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Circus Trip 2018: Lowell Part 2

Day 55, Saturday, September 8, 2018
Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, Massachusetts

After I visited the Boott Cotton Mill and Museum, I headed back outside to find a folk music festival happening on the grass outside. I stopped to listen for a while and was impressed by the talent of the musicians!  There was a banjo and fiddle competition and a musical duet.  It was nice just sitting outside and enjoying the music.

Next I headed over to the Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit, just across the square from the Mill.  The exhibit is housed in what used to be one of the Boott Cotton Mill’s boardinghouses.  The boardinghouse was built in 1835, and housed 20-40 mill girls in a communal setting.  About $1.25 per week would have paid for three meals per day, limited laundry and a shared bedroom.

The boardinghouses were owned and operated by the mills and had strict rules for the residents.  Girls had curfews, were not allowed to consort with men, were not permitted to drink and had to attend church services on Sundays.  If they broke the rules, their job could be at risk.  Times were different then…

It was interesting to see the parlors, communal dining room, and bedrooms in the boardinghouse.  Even though the girls wouldn’t have had any privacy, it did give them ready access to friends and a support system in a city and job that was unlike anything they had experienced.

After I left the boardinghouse, I took a walk back through the town along the canal and its walking path.  It was interesting to imagine what these workers experienced almost 200 years ago.  I’m so glad that Lowell had the foresight to save these old buildings and their history.

Circus Trip 2018: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

Day 50, Monday, September 3, 2018
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Woodstock, Vermont

Besides a section of the Appalachian Trail, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the only national park unit within the state of Vermont.  So it makes sense that it would be an interesting one!

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is named for the three families that owned this property, and each impacted the farm and the nearby community of Woodstock, Vermont in important ways. 

The son of the first family who lived at the farm on Mount Tom, George Perkins Marsh, grew up seeing the environmental destruction that had been caused by deforestation in Vermont, both for sheep grazing and for industry, as wood was still a primary means of making the fires that were used to process glass, soap, and wool.  It was estimated that by the time Marsh was born in 1801, over 95% of Vermont’s forestland had been logged.  He saw the erosion and loss of fish habitat that occurred on his own property and began to understand the future impacts if people didn’t change their ways.

Frederick Billings grew up reading George Marsh’s writings, including his book, Man and Nature, and was impacted by the call to action of saving America’s forestland.  He became an attorney and purchased the farm in 1869, planted trees and set about creating a sustainable dairy farm, along with carriage paths throughout the property with scenic vistas through the forest.

One of Frederick Billings’ granddaughters married a Rockefeller, and inherited the farm in the 1950s, thus giving Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park its third name.  The Rockefeller family had long had a tradition of conservation and contributing to the idea of setting aside public land that would not be developed.  Laurance and Mary Rockefeller continued that tradition on the Billings farm.  They set about to remodel and modernize the mansion and farm, and opened the Billings Farm to the public in 1983.

The Rockefellers donated their residential property to the National Park Service in 1992, a donation that included this fabulous Victorian mansion with all its incredible furnishings, as well as 555 acres of forested land on Mount Tom, where the mansion is located.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is now a unit dedicated to conservation and operated closely with a private foundation that operates the Billings dairy farm next door.

When I visited, I did the tour of the mansion, which was truly one of the most spectacular historic mansions I’ve seen so far.  I was fascinated.  The fact that the Rockefellers donated all their furnishings made it a place that could be enjoyed for its ornate architectural beauty, its incredible artwork collected by the family, and the remaining evidence of the family’s life there.  So often we see mansions that are decorated with period pieces and we aren’t able to see that people – families – actually lived here.  They lived here with their hobbies, and collections and favorite books.  And they lived here with their letters to friends, family snapshots, their favorite comfy chair, and the hideous plaid carpet.  You can see the life lived in this mansion, and honestly, beyond the expensive art collections, it isn’t that much different than yours and mine.

I definitely want to return, and see more of the mansion and the property surrounding it.  It has several miles of hiking trails and carriage paths, and it would look spectacular during the fall colors!  Of course, I also wanted to see the village of Woodstock, Vermont, so I went there next!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Shelburne Museum

Day 48 & 49, Saturday & Sunday, September 1 & 2, 2018
Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont

September brought a new state under my belt – Vermont!  I had crossed the border the evening before, and booked a few nights at the Lake Bomoseen KOA for the Labor Day Weekend.  It was a great place to stay, with large wooded campsites, a lake to fish in, a little movie theater, game room and store.

 

The next morning it was time to visit a museum that I was super-excited about – The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.  The museum was founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, a wealthy collector of American folk art.  In addition to collecting art pieces, she also undertook to collect 18th and 19th century buildings to house the collection, including houses, barns, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and even a 220 foot long steamboat!

I wandered from building to building checking everything out, and thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw.  The steamboat Ticonderoga was incredible; moved here after plying the waters of Lake Champlain.  I would have loved to be a passenger on that ship! The lighthouse was cool, the unusual two lane covered bridge was fun to see, and the round barn was fascinating.

The collection currently contains over 150,000 paintings, folk art, textiles, quilts, furniture and other types of art not commonly seen in museums.  There are entire rooms of duck decoys, farm implements, dioramas, automatons, and other interesting folk art!

The museum is huge, with over 39 buildings total to explore.  The $25 admission is admittedly a bit steep, but they do give you a two day entry for that price, and if you have the time, there would absolutely be enough to keep you busy for two days!

The next day, I had a quiet day at the campground.  I blogged, read, took a walk and even watched a movie.  I also met Bill and Jean, a kind retired couple who were raising their three grandchildren.  They invited me over for dinner and conversation.

Enjoy the photos!

Circus Trip 2018: Saratoga National Historical Park

Day 47, Friday, August 31, 2018

Saratoga National Historical Park, Saratoga Springs, New York

Saratoga National Historical Park was designated in 1938 to preserve the site of the Battles of Saratoga, the first significant campaign of the U.S. Revolutionary War.  Fought in 1777, this series of battles defeated a major British Army, and resulted in France recognizing the independence of the United States of America.

 

British General John Burgoyne led his army south from Canada into what is now New York, with the intention to meet up with another British Army moving north from New York City and a third force marching east from Lake Ontario.  Unfortunately for Burgoyne, the other two armies never arrived and he was surrounded by American forces in upstate New York. He attempted to break out, fighting two different battles over the course of a few weeks in September and October 1777 on the ground several miles south of Saratoga, New York.  He did not succeed.

Burgoyne eventually retreated to Saratoga, which is now known as Schuylerville, and surrendered his entire army there on October 17, 1777.  After Saratoga, Burgoyne returned to England and was never given another commanding position in the British Army.  The French entered into the war after Saratoga as well, sending not only money, but supplies and soldiers to support the cause.

When I visited, I started at the Visitor’s Center, checked out the exhibits and watched the film of the battle.  It was interesting to learn about it; as I haven’t read much on the Revolutionary War.

Then I did the scenic drive around the battlefield and saw it from various vantage points.  Informational signs explain how the battle unfolded.  It was so interesting to imagine what happened here in 1777.  It is so peaceful now, but it was anything but peaceful during those pivotal few weeks!

I also visited the General Philip Schuyler House, which is near the battlefield in the nearby town of Schuylerville.  Schuyler prepared the defensive plans for the Continental Army prior to the battle, but was replaced before the battle by General Horatio Gates.

The home was built in 1777, and is largely as it was when it was built.  The home has no electricity or indoor plumbing even!  It is owned by the historical park and is open in the summer, but it was closed when I visited, so I just took photos outside.  It’s such a cool house!

Visitation for Saratoga National Historical Park is about 65,000 annually, so even during their peak period in the summer, there really aren’t that many people there. I only saw a couple of people outside of the Visitor’s Center the entire time I was there. It was interesting to see!

Happy 104th Birthday to the NPS!

Today is the 104th birthday of the National Park Service.  Founded on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service manages 419 units within the system, of which 62 have the highest designation of National Parks.

The National Parks Services has over 20 designations for the sites they manage, including National Monuments, National Battlefields, National Historical Parks, National Parkways, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, and more!  I have been fortunate enough to visit 34 National Parks, and at least 127 of the 419 units (although I’m probably missing a few here and there).  One day I would like to say I have visited them all!

In celebration of NPS’s birthday, here are a few of my favorite National Parks photos!  As you can see, it is hard to choose just a few!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Women’s Rights NHP

Day 45, Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York

White women gained the right to vote in the United States 100 years ago, in 1920.  But have you ever thought about when the movement for women’s suffrage began?  1848… That’s right – women had been fighting for the right to vote for more than 70 years before the 19th amendment was ratified by the states.  Prior to 1848, there were scattered movements around the nation, but 1848 is considered the beginning of the movement that we know today as the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  So what happened in 1848?

On Sunday July 9, 1848, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jane Hunt met and organized a Women’s Rights Convention, to occur in Seneca Falls on July 19 and 20th. They were all Quakers with the exception of Stanton, and they were fed up and wanted change.  During their planning meetings, they drafted 10 resolutions demanding that women should have equality in the family, education, jobs, religion, and morals.  They restricted the first day of the Convention to women, but allowed men on the second day and invited a number of influential men, including Frederick Douglass.

Interestingly, women’s suffrage was not one of the original demands drafted by the organizers, and the women were actually split on whether or not they wanted it included.  It was heavily debated during the convention, with many attendees believing that its inclusion would cause a loss of support for other resolutions considered to be more “reasonable.”  In the end, it was included, and the Declaration of Sentiments was signed by 100 of the 300 attendees; 68 women and 32 men.

If you are interested, you can read the Declaration of Sentiments, which is modeled after the US Declaration of Independence…

The Declaration of Sentiments

The Historical Park has several sites you can visit.  The Visitor’s Center has a lot of information about the convention, the women’s suffrage movement, and these powerful women who were instrumentation in getting it off the ground.

The Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held was built in 1843 and extensively altered in the years after the convention.  When the National Park Service acquired the site, it was a shell of a building with some original portions of the wall left standing.  They have rebuilt it, showing where the construction is original and what is reconstruction.  It is interesting to see!

I also visited the homes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt and Mary Ann M’Clintock.  The Stanton and M’Clintock houses are open to the public on tours, but only on select days (not when I was there).  The Hunt house was acquired by the Park Service in 2000 and they are working on restoring it.  It is not currently open to the public, but one day it will be neat to see!

It was amazing to see these sites and experience where five women started on a course that would eventually change history.  It makes me sad that the cause for women’s suffrage took so long that none of these women were alive to see the culmination of what they set in motion.  We still have a lot of work to do, but it is inspiring to see what these women achieved with their voices!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural NHS

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Buffalo, New York

Most of you probably know that President William McKinley was shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz while he was attending the Pan American Exposition on September 6, 1901.  That’s my birthday! Well, it is long before my actual birthday, but you get my point.

McKinley hung on for 8 days, and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt rushed to get to Buffalo to be by the President’s side.  He originally arrived on September 7, and McKinley’s prognosis was good; in fact it was so good that on September 10 doctors determined he was out of danger, and Roosevelt left to return to a family vacation in the Adirondacks.

Of course, the President soon worsened, and a telegram was sent to summon Roosevelt back to Buffalo.  He arrived shortly after McKinley died on September 14, 1901, having learned the news on his journey back.  A suitable location for the inauguration was sought and determined to be the home of Ansley Wilcox, a prominent attorney and friend of Theodore Roosevelt.  It also happened to be where Roosevelt was staying while he was in Buffalo.

The home itself was built beginning in 1840; it was the Officer’s Quarters of the Buffalo Barracks Compound, built because of concerns about a minor insurrection to the north in Canada at the time.  It was eventually sold and became a private residence, and the Wilcox family purchased the home and built an addition that doubled its size in 1896.  It is built in the Greek Revival style, with huge columns adorning its front porch.  That is how the home looked in 1901, when Roosevelt’s inauguration was held.

Roosevelt was inaugurated in the library of the Wilcox home, a small room that ended up being packed with several cabinet members, dignitaries, and the judge administering the oath.  Theodore Roosevelt was now the President of the United States.  No photos were taken of the inauguration, but several were taken of the room afterwards.

Here is where Roosevelt stood during his inauguration

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site is set up with exhibits on the exposition, McKinley’s assassination, and Roosevelt’s Presidency.  There is an interesting film detailing the political climate at the time, and the events that happened surrounding the assassination.  Upstairs, the rooms on the main floor of the home have been restored to what they looked like when Roosevelt was inaugurated here.  The docent led tour takes visitors to the library when Roosevelt took the oath of office, and photos taken after the inauguration are displayed.

Upstairs you can see additional exhibits and sit at a mock President’s desk!  It was certainly worth a visit and it wasn’t crowded, only averaging about 13,000 visits per year.  It is a must if you are interested in Presidential history!  If you aren’t able to visit, they have a virtual tour!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Niagara

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fort Niagara State Historic Park, Youngstown, New York

Fort Niagara has a history of white colonial settlement that spans over 300 years.

The first fort on this site was established by the French in 1679; they named it Fort Conti, and it wasn’t occupied for long.  The French returned again to establish Fort Denonville between 1687 and 1688.  It wasn’t until 1726 that the first permanent structure was built; a stone building known as the French Castle that still stands on site today!  Additional structures were built between 1756 and 1758.  In 1759 the British gained control of the fort during the French and Indian War, and it was British until the Revolutionary War was won, and the Americans were the proud new owners of Fort Niagara.

Of course, the British weren’t known for giving up so easily and they briefly reconquered Fort Niagara between 1813 and 1815, during the perhaps not-so-aptly named War of 1812.  The Americans got it back at the end of the War of 1812, and Fort Niagara never saw combat again.

 

The Fort did continue operating as a peaceful border post, and American troops were stationed here during the Civil War.  It was common during the early years of the Civil War to parole enemy troops, with the condition that they not return to fighting for a year.  The parolees at Fort Niagara were put to work building stuff.  Troops were trained here during both World Wars as well, and the last troops were finally withdrawn in 1963.  Since then, the Coast Guard is the only military branch that is on site.

 

Of course, Native Americans from the Seneca tribe were in the area long before the Europeans came along.  The Seneca was using the area around Fort Niagara as a seasonal hunting and fishing camp through the 1600s.

While I was there, I got to explore the buildings, and I also got to see both a cannon firing and a musket firing demonstration!  Apparently they used to lob tennis balls into the water when they did the cannon firing demonstrations, but the Canadian government asked them to stop, so now the demonstration does not include a projectile.  That’s better for the environment!

 

This was such a cool place to visit!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Mount Washington Tavern and Braddock’s Grave

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, Pennsylvania

The Fort Necessity National Battlefield unit has more than just French and Indian War history. It has the history of a period of colonial expansion and the growth of a young United States that spans over 100 years!

We talked in my last post about General Braddock, who was assigned command in the area after George Washington’s defeat at Fort Necessity.  As he commanded troops to gain control over the French in the area, Braddock’s troops worked to extend and widen the road that George Washington had built in the area two years earlier.  Sadly, Braddock was killed in battle in July 1755 during the Battle of the Monongahela.  It was an absolute disaster for the British, with the French and their Native American allies firing on the British from nearly invisible positions in the woods.  900 of the 1400 British troops were killed or wounded (more than half of the 900 were killed).

Braddock was shot through the lung, perhaps by his own troops, and was carried back off the front line by his men.  He knew he was dying, and asked that George Washington oversee his burial; he died four days later on July 13, 1755.  Washington buried Braddock in the road that they had been building, as he feared that the French or Native Americans may steal or mutilate the body if they were to find it.  Almost 50 years later, in 1804, workers repairing the Braddock Road came upon the remains and reburied him a short distance away.  It is now marked by a monument that was erected in 1913, and there is an original section of the road there as well.  The original burial site of Braddock is marked too.

As the road was already established when Congress authorized the construction of the National Road beginning in 1806, it made sense that it would follow this route.  The Mount Washington Tavern was built here in 1830, as a stagecoach stop for travelers along the National Road.  In the evenings when the stage stopped for the night, men could get a drink in the bar room and women and children could relax in the parlor.  Bedrooms upstairs accommodated multiple travelers and were segregated by sex.  This tavern operated as a business until the railroad came through the area and rendered it obsolete.  It was purchased and maintained as a family home for the next 75 years, before being sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and then ultimately the National Park Service to be added to the Fort Necessity National Battlefield unit.

When I visited the tavern was open for self-guided tours, and I was surprised to find myself absolutely alone in the building.  I mean, the rooms were protected by plexiglass, but there was no ranger.

I wandered around a bit, and got the distinct feeling that this place was haunted!  I checked out all of the rooms, but did not linger!  I wonder what this old tavern has seen over the last 190 years!?  It was still so fascinating to see – we certainly take travel for granted these days!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Friendship Hill NHS

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Point Marion, Pennsylvania

Who has heard of Albert Gallatin?  Anyone?  No?  Don’t worry, I hadn’t either…  Get ready for a history lesson!

Albert Gallatin was a Swiss man who immigrated to the United States in 1780; he started out in the U.S. as a surveyor.  He made his way to western Pennsylvania, which at the time was way out west on the frontier.  He purchased property and set about building his home in stages, with the first section being built in 1789.  He established himself as one of the richest men in the area; which apparently wasn’t difficult.  His neighbors were mostly poor farmers, who made whiskey with their surplus grain after the harvest; the whiskey became the local currency in what was essentially a cashless society.  Stick with me here, the whiskey piece is important…

Gallatin played an important role in the Whiskey Rebellion.  You see, after the Revolutionary War, the newly formed United States was badly in debt as a result of the war.  The country needed money, and the best way to raise money?  A tax!  Never mind that we just spent years trying to win our independence, largely because of the taxes levied by the British.  Of course, the cashless western Pennsylvanians didn’t have cash to pay the tax, and whiskey was really their only marketable product, so they were a bit resentful of this new tax.  Resentful enough to tar and feather a tax collector or two.  They also resented that if they were accused of evading the tax, the nearest court that was approved to try them was in Philadelphia, over 300 miles away (I didn’t think Pennsylvania was that big of a state, but that’s a blog post for another time…).

Gallatin, being an educated and wealthy man, ended up getting unofficially appointed as the man who would negotiate on behalf of his neighbors; he always lobbied for the peaceful solution, but he wasn’t always successful.  Eventually, he succeeded in getting the Federal government to allow people accused of violations of the whiskey tax to be tried locally, which helped.  Gallatin continued to try to convince his neighbors to submit to the new tax, which became more of a pressing issue after President George Washington mustered up an army to go out to western Pennsylvania to quell the violence against the tax collectors.

Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, thought that Gallatin had been responsible for stirring up the locals and trying to evade the tax.  He tried to dig up evidence to charge Gallatin with treason, but everyone that he interviewed said that Gallatin had been urging his countrymen to pay the tax, and to abandon their violent tactics against the collectors.  Thankfully though, just as things might have erupted into a more widespread insurrection against the army, area men held a vote on whether to submit and pay the tax, and the measure was narrowly passed.  Gallatin, for his trouble, got elected to Congress!

He had clearly caught the eye of George Washington and others in the new United States government, and he served in the House of Representatives between 1795 and 1800.  On January 1, 1801, he was appointed by new President Thomas Jefferson to serve as Secretary of the Treasury.  He served until 1814, under both Jefferson and President Madison, and had two notable accomplishments during his tenure.  One was determining how to finance and pay for the Louisiana Purchase, the huge swath of land that Jefferson bought in 1803, for a cost of 15 million dollars.  After the war, the nation’s debt was $80 million, but even with the additional $15 million, Gallatin was able to reduce the national debt to $45 million by the time he left the cabinet in 1814.

His other achievement was the National Road.  Gallatin was a big believer in improving roads and infrastructure in the young United States, and he delivered a report to Congress recommending that roads and canals be built to increase commerce and travel.  He was able to create a plan that allowed the road to be built without the nation going more deeply into debt.  The National Road, originally known as the National Pike, stretched all the way west to Vandalia, Illinois.  It is now U.S. Route 40, and traverses the entire country, east to west.

If you thought Albert Gallatin is making you feel like a slacker already, there’s more.  He financed the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  He served on the Commission that ended the War of 1812.  He also served as a U.S. Ambassador to France, and after he left public life, he founded a wee little bank that is now well known… as JP Morgan Chase…

Visitors to Friendship Hill can tour the home where he lived with two wives; Gallatin and his first wife eloped against the wishes of her mother.  Sadly, they were only married for 5 months before she died of illness in October 1789; she is buried at Friendship Hill, and you can walk out to see Sophie’s gravesite.  Gallatin and his second wife had six children; three of whom died in infancy.  The home was added onto over the years, with additions in 1798, 1823, and 1824.  It is built in the Federal style, and it is quite impressive in its size.  Sections of the home are exposed stone, stuccoed, and timber frame, which gives it a rather eclectic look.  Gallatin sold the home in 1832.  The furniture is not original to the home or the Gallatin family, but gives a representation of what it would have looked like in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

I enjoyed wandering around the home on the self-guided tour, and taking a walk of the grounds.  There are nine miles of trails on the site, and I saw a few people taking advantage of the park setting.  The home is high up on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River.  It is so peaceful and quiet out there!  I can’t even imagine how remote it would have been at the time…  Friendship Hill is certainly a less visited National Park site, with estimated annual visitation of a little over 25,000 people.  It was well worth the visit to learn about this now little known man in U.S. history!