Tag Archives: Louisiana Purchase

D.C. Road Trip – Protestors, Pasta and Thomas Jefferson’s DNA

22 Jul

On Wednesday, we packed up the vehicle and started toward the first historic site of the trip, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The route took us on an interesting stretch through Amherst, Colleen, Covesville and other little towns. It also took us near the Kappa Sigma Museum, which my nephew and his fraternity brothers would probably find fascinating.

Finally, we arrived at our destination. With time to wait before we could enter the house, we were able to watch have lunch, go through a small museum and watch a movie about the third president. It was in that movie that I first heard something that the tour guide would later repeat. According the DNA testing and most historians, Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves.

That is a rumor that started during his Jefferson’s presidency and is something that I have told my students since I started teaching. However, here is what was surprising about the statement. It said “most historians.” Are there still historians out there who ignore DNA testing, the same testing that we use to convict people of murder, and deny his paternity?

Oh yeah, they also took great pains to let us know that the relationship between Thomas and Sally was long after his wife’s death.

After a while, we made it to the front porch of the house, where a kid warmed my heart. When asked what first comes to mind when we think of Thomas Jefferson, he shouted out the Louisiana Purchase. Now, that is a smart young man. When we walked through the front door, the entry hall was filled with artifacts from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Apparently, Jefferson thought that land deal was pretty important, too.

Monticello is not a huge house, and the tour did not take long. After, my family tried their hands at writing with quills.image-12

We also walked around the yard to take a few pictures.image-11

On the shuttle back to the visitor’s center, the tram stopped at Jefferson’s grave, and I jumped out to take a quick picture. When I turned around, the shuttle was gone. Apparently, the driver was in a huge and gigantic hurry.

Washington, D.C. and our lodging for the next few days were next on the agenda. However, we saw some neat stuff along the way. There was the nicest gas station we had ever seen. It looked like a bank more than an Exxon. There were horse farms with massive amounts of fencing and large houses. There was also an interesting question from my wife.

With several presidential homes and many Civil War battlefields in the area, how did those homes not get destroyed? It is a great question that leads to the complexity of who those presidents were.

I believe the homes were spared because those men – Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison and James Monroe – represented to the United States government the ideals for which they were fighting. They were among the Founding Fathers who started a nation based on liberty and freedom.

For the Confederacy, those same men represented the plantation economy of slavery and agriculture that was being threatened by northern politicians. They were people who rose up against an oppressive government. In essence, both sides looked upon the owners of these homes as representative of what they were fighting for. As a result, neither side wanted to disrespect them by destroying their properties.

Of course, that could be totally wrong, and the houses could have been in locations that were not strategically important.

After many miles, we hit the interstate going into Washington, D.C., which looked like any other city until I realized that we were passing the Pentagon. My wife tried to explain to my stepdaughter about the building, but she said that she knew what it was. It is where they imprisoned Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Then, the Washington Monument suddenly appeared. Now, we knew that we were in a different kind of city.

After navigating through the traffic and the pedestrians, we made it to our downtown hotel, where I promptly parked in the wrong place. Coincidentally, the people we were meeting got there at the exact same time and parked in the exact same wrong place.

We unpacked. We rested. Then, we walked a few blocks to a great restaurant called Siroc, an Italian place that was out of this world. It was a lovely evening eating pasta and duck and all sorts of things on their sidewalk patio.

Once dinner was over, we strolled a few clocks over to the White House and acted like tourists. We took pictures of the house.image-10

We took pictures of the protestors supporting Palestine. We took pictures of the Andrew Jackson statue.image-8

I have now seen the ones in Washington, Nashville and New Orleans. Monty Pope would be proud.

Despite the White House and the statue, I, for some reason, was more interested in seeing the Blair House. Harry Truman lived in it for much of his presidency as the big house was being renovated, and I always thought that made it cool. While gawking at it, my wife discovered that the gardens were donated by Jack Massey, a Nashvillian who put three corporations on the New York Stock Exchange – Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hospital Corporation of America and Volunteer Capital Corporation.image-9

It seems that Andrew Jackson is not the only Tennessee connection sitting in front of the White House.

A National Championship and the Lessons of History

4 Jun

Last week, the Cumberland University baseball team won the NAIA national championship. It is the third time in the past ten years that the baseball program has claimed the top prize. The coach, Woody Hunt, is a legend in these parts and has led the program for three decades.Cumberland Baseball

A couple of days ago, we had a celebration for the team. There was a parade, and hundreds of people showed up at the baseball field to honor the players and the coaches. Several people spoke, and I was lucky enough to be one of them. As Faculty Athletic Representative, I track the academic progress of all student/athletes and make sure that they are on the way to completing their degrees.

A lot of the baseball players have been in my classes and, hopefully, have gotten the point that history is important. We can learn from our past and use that information to move into the future. In fact, a lesson from the past convinced me that they were going to win the NAIA World Series.

The event was held in Lewiston, Idaho, home of Lewis-Clark State College. That is important because their team was in the World Series, as well. In fact, that is who the Cumberland Bulldogs had to beat to win the championship.

Lewis-Clark State College is names after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who Thomas Jefferson chose to lead an expedition into the Louisiana Territory. It is one of the most famous stories in our nation’s history. Lewis and Clark, with the help of Sacagawea, led a band of men through uncharted land to determine exactly what Jefferson had purchased. They returned in a couple of years with fantastic tales of the land and its people.

They were heroes and were treated as such. However, that is not the end of the story. After the journey, Meriwether Lewis faced difficulties in several aspects of his life. Finally, he left his home in New Orleans to travel to Washington, D.C. Lewis want to see Jefferson, his old patron. He traveled the Natchez Trace toward Nashville and was almost to the city when he stopped at a roadside tavern.

Meriwether Lewis never left that tavern. He was fatally shot, and the mystery of who did it continues to this day. The proprietors buried him in the yard, and his grave can be visited. A broken obelisk stands above him.Lewis Grave

So, how did this story convince me that our baseball team would win the national championship? Meriwether Lewis survived great dangers on his journey into the West. However, he could not survive his journey into Tennessee. With that in mind, I saw no way that a school named after him could beat a team from Tennessee.

It Must Have Been the Fourth of July

4 Jul

Here in the United States, the Fourth of July is a big day. Back in 1776, there were a couple of days in the first week of July that were important. John Adams thought the Second of July would be celebrated for years to come, but we have settled on doing it two days later. Of course, other things have happened on that date. These are just a few.July 4

965 – Pope Benedict V passed away.

1054 – People in China and Arabia looked in the sky and see a supernova.

1634 – Quebec, Canada was founded. Back then, it was called Trois-Rivieres and was in the colony of New France.

1636 – Providence, Rhode Island came into existence.

1754 – George Washington surrendered Fort Necessity to the French. That was an important event during the French and Indian War.

1802 – The United States Military Academy opened in West Point, New York.

1803 – The American people learned of the Louisiana Purchase.

1804 – Nathaniel Hawthorne was born.

1816 – Hiram Walker, founder of Canadian club whiskey, was born.

1826 – John Adams, the second president of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, passed away.

1831 – James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States passed away.

1837 – Grand Junction Railway opened between Birmingham and Liverpool.

1865 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.

1879 – British forces captured and destroyed Ulundi, the Zululand capital.

1882 – Louis B. Mayer was born.

1902 – Gangster Meyer Lansky was born.

1903 – Dorothy Levitt competed in a motor race. That made her the first woman to do that.

1914 – A funeral was held for Archbishop Franz Ferdinand and his wife.

1922 – Lothar von Richtofen, younger brother of the Red Baron, passed away.

1929 – Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, was born.

1934 – Marie Curie, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the Nobel Prize in Physics, passed away.

1939 – Lou Gehrig told the fans in Yankee Stadium that he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

1943 – Geraldo Rivera, who looked in Al Capone’s vault, was born.

1946 – The Philippines gained independence from the United States.

1966 – Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act.

2009 – Steve McNair, former quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, was killed.

Imagining the West

5 Jun

When the United States completed the Louisiana Purchase, a question arose among politicians and citizens around the country. What exactly did Thomas Jefferson buy? Some of it was known, but, frankly, a lot of it was a mystery. Like today, mysteries led to wild rumors and speculation. Some thought that the land was filled with mammoth. Others theorized that giants walked the land. Even the reports of Lewis and Clark did not quell the wild stories about the land that they traveled through.

This began a long fascination with the western landscape among Americans. While some ventured into the region, the vast majority was content with staying in their comfort zone and leaving the visions of the West to their imaginations. While they read dime novels exaggerating the exploits of the people in the West, they were also fed exaggerations of the images of the West.

It is easy to see how someone in the 1800s could incorrectly imagine the West as they read a book that was designed to be as adventurous as possible. The visuals were left up to them, and they only knew what the writer wanted them to know. However, the 1900s brought the invention of films. Now, the story could unfold in front of their eyes. No more imagining. They could see the real West.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the way it happened. The first “westerns” were filmed at Thomas Edison’s studio in New Jersey. I’m not even sure it was in western New Jersey. When the motion picture industry moved to Los Angeles, things did not get much better because movies were filmed close by. In other words, a story that was based in Texas was filmed in California. As people watched, they began to assume that Texas, and the West in general, looked like the place they were seeing on the screen.

Last night, all of this came into focus for me as I watched television with some friends. Longmire, a new show about a modern-day sheriff in Wyoming, premiered on A&E, and I had been looking forward to it. To my disappointment, it was a weak attempt to copy th success of Justified, but I digress. My friends, who have never been to Wyoming, were talking about the scenery and how beautiful it was. I have been trying to convince them to take a trip to the West instead of their usual beach excursion, and they began to get excited about going to Wyoming and seeing this beautiful place.

Wyoming is beautiful. It is one of my favorite states. However, if my friends want to see the landscapes of Longmire, then they will need to go to northern New Mexico, the filming location. I thought it looked familiar because I was just there. Anyway, I had to explain that westerns are not always filmed where the story takes place and that it has confused audiences for decades. I wondered how many people will watch the show and think that Wyoming looks like New Mexico.

Today, another example of filming that confused the audience popped up on my television. The Searchers, starring John Wayne as Ethan Edwards, is one of my favorite movies. It follows a loner who goes on a decade-long trek to find his niece who was abducted by Comanche. I could write about this movie all night but need to focus on the scenery in which the action takes place. The director, John Ford, used his favorite filming location, Monument Valley, because of its grand vistas. In fact, I used a photograph of Monument Valley for the banner above.

The problem is that the story takes place in Texas while Monument Valley sits in Utah. Through the years, I wonder how many people think Texas, an iconic locale for western stories, looks like that. I can promise that it doesn’t.

People have always imagined the West differently. In the 1800s, misconception was understandable because technology and transportation did not offer easy opportunities to see it. During most of the 1900s, a trip into the West was also difficult for many. However, today, with interstates and internet, there is not excuse for imagining the West incorrectly. I urge everyone, if provided with the opportunity, to travel through it and see for yourselves.

Wyoming does not look like New Mexico, and Texas does not look like Utah. However, each of those places and all of the rest have a beauty all their own. Don’t be fooled by the movies and television because the West is more magnificent than they can show and you can imagine. Plus, it will all be in the right places.