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Virginia and Pennsylvania wrestle over western borders

Posted by | November 18, 2016

“[Virginia governor] Lord Dunmore concluded to settle the boundary line dispute with Pennsylvania by forcibly taking possession of Pittsburg, or Fort Pitt, and attaching it to the colony of Virginia.

“In 1771 the Colonial troops had been withdrawn from Pittsburg, and Fort Pitt was abandoned, so that in 1774 when John Connolly, sent by Lord Dunmore, reached the place, he was unopposed.

Lord John M. Dunmore, Virginia governor.

Lord John M. Dunmore, Virginia governor.

“Pennsylvania claimed that Pittsburg was in Westmoreland County and that the County seat was at Hanna’s Town.

“On January 1, 1774, Connolly, as Captain Commandant of militia, issued a call for the militia of Augusta County [VA] to meet him at Pittsburg, on January 25th, for the purpose of organizing a new county to include Pittsburg.

“Arthur St. Clair, who was then Justice of the Peace and Clerk of Westmoreland County, arrested Connolly on January 24th for disobeying the laws of Pennsylvania, and confined him in jail at Hanna’s Town for a few days.

“Connolly soon persuaded the sheriff to permit him to go to Pittsburg, and he was released upon his promise to return.

“A proclamation was issued to the people who were assembled at Connolly’s call, telling them of the injustice and impropriety of it, and that if the militia was, at this time, installed in Pittsburg, an Indian war would likely result. It is worthy of remark that this proclamation bears for its first signature the name of Alexander McKee, who was, during nearly the entire course of the War of the Revolution, one of the most bitter enemies the new government had.

“When Connolly was liberated he promised the sheriff to return.  He kept his promise, but in an unlooked for manner.  He went to Mr. Croghan’s neighborhood [just outside of Pittsburg], where he had lived before, and collected the militia to the number of about 80 persons, and with them returned, using the militia as a body guard and defying arrest.  He prevented the Court of Westmoreland from holding sessions and usurped the entire government of Pennsylvania in and about Pittsburg.

“Information of these proceedings to establish a new Virginia county was conveyed to Pennsylvania Governor John Penn, and a spirited correspondence took place between the two governors.

John Penn, Pennsylvania governor.

John Penn, Pennsylvania governor.

“Dunmore demanded the immediate dismissal of Arthur St. Clair from his official position.

“To this demand Governor Penn replied ‘Mr. St. Clair is a gentleman, who, for a long time, had the honor of serving his Majesty in the regulars with reputation, and in every station in life has preserved the character of a very honest, worthy man; and though perhaps I should not, without first expostulating with you on this subject, have directed him to take that step, yet you must excuse my not complying with your lordship’s requistion of stripping him, on this occasion, of his office and livelihood, which you will allow me to think is not only unreasonable, but somewhat dictatorial.’

“Dunmore admitted that the land once belonged to Pennsylvania, but asserted it was lost to that colony because she allowed the French to take possession of it, and that when Great Britain recaptured it, in the French and Indian War, the title was vested in the crown, and that, as Virginia was a Crown Colony, the title passed to that colony rather than to Pennsylvania, which was a proprietary government.

“Pennsylvania retorted that if the land once belonged to that colony it had never been lost to it, for Great Britain had not carried on war against Pennsylvania, but against France.  In any event Pennsylvania was willing to surrender a portion of the disputed territory contiguous to Pittsburg for the sake of peace.

“Dunmore in his reply said, ‘Your proposals, amounting in reality to nothing, could not possibly be complied with, and your resolution, with respect to Fort Pitt (the jurisdiction over which place I must tell you, at all events, will not be relinquished by this government, without his Majesty’s orders) puts an entire stop to further treaty and makes me sincerely lament that you have put it out of my power to contribute to re-establish the peace and harmony of both colonies, and to evince my good intentions as well towards the one as the other.’

“The news of the outbreak of hostilities in Massachusetts was received in Pittsburg in May 1775.  A Public meeting was called on the 10th of the same month to endorse the action of the Massachusetts men.

“John Connolly remained but a short time in Pittsburg after this event.  Virginia and Pennsylvania might quarrel about boundary lines and political control of the country, but the people were pretty well united on one subject, and that was the defense of their liberties.

Contested Colonial border area between Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Contested border area between Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“Surrounded by an array of patriotic Americans, [the staunch Tory] Connolly very clearly comprehended that his usefulness in Pittsburg was likely to soon terminate. He made up his mind to stand by the established government, and undertook to organize the people of that place in the British interest, but was unsuccessful, though he engaged a large body of his friends to support the constituted authorities.

“Connolly wrote to Lord Dunmore for instructions and found that the latter had been forced to leave his government.  Before leaving he directed Connolly to disband his troops and try to induce the Indians to join the cause of Great Britain.

“Connolly called his friends together, and after sounding them privately to ascertain who were likely to remain steadfast, a compact was entered into by which they agreed to assist him in restoring constitutional government, if he could obtain the necessary authority to raise men.  He now prepared to leave Pittsburg to seek Dunmore, who had been driven from the land and taken refuge on a vessel in the harbor at Norfolk, VA.”

John Connolly, a Tory of the revolution, by Clarence Munroe Burton, Davis Press, Worcester, MA, 1909


Cornbread or beaten biscuits? Breaking the food code

Posted by | November 17, 2016

This 2005 interview with Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt of the University of Texas/Austin ran in that school’s Office of Public Affairs newsletter. Full article here.

When you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal next week, will the dressing on your plate be made with cornbread or wheat bread? Will it have oysters or sausage or chestnuts? When the words, “Please pass the…” come from your mouth, will they be followed by “cranberry chutney” or “green bean casserole” or “giblet gravy”?

The answers to those questions may offer clues to more than your holiday menu. According to Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt of the University of Texas/Austin, our family tradition is not the only thing represented by our food choices. At the local and national level, food does the work of culture.

Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt

Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt

“All kinds of stories are hiding in our food,” says Engelhardt, assistant professor in the Department of American Studies and in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. “Breaking the codes of food begins with its uses, preparations and costs but ends with the social histories of race, class, gender and place that hide in the recipes, ingredients and food practices we embrace.”

Engelhardt first started paying attention to the richness of stories in food when she was doing research for her first book, “The Tangled Roots of Feminism, Environmentalism, and Appalachian Literature.” She noticed again and again that food worked as a code in women’s letters, diaries, novels and in newspaper columns, suggesting everything from education level to hygiene. Closer investigation showed that something as simple as the choice between cornbread and biscuits in the South can be filled with messages.

Having grown up in western North Carolina, Engelhardt was used to finding both biscuits and cornbread on her family table and in restaurants. At the turn of the century in Appalachia, however, things were much different.

“Many Appalachians preferred cooking cornbread because it was easy and quick,” Engelhardt says. “You could literally cook it on a hoe outdoors and you didn’t need a lot of equipment. You didn’t have to be a farmer to produce corn. It could be grown as a garden plant. And you didn’t need kitchen help to fix cornbread for your household.”

Cornbread was, essentially, the food of the people. It required only local ingredients and the recipe was adaptable and forgiving. It was a staple in Appalachian households.

At the turn of the century, public health concerns began to surface about diet-based diseases and people both inside and outside the community in Appalachia came to believe Southerners were getting diseases because of their diets. Cornbread became a target.

Making cornbread with relief flour. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia; October 1935.

Making cornbread with relief flour. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia; October 1935.


An alternative offered was the beaten biscuit, a recipe that was crowned as the height of domestic achievement. The biscuit required not just wheat flour, hardly available to many households, but also elaborate equipment that included baking sheets, an oven with regulated temperatures and even a suggested marble slab for beating the dough a full 300 strokes (and 500 for company).

Beaten biscuits, a national recipe imported into Appalachia, were clearly a middle class food, requiring special ingredients, equipment and extensive cooking time. They served to separate the poor from the moneyed and, by extension, the unhealthy from the healthy.

“In the South, biscuits and cornbread have a lot to say about food as a path to morality,” Engelhardt says. “Hidden in the choice between cornbread and biscuits is an entire cultural history.”

Engelhardt found this true of many foods, and it became the focus of her follow-up book, “A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food.”

Greens too have a complex history in the South. They were something that people could go and gather after working a long shift at the factory. So although greens were one of the earlier items to be canned and sold, people didn’t choose to spend their grocery money on them when they first had money to do so.

“Greens can be seen as a protest against the time clock that industrialization introduced,” Engelhardt says. “Gathering greens served as a means for both men and women to resist new factory and mine-driven gender roles, as a walk in the woods did not involve company scrip or time clock.”

“Thanksgiving interests me because we have all of this wealth of food available, but many family Thanksgiving traditions are curiously stable,” Engelhardt says. “Even when faced with an amazing diversity of choices, we end up making the same kind of choices year after year. This has something to say about the way the holiday was celebrated in the past and remembering people who are no longer here.”

The choices themselves carry interesting histories, and they’re not always as simple as they may first seem. Engelhardt points to families who use oysters in their Thanksgiving dressing. It might seem like this tradition would suggest having come from the coast or having had the money to purchase this relatively expensive ingredient. Not necessarily, Engelhardt says.

“Oysters were one of the earliest canned products in the United States, so at the turn of the century they were available to people of all means,” she says. “Today we tend to think of oysters as a luxury treat, but that wasn’t so much the case. So if your family uses oysters in its holiday stuffing it may connect to this changing class structure and changing food supply networks in the country.”

Understanding the origins of our comfort foods, our holiday favorites and our dietary staples generally requires a look at the women in our families and communities, as women usually carry food traditions through generations. And the questions that lead to the origins can be varied.

“It’s a matter of teasing out what the story really is,” Engelhardt says, “looking at letters, diaries, contexts. What are the trends? When did your family move to town? How long have they been in the country? Where they always an urban family? Who ran the grocery store in your family’s town?”

These questions and others may reveal the messages hidden in our food choices, but our favorite foods, with all of their stories, will surely lure us to the table again this holiday season.


From the heart of the man farthest down

Posted by | November 16, 2016

Listen to 1921 recording of “St. Louis Blues” by Original Dixieland Jazz Band, with Al Bernard

William Christopher “W.C.” Handy, acknowledged ‘Father of the Blues’ and composer of such American musical standards as St. Louis Blues and Beale Street Blues, was born on November 16, 1873, in Florence, AL.

He grew up in a log cabin his grandfather had built on what is now College Street. His father served as pastor of Greater St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, where sacred hymns and spirituals sowed early seeds of musical inspiration in young W.C.

“[My grandmother] was the first to suggest that my big ears indicated a talent for music,” Handy explained in his autobiography. “This thrilled me…When I was no more than ten, I could catalogue almost any sound that came to my ears… I knew the whistle of each of the river boats on the Tennessee… Whenever I heard the song of a bird and the answering call of its mate, I could visualize the notes in scale… All built up within my consciousness as a natural symphony. This was the primitive prelude to the mature melodies now recognized as the blues. Nature was my kindergarten…”

As he grew older, Handy’s musical tastes stretched beyond the spiritual confines of his father’s church. In his leisure time, Handy loved listening to black field workers and dockhands sing secular songs of toil, strife, hope and joy.

“The trumpet playing of Mr. Claude Seals fired my imagination… Almost immediately I set my heart on owning a trumpet. Since buying one was out of the question, I tried making my own by hollowing a cow horn and cutting the tip into a mouthpiece. The finished product was a useful hunting horn but certainly not a trumpet. I decided to content myself for the time being with the hope of a guitar.”

WC Handy age 19W.C. Handy, age 19, holding a cornet.

However, musical talent, especially the playing of musical instruments, was frowned upon by his family and church.
Despite Handy’s lack of encouragement, he secretly saved the money he made by picking berries and nuts and making lye soap.

“Work meant nothing now. It was a means to an end. But saving was slow and painful… Setting my mind on a musical instrument was like falling in love. All the world seemed bright and changed… With a guitar I would be able to express the things I felt in sounds, I grew impatient as my small savings grew.

“I selected the instrument I wanted and went often to gaze at it loving through the shop window. The days dragged… The name of my ailment was longing, and it was not cured till I finally went to the department store and counted out the money in small coins before the dismayed clerk.

“A moment later, the shining instrument under my arm, I went out and hurried up Court Street. My heart was a leaf… When I came to the house, I held up the instrument before the eyes of the astonished household. I couldn’t speak. I was too full, too overjoyed…”

His family had a slightly different reaction. Handy’s father made him take the guitar back and exchange it for a dictionary.

Ultimately, over his father’s objections, Handy did buy a trumpet and left Florence to pursue his musical dreams.

W.C. Handy has been credited with having single-handedly introduced a new style of music to the world. But he was quick to acknowledge that he did not invent the blues, but merely transcribed them and presented them to a worldwide audience.

“You’ve got to appreciate the things that come from the art of the Negro,” he observed, “and from the heart of the man farthest down.”

“Father of the Blues: An Autobiography of W.C. Handy,” by W.C. Handy,Macmillan Co, 1947


Charles saw her—his face became pale

Posted by | November 15, 2016


By Ex-Judge D. W. Bolen,
“Hillsville Advocate”
Wytheville, VA
Friday, November 5, 1897

The 11th of April, 1793, was a bright and balmy day. Early that morning James Sage went to his “clearing” to prepare his ground for crop. The day opened so bright and clear that Mrs. Sage decided to go and do her week’s washing. She left her four children in the cabin and started to a little stream near by to build a fire to heat water to wash with.

As she was leaving the door she saw a number of butterflies wandering about among the shrubbery in the garden and she called her little five-year-old daughter Katy to come and look at the butterflies. The child came and went on into the garden to enjoy a better sight of the gauzy-winged creatures, while the mother went on to build the fire.

After a while the mother returned to get the clothes she intended to wash, but Katy was missing. Mrs. Sage thought the child had wandered off after the butterflies, for the last words she had heard Katy utter was her childish language talking to the pretty butterflies. She went in search of Katy but could not find her. She called her husband and they looked for Katy all day long and all night long, but they did not find her.

The next morning the neighbors for miles and miles around began to gather in and for several long weeks they searched in every direction for Katy, but in vain. After all had been done to find the child that human ingenuity could devise, the neighbors and friends gave up the search as fruitless and returned to their homes.

But James Sage began the search anew. Starting at his cabin door, he examined every square foot of ground for miles and miles around, hoping to find some rag of clothing or some mark, however dim, that might indicate to him the fate of his lost child. But he never found one trace. At last, in his despair, he heard of an old woman in North Carolina known by the name of Granny Moses, who was said to possess the power to reveal mysteries and look into and foretell all human events.

James Sage made a journey across the mountains into the Old North State to see Granny Moses. He found her and in his own way laid before her the whole story of his lost child.

The old women consulted her occult science, gathered up her faculties and told him that his Katy was still alive and well, but she added, “Katy is where you will never see her or hear of her again in this world, but your wife (Mrs. Sage) will outlive you and in her very old age she will hear of Katy but will never see her.”

With broken spirit and sick at heart the man returned home and resumed work in the forest around his cabin. Other children with bright faces and joyous prattle came to join the three that remained at his hearthstone. Other events and other transactions came into the lives of the parents, and to all outward appearances, as the years glided along, the memory of little Katy Sage became more and more like a faded dream.

But as long as the family remained together, when father and mother and children gathered around the embers that glowed between the jambs of the old fireplace on the long winter evening they talked of the missing one.

When thirty-one years had passed since Katy’s disappearance James Sage was laid to sleep in a grave in the beautiful Elk Creek Valley, and the message of Granny Moses was the only tidings that had ever reached his ears of his lost child.

Mrs. Sage outlived her husband many years. Her children, as time rolled on, became widely scattered. Some remained in Virginia and others settled in different states and territories in the west. Her son Charles settled in Kansas, and in 1854 he met with an Indian agent there, who one day asked him if he had a sister or female relative among the Shawnee Indians.

Charles answered no. But on reflection he told the agent the story of his sister who had been lost or stolen more than sixty years before.

The agent said that there was a white woman among the Shawnee Indians that bore a most striking resemblance to Charles. The woman was sent for and when Charles saw her his face became pale. It seemed to him that the very image of his mother as she appeared twenty years ago, when he had left the old homestead, lived and glowed in the face and features of the strange woman. He believed her to be his long lost sister.

She could not speak a word of English, but through an interpreter she told them that she had been stolen away from her home in Virginia by a white man when she was a small child, that he took her to the Cherokee Indians and she never saw him again, that she had lived among the Cherokees awhile, and then with the Creeks, and finally with the Shawnees, that she had been three times married to distinguished Indian Chiefs and had bore one son, that her husbands had all died and she was a widow now for the third time and her son had recently died, that her name was Katy, and that she had retained that name in all her wanderings and travels through different countries and among different Indian tribes.

Charles got her to go home with him and he at once wrote to his brother Samuel, who lived in Missouri, to come and see if he could recognize her. Samuel was older and could remember Katy. Samuel came and saw the woman and heard her history and believed her to be his sister.

The brothers then wrote to their mother, who was still living at the old place on Elk Creek, and told her about the woman they believed to be their sister, and asked the mother to tell them all she could remember about Katy. The mother was then near her ninetieth birthday, but on hearing the letter read. her memory revived and she said almost instantly: “Write and tell the boys that my daughter Katy has a ginger-colored birth mark on her shoulder,” and then she went on and described the mark, and the very spot described by the mother was found upon the shoulder of the woman in Charles Sage’s house.

Her identification was now complete and beyond question, and the brothers decided to take her home to their mother at once, and Katy was anxious to go. Arrangements for the journey were made, but just as they were ready to start Katy was seized with pneumonia and died, disappearing from the world just as suddenly as when a child chasing butterflies on Elk Creek.



Amelia Earhart drops in

Posted by | November 14, 2016

Amelia Earhart in Anderson SCAmelia Earhart flew into the Anderson, SC airport in her Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogyro on November 14, 1931 and attracted over 1,000 spectators. Mayor G.T. McGregor and other city leaders met her at the airport. In May of that year, flying that plane, the thirty three year old had set a world altitude record of 18,415 feet.

In May the following year she flew across the Atlantic Ocean alone from Newfoundland to Ireland, the first woman to do so. In January of 1935 Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California. Then, in June 1937, Amelia Earhart tried to fly around the world in a Lockheed 10E Electra, and the newspapers were full of news of her journey. She vanished over the Pacific Ocean en route to New Guinea.

While to us it might seem that Earhart was engaged in flying stunts, she was, with other female flyers, crucial to making the American public ‘air minded’ and convincing them that aviation was no longer just for daredevils and supermen.

sources: South Carolina Postcards: Anderson County, by Howard Woody, Arcadia Publishing, 2003

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