the applicant to be “well qualified in person and character....”  A later version of the law in 1809-10, after Ohio became a state, dropped the character requirement per se but specified other conditions: No licensed person “shall knowingly allow...betting or gaming....or shall suffer any disorder, revelling or drunkenness therein.” Also, “All tavern-keepers and inn-keepers shall provide and furnish good entertainment and accommodations for man and horse..... ” 

The Court of Common Pleas had to approve applications and renewals for a tavern-keepers license. On the first day of each Court term, a grand jury was convened. They were given a list of all license holders and directed to “make inquiry and to give information about violations of this act...” Their report could influence the renewal of licenses by the Court.

I was not able to learn whether Amos Harvey’s license was renewed in 1811. But he was listed as a tavern-keeper by George Woodbridge* in the 1820s. So his license must have been renewed at some point. He may have toned down the alleged immoral practices in his tavern, though based on prevailing practices at the time, maybe not.

Want to know more about how a real tavern operated? Stop at Our House Tavern in Gallipolis, Ohio, a restored 1819 tavern that hosted General Lafayette when he visited in 1825. To learn more, click here.

*“Reminiscences of Hon. George M. Woodbridge” viewed in Martin Andrews’ History of Marietta and Washington County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens.


SOURCES: 

Andrews, Martin R., History of Marietta and Washington County Ohio and Representative Citizens, “Reminiscences of Hon. George M. Woodbridge,” Chicago, Biographical Publishing Company, 1902

COLLELUORI, Salvatore“The Colonial Tavern, Crucible of the American Revolution,” Warontherocks.com

The Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwest Territory from 1788 to 1833 Inclusive, Volume I, edited by Salmon P Chase, Cincinnati, Corey & Fairbanks, 1833 viewed at archive.org

Images of original documents from Bill Reynolds - petitions opposing and in favor of tavern license renewal for Amos R. Harvey dated August 19, 1811

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Epidemics: Disease, Courage, Perseverance in Early Washington County

We rarely experience serious epidemics today. That’s why the Covid-19 virus pandemic is so unusual - and traumatic. The experience will be etched into our memory and our national psyche for decades to come. The terms social distancing, apex, surge, hot spot, flattening the curve, and shelter-in-place will become part of our lexicon. 

But in the first hundred years of Marietta’s founding, epidemics were a somewhat regular occurence. The threat of disease was always stalking the population. There was incomplete knowledge about diseases and how they were spread. Treatments were generally ineffective. Outbreaks often happened during times of other stresses, compounding their impact. An example was the first smallpox outbreak in early 1790 which was followed by a food shortage and Indian hostility.

The 1790 smallpox epidemic began when an infected man named Welch arrived in Marietta. Concerned residents approved construction of “pest houses,” rough cabins to house the sick persons away from others. It recurred again in 1793 throughout Washington County. On August 9, the Court of Quarter Sessions ordered sick persons to be quarantined at Devol Island in the Muskingum River.

Smallpox treatment at the time offered a crude but fairly effective immunization not yet available for COVID-19. It was called inoculation or “variolization.” Tissue from smallpox sufferers was rubbed into a scratch of the person to be immunized. That person would contract smallpox, usually in a less severe form, and then was immune. 

In the 1793 epidemic, the Belpre community voted to be thus inoculated, rather than face almost certain illness and death because of close quarters in the “Farmers Castle” stockade. “Farmers Castle became one great hospital,” one historian observed. Of one hundred people inoculated, all but 5 survived and were thereafter immune.

Farmers Castle viewed at Ohiomemory.org
Lithograph originally published in Hildreth’s Pioneer History, with inscription “Ch W. Elliott Lith”
Farmers Castle was a stockade enclosing 13 houses built in 1791 to protect residents from Indian attacks.


Pioneers also endured periodic outbreaks of scarlet fever, spotted fever, conjunctivitis, measles, and what was then called “bilious fever,” (forms of malaria and yellow fever). Cholera was another deadly disease which periodically swept through America starting in the 1830s. 

Dr. Samuel Hildreth, noted physician, scientist, and historian, wrote a research paper, “On the Climate and Early History of Diseases in Ohio” in 1839. It documented epidemics in the early settlements, including Washington County. 

The epidemics of 1822-1823 were especially severe. The disease was malaria-like. Such diseases were thought to be caused by natural conditions - such as air polluted by stagnant water or decaying vegetation. Preceding the 1822 epidemic, Hildreth reported abnormally dry weather, stagnated rivers, and pest infestations of grasshoppers, gray squirrels, and potato bugs. Ugh. Sounds biblical. Before the 1823 epidemic, weather was unusually wet with lots of standing water. We know now that most of the malarial-type sicknesses are transmitted by mosquitoes. The conditions observed by Hildreth may have led to mosquito infestations that brought disease.

Many impacts were similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were hotspots: Marietta was one. In September 1822, at the peak of illness, 400 cases were reported within a square mile. There were also examples of heroic doctors and nurses like we’ve seen with COVID-19. One of these was Dr. Samuel P. Hildreth who reported on his experience:
“For four months in succession I ate but two meals a day, and spent from sixteen to eighteen hours out of twenty-four in attending on the sick. Through a merciful Providence my own health was good, and the only suffering was from exhaustion and fatigue through the whole of this disastrous season. The proportion of deaths was about six in every hundred cases, where proper medical attention was given to the sick; but so general was the disease that many lives were lost from a lack of nurses.”


Samuel Prescott Hildreth, Physician, Scientist, Historian
1923 Portrait by Aaron Corwine
Christopher Busta-Peck at Flickr.com

The community acted with caring support and concern. On September 15, 1822, a public meeting was held. Committees were appointed to visit the sick and give them needed supplies. Apparently there was little concern about contagion. On September 18, resolutions were adopted noting “the distressed situation of our fellow citizens and friends calls for the upmost exertions and deepest humiliation,” and that “we will exhort and encourage each other in visiting the sick....” A day of “public fasting, humiliation, and prayer” was observed on September 21. Soon after, most people were recovering, though the epidemic did not end for sure until “hard frosts came in November.” Ninety Five people died from June through November of 1822. The population of Marietta at the time was about 2,000.

Reverend Cornelius Springer’s memory of the 1822 epidemic was vivid, even decades later. He was stationed in Marietta with the Methodist Episcopal Church. He knew of only two people, Judge Wood and a Mr. Putnam of Harmar, who avoided the virus. He remembered that five members of a single family named Adams died. He attended the funeral of attorney and judge Paul Fearing and his wife who died within six hours of each other, early victims of the epidemic. Two sisters named Wells died together and were buried in the same grave.

Rev. Springer and his wife escaped the illness. But the next year in the epidemic of 1923, Mrs. Springer became ill. She ran a temperature for 24 days. He noted with gratitude that Dr. Hildreth cared for “Mrs. S. With great punctuality...and would take nothing for his services. His reply: I am disposed to do something for the Gospel, and I can do it in this way as easy as any other.” And further, Dr. Hildreth sent a load of wood and quarter of beef to the Springers at the parsonage. Rev. Springer also noted that local prejudice against Methodists (his church) dissipated during his two year stay, perhaps an unintended consequence of the epidemic.

Animals also suffered in some epidemics. Even COVID-19  has infected a bengal tiger. Rabies outbreaks in 1810 and 1811 affected wolves, dogs and foxes. Many domestic animals were bitten and died. Hildreth recalled that several people were bitten, though he did not remember anyone dying. He treated one such patient successfully with “free internal use of calomel and cantharides, producing strangury and ptyalism.” Don’t think I want to know what that was.

Chillicothe, Ohio, experienced Malaria-like symptoms in horned cattle and horses during a community-wide epidemic in 1839. There were similar illnesses in Washington County horses in 1815. 

Each epidemic is unique; some produce unexpected events. A deadly cholera outbreak in 1833 struck Columbus. There was panic; contracting cholera was often fatal. A fourth of the population fled to nearby communities. 100 people died. An 1849 a cholera recurrence decimated the Ohio Penitentiary population. Prison workshops became hospital wards. Guards deserted. Discipline was relaxed. For sixteen days, prisoners were not locked in cells, and yet order prevailed. Unfortunately, 118 Prisoners died, including 18 in one day.

Adversity was part of life in the early years in the Ohio Country. That included frontier hardships, Indian threats, disease, and leaving family and friends behind in the East. Ephraim Cutler, a prominent leader, recalled his arrival at Marietta in September of 1795:  “We had landed sick, among strangers, and mourning the loss of two children to disease on the trip west to Marietta. Such was our introduction to pioneer life.” He recovered and became a successful farmer and civic leader. Sadly, he lost another child, Manasseh, in the 1822 epidemic.


Sources:   
Andrews, Martin R., History of Marietta and Washington County and Representative Citizens, Chicago, Biographical Publishing Company, 1902

Brush, Edmund Cone, “The Pioneer Physicians of the Muskingum Valley,”
Ohio History Journal, a Paper Read at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Society, in the hall of the House or Representatives, at Columbus, March 6, 1890, viewed at resources.ohiohistory.org.

DeWitt, David C., History Thursday, “Ohio’s first epidemic rock star doctor, Samuel Hildreth of Marietta,” April 9, 2020, ohiocapitaljournal.com

Dickinson, C. E., D. D., History of Belpre, Washington County, Ohio, Parkersburg WV, C. E. Dickinson, 1920

Hildreth, Samuel P., Pioneer History: Being an Account of the First Examinations of the Ohio Valley and the Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory, Cincinnati, H. W. Derby & Co., 1848.

Hildreth, Samuel P., M.D., “Address of S. P. Hildreth, M.D., President of the Third Medical Convention of Ohio, Delivered at Cleveland,” 1839

Williams, H. Z. et al, History of Washington County with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches, Cleveland, H. Z. Williams and Bro., 1888

“The Second Blessing: Columbus Medicine and Health The Early Years, God’s Scourge” The Ohio State University, Health Services LIbrary, viewed at: https://hsl.osu.edu/mhc/second-blessing-columbus-medicine-and-health-early-years



Washington County Epidemics, Genealogy Trails History Group, genealogytrails.com

Monday, March 30, 2020

The French Celeron Plates Expedition

Perhaps you've heard of the so-called "Celeron Plates." Or, maybe not. It's not headline material for most of us. But it has been endlessly fascinating for history scholars.

Pierre Joseph Celeron De Blainville*, a French military leader, led an expedition down the Ohio River Valley in 1749. The expedition buried lead plates at major tributaries, including the Muskingum River, to establish French claim to land in the Ohio River Valley. It was a curious enterprise built on the dubious premise that burying plates could establish a land claim. Who was this Celeron guy and why were they burying lead plates? First, some background.

The French and English were vying for control of America’s interior lands in the mid 1700's. The French pursued their claim to Ohio Valley lands based on earlier explorations by LaSalle (set up link) in 1669 and 1682. The British had other ideas. They fought King George’s War from 1743-1748. The British were able to disrupt the French fur trade and undermine French influence with Native Americans in the upper Ohio River Valley. Also, Virginia colonists set up The Ohio Land Company (unrelated to the Ohio Company of Associates which later settled Marietta) intended to acquire land in the upper Ohio Valley.

CLICK TO ENLARGE. Map of colonial interests in 1750. New France was the blue area, British in red, Spanish brown. The border of red and blue lands in western PA and the upper Ohio Valley were being contested.


British inroads jolted the French into action. The governor of Canada commissioned Pierre Joseph Celeron De Blainville (“Celeron”) to lead an expedition down the Ohio Valley in 1749. Its purpose was to reassert French claims in the area, renew friendship with Indians, and chase out British traders.

Celeron was a French Canadian soldier born December 29, 1693, in Montreal. His father Jean-Baptiste Celeron was granted a lordship over Blainville, which accounts for the suffix “de Blainville.” Celeron became a cadet in the French colonial army at age 13. He was commissioned as ensign at age 20 and was a nearly a 40 year veteran when he began the Ohio River expedition. Celeron was selected in part for his “cool but tough” attitude towards the Indians in previous commands.

The expedition began near Montreal, Canada on June 15, 1749. It was an eclectic group, about 250 strong. There were French soldiers, Canadian militia, and a few dozen Indians. Randall and Ryan’s History of Ohio Volume I offers a colorful imagined description: “The flotilla ....formed a bizarre but picturesque outfit, the French soldiers and Canadians, in their gay costumes and semi-medieval armour, the half naked, copper-skinned savages (Indians) with their barbarian weapons, the flying banners of France, all crowded in frail white birch canoes, that floated on the blue waters of the river like tiny paper shells; it must have seemed like a tableau vivant (a static, posed group of actors) rather than an army...”


CLICK TO ENLARGE. Map of the route followed by Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville along the Ohio River in 1749, drawn by Father Joseph Pierre de Bonnecamps, viewed at Wikipedia.com.


A priest, Father Jean Pierre de Bonnechamps, was chaplain and also the dutiful navigator for the expedition. He used a sextant, drew maps, and made notes on the expedition. Their Indian diplomat/envoy was Phillips Thomas Joncaire, a French officer of Seneca Indian ancestry. He was often sent ahead to assuage Indians, who were predictably alarmed by such a large force of mostly white men.

It was a strenuous journey at the start for the expedition’s canoe flotilla. They had to paddle the length of Lake Ontario, portage around Niagara Falls, paddle further on Lake Erie, and portage again to Lake Chautauqua. A portage - moving men, canoes, and supplies across dry land to the next waterway - is an exhausting and time consuming task. From there they followed Conewango Creek to the Allegheny River and eventually to the Ohio River. 

Their primary mission was to bury lead plates designating French land claims. They did this at major tributaries of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. Each plate burial was accompanied by a ceremony. Soldiers lined up in formation. King Louis XV was proclaimed lord of that region. There were songs, cheers, and musket volleys fired. A tin plate erected on a tree gave notice of each buried plate which was placed near that tree.


CLICK TO ENLARGE.
12 x 20 foot mural at the Wheeling Civic Center - “French exploration of the Ohio Valley,” by Mark Missman. This painting illustrates the ceremony that accompanied the burial of each lead plate. The mural was designed to commemorate the presence of the French explorers and their Jesuit companions in the Upper Ohio Valley. One of the lead plates was buried at the confluence of the Ohio River and Wheeling Creek.


The burying of plates seems today like a curious way to make a land claim. This technique was a common method used in medieval Europe for land claims. But realistically, who would ever see them - after all, they were buried? And if the plates were found, their purpose and validity would surely be questioned. But the French were committed their mission.

One of the plates was buried at the mouth of the Muskingum River on August 15, 1749. A metal sign was posted on a tree to mark the location of the buried plate. The narrative on the sign was very formal; brevity was not part of the French communication style:

The 15th of August, 1749, we, Celoron, Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, Captain commanding a detachment sent by the orders of Monsieur the Marquis de la Galissoniere, Governor-General of Canada, upon the Beautiful River, otherwise called the River Oyo, accompanied by the principal officers of our detachment, have buried at the foot of a maple tree, which forms a triangle with a red oak and an elm tree, at the entrance of the river Jenuanguekouan (Muskingum), at the western bank of that river, a leaden plate, and have attached to a tree on the same spot, the arms of the King. In testimony whereof we have drawn up and signed the present official statement, along with the Messrs. the officers at our camp, the 15th of August, 1749.

In 1798 a flood had washed away part of the Muskingum River bank, exposing the plate. It was discovered by boys swimming there. Not realizing its importance, they melted much of the lead plate for musket balls. Paul Fearing became aware of it. William Woodbridge, then of Marietta, had recently been to Gallipolis and knew some French. He was able to decipher enough of the plate to realize that it was deposited by the French as a land claim. The probable inscription, reconstructed based on other plates, is given below:

In the year 1749, in the reign of Louis the XV, King of
France, we Celoron, commander of the detachment sent by M.
the Marquis de la Galissoniere, Governor-General of New
France, to reestablish peace in some villages of these Cantons,
have buried this plate at the confluence of the Ohio and the river 
Yenanguekouan (Muskingum), the 15th of August, for a monument of the renewal of possession which we have taken of the said river Ohio, and of all those which fall into it, and of all the territories on both sides as far as the source of the said rivers, as the preceding
Kings of France have possessed or should possess them, and as
they are maintained therein by arms and by treaties, and 
especially by those of Riswick, Utrecht and of Aix la Chapelle



CLICK TO ENLARGE.
Image of the Celeron plate buried at the Muskingum River. Over half of the original plate was destroyed to make musket balls. From the American Antiquarian Society where the plate resides. About halfway down, note the word “Yenangue”, part of the hyphenated Yenanguekouan, an early Indian name for Muskingum. In the next line down, see “Rivière Oyo,” French for Ohio River.


The wording on the plates was somewhat confusing to historians and not always consistent. Charles B. Galbreath, an editor of the journal kept by Celeron, wryly observed that "The artist (who engraved the plates), Paul De Brosse, like Celeron himself, had evidently not taken first prize in spelling words of his native tongue and was somewhat careless..." Another author noted that “the French (wording) is none of the purest and the accents, apostrophes, and punctuation are wanting...”

Celeron’s expedition also sought to placate the region’s Indians and remove British traders. Neither goal was realistic and ultimately failed. On August 6, at the Indian village called Logstown northwest of Pittsburgh, Celeron found six English colonial traders present with large bundles of furs bound for Philadelphia. He ordered them out of the area and wrote a note to Governor Hamilton of Pennsylvania asking that he keep traders from trespassing on French land. Other British traders near Indian villages at the mouth of the Scioto River were asked to leave. Those requests and other actions to dislodge the British were largely ignored.

The expedition held numerous discussions with tribes in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Each exchange had an elaborate protocol, typical of communication between Indians and whites in that time period. A speech by one party was preceded by a gift of wampum belts to convey the importance, sincerity, or urgency of the topic. A similar speech was made when the other party responded, often on the day following. 
CLICK TO ENLARGE.
Robert Griffing painting of imagined expedition stop near Logstown in western Pennsylvania. Notice Indians present; there were Iroquois Indians in the expedition. The large tree was a cottonwood tree. From the diary of Father Joseph Pierre Bonnecamp: “We dined in a hollow cottonwood tree in which twenty-nine men could be ranged side by side.” 

Language used was flattering, deferential, and endlessly courteous, though often insincere. The speeches followed a common pattern. Celeron alternately scolded and cajoled the Indians to reject the British and embrace the French. The Indians usually demurred, sometimes feigned compliance, occasionally disagreed with him. 

Celeron invested hours and hours in communicating with the Indians - listening, composing speeches, enduring tedious ceremonies - mostly for naught. The Indians viewed Celeron’s intentions with contempt. They were too closely tied in with the British who offered them cheaper goods, trusted friendship, and rum - which Indians thought offered a quicker high than the whiskey supplied by the French.

The expedition continued down the Ohio River to the Great Miami, then northward to Lake Erie and eventually back to Montreal. Celeron Pierre Joseph DeBlainville was awarded a command in Detroit. The French and British continued as adversaries. The French and Indian War (1756-1763) eventually resolved the issue in favor of the British. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 awarded land from the Mississippi River east to the Appalachian mountains (which included the Ohio Valley) area to the British.

One of the expedition’s lead plates was buried at the Kanawha River near present day Point Pleasant WV. A boy discovered that plate in 1846, a curious reminder of the futile French claim made nearly 100 years earlier.


*His name also appears as “Celoron” and the title part of his name as “De Bienville.”


SOURCES:

Bumgardner, Stan, “Celeron de Blainville,” wvencyclopedia.org

Biography – CÉLORON DE BLAINVILLE, PIERRE-JOSEPH – Volume III (1741-1770) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography, viewed at http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/celoron_de_blainville_pierre_joseph_3E.html

Galbreath, C. B., Expedition of Celeron to the Ohio Country in 1749, Columbus, Ohio, F. J. Herr Publishing Company, 1921

Hulbert, Archer Butler, The Ohio River, a Course of Empire, New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1906

Howe, Henry, Historical Collections of Ohio, an Encyclopedia of the State, Volume 2, 1907

Ohio History Journal Vol 29, “Celeron’s Journal, edited by A. A. Lambing” and
"Account of the Voyage on the Beautiful River in 1749 Under the Direction of Monsieur de Celeron, by Father Bonnecamps.”

Vanderwerth, W. C., and Carmack, William R., Indian Oratory, Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chiefs, University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.



Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Buckeye Belle Disaster


The steamboat BUCKEYE BELLE was torn apart in a spectacular boiler explosion on November 12, 1852 at Beverly, Ohio. Wreckage and human remains rained down on the surrounding area. It was a gruesome sight. Witnesses struggled to find words to describe the devastation. Twenty four died, a dozen were injured.

The BUCKEYE BELLE was a graceful sidewheeler steamboat, one of the largest to ply the Muskingum River. The BELLE was launched from Knox Boatyard in Marietta in May, 1852. She carried passengers, mail, and freight between Marietta and Zanesville, also to ports as distant as Pittsburgh and Keokuk, Iowa. The Pittsburgh Commercial Journal on May 19, 1852 referred to the Buckeye Belle as that “new and splendid sidewheeler.”

The Marietta Intelligencer  newspaper on November 16, 1852 described the accident scene:
“It is impossible to give to our readers any correct idea of the awful character of the steamboat disaster....We do not suppose that in the whole history of steamboat explosions, record can be found of such utter destruction, to the boat and fixtures, as in the case of the Buckeye Belle. The loss of life too is great, perhaps larger in proportion to the number of persons on the boat than was ever before known.”

Marietta Intelligencer Newspaper account November 16, 1952


I was fascinated by several aspects of this tragedy: the sheer destructive force of the explosion, the human toll, and how it was covered by the media.

The Devastation
The devastating impact of the explosion is hard to imagine. The boat was mostly destroyed. A report issued after the accident noted: “All her upper works above the main deck, forward of her wheel house, were literally torn to splinters. The balance of her upper deck was either carried back into her engine room or thrown overboard. All of her beams were broken from stem to stern.”

Accounts from the Marietta Intelligencer provide chilling details:
"A piece of the boiler about five or six feet long was blown to the foot of the High Rock, on the hill. A man was thrown there also."
"A red hot brick was thrown up the hill more than 300 feet and fired the leaves in the woods. A rabbit was killed by the fall of a brick, nearly 400 feet from the boat."
“Of the entire front half of the boat, there are not pieces enough to build a chicken coop six feet square.”

Historical marker near the site of the explosion. 


The Human Toll
Total deaths are reported as 24, 26, and 30 from different sources; there does not appear to be a final definitive number. A coroner's jury report about the accident states that 24 died - 21 in the accident and 3 in the succeeding days. 12 were injured, many with disabling injuries.

Recovery of bodies and human remains must have been traumatic for the citizens who responded to the scene. Yes, ordinary citizens; there were no trained first responders like today. Bodies were strewn about, many mutilated and dismembered. Body parts were found at random. From the Marietta Intelligencer: "...fragments of human bodies - here a piece of an arm, there a leg, and close at hand a liver, were found....and on pieces of the boilers were marks of flesh and blood. Yesterday (a) tongue....was found on the bank, and in another place the head of a man, with the hat on it - and no other remains being near!" 

Among the deaths were 13 persons listed as unidentified. They were interred side by side in the Beverly Cemetery, along with a box containing human body parts. A plaque at the cemetery marks the burial site: “Here lie buried thirteen unknown persons killed by the bursting of the boilers of the Steamer Buckeye Belle on November 12, 1852 near the guard gates of the Beverly Canal.....This monument (see below) is erected to the memory of these unknown dead and also to Capt Harry Stull, the owner of the Steamer, by his grandson, Edward Matthew Ayers."

Beverly, Ohio cemetery plaque, viewed at https://grannysu.blogspot.com/


Amazingly, there were survivors. Sixteen year old Pius Padgitt was one. He had boarded with other passengers and walked into large main hall when the explosion occurred. "I heard no sound, felt no shock, experienced no pain. When consciousness returned, I found myself away forward on the bow of the boat....." He thought he had died. He finally realized he had been blown about 75 feet and was badly scalded. He remembers hearing "...the most piercing, heart rending cries and groans that ever fell upon mortal ear. Even after the lapse of years I can hear the agonizing screams and expiring groans of those suffering, dying men."

There were several women on board. The cabin where they were located collapsed into the lower deck but luckily the deck above them did not fall on them. Charlotte Stone from McConnelsville kept them calm and restrained them from jumping into the icy water. A wood stove fell over and started a fire; she calmly smothered the flames with a blanket. The women were rescued from the rear of the boat. None were hurt.

News Coverage
News coverage of the disaster was print media only. There was no radio, TV, internet that we take for granted today. The Marietta Intelligencer relied on eyewitness accounts. Beverly businessman Enoch McIntosh wrote eyewitness reports to newspapers, as did a Dr. W. C. Glines. Getting accurate information was a challenge. On November 13, the Intelligencer  stated "we made arrangements for daily reports from the scene of disaster, but the gentlemen from whom we expected them has been constantly employed in rendering services to the suffering, and preparing the dead for interment." But they were able to obtain some information from local citizens who had visited the accident scene. "We have paid no attention from mere rumors, but have given such facts as seemed to us to be well authenticated."

Yet media reporting of that period tended toward opinion and commentary as well as purely factual reporting. The Intelligencer was (properly, in your author's opinion) effusive in crediting citizens of Beverly with heroic efforts to help the injured and removing those who died. Relatives and friends of Buckeye Belle passengers soon swarmed into Beverly. There were "scenes of anguish around the wreck of the boat and, and in the dwellings of the citizens, which no pen can describe." 

Finding accurate information about the cause of the accident was difficult, especially early on before there had been any definitive investigation. The Intelligencer waffled. On November 13, it plainly stated that the  cause of the accident was the "recklessness" of the engineer. Yet a sentence later their account said "We hear a great many reports, as to the cause of the accident, some of which seem to be well authenticated, and others do not seem very reliable." It did not explain further. The Intelligencer  then opined indignantly: "If half that is said of the conduct of the officers.....is true, such of them that survive the accident should be convicted of murder." 

A Coroner's Jury* was appointed in Beverly to determine the cause of the accident. A report was issued a few weeks later. The body of that report expressed uncertainty of the cause from examining the remnants of the boat. Some observations favored low water in the boiler; others a build-up of excessive steam pressure. "It seems to us, that take whatever view (low boiler water or excessive steam pressure) of this case we may, there are difficulties that cannot be solved even by the scientific." Yet the report concludes with a plain statement: "From the evidence before us, there can be no doubt but the explosion was brought about by the conduct of the second engineer....,by holding down the main valve." That action would have prevented the release of excess steam, allowing the explosive build up of steam pressure.

"During our examination, we are happy to say, that the officers of the boat have been completely exonerated from any blame..."  This implied that the second engineer, Joseph Daniels of Harmar, acted entirely on his own. The reason for his actions were never stated. Daniels was scalded but survived and was apparently not prosecuted or punished for his misdeed.

More of the story
  • Surprisingly, the Buckeye Belle was rebuilt. It was again operating on the Ohio River in the spring of 1854. On November 26, 1857, another boiler explosion, this time with no loss of life, ended its existence.
  • There was a safe on board The BUCKEYE BELLE, rumored to contain a large sum of silver and gold, or cash. Where was it? Searches at the time did not locate the safe. A fisherman found the safe in the river nineteen years later in 1871. It held nothing of value. 
  • Coincidence? The DAN CONVERSE was a sidewheeler steamboat similar to the BUCKEYE BELLE. It had until recently run the same mail pick-up route as the BUCKEYE BELLE on alternating days. The day before the BELLE exploded and at about the same hour, the DAN CONVERSE sank just south of Pittsburgh. R. L. Morris of McConnelsville was a passenger on the DAN CONVERSE. Upon his return, he found the river blocked at Beverly by the BUCKEYE BELLE wreck. He was forced to walk the remaining distance to McConnelsville, arriving in time to serve as a pall bearer for Milton Whissen, a victim of the BUCKEYE BELLE explosion. The DAN CONVERSE was salvaged and continued in service for several more years.
  • Fortunately, other Muskingum River steamboat accidents were few in number and less disastrous than Buckeye Belle explosion. The L.C. McCORMICK suffered a boiler explosion in 1879; one person died. There were a few other boats that burned or sank without loss of life.

*   A Coroner's Jury was usually convened to determine cause of death. In this case, it functioned more as an accident investigation body. Jury members were apparently local residents.

SOURCES:
Marietta Intelligencer Newspaper, Marietta, Ohio, various issues November, 1952, viewed on microfilm at Washington County Local History and Genealogical Library
Marietta Times, March 16, 2013, “An Eye on the Lower Muskingum: Surviving Items from Buckeye Belle,” Phillip L. Crane, author, viewed at mariettatimes.com
Nitsche, Debbie Noland, “The ‘Buckeye Belle’ Disaster, November 12, 1952,” viewed at riverboatdaves.com
The Ohio State Journal, December 6, 1852, “Buckeye Belle Coronor’s Report,” viewed at Ohio memory.org
Way’s Packet Boat Directory




Friday, January 17, 2020

The 1978 Coal Strike: Perseverance and The Wall Street Journal


It would be a winter to remember. December 1977 started out harmless enough, though very cold. News about a nationwide coal strike by the United Mine Workers which began on December 6, 1977 was lost in the background of holiday busyness.

As 1978 began, the coal strike became national news. Without coal being mined and delivered to supply electric power plants, power generation would eventually shut down. The threat of cold homes, dark streets, and shuttered factories loomed.

The second severe winter in a row took hold, adding to the urgency of the coal miners strike. There was heavy snow that winter, the most I remember before or since. Snow accumulated to depths of 2 to 3 feet.  Vehicles were buried for days on end. We had to stand above our mailbox and stoop to retrieve mail. Scraping snow from our patio awning to prevent collapse became a daily chore. There was a initially a sense of wonder at so much snow, but that soon dissolved into annoyance. 

January faded into February with little prospect for a strike settlement. Business and government officials scrambled to establish contingency plans. Public utility regulators in Ohio and West Virginia both imposed voluntary 10% power reductions for industrial and commercial businesses. I was President of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC) that year. That group issued guidelines for conservation which included reduced lighting and hours of operation. Compliance with the guidelines was mixed. MACC executive Ernest J. Hartong stated “Unfortunately we have not received all the cooperation that we would like to have...” Merchant Gabe Zide commented that “some businesses wouldn’t shorten their operating hours come hell or high water.”

A Marietta Times informal survey of area residents showed a mix of concern and cautious optimism. One woman said "I'm hoping we won't (have blackouts) but afraid we will." Many were trying to conserve - doing laundry and dishes by hand, turning off lights and electric blankets. A later article explained home appliances' use of electricity: Minimize the use of electric ranges and ovens, especially the broiler; back off on the clothes dryer and hair dryer; no problem using an electric toothbrush.

I worked at Peoples Bank and recall conservation measures there: Sam the custodian came around and removed some light bulbs from each office. One elevator was taken out of service. External lighting and hours of operation were reduced. Many other businesses did the same:

Locals may remember Rink's, then a discount store similar to Walmart. Today it houses 
"Rinky Dinks" (get it?) flea market. Marietta Times image courtesy of the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library. CLICK TO ENLARGE


A 30% mandatory power cutback by local provider Monongahela Power was scheduled for February 20. That could have caused several hundred layoffs from companies like Remington Rand (Later Kardex Systems), Broughton Foods (now Dean Foods), Union Carbide (now Eramet), Fenton Art Glass, American Cyanamid, B F. Goodrich (later RJF and now Profusion Industries) and Dravo Corporation if implemented. However, the 30% cut was postponed as local utilities managed to slow coal consumption with purchased power, deliveries of non-union coal, and conservation. 

Marietta Times image courtesy of the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library
CLICK TO ENLARGE


Frustration increased as there were mixed messages from regulators and utilities. Deadlines for drastic mandatory conservation actions were postponed, yet conservation was admonished as though it were mandatory. A tentative pact to settle the strike was rejected by the UMW bargaining council on February 12. Politicians vocalized complaints, chided President Jimmy Carter to do more, and offered endless suggestions. Ohio Governor James Rhodes' comment to President Carter on February 10 was typical: "Bring (the negotiators) into the White House, put them in a room and lock the door, and keep them there until they have the answer.” Nice sounding rhetoric, but real world collective bargaining doesn't work that way.

Marietta Mayor Geoffrey Brunton encouraged conservation. Streetlights were darkened in much of the city. A generator was on standby to power critical emergency operations. Yet, he, like many other officials, expressed confusion over when, how and by whom cutbacks will be ordered. Mayor: “We are having a hard time keeping up with with all that is going on, because hour to hour, day by day, someone issues a different statement.”

Marietta's situation was reported in a February 16 Wall Street Journal front page article: "Marietta, Ohio, Dims Its Lights & Hopes for Early Coal Accord." The lead sentence in the article starkly introduced the crisis situation: "Last night the Marietta City Council met by candlelight - to discuss the power shortage that already is beginning to choke this Ohio River town." The article chronicled the effect of the coal strike on Marietta. It mentioned the efforts of "28-year old Mayor Brunton" to encourage conservation. Some businesses were ignoring the directives. The paper reported that "after chewing out a one local hotel manager for leaving his lights blazing, the young mayor exploded: 'What can I do? I can't fine 'em, I can’t shoot 'em.' " 


Wall Street Journal article February 16, 1978 image courtesy Marietta College Legacy Library
CLICK TO ENLARGE

Other community reactions were noted in the article. Citizens National Bank (Chase Bank today) president James E. Hanna tried to calm a caller, "I was in the infantry years ago and I don't panic." Rinard's Coal Co. was asked to deliver non-union coal to a coal-heated school upriver from Marietta. Movement of non-union coal could trigger threats or violence from striking miners. The school superintendent called a district United Mine Workers official to explain the situation. The official responded menacingly "You're on your own if you buy non-union (coal). We'd rather you closed down..." Mr. Rinard made the delivery anyway without incident.

A Marietta Times article profiled two area striking coal miners. “...we’ll stay out (on strike) as long as it takes,” said Dan Johnson, 27, of Fleming who is married with a 5 year old daughter. He worked at Quarto Mining Co Mine No.7 at Powhatan Point. “If I have to, I’ll borrow money from my parents, sell my truck and my guns. I’ll do anything until we get an acceptable contract.” His greatest concern was about the right to engage in wildcat strikes (impromptu work stoppages to protest a grievance). He said that such strikes are often the only way for miners to protect themselves from unsafe conditions or practices. Dave Clift, 28 years old from Newport, said "I'm just starting to hurt now, too. I have $450 month in bills coming in, but they're stacking up now. Both trusted the UMW bargaining council, "....they won't accept a contract until it's right for us," Clift said.

Marietta Times image courtesy of the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library CLICK TO ENLARGE


Another tentative settlement was reached in late February. Rank and file coal miners voted 2 to 1 against the pact, despite an advertising campaign which included soft sell messages from country singer Johnny Paycheck of "Take this Job and Shove It" fame. President Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley Act on March 6, legally forcing miners back to work for a 60 day cooling off period. The miners ignored the injunction. 

I chaired the MACC annual dinner on March 13. 750 people ate dinner and listened by flickering candle light. The venue, Ban Johnson Field House at Marietta College, was darkened for electricity conservation. I mentioned that the candles were "courtesy of the United Mine Workers." The line drew a laugh from the audience, but I felt a pang of guilt knowing how 160,000 miners were suffering through the strike.

March 13, 1978 Marietta Area of Chamber of Commerce dinner. Photo includes award recipients, your author (third from right) and comedian Henny Youngman (second from right), master of the one-liner. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Finally, the strike was settled on March 19 after negotiators worked out a compromise on the wildcat strike provision. Creative conservation by users and the utility companies averted major blackouts and layoffs. The last of the record snowfall had finally melted in Marietta. Life would soon be back to normal. Eventually Sam the custodian stopped by my office at Peoples Bank to chat and install the light bulbs which had been removed weeks earlier.

Other observations: 
  • The Wall Street Journal coverage, while generally accurate, cast Marietta (a "peaceful, sleepy town" with a rantworthy 28-year old mayor) in a less than flattering manner. Small towns and rural areas are often portrayed by national media in such stereotypical fashion even today.
  • The industries mentioned in this article employed nearly 3,000 people. Of those businesses, Fenton, Dravo, Sperry (Kardex), American Cyanamid, and Ohio Power are gone. Broughton Foods; Eramet, Solvay, and American Styrenics (formerly part of Union Carbide); and Profusion Industries (B. F. Goodrich) remain but with far fewer jobs. Other businesses have replaced some jobs, but the net industrial employment is far lower today.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Royal Visitors


In July, 1839, King Louis Philippe I of France received an American visitor, a Mr. Hughes, the American charge d’affaires in Stockholm. After introductions, conversation turned to the King’s visit to America in the late 1790’s.

King: “Have you ever been at Marietta?”
Mr. Hughes responded yes, that he had lived there for several years. 
King: “Did you know a French baker there, named Thierry?” Francis Thierry was a French immigrant who arrived in Marietta in 1790 with his wife and two children.
Mr. Hughes answered that indeed he knew Thierry.
King: Explaining with amusement, “Well, I once carried him away from his family,” referring to a decades-earlier incident during Louis Philippe’s visit to Marietta in 1797. More about this episode later. 

Louis Philippe De’Orleans, later King Louis Philippe I, “King of the French” visited the United States in 1796 and 1797. The King often amazed visitors with his memory of minute details of his American tour decades earlier. 

King Louis Philippe I, Getty image -  Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1841

Marietta Connection - Ephraim Cutler
There were two Louis Philippe encounters with a Marietta connection. The first was a chance meeting with pioneer leader Ephraim Cutler who recorded the event in his journal. He met two Frenchmen while boiling salt at the "Salt Works"1 on Salt Creek in Muskingum County, Ohio. He was working there with a friend, Peter Noblaise, a Frenchman who had emigrated to Gallipolis,Ohio.

The two visitors asked to stay with Cutler and Noblaise that night. At the cabin Cutler noted that the three Frenchmen became "quite loquacious in their native language." Noblaise was a good singer and sang the Marseilles hymn and several French airs. Cutler reported that one of the men asked him detailed questions about the Ohio Company, and the settlements at Marietta and Gallipolis. After midnight they retired. Ephraim gave the man his bunk and bear skin. As they left the next day, Louis’ companion explained to Noblaise that the other man was Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans. He would later be King of France

Louis Philippe was born into royalty in the House of Orleans in 1773. He and his family supported the French Revolution. At age eighteen he was given a command in the French army. He performed well but was forced to flee when he was implicated in an ill-fated attempt to overthrow the French government. He spent the next twenty years in exile from France.


 Young Louis Philippe, Duke of Chartres in 1792 by Léon Cogniet wikipedia. 

Louis Philippe and his two brothers, Antoine Philippe, the Duke de Montpensier,  and Louis Charles, Duke De Beaujolais, toured the United States. Louis Philippe was anxious to see natural wonders, Indians, and the backwoods of the new country. The introduction to Louis Philippe's Diary of My Travels to America, observed: "What is amazing is the breadth of his experiences and the distances he covered when most of the Eastern half of the United States remained unknown and unexplored.“ 

Marietta visit
Louis’ other local visit was a stop at Marietta in December of 1797 toward the end of their American tour. They were on a keelboat trip down the Ohio River, headed  to New Orleans and a return trip to Europe. It was December. River travel was treacherous with the ice, swift currents, and snags. They pressed on anyway. 

At Marietta they stopped for supplies. Louis Philippe wanted fresh bread was directed to the Francis Thierry, the baker whom King Louis Philippe recalled. He had no bread available at that moment and fired up his oven to begin baking. The group obtained their supplies and toured Marietta. They were fascinated by the Indian mound earthworks ("interesting ancient remains") and made a sketch of them. 

As they prepared to leave Marietta, Mr. Thierry rushed the fresh bread to the group's boat on the Muskingum River. But ice on the river was breaking up at that exact moment. The boat lurched away from the shore - with Thierry still on board - to avoid the ice. He was frightened but soon was deposited on dry land by canoe when the ice danger passed. The future King and his party continued down the Ohio River grateful for the fresh bread. He would later amuse listeners, such as Mr. Hughes, in retelling the adventure of "kidnapping" a French baker at Marietta.

The American Tour
Louis Philippe had arrived from Europe in October 1796 at Philadelphia, then the U. S. Capital. He met many prominent people while there and made a good impression. He was described as “modest, amiable, unpretending, cheerful, forgetful of his lost rank." Louis Philippe witnessed the inauguration of John Adams and heard Washington's last speech as President. He reportedly proposed marriage to a young lady. She apparently was willing, but her father was not: "As an exile, destitute of means, you are not a suitable match for my daughter." 

Louis Philippe was not a typical prince in demeanor or lifestyle. He and his brothers had been educated by a governess, Madame De Genlis. They learned by doing through games and role playing. They learned other languages. They spoke only English at lunch; Italian at dinner; German when working with a German gardener. They were toughened by sports, long walks, and sleeping on the floor. He also developed medical skills working with a surgeon. It was an education for adversity as well as for the royal life. Louis Philippe recalled later that his governess "brought us up with ferocity."


Lithograph after the painting by David showing him in Switzerland circa 1793 teaching geography and mathematics under an assumed name at the college at Reichenau during his 21 years of exile from France. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images). A few years after this he visited America.

His two brothers joined him in America after a long sea voyage in February of 1797. Soon the trio was off to explore. One of the the first stops was Mount Vernon. They visited with George Washington for four days. Washington gave them a recent Abraham Bradley map of the United States and traced a recommended itinerary in red ink. The future king impressed visitors by showing them the "George Washington" map years later.


Abraham Bradley map approx 1796; similar to the map George Washington gave Louis Philippe. Viewed at Tennessee Virtual Archive.  
CLICK TO ENLARGE 


They next wound their way through Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and southern Ohio. Often they lodged with locals, sleeping on the floor surrounded by the occupants, sounds, and smells of a cramped cabin. They stayed one night with a Captain Chapman in Tennessee who wondered out loud why they would “endure all the fatigues of a hard journey to see wilderness, savages, and other (unworthy things).” 

At Chillicothe, Ohio, Louis Philippe stopped a barroom brawl, rescuing the landlord. They endured bedbugs, coarse manners, indifferent workers, excess drinking by the settlers, and periods of rough travel. Antoine Philippe wrote to his sister in August 1797 after a rugged two weeks in New York State: “We have spent fourteen nights in the woods, devoured by all kinds of insects, soaked to the bone, unable to get dry, eating pork and sometimes a little salt beef and corn-bread.” 

There were also delightful visits and excellent hospitality. They met prominent people in cities like Pittsburgh, Boston, and Philadelphia. There were surprise encounters with emigrants from France. One of these, Chavelier Dubac, ran a sweet shop in Pittsburgh. His pet monkey, Sultan, entertained guests. 

They spent time with Indians to learn more about them. Louis coaxed Cherokees in Tennessee to play a lacrosse-type game. At a Seneca Indian Reservation in New York state, he successfully treated a tribal chief by bleeding him. The chief granted Louis the high honor of sleeping on the family mat - between the grandmother and great aunt. 

The brothers departed the U.S. from New Orleans in August of 1798 bound for Cuba. They finally reached England in February of 1800, after a series of harrowing delays. Louis Philippe eventually ascended the French throne as Louis Philippe I, “King of the French” in 1830. He wrote to  historian François Guizot in 1839: “My three years’ residence in America have had a great influence on my political opinions and on my judgment of the course of human affairs.” 

His reign promised to be middle-of-the-road. He was called “citizen king.” Attempts at reforms were frustrated by political and economic unrest. There were seven assassination attempts on the King's life. He was deposed in the French Revolution of 1848. That ended the monarchy for good. Louis Philippe I was the last King of France. He died in 1850.


Notes:
  1. The Salt Works was a salt deposit along Salt Creek in Muskingum County. Surrounding communities formed the "Salt Springs Company" to make salt. Volunteers worked long, tedious hours boiling the salt water to produce salt crystals for community needs. They sold the surplus. Ephraim Cutler was among the volunteers working that day.

Sources:
Abbott, Jacob, Louis Philippe, New York and London, Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1901
Bishop, Morris, “Louis Philippe in America,“ American Heritage Magazine, Volume 20, Issue 3, 1969, viewed at americanheritage.com 
Cutler, Julia Perkins, Life and Times of Ephraim Cutler, Cincinnati, Robert Clarke & Co, 1890
“Louis Philippe,” NNDB tracking the entire world, nndb.com 
“Louis-Philippe Biography,” , Biography.com editors, Biography.com
“Louis Philippe I,” Wikipedia.org
Perley Poore, Ben, Rise and Fall of Louis Philippe, Ex-King of the French, Boston, William D. Ticknor & Company, 1848 
Wright, Rev. G. N.  Life and Times of Louis Philippe, Ex-King of the French,
London, Peter Jackson, Late Fisher, and Son