George, The Cross-Eyed Preacher and The First Great Awakening (Part Two)

GeorgeWhitefieldOne Christian history web site states that George Whitefield was America’s first celebrity.  After he arrived in Georgia in the late 1730’s and later began traveling throughout the colonies, historians believe that as many as eighty percent of all colonists heard him speak at least once.

In 1738 Whitefield traveled to Savannah, Georgia, and seeing a need, established an orphanage which would become his life’s work.  After three months he returned to England to raise funds for the Bethesda Orphanage (as he named it) and began to preach to large congregations throughout England.  However, his sermon delivery methods were not well received so he decided to experiment with extemporaneous sermons delivered outdoors.  A sermon delivered to Kingswood miners in Bristol was his first open air meeting.

His oratory skills (remember, his theater background mentioned in Part One) were mesmerizing.  Christianity Today described them like this:

These were no ordinary sermons. He portrayed the lives of biblical characters with a realism no one had seen before. He cried, he danced, he screamed. Among the enthralled was David Garrick, then the most famous actor in Britain. “I would give a hundred guineas,” he said, “if I could say ‘Oh’ like Mr. Whitefield.”

Once, when preaching on eternity, he suddenly stopped his message, looked around, and exclaimed, “Hark! Methinks I hear [the saints] chanting their everlasting hallelujahs, and spending an eternal day in echoing forth triumphant songs of joy. And do you not long, my brethren, to join this heavenly choir?”

His return to America and his treks through the colonies in 1739-40 (he traveled over five thousand miles) were well-received – and well-publicized in newspapers of the day (one source indicates that Whitefield himself the publicity).  The first city he visited was Philadelphia, then probably the most cosmopolitan city in the colonies.  Large crowds came to hear him speak, so large that the services were moved outdoors.  It was not uncommon for the crowds to exceed the population of the town or area where Whitefield was speaking.

These crowds clamored and jostled one another to hear him.  One account states that the crowds “elbowed, shoved, and trampled over themselves to hear of ‘divine things’ from the famed Whitefield.” (Christianity Today) But once he began speaking, a hush would fall over the crowd.  Even Whitefield himself was amazed at “so profound a silence.”

Maybe it was his somewhat “radical” (at least for that period of religious history) message of “new birth” that was so attractive and spellbinding.   Remember, the Puritans believed that no one was guaranteed salvation so one would just try and be as good a person as possible and hope that was sufficient to ensure an eternity heaven.  He had been friends with the Wesley brothers for years (“Methodism”), but his ideas and messages reflected those of a Calvinist.

Again, Christianity Today notes that “he never pleaded with people to convert, but only announced, and dramatized, his message.”  Of course, Whitefield wasn’t the only evangelist of the day who was preaching a challenging message.  He also preached alongside the likes of Jonathan Edwards, he also being capable of impressive oratory (e.g., “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”).  Perhaps Whitefield’s message was more widely broadcast because he wrote pamphlets and newspaper “sermons” as well.  In particular, the Pennsylvania Gazette published several of them throughout the years following his first meetings in the colonies.

Sarah Edwards, Jonathan’s wife, once remarked: “He makes less of the doctrines than our American preachers generally do and aims more at affecting the heart. He is a born orator. A prejudiced person, I know, might say that this is all theatrical artifice and display, but not so will anyone think who has seen and known him.”  Some people would be so enraptured with his oratory they would collapse under the weight of spiritual conviction.

His voice was said to have been projected well enough for it to be heard clearly a mile away.  Apparently none other than a young Benjamin Franklin discovered this was true.  At one meeting in Philadelphia Franklin joined the thronging crowds, but instead of stopping to listen, deliberately walked further and further away.  He discovered that Whitefield’s voice could still be heard, and was also able to prove that the seemingly unbelievable newspaper accounts of crowds exceeding twenty thousand were possible.  This is how Franklin deduced it:

Imagining then a semicircle, of which my distance should be the radius, and that it were filled with auditors to each of whom I allowed two square feet, I computed that he might be heard by more than thirty thousand.  This reconciled me to the newspaper accounts of his having preached to twenty-five thousand in the fields.

The_Pennsylvania_Gazette_Thu__Jan_11__1770_Whitefield was perhaps the first minister to preach to slaves, although one source believes he didn’t necessarily consider himself an abolitionist as noted later in this article.  England, at that time, was still aggressively involved in the slave trade.  William Wilberforce, the most well-known British abolitionist largely responsible for bringing an end to the practice, wasn’t born until 1759.  Still, Whitefield had a passion and calling to spread the gospel, and some believe that perhaps his efforts in reaching out to the slave population in the New World were the beginnings of African-American Christianity.

His messages and the resulting conversions throughout the colonies came to be known as “The First Great Awakening” or “The Great Awakening of 1740″.  When Whitefield returned to England in 1741 he continued to preach, but his popularity was waning due to his constant attacks and challenges to Anglican theology and clergymen.  Again, he turned to open air meetings.  His ministry took him to Scotland on fourteen occasions – one service continued until 2:00 a.m.

He returned to the colonies in 1744, although finding a distinct cooling of religious fervor was in the air.  The Puritans had organized themselves as Congregationalists and in many instances wielded a great deal of influence.  He was rejected by some ministers who opposed the “Awakening”, not unlike what he had experienced in England.  After being shut out by the Congregationalists he reached out to Baptists and Presbyterians who were receptive to his message.

Whitefield continued to raise money for Bethesda, but during attempts to secure permanent funding he accepted a donation of slaves – and then bought some for himself.  The slaves would work in Georgia with the generated income going to the orphanage.  This could be considered a “black mark” on an otherwise impressive and laudatory ministry.  Although he had previously been somewhat opposed to slavery, he was embracing it more fully in order to fund his orphanage.

After returning to England in 1748 he, as always, continued to preach throughout England, Ireland and Scotland (along with more journeys to the colonies).  He made his final trip across the Atlantic in 1769, although his health had begun to decline.  One goal had been to establish a college at Bethesda, but that never came to pass.

On September 29, 1770, after falling ill, George Whitefield had prayed for strength to preach just one more sermon in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  That sermon, two hours in length on the subject of faith and works, was indeed his last.  After returning to the parsonage where he was staying, he experienced a severe asthmatic attack and died on September 30.  According to his wishes, he was buried in a crypt beneath the pulpit in the Old South Presbyterian Church.

Not long before his death, while continuing his relentless itinerant speaking schedule, he had remarked, “I would rather wear out than rust out.”  One could say that he was the Billy Graham of that day, for during his lifetime it is believed he preached over eighteen thousand times to perhaps as many as ten million.

The_Maryland_Gazette_Thu__Oct_18__1770_Next week I’ll introduce a new Sunday theme called “Preachers’ Wives” with a story about the uniquely strange relationship between George and his wife Elizabeth.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Surname Saturday: Bowditch

BowditchCrest     This unique surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, believed to have derived from an estate in Dorsetshire (pre-Norman Conquest of 1066) and seen as well in the southern counties of Somerset and Devonshire.  The place name in Devon was derived from an Olde English term “bupar dice” which meant “above the ditch”.  Other locational derivations such as “boga (bow) dic (ditch)” would indicate a bow-shaped water channel, according to The Internet Surname Database.  Spelling variations include Bowditch, Bowdiche, Bowdich, Bowdidge, Bowdyche and more.

In 1185 someone named “Bowditch” (no surname) was recorded in County Dorset.  Eighty-eight years later in 1273, William Bowditch appeared in County Dorset records.  Edwin Boditch appeared in records during the reign of Edward III and Richard Bowdiche was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379.  Two marriage records:  Richard Bowdyche and Joanna Savage married in London in 1554; Thomas Bowditch and Hannah Fowler: St. George, Hanover Square in 1769.

The Bowditch surname was prominent in New England and many of those bearing it could be traced back to Thorncombe, a village in Dorset.  Two men of that line were well-known in their fields of mathematics and medicine, Nathaniel Bowditch and his son Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, also a prominent abolitionist.

Nathaniel Bowditch

Nathaniel Bowditch was born on March 26, 1773 in Salem, Massachusetts to parents Habakkuk and Mary (Ingersoll) Bowditch, the fourth of seven children.  At the age of ten, Nathaniel’s childhood abruptly ended when he was removed from school to work in his father’s cooperage (barrel maker).  Two years later Nathaniel was apprenticed as a bookkeeper to a ship chandler for nine years.

Even though his education had been interrupted due to pressing family financial circumstances, Nathaniel began to undertake his own self-education at the age of fourteen by studying algebra, calculus, astronomy, Latin and French.  When his apprenticeship ended he began making voyages to the East Indies as a ship’s clerk.  During his free time on those voyages he pored over the navigational tables of John Hamilton Moore, a well-known English navigator.  Astonishingly, Nathaniel discovered and corrected over eight thousand errors in Moore’s work, The Practical Navigator.

NathanielBowditchIn 1802 Nathaniel published The New American Practical Navigator in both America and England, reflecting the corrected tables.  The book, nearly six hundred pages in length, also contained information on navigational laws and terminology.  It was said to have been written in a format easily understood, even by uneducated sailors.  It would become an essential part of every seaman’s gear.  In recognition of his work, Harvard University awarded this self-educated man with an honorary Masters of Arts degree in 1802 (and later a Doctorate).

In 1798 he had married Elizabeth Boardman, but she died seven months after their wedding.  In 1800 he married Mary (Polly) Ingersoll Bowditch, his cousin.  His mathematical skills led him to become the nation’s first insurance actuary as president of Essex Fire and Marine Insurance Company in 1804, and he successfully led the company through a difficult period of time which encompassed the War of 1812 and its aftermath.  In 1823 he and his family moved to Boston where he worked for Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company until 1838 – at five times the salary he received at Essex as its president.

Throughout his career in the insurance industry Nathaniel continued to work in the fields of mathematics and science, publishing several books and papers.  His work was recognized widely and he was inducted into several foreign academies, including the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and London.  Nathaniel Bowditch died on March 16, 1838 of stomach cancer and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Through public donations, a statue was later erected in his honor.

Henry Ingersoll Bowditch

Henry Ingersoll Bowditch was born on August 9, 1808 in Salem to Nathaniel and Mary Bowditch.  His mother was described as “a woman of great piety without a trace of sanctimoniousness” (Life and Correspondence of Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, Vol. I, p. 2) and his upbringing instilled in him a deep religious faith.

Henry, the son of a self-educated scholar, received a well-rounded education.  After the family moved to Boston, Henry entered the Public Latin School and in 1825 entered Harvard as a sophomore at the age of seventeen, eventually entering Harvard’s medical school.  In 1832, Nathaniel sent his son abroad to Europe to continue his medical education.  There he studied and came to be influenced by the teachings of William Wilberforce, renowned abolitionist.

Upon his return to America in 1834, he witnessed the attempted lynching of William Lloyd Garrison, an American abolitionist.  Thereafter, Henry officially counted himself as one as well, vowing to devote “his whole heart to the abolition of that monster slavery”.   On July 17, 1838 he married Olivia Yardley whom he had met while abroad.

HenryIngersollBowditchFor several years leading up to the Civil War he remained active in the abolitionist movement, even making the acquaintance of Fredrick Douglass.  He especially targeted the slave-hunters who frequented Boston looking for runaway slaves, helping to organize the Anti-Man-Hunting League.  Members were trained to capture and detain slave-hunters in exchange for a runaway slave’s freedom.

When the Civil War began, his son Nathaniel, who was set to follow Henry in the field of medicine, considered joining the Second Massachusetts Regiment but an injury prevented that.  However, when one of his former classmates was killed at Ball’s Bluff in Loudoun County, Virginia, Nathaniel announced his intentions: “I have decided to go, because I have made up my mind that it is my duty to do so.”

Tragically, Nathaniel was killed at Kelly’s Ford in Virginia which spurred Henry to write a pamphlet advocating a battlefield ambulance system to better care for the wounded.  Later he wrote a memoir to honor Nathaniel.  In case you missed it, this week’s Tombstone Tuesday article featured Part One of a two-part article on Nathaniel Bowditch – you can read it here.

Henry founded the Massachusetts State Board of Health in 1869 and served as its first chairman, and served as president of the American Medical Association in 1877.  He was a professor at Harvard Medical School and continued practicing at Massachusetts General Hospital until his death on January 14, 1892.

Other prominent members of this family include Henry Pickering Bowditch (physician, dean of Harvard Medical School), Charles Pickering Bowditch (archaeologist and Henry’s brother) and more.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Feisty Females: Grandma Gatewood (Part II)

EmmaGatewoodShoesThe divorce court awarded custody of Lucy (12), Louise (14) and Nelson (16) to Emma and P.C. was ordered to pay fifteen dollars of alimony every month, and Emma received the farm in Barkers Ridge, with P.C. still required to make payments on it.  Failing that, he would land himself back in court.  Just to be able to walk away from that long and abusive relationship was a great relief to her:  “I know when I go to bed that no brute of a man is going to kick me out into the floor and then lie out of it.”

Her children immediately noticed a change in Emma – she was happier and had time to do the things she loved to do – reading, gardening, traveling and writing poetry.  In 1944 she sold the farm in West Virginia and moved back to Rutland, Ohio where she purchased a home.  Nelson had served in World War II, Louise was attending Marshall College and Lucy, just graduated from high school, was off to attend business school.

With her children out on their own, Emma had time to travel and go where she pleased.  She would go to various places, work for awhile and then move on elsewhere, but finally returning to Rutland to renovate her home and write some poetry, which she later self-published.  She moved back to Gallipolis when Louise had a baby in 1949 and they purchased a house together the following year.

For awhile Emma worked various jobs and traveled to visit relatives.  After Louise left in 1951 Emma rented the house and worked for five months at a hospital in Columbus.  One day, while working there she saw the August 1949 National Geographic article which would change her life.  Included in the article were some preparations tips for anyone planning a hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Emma was intrigued.

In July of 1954 she flew to Maine to begin the trek from the north end of the trail.  Two days later she was lost, had run out of food and eventually found the place where she had made a wrong turn.  She told a forest ranger she wasn’t lost, but merely “misplaced”; however, she still decided to return home to Ohio.  Some people may have never attempted such a feat again, but that wasn’t “Emma-like”.

The following spring she packed the few things she thought she would need and headed for Georgia to start the trek again, this time from the southern end of the trail.  In the drawstring sack she slung over her shoulder were: Vienna Sausage, raisins, peanuts, bouillon cubes, powdered milk, a tin of Band-Aids, iodine, bobby pins and a jar of Vicks VapoRub®.  She added a gingham dress and slippers, a warm coat, shower curtain in case of rain, drinking water, Swiss Army knife, flashlight, candy mints, pen and a memo book to record her thoughts along the way.  For the trek she was attired in dungarees and Keds® sneakers.

On May 3, 1955 Emma was again setting off on the long Appalachian Trail hike which had never been completed solo by a woman, and certainly not by someone who was sixty-seven years old.  She had saved enough money and began a walking regiment earlier that year in January and by April was walking ten miles a day.

Only two people knew exactly where she was that day – the cab driver who drove her to the starting point and her cousin Myrtle Trowbridge with whom she had spent the previous night with.  Her children did not know where she was or what she was doing – she had told them she was going on a walk – and walk she did.

Along the way she got lost more than a few times, but found her way back to the trail (due to some poorly marked landmarks and trail blazes).  She spent some nights in farm houses along the way, owing to the kindness of strangers, some of whom she remained in contact with for years to come.  Sometimes she was turned away and made a bed out of leaves under the stars.

She had meant to keep quiet about her journey, but after she mentioned it to someone on June 20, she was met several times along the way by photographers and journalists who wanted to know more about her story and why she was doing it.  On June 22 she finally acquiesced and agreed to an interview and the following day the Roanoke Times ran a headline announcing to the world her intentions: OHIO WOMAN, 67, HIKING 2,050 MILES ON APPY TRAIL.

From that point on her story would spread across the country, and that’s when everyone began to refer to her as “Grandma Gatewood”.  Sports Illustrated, still a fledgling magazine, wanted her story and sent journalist Mary Snow to track her down.  They connected and Snow would meet her at various places along the way to continue writing Emma’s story.

Emma encountered plenty of beauty and wonders of nature along the way.  In August, she encountered the wrath of nature when a storm with origins off the coast of French Guiana morphed into Hurricane Connie, which eventually made its way up the Atlantic seaboard and inundated New England with torrents of rain.  Still she pressed through, sometimes with the help of other hikers on the trail.

By the time she reached the end of the trail on September 25, 1955, she had worn out several pairs of sneakers, lost or had broken her glasses, and had just traversed, by far, the most difficult and arduous part of the trail.  She simply recorded in her journal that she had reached “the end of the trail”.  In twenty-six days she would turn sixty-eight years old and had just hiked 2,050 miles through thirteen states.  The only ceremonious thing she did was to sing the first verse of America the Beautiful.

Whether Emma was totally aware of it, by that time she was already a celebrity of sorts as her story had captivated the nation.  Emma would be asked, “why did you do it?”  She would reply, “I thought it would be a nice lark . . . but it wasn’t.”  She was interviewed countless times and appeared on television shows.

In 1956 the United States House of Representatives honored her accomplishments.  One would think that one solo hike over the A.T. would be enough to last a lifetime, but by the following May she started out again to set yet another record as the first person, man or woman, to walk the entire trail twice.  She started out on April 27 that year and made it to Mt. Katahdin on September 16.  Emma later walked the trail again in sections rather than one continuous trek.

Redlands_Daily_Facts_Tue__May_12__1959_In 1959 Oregon was celebrating its centennial anniversary as a state.  On May 4 she departed Independence, Missouri, at the age of seventy-one years old, and began walking the historic Oregon Trail.  She told a Junction City, Kansas reporter, “I was looking for something to do this summer and a walk to Oregon seemed like the best thing.”  The governor of Oregon named her a special ambassador, and as she made her way she stayed with families along the way.  In response to last week’s article, one reader, Ralph Coffman, shared the following:

Grandma Gatewood stayed with us for awhile when she hiked the Oregon Trail. I walked a few steps with her. She had a significant and powerful influence on my life. I have traveled the world, mostly by hitchhiking in my younger years. She was a godsend. What an inspiration to so many.

The_Kansas_City_Star_Tue__May_12__1959_Again, her story captivated the nation.  She accepted no rides and carried only her knapsack and an umbrella.  On August 7 she reached her destination in Portland and was greeted by a mob of admirers.  Ben Montgomery, author of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, wrote: “When Emma reached the ribbon, she was overcome with tears.  She brushed it apart and fell into the arms of a stranger and wept.  She seemed shaken by it all, particularly the crowds.”

After regaining her composure she asked the Portland mayor, “Who do they think I am?  Queen Elizabeth?”  She was again feted with honors such as the key to Portland, invitations to Hollywood and an appearance on Art Linkletter’s House Party.  In November she was invited to appear on the Groucho Marx television show You Bet Your Life.

Emma continued to travel and in 1960 attempted another trek across the A.T.  After seventy-five miles she had to abandon the trail because of debris that had been strewn along a section in North Carolina.  She decided to skip forward and was photographed on June 2 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

By August 7, one year to the day since she had completed the Oregon Trail walk, she crossed over into Canada, having completed another section.  This time she had only hiked about seven hundred miles and worn out just two pairs of sneakers.

In 1964 she walked the most difficult part of the A.T. through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, completing her third A.T. hike in sections.  Emma sold her house in 1967 and bought a small trailer court in Cheshire, and continued to travel and promote the sport of hiking.  She also began blazing and marking a trial through Gallia County which would eventually connect to the Buckeye Trail (notice in the picture below, she was still wearing her Keds® sneakers).

GrandmaGatewoodP.C. became seriously ill in 1968 and had one last request to see Emma.  According to Ben Montgomery, “[H]e wanted her to come stand in his doorway, just for a moment.  The woman who had walked more than ten thousand miles since she left him refused to take those steps.”

In 1973 she embarked on a long bus trip and after returning home fell ill.  On June 3 she called Nelson to say she wasn’t feeling well.  He and an ambulance rushed to her home only to find she had lapsed into a coma.  The following morning Emma awoke briefly to hum a few bars of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and then slipped away in the presence of her daughter Rowena and son Nelson and his wife.

She was hailed as the most famous female hiker in the nation.  For years to come stories about her would sporadically appear.  In recent years, efforts to tell Emma’ story have been undertaken by an Ohio non-profit organization, Eden Valley Enterprises, in conjunction with Film Affects.  To read more about their project and contribute to the production and broadcast of the “Trail Magic” documentary, click here or here.

This has been one of the more enjoyable pieces of history I’ve read and written about since starting the blog last October.  I hope you’ve found this “feisty females” story informative, inspiring and uplifting.  In case you missed it, I reviewed Ben Montgomery’s book yesterday — click here to read it.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Book Review Thursday: Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

GrandmaGatewoodsWalkEmma Gatewood made history in 1955 when she became the first woman to walk the entire Appalachian Trail alone – and then she became the first woman to walk it twice, and again a third time in sections, and all after she reached the age when most people retire.  She also walked another famous trail in 1959 – tune in for more about that in tomorrow’s concluding article on “Feisty Female” Grandma Gatewood (read Part One here).   Ben Montgomery’s book relies heavily on notes and diaries lent to him by Emma’s youngest daughter, Lucille Gatewood Seeds, as well as family stories and newspaper accounts.

The book isn’t merely about Emma’s historic walk either.  The majority of the book’s chapters include flashbacks to her “background story” from childhood all the way through a tumultuous and abusive marriage to Perry Clayton Gatewood.  Emma was herself one of the fifteen children of Hugh and Esther Caldwell (ten girls and five boys).  She and P.C., as he was called, had eleven of their own.

Throughout the book the reader gets a glimpse of what gave Emma the determination and grit to attempt such a feat in the first place.  Her life was not an easy one, but apparently she never shirked her duties as a wife and mother (except on two brief occasions to briefly escape the abuse), that is until she received one beating too many.  When she finally divorced P.C., she was almost fifty-four years old – what else could she do with her life?

With only an eighth-grade education, she was an avid reader.  One day she read a National Geographic article about the Appalachian Trail and started to think about taking up the challenge.  Montgomery chronicles her first unsuccessful and brief attempt, followed by the 1955 arduous trek where she faced all kinds of adversity, including a hurricane and massive rain storms.

She would go on to walk the trail two more times, once all the way through and another time in sections.  She had been an avid walker all of her life – during her volatile marriage it would give her a chance to step away for brief periods of time for solace and reflection, often writing dark-themed poetry.

She also walked across the country to commemorate the Oregon Trail anniversary.  All of these feats made her at last a minor celebrity for awhile.  She appeared on television shows (Groucho Marx and others) and was interviewed by several newspapers and publications over the years.

The book tells an uplifting story, although at times it may seem pedantic and plodding.  However, it is a work of history and its reliance on notes, diaries and news accounts lends itself to that type of narration.  Other book reviewers objected to the lack of imagination, but I found it flowed well enough to keep me interested – and certainly found it informative and inspiring.

I learned a lot about a person I had never heard of, so for me that’s always a plus.  If you’re a hiker, walker, exercise enthusiast – or just aspire to do something with your life no matter your age – I think you’ll find the book a worthwhile and inspiring read.

Rating:  ★★★★

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Ghost Town Wednesday: Ghost Towns of Sherman County, Kansas

GhostTownWednesdayThis county in northwestern Kansas had been home to buffalo-hunting Native Americans and was named for General William Tecumseh Sherman of Civil War fame by the Kansas legislature in 1873.  Cattle and sheep ranches were established in the early 1880’s on land available for little or no cost.

A few towns had already been founded in 1885 and early 1886 as settlers made their way to the area, including a fair number of foreign immigrants from Sweden, Germany and Austria:  Eustis, Sherman Center, Voltaire, Itasca and Gandy.  On September 20, 1886 the county was officially organized and Eustis was named the temporary county seat.  Other towns established in 1887 and 1888 were Goodland, Ruleton and Kanorado (near the Colorado state line, thus the hybrid name).  Here is a brief history of those which quickly became ghost towns.


In the spring of 1885, P.S. Eustis and O.R Phillips organized the Lincoln Land Company and laid out the town.  P.S., as an agent of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, had the distinction of having the town named in his honor.  In July of 1886 a post office was opened.

After being named the temporary county seat in September, an election was held on November 8 to allow voters to decide which town, Sherman Center or Eustis, would be the permanent county seat.  Eustis won and construction began on a courthouse.  The following spring another election was held and Eustis came out victorious.

For reasons unclear, another election was called for in August of 1887 by a county committee to once and for all determine the county seat.  Representatives of Voltaire and Sherman Center and someone named B. Taylor who owned land in the central part of the county made their pitches before the committee.  Eustis declined to make a presentation.  At the next meeting of the county committee, representatives of newly-established Goodland made a well-received presentation.

Of the almost fifteen hundred votes cast in the fall election, Goodland won 872 of those votes.  The official vote tallies could not be completed, however, after injunctions were filed which prevented county commissioners from canvassing the vote.  Therefore, between November 1887 and January 1888 the county seat issue remained unsettled with court battles and more commission meetings.

On January 13, 1888 the matter began to reach a boiling point when a group from Goodland marched to Eustis intending to seize the county records.  A war of words ensued in newspapers throughout the county.  The rivalry heated up to the extent that Governor John Martin sent the Kansas National Guard to monitor the situation.  However, by early May, Eustis had withdrawn its objections after Goodland had hired a posse of sorts which captured one of the county commissioners and forced him to allow the county records to be removed – no shots fired, end of dispute.

Not long afterwards, the citizens of Eustis began to move to the new county seat, eventually leading to the town’s demise.  For the same reasons, the town of Sherman Center also faded away.


The town of Gandy had been founded in June of 1885, named after Dr. J.L. Gandy of Humboldt, Nebraska.  Its post office was established in September and the first county newspaper, “The New Tecumseh” published its first issue on November 11, 1885.  The first school in the county was also established in Gandy.

Gandy seemed to be taking root with these county “firsts”, but by early 1886 had begun to decline.  In March the newspaper moved to Itasca and later that fall the post office was moved to Sherman Center, established in May of 1886.  Itasca would eventually suffer the same fate as Sherman Center and Gandy.  Like a row of dominoes, these fledgling communities continued to fall.


This town was founded by a group from Rawlins County, Kansas on June 15, 1885 and named for French philosopher Voltaire.  By the summer of 1886 the town reached its peak with just over one hundred and forty residents and forty-five buildings and homes.  As was the case in countless “county wars”, Voltaire began to decline after an unsuccessful bid to become the seat of government for Sherman County.

Voltaire had been established on government land, and therefore was required to maintain a certain population level until the land could be officially turned over to the town.  With winter on its way following the election defeat, few residents wanted to remain in Voltaire, but the town’s founders hired a man and his family to remain there to hold the town until spring when more settlers would arrive and improvements could be made.

Those who left returned to Rawlins County (Atwood) for the winter, one which proved to be an especially harsh and deadly one.  Instead of returning, residents decided to remain in Atwood and Voltaire began to decline.  In 1889 the post office was closed and the town vacated by the Kansas legislature.

Today the towns of Goodland (still the county seat) and Kanorado remain; Ruleton is a small unincorporated community.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Tombstone Tuesday: Lieutenant Nathaniel Bowditch (Part One)

NathanielBowditch     Nathaniel Bowditch (pronounced bau-ditch) was born to parents Dr. Henry Ingersoll and Olivia Jane Yardley Bowditch on December 6, 1839.  As noted in the memoir written by his father, Memorial of Nathaniel Bowditch, he “received his grandsire’s name because he was the first grandson born.”  His grandfather was a renowned early American mathematician who specialized in maritime navigation.  More on Nathaniel the grandfather in this week’s Surname Saturday article.

Nathaniel, a well-behaved child, began school between the ages of four and five.  His teacher remembered his “pleasant deportment, his affectionate disposition, his thoughtfulness of the comfort of others, his obedience, and his gentleness.”  At one point, however, his mother thought his gentle spirit would prevent him from being able to defend himself later in life – after one incident he had run to his mother and said, “I hate to fight.”

Following his early schooling, Nathaniel entered Dr. Charles Kraitsir’s school in Boston which emphasized the structure and historical development of language.  After two years there he entered public grammar school, followed by a private school and then spent six years under an uncle’s tutelage.  By that time, Nathaniel’s father was ready for him to continue his educational pursuits at the Lawrence Scientific School, founded by Albert Lawrence and the precursor to Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

In September of 1858 he entered the school for a three-year course of study.  Henry believed it would prepare his son for a career in medicine, and Nathaniel diligently studied — in the words of his father, “with an intense love of his work, Nat devoted himself, day after day, to learn thoroughly everything that could be acquired concerning the structure of the class of the animal kingdom, to which he was devoting himself.”

He spent hours studying zoology and performing minute dissections, something that would be useful should be become a surgeon.  His father reflected on his skills later, believing that, although it might have seemed absurd to some, Nathaniel “actually wielded the sabre on the fatal field of Kelley’s Ford in a more effective manner, in consequence of the hours and days of quiet labor passed at the feet of the great naturalist.”

In September of 1861 Nathaniel formally entered the study of medicine, intending to devote an entire year to the study of human anatomy and physiology.  In addition to his studies, he began following Henry’s medical cases and visiting Massachusetts General Hospital on Saturdays to observe surgeries.  Henry, of course, swelled with pride at his son’s accomplishments and none more so than the observation that “a deep religious feeling had been for months stealing over him, and high principle seemed to be his guiding star.”

After Fort Sumter’s fall in April of 1861, Nathaniel had considered joining the cause but an accident prevented him from joining the Second Massachusetts Regiment.  His parents were, understandably, relieved since although proud of his patriotism were not eager for him to “offer himself as a champion, and possible as a martyr, to the cause.”

Everything would change, however, about two months after he entered medical school.  On October 22, 1861 devastating news came of the carnage at Ball’s Bluff, a humiliating defeat for the Union in Loudoun County, Virginia.  Lieutenant William Lowell Putnam, a former classmate of Nathaniel’s, died in that battle, his death affecting Nathaniel profoundly.  “Nat felt that the die was cast, that his own hour had come.”  He calmly and assuredly announced his intentions to his family: “I have decided to go, because I have made up my mind that it is my duty to do so.”

On November 5, 1861 Nathaniel Bowditch was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of the First Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry by Governor John Albion Andrew.  He immediately reported for duty at Camp Meigs under the command of Colonel Robert Williams.  His transition to army life, however, was not a smooth one.

Just before he arrived at the camp, incidents of insubordination had resulted in violence in order to subdue it.  Upon his arrival, Nathaniel was ordered to return to Boston and await further orders until order was restored.  Nathaniel, as his father noted, was a lover of peace and one reluctant to resort to force.  The incident affected him to the point that upon his return home he told Henry he wasn’t fit for the task – “I can never govern men, if it be necessary to do what is now done at camp.  I must resign my commission.”

It must have pained him to do so, but Henry encouraged him to stick it out: “My boy, be of good cheer; you are new in this business.  All things will be well, I have no doubt.  You know, however, that it is not the custom for any of us to give up an important object, until we have either gained it, or have become convinced that we are unable to gain it.  Then, and not till then, do we resign. . . go ahead, trusting in the Lord.”

This encouraged Nathaniel, and instead of brooding, he spent his time honing his sword and horsemanship skills.  On Christmas Day he received urgent orders to return to the camp and on December 28, left Camp Meigs for New York with his regiment.  Two weeks later they embarked on a rough voyage to Port Royal, South Carolina, arriving on January 17, 1862.

Nathaniel and his family began their correspondence – Nathaniel’s letters were about camp life, friendships, and both the mundane tasks and the hard times.  His family had determined that it was their duty to encourage and support him and to “make light of hardship and annoyances.”  They would regularly send him quotes from various authors and news clippings, which he carried with him until his death.

On February 17, Henry received word that Nathaniel had fallen ill on Hilton Head and went to visit his son.  Henry was tempted to ask for a furlough or even his resignation, but Nathaniel eventually recovered and returned to full duty on May 1.  On April 28, he had written his sister about the next campaign and expressed a decided resignation as to his possible fate:

This is my first, and it may be my last battle; but I never entered into any thing with a clearer conscience and a happier feeling than I do now.  I have my trust in the Almighty Father, and know that whatever happens to me is for the best.  I often think of your favorite psalm: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”  I do not know that I ever had such a feeling as I have not.  It is a most resigned one, and a perfect trust in my Lord Jesus. . . You may rest assured that your brother will not flinch from his duty; and, if he is shot, I trust it will be with his face to the enemy.  I feel that a man who falls in this cause, falls in a glorious one, and one which he may be proud of.

Apparently the regiment’s orders had changed and Nathaniel wrote to his family informing them.  That night he had bedded down “in the only hotel open at that time, which had ‘Mother Earth’ for its floor, and the heaven above for its roof.”  He slept well that night but was amazed at the heavy dew the next morning – blankets were dripping wet.  He, however, had taken two quinine pills before retiring and felt fine.

Nathaniel had been too optimistic it seems, for the day after his family received the letter, he was brought home to Boston emaciated and almost unrecognizable, having contracted malaria.  He arrived on June 17 and recovered rapidly, although he experienced a partial paralysis of his legs which made it difficult to walk.  Nonetheless, the War Department ordered him back to duty in early August.  On August 8, he finally departed again for Hilton Head, making no complaint.

From that point on his regiment was on the move and fully engaged.  I don’t normally write two-part articles for Tombstone Tuesday, but this one, taken from his father’s memoir, is too interesting to condense into one article.  Tune in next week for the conclusion of Lieutenant Nathaniel Bowditch’s story.

Source: Memorial of Nathaniel Bowditch, by Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, 1865.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Military History Monday: The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga

JohnClem_1It’s an historical fact that over ten thousand soldiers under the age of eighteen served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Granted, many of them served as drummers and fifers, but their service was nonetheless invaluable.  Drummers set the marching pace and sometimes provided cadence for the firing of guns and cannons.  Fifers, on the other hand, were used for signaling line formation changes, as well as working in conjunction with drummers to set the marching pace.

One of the youngest “boy soldiers” to serve became known as “The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga”.  He was born John Joseph Klem to German immigrant parents Roman and Magdalene on August 13, 1851 in Newark, Ohio.  By the 1860 census, however, the family had changed the spelling of their surname to “Clem”.

On August 2, 1861, just a few days before John’s tenth birthday, his mother passed away.  Perhaps distraught over his mother’s death, John ran away from home to join an Ohio regiment.  After being rejected because of his age in Ohio, he later joined the 22nd Michigan Infantry as a drummer boy.

For years following the Civil War newspapers would spread the following legend of his service at The Battle of Shiloh.  The problem, however, was that the 22nd was formed on August 29, 1862, over four months following one of the most devastating battles of the war on April 6-7.

He had lost his mother, and in May, 1861, before he was ten years old – when he was so small he might have been placed inside of a regulation drum – offered his service as a drummer to the 3d Ohio regiment; but was rejected on account of his size and tender age.  The little hero went out on the same train with the regiment, and meeting the 22d Michigan regiment, offered his services to that and was again rejected; but with undaunted spirits and determination, he followed the fortunes of the regiment, until at length he was beating the “long roll” in front of Shiloh in April 1862, where his soldierly spirit so won the admiration and confidence of the officers of the regiment, that in June of July, 1862, he was enlisted in Covington, Kentucky, as a drummer, and served afterwards as a “marker.”

At Shiloh his drum was smashed by a piece of a shell, which won for him the appellation of “Johnny Shiloh,” as a title of distinction for his fearless manner in the bloody battle.  (Bismarck Tribune, 24 Oct 1879)

This legend persisted for several years, perhaps until someone noticed that the dates didn’t match.  In addition, his mother died in August of 1861.  Some believe that the legend of “Johnny Shiloh” may have been associated with a Civil War song, “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh” by William S. Hays and published in Harpers Weekly.

DrummerBoyShilohAt some point John, an admirer of President Abraham Lincoln, changed his name to John Lincoln Clem.  While he wasn’t at The Battle of Shiloh, John did later distinguish himself at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 23, 1863 at the age of twelve.  He was said to have “exchanged the ‘long roll’ of the drum for the ‘brisk fire’ of the deadly musket.”  The musket, presumably, had been shortened to match his diminutive size.  Again, the Bismarck Tribune (and many other newspapers) reported:

The line being formed, he now took his position in the ranks, and with his true and trusty little musket began putting in the periods quite on his own account, blazing away close to the ground like a fire-fly in the grass.  At the close of the day, when the army was retiring towards Chattanooga, the brigade to which little Johnny belonged was ordered to hold its position, but, being afterward surrounded by the rebels, a demand for its surrender was made directly after its charge had been repulsed, when a rebel colonel rode up to our little hero, who could not fall back as rapidly as the rest of the line, and made a special demand of him: “Halt!  Surrender! You d—-d little Yankee son of a b—-h!”  Still coming with his sword drawn upon little Johnny, who had now brought his musket to an “order arms,” and, in doing which, slipped his hand down the barrel and cocked it while at “order,” when our little hero, uninspired to obedience of the chaste summons he had just received, suddenly swung up his musket to the position of “charge bayonet” and fired, when lo! our Little David brought down the proud Goliah[sic], who fell from his saddle, his lips fresh stained with the reproachful epithet he had just flung upon a mother’s grave in the hearing of her child.

(That has to be one of the longest sentences I’ve ever seen, but that is verbatim as printed in 1879!)  This may or may not have been exactly what happened, for after all, this was the same newspaper edition which had reported the legend of “Johnny Shiloh”.

The following month, at Chattanooga, while detailed as a train guard he was captured by a Confederate cavalry regiment.  It was reported that his uniform and cap (with three bullet holes in it) were taken away – he was greatly upset about the cap being seized.  “Having captured this galtant [sic] little prize, the rebels despoiled him of the companionship of his little, bullet-torn cap which he endeavored in vain to retain as a reminiscent in the future of the perils through which he has passed, taking also from his jacket and shoes.” (Bismarck Tribune, 24 Oct 1879)

JohnClemAfter his heroic conduct, he was promoted to Sergeant and  then transferred to the Army of the Cumberland, attached to the staff of General Thomas.  After joining this unit, he fought at other notable battles including, Kennesaw, Atlanta, Nashville and others.  Besides the three bullets which passed through his cap at Chickamauga, he was also struck in the hip with a shell fragment and then again by a stray bullet which felled his horse.  Again, as reported by the Bismarck Tribune:

Besides the three balls that passed through his little cap at Chickamauga, he was struck once with a fragment of shell upon his hip and once by a ball.  Upon the latter occasion, he was in the act of delivering a dispatch from General Thomas to General Logan at Atlanta, when a ball struck his little pony obliquely near the top of his head, killing him and wounding his fearless little rider in the right ear.

John was discharged on September 19, 1864, returned home and completed his education in 1870.  In 1871 President Ulysses Grant appointed him to the United States Military Academy at West Point, but he failed the entrance exam.  Instead, Grant appointed him as 2nd Lieutenant in the 24th U.S. Infantry.

John Lincoln Clem married Anita Rosetta French in 1875, and after she passed away in 1899 married Elizabeth Sullivan of San Antonio, Texas in 1903.  Interestingly, she was the daughter of a Confederate veteran and John would claim that he was “the most united American alive.”

He had a long and distinguished military career at various posts.  When he retired on August 13, 1915 at the mandatory retirement age of sixty-four, he was promoted to Brigadier General – customary for Civil War veterans retiring at the rank of Colonel.  At that time he was the last Civil War veteran serving in the United States Army.  The next year, and then on the retirement list, he was again promoted to Major General.  The United States was then on the brink of entering World War I.  John requested reactivation, but was turned down by President Woodrow Wilson.

JohnClemGraveFor a time following retirement he lived in Washington, D.C. but later returned to San Antonio.  He died there on May 13, 1937 at the age of eighty-five and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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