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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Unfounded, Hypocritical Blabbering: President Trump's Tweets About Transgender Military Service


President Donald Trump recently tweeted that he would ban trans military service. Trump said in a series of tweets: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

Not only do Trump's remarks represent a step back for LGBTQ equality, but also they have absolutely no evidence behind them. Like many of his tweets, this vicious attack was made without thought or without understanding. It also is very hypocritical considering Trump made a promise during his campaign to support the LGBTQ community.

Current Policy

On September 20, 2011, the military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) ended, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to serve openly. Yet, military medical policies still excluded transgender people from serving openly in the US armed forces. These medical policies laid out exclusions for what are deemed to be “psychosexual disorders,” including transsexualism, crossdressing, or a history of gender transition.

Therefore, transgender individuals who wish to join the US armed forces are prohibited from doing so if their transgender status is known. Furthermore, those already serving can be medically discharged if suspected of being transgender.

However …

After the issue had been thoroughly studied, the Obama administration moved to lift the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military in 2016. On both the military readiness and cost fronts, the findings were clear: Allowing trans people to serve would not be disruptive, nor would it entail tremendous medical costs. Perhaps the main reason for these findings – trans people simply aren’t that large of a population. And, in truth, there is no documented medical reason for the U.S. armed forces to prohibit transgender Americans from serving

Ash Carter, the defense secretary under former President Barack Obama, announced the ban allowed for a year-long review process to allow the Pentagon to determine how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military.

Yet, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced in June 2017 that he was delaying the July 1 deadline set by Carter to review the military's policy on allowing transgender personnel. Then came Trump's Twitter announcement.


We can establish the long service of transgender individuals in the United States military. Research analyses from several data sources (2014) estimate 15,500 transgender individuals are serving on active duty or in the Guard or Reserve forces. The research also estimates that there are an estimated 134,300 transgender individuals who are veterans or who are retired from Guard or Reserve service.

The ban itself is an unfair barrier to health access for transgender personnel who currently serve in active, Guard, and reserve components.

(Gary J. Gates and Jody L. Herman. “Transgender Military Service.” The Williams Institute. May 2014.)

A new study that utilized data collected through the National Transgender Discrimination Survery (NTDS), shows that twenty percent of transgender people have served in the military, which is double the percentage of the U.S. general population that has served. As the largest employer of trans folks – a group that already experiences disproportionately high rates of unemployment and homelessness – a Defense Department ban on their service would threaten thousands of trans peoples' livelihoods.

The ACLU tweeted in response to the president's comments, "Thousands of trans service-members on the front lines deserve better from their commander-in-chief."


A study commissioned by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter found that a small portion of service members are transgender and that allowing them to serve openly in the military would cost little and have no significant impact on unit readiness.

In addition, the ban on trans service members was based on incorrect and outdated medical rationale. Vox News reporter German Lopez said, “The concern was that a person's gender dysphoria – a state of emotional distress caused by how someone’s body or the gender they were assigned at birth conflicts with their gender identity – may interfere with someone's ability to serve, since it can lead to severe depression and anxiety.” 

(German Lopez. “Trump: allowing transgender military service would hurt combat readiness. Actual research: nope.” Vox. July 26, 2017.)

Now, medical experts, including the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, agree that hormone therapy and other forms of trans-inclusive care can treat those suffering from gender dysphoria. And, of course, not all trans people suffer from severe gender dysphoria in the first place.

RAND Corporation recently pointed out that 18 other countries – including Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom – allow transgender people to serve openly in the military with “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”

The RAND study said that if the Pentagon did not cover the medical procedures for service members – like hormone therapy and surgery – they would likely avoid seeking medical care and would have higher rates of substances abuse and suicide.

(Michael S. Schmidtmay. “Study Finds Few Obstacles to Lifting Military’s Transgender Ban.” The New York Times. May 16, 2016.)

Human Rights

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also released a statement responding directly to the military ban, calling Trump's decision "a dangerous and unpatriotic move to reinstate a ban on qualified transgender people serving in the military."

Combat veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, condemned the military ban in a statement: "When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind."

Tammy Duckworth

Eric Fanning, the first openly gay Secretary of the Army after being appointed by President Obama in May 2016, echoed Duckworth's sentiments, calling the ban "not just a setback for the transgender community, but a setback for the military, and a setback for our country, because this does not reflect the values upon which we were formed as a nation."

(Liz Stark. “Lawmakers, LGBTQ groups divided over transgender military service.” CNN. July 27, 2017.)

Other benefits to open service are evident. Retired Brigadier General Thomas A. Kolditz, former Army Commander and West Point professor on the Report of the Transgender Military Service Commission, stated, “Allowing transgender people to serve openly would reduce gender-based harassment, assaults and suicides while enhancing national security.”

(“Lift the Transgender Military Ban Now.” National LGBTQ Task Force. The Blog. May 26, 2014.)

Donald Trump's proposal is aimed at a political gain, and it has caused immeasurable stigma for the LGBTQ community. If Trump has his way, will those transgender people currently serving be dishonorably discharged? Will career officers who are transgender be forced out of their long-standing profession?

David S. Cohen of Rolling Stone magazine leaves us with important food for thought ...

“As president, Trump is commander-in-chief of the military. (The Constitution makes no exception for draft-dodgers or those who criticize American prisoners of war.) Because he's in charge of the armed forces, and there's no law from Congress on this issue, he can set these kinds of policies. Any military leaders who refuse to implement this new announcement could be forced to step aside by the president.

“Trump cannot, however, set aside the Constitution and its guarantees of equality. Though not many courts have ruled on the issue of whether the Constitution protects against trans discrimination, there is a small trend recently of courts finding that discrimination against trans individuals is a form of sex discrimination, something the Constitution prohibits unless the government has a really good reason for doing so.”

(David S. Cohen. “Trump's Trans Military Ban: What You Need to Know.” Rolling Stone. July 27, 2017.)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Scioto River Valley: "Keeping Promises in the Promised Land

We here in Scioto County live in the Scioto River Valley. It is a locale rich in natural resources and rich in American history. From the dramatic river confluence of the Scioto and the Ohio rivers in Portsmouth to the wide bottoms north of town, the valley – framed by lush native hills – offers a gorgeous landscape that should never be taken for granted.

A pertinent question for locals is “How much do you know about your homeland?” According to historian Andrew Lee Feight, the need to know is extremely important. He recounts a famous song that echoed that very notion:

“'Come all ye likely lads that have a mind for to range, Into some foreign country, your fortunes for to change; In seeking some new pleasures we will all together go, An' we'll settle on the banks of the pleasant Ohio.' So went the old song, which James Keyes used in 1880 as a preface to his collection of sketches detailing the lives of pioneer settlers near the mouth of the Scioto River.

“For many, the Scioto Valley was an American Promised Land and it filled rapidly with men, women, and children, a seemingly restless people who were chasing their fortunes in the newly opened lands of the Trans-Appalachian West.”

Allow me to shed a little light on the valley we call home. It is my hope that this exposition may reward you with a new understanding of our land and our forefathers.

The Formation

The geologic history of the Scioto River is tied to the destruction of the Teays River network during the Ice Ages and consequent creation of the Ohio River. As the Ice Age began to cool the earth, and large glaciers began to creep south from modern-day Canada, many landforms and features were changed or destroyed. The Teays River's path once traveled through modern-day West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiania, and Illinois, finally emptying into the Gulf of Mexicto, which at the time extended to southern Illinois.


The north flowing Teays River was dammed by glaciers, and damming of other rivers led to a series of floods as lakes overflowed into adjacent valleys. These Pre-Illinoisan (Early Pleistocene) glaciations brought an end to the Teays River.

The advance of ice sheets eventually dammed the Teays resulting in the formation of glacial Lake Tight. Glacial Lake Tight is estimated to have been two-thirds the size of modern Lake Erie. The lake extended into portions of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky and covered approximately 7000 square miles. Valleys beyond the reach of glaciers were reorganized to create the Ohio River, and the Scioto River replaced the Teays River. The Scioto River flows through segments of the Teays River valley but opposite the direction the Teays River flowed.


The Scioto River then ran in a channel about 100 feet below its present bed. All its tributaries near their months were 100 feet lower than now. This made their flow much more rapid, and the growing process was very active. Every flood carried out of the tributary valleys an immense amount of eroded debris. Thus was the valley formed and fashioned into its present size and shape.

Had it not been for the upheaval there could have been no erosion; and without erosion the geological and stratigraphical formation of the valley would not have occurred. This glaciers gave birth to the valley, with all its living organisms.

Human Habitation

The Scioto River is fully 231 miles in length. Humans have inhabited the region for thousands of years. The river valley was home to many Native American cultures. The best known group was the Mound Builders of the Hopewell tradition. Of course, water is essential for life, but the Scioto also offered fertile land for homesteading pioneers – both Indian and white.

Here is a poetic view of the Scioto in the History of Lower Scioto Valley, 1884 ...

“Drainage is not the entire object of our river systems. Irrigation and exposure of deep and otherwise hidden treasures are evidently had in view by the Author of Nature with all is elementary combinations. He that makes eyeless fishes where no light can every penetrate would not upheave and plow down the earth's crust without having in view some special object. Scioto Valley is not, by any means, destitute of the foot-prints of the Deity, but is proof of his handiwork ...

“But, aside from the ancient denizens of the Scioto Valley, let us view the inhabitants of the valley when first seen by the Caucasian. Not a tree had yet fallen before the ax of the white man. Among the waving branches of the heavy timbered bottoms, and on the stately oaks of the hills, were heard the notes and cries of birds of various plumage, new and strange. The Indian whoop, the panther's cry, the hoarse growl of the bear, the howl of the wolf, mingled with thousands of notes of animated beings of a new world. Is he dreaming? Or, does he behold the animated beings of a literal country, like the ones left behind him?”

Yet, why, as a rule, did most early inhabitants of the Scioto Valley settle in the hills, some distances from the river instead of in the rich bottoms?

Despite the resources offered by the valley, both natives and whites had to deal with one persistent threat in the idyllic setting – flooding. Floods posed problems for habitation. Some were particularly devastating. For example, in 1753, a massive flood overflowed both the Scioto and Ohio River banks and completely destroyed the native village of Lower Shawneetown.

Andrew Feight wrote this about the event …

“Having themselves only recently returned to the region, at least three generations since their ancestors had been expelled, the Shawnee were apparently unfamiliar with the occasional massive floods that can make the annual, predictable floods, which inundate the area’s bottom lands, seem unremarkable. The Flood of 1753 would undoubtedly compare with the devastating flood of 1937, which swallowed much of Portsmouth and many other towns along the Ohio River.”

Not only did the river valley present threats of flooding waters, but also it harbored other serious health hazards.

According to James Emmitt, one of Waverly's prominent fathers ...

“Vegetation in the bottoms, in those days, was absolutely rank. Sycamore, black walnut and hackberry trees grew abundantly and to splendid proportions, and the vines of the wild grape clambered up in a dense and tangled mass to their very tops, interlacing their branches, and often uniting many trees in a common bond of clinging vines.

“The growth of weeds and underbrush was wonderfully dense, and when the floods would come and cover the bottoms, several inches of water would remain in those brakes of weeds for months after it had receded from less densely overgrown ground.

“As a matter of fact, the water would stand almost the year around, in lagoons, over a large portion of the bottoms, converting them into huge marshes, and causing them to closely resemble much of the swamp land now so abundant in the South.”

The bottom lands were called “immense tracts of poison-breeding land, marshy in nature, and wholly unfit for the agreeable habitation of man.” The lowlands were “reeking with malaria” and “ague” that was described as “almost as malignant as yellow fever.” Reports say “when a man was seized with the shaking ague, as it manifested itself in 1818-20, he imagined that a score of fiends were indulging in a fierce warfare over the dismemberment of his poor person.”

Emmitt wrote:

“Oh, what torture it was! After the terrible quaking ceased then came the racking, burning fever, that scorched the blood, parched the flesh, and made one pray for death. Torture more absolute and prostrating could not well be conceived of. And when it is remembered that no one who dared brave the dangers of the bottoms was exempt from ague, in some one of its many distressing forms, during the entire spring and summer seasons, and often year in and out, it is not surprising that the early settlers shunned what was to them a plague-stricken district.”

Thus, the hill country bordering the bottoms was first settled by whites. Then the bottoms were “gradually conquered” as residents worked from their outer boundaries clearing away timber, vines, and underbrush. Once the land was cleared, the sun converted it into “workable condition.” And, fever and ague grew less prevalent as the land was cleared up.

The pioneers turned up rich bottom lands since the debris – once an impediment that had kept floods from receding quickly – also produced a positive consequence. At every rise in the river, the water was held on the bottoms until “they had become enriched by a heavy deposit of the soil carried down from the hilltops.” However, once cleared, the bottom lands suffered more soil loss from the currents of flood waters. It seems nature provides and also takes away.

The Scioto River Valley remains one of the most fertile and beautiful areas of the country. Often people overlook the bountiful nature of their own environment, preferring to revel in memories and images of faraway places. The gem we in Scioto are intrusted to protect rivals any other natural wonder. Perhaps we should do much more to enjoy this gift and to enhance its being. These are promises that would benefit all who here dwell.


James Emmitt. Chillicothe Leader. 1886. Found at “Pike County” on

Andrew Lee Feight Ph.D. “Lower Shawnee Town and the Flood of 1753. Lower Scioto Blog. December 24, 2007.

Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D. “Settling the Scioto Valley.” Tour curated by: Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D.

R.P. Goldthwaite. "The Teays Valley Problem, a Historical Perspective", pp. 3-8 in Wilton N. Melhorn, 1991, Geology and Hydrogeology of the Teays-Mahomet Bedrock Valley Systems, Geological Society of America Special Paper

Kay L. Mason. History of Lower Scioto Valley Ohio.

Ohio Statewide Files – History: Chapter 4, History of Lower Scioto Valley. Chicago. 1884.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Emmitt House and Monticello -- The Hemings Connection


Most of us remember the Emmitt House in Waverly, and we mourn its loss to fire on January 6, 2014. The historic hotel was built by James Emmitt in 1861 on the site of an earlier frame hotel originally owned by Emmitt's former business partner. Emmitt was an celebrated entrepreneuer who became Pike County's first millionaire. He largely earned his fortune from a distillery, which he used to make whiskey, and "Emmitt's Discovery," a snake oil cure-all he reportedly "discovered" when a mule kicked a can of fuel oil into a vat of spirits. Emmitt also served two terms in the US Senate. He died in 1893, at the age of 87.


Emmitt used his influence to have the county seat moved to Waverly from Piketon, and he was instrumental in having the Ohio & Erie Canal route changed between the two towns. He then built the Emmitt House along the canal in 1861, even though railroads had displaced the canal by then. His hotel did a brisk business with travelling salesmen and other people who passed through.

The Emmitt House has a long history and one connection that weaves a story related directly to a founding father and celebrated president. It is a story that remained shrouded in mystery for most of American history. Let's establish the link of the structure to this famous person – it is a story that begins in 1805 at another historic location, Monticello.

Madison Hemings

Madison Hemings was born James Madison Hemings on January 18, 1805. He was the son of the mixed-race slave Sally Hemings. inherited by Martha Wayles Skelton, the wife of Thomas Jefferson. (Sally and Martha were reported half sisters, both fathered by the planter John Wayles.Wayles was said to have a "shadow family": six children with his slave, Betty Hemings, whom he took as a sex slave after his third wife died.)

According to historians Philip D. Morgan and Joshua D. Rothman, Sally Hemings told Madison that his father was Thomas Jefferson, and that their relationship had started in Paris in the late 1780s, where he was serving as a diplomat. Pregnant, she agreed to return with Jefferson to the United States based on his promise to free her children when they came of age.
Much later – through historical and DNA evidence – historians widely agree that Jefferson was probably the father of all of Hemings's children. Madison was actually the third of Sally Hemings's four children to survive to adulthood.

At the age of 68, Madison Hemings claimed the connection in a March 13, 1873 Pike County Republican interview titled, "Life Among the Lowly.” The title is likely a reference to Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, the famous novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The article attracted national and international attention. 1998 DNA tests demonstrated a match between the Y-chromosome of a descendant of his brother, Eston Hemings Jefferson, and that of the male Jefferson line.

According to his 1873 memoir, Madison was named for Jefferson's close friend and future president James Madison at the request of Madison's wife Dolley.

Madison lived as a child with his siblings and mother, who were all spared from hard labor. He described Jefferson as kind but showing little or no paternal interest in the Hemings' children.

Like his older brother Beverley (possibly named William Beverley Hemings), at 14 years of age, Madison was apprenticed to his uncle, Sally's brother John Hemings, the most skilled artisan at Monticello, to learn carpentry and fine woodworking. Madison's younger brother Eston joined him two years later.

John Hemmings, who made much of Monticello’s decorative interior woodwork and numerous pieces of furniture, then trained Madison and Eston in his craft. This gave each of the Hemings a valuable trade.

Here is an account by Madison Hemings as it appeared in the “Life Among the Lowly” article:

When I was fourteen years old I was put to the carpenter trade under the charge of John Hemings, the youngest son of my grandmother. His father's name was Nelson, who was an Englishman. She had seven children by white men and seven by colored men—fourteen in all. My brothers, sister Harriet and myself were used alike. They were put to some mechanical trade at the age of fourteen. 
“Till then we were permitted to stay about the 'great house,' and only required to do such light work as going on errands. Harriet learned to spin and to weave in a little factory on the home plantation. We were free from the dread of having to be slaves all our lives long, and were measurably happy. We were always permitted to be with our mother, who was well used. It was her duty, all her life which I can remember, up to the time of father's death, to take care of his chamber and wardrobe, look after us children and do such light work as sewing, &c. Provision was made in the will of our father that we should be freed when we arrived at the age of 21 years.”

All three of the Hemings brothers also studied and learned to play the violin, the instrument associated with Jefferson. Beverley, the oldest, was good enough to be invited to play at dances held by the Jeffersons at Monticello. As an adult, Eston Hemings made a living as a musician and entertainer in Ohio.

In his will, Jefferson gave immediate freedom to three slaves: John Hemings, a brother of Sally, to whom he also bequeathed "the service of his two apprentices Madison and Eston Hemings", with instruction that the brothers each be freed at his respective 21st birthday. Jefferson freed two of Sally's nephews: Joseph Fossett and Burwell Colbert. (John Hemings was a widower and evidently childless by 1826, but Fossett and Colbert were married and the fathers of large families. As Jefferson did not free their wives and children, all were sold along with Monticello's nearly 130 other slaves at auctions in 1827 to settle the heavy debts against his estate. The men and their friends worked to buy the freedom of their families.) Although the three older men had served Jefferson for decades, Madison and Eston were distinguished by being freed as they "came of age" at 21.

Twenty-one-year-old Madison Hemings was emancipated almost immediately after Jefferson died and Eston soon after. The brothers rented a house in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia, where their mother Sally joined them for the rest of her life. (Sally was not formally freed but was "given her time" by Jefferson's surviving daughter Martha Randolph, who was also Hemings' niece)

Madison and Eston each worked and married there. Madison wed Mary Hughes McCoy, a free woman of mixed-race ancestry. (Her grandfather Samuel Hughes, a white planter, freed her grandmother Chana from slavery and had children with her.) Eston married Julia Isaacs (West), daughter of a well- to- do Charlottesville “woman of color” and a Jewish storekeeper.

In 1836, Madison, Mary, and their infant daughter Sarah left Charlottesville for Ohio, probably to join his brother Eston, who had already moved there with his own family. Reports confirm that Madison settled in Pike County, Ohio, near the border of Ross County, while Eston Settled in Chillicothe, which had a thriving free black community, abolitionists among both races, and a station of the Underground Railroad.

In 1852, Madison's brother, Eston, moved with his family away from Ohio to Madison, Wisconsin, to escape possible danger due to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. Slave catchers were known to kidnap free blacks and sell them into slavery, as demand and prices were high in the Deep South. One account from Ohio tells of Eston being “in demand (as a musician) in all the neighboring towns in the winter season, and Circleville, Lancaster, Portsmouth and Columbus frequently sought his services.”

Madison chose as the site for his permanent home, a hill in Huntington Township, in Ross County, where he moved his family in 1849. In addition to a two- story house, he built a summer kitchen and a barn. Madison planted an apple orchard on the property. He and Mary raised their children in that house and it was in this community that they went to school, church and joined in other community activities.

Surviving records in Pike County state that Madison Hemings purchased 25 acres for $150 on July 22, 1856, sold the same area for $250 on December 30, 1859, and purchased 66 acres for $10 per acre on September 25, 1865.

Madison and his wife Mary lived there in Ohio the remainder of their lives; he worked as a farmer and highly skilled carpenter.

The children of Mary and Madison were: Sarah (1835-1884), Thomas Eston (1838-1864), Harriet (1839-1931), Mary Ann (1843-- ), Catherine Jane (1844-1880), William Beverly (1847-1910), James Madison (1849-1922), Julia Ann ( 1851-1866), Ellen Wayles,(1856-1936).

Mary McCoy Hemings died in 1876 and Madison died in 1877. Their daughter Julia Ann died very young and was buried in the Barnett -Williams Cemetery in Pike County. Their son Thomas Eston died as result of wounds received in the Civil War in the Andersonville Prison. William Beverly served in the Civil War also, serving in the Ohio 73rd OVI from Chillicothe. An all white fighting unit! He died in 1910 in Kansas.

Harriet married James Butler and soon afterward moved to Bloomingburg in Fayette, County, Ohio. The couple were parents to three children. After the death of James, Harriet married the Rev. Henry Speers. Descendants still live in Fayette County, Ohio and one descendant , 91 year old Nancy Lee passed away in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1997. She one of the keepers of the family story.

Ellen Wayles became the wife Andrew J. Roberts, who was a teacher. The marriage was arranged by her father, Madison, shortly before his death. The family moved to California, where they opened Roberts Funeral Home and were owners of considerable property. Their son was one of the first persons of color to serve in the legislature of the state of California.

James Madison, it appears, “passed over into the white world.” He died in Jeffersonville, Ohio at the home of his sister Harriet.

The Emmitt Connection

Among the craftsmen James Emmitt employed when building the Emmitt House was Madison Hemings, then generally considered a master carpenter. Emmitt also worked on the construction of many other buildings in the area. He speaks of some in his “Life Among the Lowly” interview ...

“We settled in Pebble township, Pike county. We lived there four or five years, and during my stay in that county I worked at my trade on and off for about four years. Joseph Sewell was my first employer. I built for him what is now known as Bizzleport No. 2, in Waverly. I afterwards worked for George Wolfe, Senior, and did the carpenter work of the brick building now owned by John J. Kellison, in which the Pike County Republican is printed. I worked for and with Micajah Hinson. I found him to be a very clever man. I also reconstructed the building on the corner of Market and Water streets from a store to a hotel for the late Judge Jacob Row.

“When we came from Virginia we brought one daughter (Sarah) with us, leaving the dust of a son in the soil near Monticello. We have had born to us in this State nine children. Two are dead. The names of the living, besides Sarah, are Harriet, Mary Ann, Catharine, Jane, William Beverly, James Madison and Ellen Wales. Thomas Eston died in the Andersonville prison pen, and Julia died at home. William, James and Ellen are unmarried and live at home, in Huntington township, Ross county. All the others are married and raising families. My post-office address is Pee Pee, Pike county, Ohio.”

In closing, it must be stated that Madison Hemings is still the “probable son” of the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Many authorities still hold that the Jefferson-Hemings charges still beg for more evidence. History Channel reports conclude the following:

“In January 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation accepted the conclusion, supported by DNA evidence, that Jefferson and Sally Hemings had at least one and probably six offspring between 1790 and 1808. Though most historians now agree that Jefferson and Hemings had a sexual relationship, debate continues over the duration of that relationship and, especially, over its nature. Admirers of Jefferson are inclined to see his relationship with Hemings as a romantic love affair, despite his public statements about race. Those who doubt the sterling nature of Jefferson’s character, however, cast things in a much more negative light, seeing him as one more predatory white slave owner and his relationship with Hemings as proof of the hypocrisy behind his eloquent statements about freedom and equality.”

One last historical note ...

“James Callender, a newspaper reporter, published accounts in 1802 of a slave at Monticello looked so much like Jefferson that he proved to be an embarrassment to the Master of Monticello. Jefferson's political foes made up songs about the slave children of Monticello and Sally Hemings. Two of the ballads were 'Long Tom' an 'Dusky Sally.' It is said that the poet, William Cullen Bryant, was the author one the poems printed about Sally and TJ.

“The Woodson Family history states that at age twelve, young Thomas was arranged lodging away from Monticello on another plantation. The owner of the plantation was a man by the name of Woodson, and so Thomas took that name as his surname. He became Thomas C. Woodson, Sr. Thomas Woodson married Jemima Grant (Price), a slave on that farm, and after buying her and their children's freedom, moved to Chillicothe, Ohio. They lived on Marzluff's Hill and were charter members of the Quinn Chapel AME Church, the first AME Church west of the Allegheny Mountains. They were responsible for the settling of a mulatto village in Jackson County, Ohio, in 1828. Madison, in his reminiscences said that this child died shortly after birth. The two men lived with in thirty miles of each other in Ohio.”


Beverly J. Gray. “The Hemings Family of Monticello. Ross County Historical Society Magazine Recorder. February 1994 and updated in 1998.

Philip D. Morgan (1999). "Interracial Sex In the Chesapeake and the British Atlantic World c.1700-1820". In Jan Lewis, Peter S. Onuf. Sally Hemings & Thomas Jefferson: history, memory, and civic culture. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-8139-1919-5.
Joshua D. Rothman, Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Interracial Relationships Across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787-1861, University of North Carolina Press, 2003
Madison Hemings. “Life Among the Lowly.” Pike County Republican. March 13, 1873.


Deborah White. (2013). Freedom on my mind. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin. p. 192.

Madison Hemings. “Life Among the Lowly.” Pike County Republican. March 13, 1873. 

Jefferson's Blood. 2000, PBS Frontline, accessed 10 March 2012.

Carol Wilson. Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865. University of Kentucky Press, 1994.

“The Memoirs of Madison Hemings, Thomas Jefferson.” Frontline, PBS-WGBH Legal documents related to Madison Hemings, as well as a transcript of his memoir and that of Israel Jefferson, another former Monticello slave, can be found in the appendices of Fawn M. Brodie's biography Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, excerpts from which can be accessed online at Google Books.
Lucia Stanton and Dianne Swann-Wright. “Bonds of Memory: Identity and the Hemings Family.”
Sally Hemings & Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture, Ed. by Jan Lewis, Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia, 1999, p. 163, accessed 7 March 2011

Half Sisters
Martha Jefferson & Sally Hemings

Oil and acrylic on canvas 48 x 42"
©2002 Tina Mion

"When Martha Jefferson died 10 years after her marriage to Thomas, he was so inconsolable people began to think he had gone mad. Rumor has it he made a deathbed promise to Martha never to remarry. There is a lot of talk about whether Jefferson fathered his black slave Sally Hemings’ children. Science can only tell us that some Jefferson did — but not which one. I feel that the real story is being overlooked. Most people don’t know that Sally was Martha’s half-sister and that, by written accounts, she looked like Martha. Sally moved into the White House after Martha’s death. How strange it must have been for Jefferson to be constantly reminded of his dead wife. Sally’s children were the only slaves Jefferson freed; he did so upon his death, but by that time a couple of Sally’s children had already escaped. Being so fair-skinned, they passed into white society keeping their past a secret."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Digging Into Rush Township History

Rush Township and Rushtown have an interesting history with more than their share of mystery. The Utts and a few others came here in 1797 and 1798. Then, many others came soon after, of whom are recalled Dan'l Kirkendall, George Herod, Thos. Jones, Thomas Arnold, Jas. Wallace, Wm. Russell, Mrs. Hester Brown and family and John Shultz.
Rush Township was the last of the municipal divisions of the county organized, and was taken wholly from Union Township, June 3, 1867. It is named for Dr. Benjamin Rush, an early physician and Founding Father of the United States.
From its beginnings of white settlement, Rush has been known for its immense quarries of freestone – as evidenced in the Inskeep Stone Works – and its popular inland waterways. However, to trace the history of human population in the area, one must research history dating back thousands of years ago. 
Tremper Mound

The Tremper Mound and Earthworks are located in Scioto County, Ohio about five miles north of Portsmouth on a plateau overlooking the Scioto River. The Hopewell culture (100 B.C. to 500 A.D.) – an archaeological periodization pre-contact American Indian people based on shared cultures and technologies – are believed to have built the mound and earthworks. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The site proved to be one of the most prolific and important mounds ever investigated. 
The Tremper Earthworks included an earthen enclosure roughly in the shape of an oval with flattened sides. The oval was 480 feet by 407 feet with an opening in the southwestern part of the enclosure. At the center of the enclosure was a large, irregularly-shaped mound. Some people believed it was an effigy mound built in the shape of an animal, such as a tapir or even an elephant. Neither of these creatures lived in North America at the time the mound was built. It is still not clear if the mound had been built as an effigy.

William C. Mills of the Ohio Historical Society (now the Ohio History Connection) excavated the Tremper Mound in 1915. At the base of the mound, he discovered numerous postmolds that revealed the outline of an ancient wooden structure 200 feet long by 100 feet wide. The pattern of postmolds showed that there had been a main building with several smaller chambers at the eastern end.

Evidence supports that here was a large charnel house here. The complex pattern of compartments in the house gave the mound its odd shape. The Hopewell culture probably built additions to the charnel house over the years.

Unlike the Hopewell groups in Ross County, those using the charnel house at Tremper did not bury their dead in single graves or log tombs. On the contrary, about 375 persons were cremated in the 12 crematory basins. The remains were interred in 4 burial depositories. A fifth depository was empty at the time of the excavation. Two people were buried in graves beneath the floor of the charnel house.
The most significant discovery made at Tremper Mound was a collection of more than 500 objects that had been deliberately broken up and left in one of the eastern side chambers. Included in this deposit were 136 smoking pipes, most of which had been made from catlinite or pipestone. Ninety of these were effigy pipes and were carefully sculpted in the shapes of a variety of creatures. Some of the pipes look like hawks, owls, herons, and cranes. Other pipes found at Tremper resemble bears, wolves, dogs, beavers, cougars, otters, and turtles. 
The remarkable animal effigy platform pipes of the Hopewell culture are among the most delicate and naturalistic of these sculpted effigies. Tests have shown that the majority of the pipes were made from Sterling pipestone from northwestern Illinois.

The animals may represent the spirit guides of shamans who smoked the pipes to induce a trance state to assist with rituals of healing. Each animal may represent an individual's guardian spirit. The animal generally would be facing the shaman as he or she smoked the pipe. All of these pipes apparently were gathered together, smashed to bits, and buried beneath the mound at Tremper. Why? The mystery remains.

Many of the Tremper pipes are now on display at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus, Ohio.


 Crichton's Inn
Crichton's Inn
Crichton's Inn was located near where McDermott-Rushtown Road connects with State Route 104 and the Ohio Canal. For those in Southern Ohio, it was a popular summer vacation spot with a large dining room, accommodating up to 100 people; 30 guest rooms; and a space in the yard for summer tent camps to house the overflow.
Visitors could access the inn by rail – a Norfolk & Western station was located in Rushtown a short distance away – or by canal – the Ohio-Erie Canal was also nearby.
Crichton's was known as a “swinging place” with a very popular attraction. Edward A. Glockner explained: “There was a hug forty-foot handmade hammock up there, and boys and girls would go up there and swing each other!”
Besides the gigantic hammock, entertainment at the inn included music, dancing, meals, hiking trails, and outdoor games The resort also offered a medicinal herb garden with cultivated ginseng, billiards, horseshoes, and a “two-lane bowling alley where you had to set your own pins.”
Marjorie Drew Lloyd relates, “When you arrived, there were fresh linens for the guests – the next clean linens you washed for yourselves. Guests also cleaned their own rooms, and families vacating the city heat would come for a month and do all their own cooking. It was nice, a home away from home, and even in the off-season, the inn's 30 rooms generally were full on weekends and holidays.”
Crichton's Inn closed in 1919 “when another mode of transportation was encouraging people to seek more complex entertainments farther away from home.” 
The Ohio and Erie Canal
The Ohio and Erie Canal, which was under construction in this area 1830-1832, crossed the farm of George Heroedh, a stone contractor. He built the Elbow Lock, Camp Creek culvert, and more. While the canal was being dug, his wife Elizabeth often cooked for 60 or more hungry workers.

George promised his wife when his contract was up, he would build her a Baptist church on their property. Until then, members met in homes. Some canal workers attended services and helped George burn bricks to build the new church called Bethany. The church was dedicated November 30, 1834, and was home to 127 members at the time.

Slaves also traveled this area, and in 1861, workers left their jobs to join the war causing Ohio to privatize the canal until 1877. In 1881 the G.A.R. formed, holding meetings at Bethany for living veterans.

Lock 49 at Rushtown 

Rushtown, Looking North

A Curiosity

On the farm of Henry Russell, on the top of what is known as Campbell's Hill is a spot – a depression of the earth's surface – to the extent of twenty feet in diameter, and about three feet deep. It is very nearly circular in form and its peculiarity is that it generates heat in winter. It is said that “in the coldest weather, with snow on the ground all around it, and the thermometer below zero, no snow as found in the depression or hole, and on holding a thermometer on the bottom it rose to fifty-six degrees above zero within ten minutes.” The depression has a pebbly bottom, very little dirt seen, and “has probably filled up in part.” This is known to be the condition of the spot since its discovery. Where does the depression lead? This is yet another unsolved Rush Township mystery.


Henry Towne Bannon. Stories Old and Often Told, Being Chronicles of Scioto County Ohio. Baltimore: Waverly Press. p. 274. 1927.

Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D., “Canal Lock 48 & Rushtown,” Scioto Historical.

Newsletter of SCCOGS and the publication History of the Lower Scioto Valley.
Ohio and Erie Canal in Scioto County, Ohio.”

Virtual First Ohioans.” Section 5-B. Ohio History Connection.

Tremper Mound and Earthworks.” Ohio History Central.

Added Later -- Info on "The Curiosity"

 Patricia Williams, Retired English Instructor of Lucasville wrote ... 

"The William Russell mentioned in this story is my 3x great-grandfather. He came to this country as an orphan, first to Philadelphia, then down the Ohio to Maysville. He moved to Adams County and married Nancy Wood, daughter of Benjamin Wood. He lived sort of back and forth between Adams and Scioto counties. He was the first clerk of courts of Scioto County, served in the state legislature, and three terms in the US House of Representatives. He moved to Rushtown at the mouth of Brush Creek. He and a son were the first two people buried (on the same day!) in Rushtown Cemetery.). I've never been able to find out why they died at the same time.

"The James Russell mentioned was William's son. My father once hiked to the top of Campbell Hill ( directly across from Lucasville with the flasher towers) and saw the hot spot for himself. Another son, Albert, died in a confederate prison camp in Georgia and is buried at Marietta GA."

Patrick Crabtree, Local Historian and Naturalist or Lucasville ...

Patrick told me about the steam hole, which he said was situated on what was originally known as Camel Hill. While hunting, he found a meteorite near the site, which he described as a rather small frog-pond like indentation near a huge old hickory tree. He didn't retrieve the mass at the time, but after seeing a Nova presentation about such fallout years later, Pat and a friend attempted to find the steam hole. 

This trek was taken after an earthquake on the New Madrid fault line. Pat said he and his friend discovered that the entire landscape had changed -- gone was the steam hole and even the huge tree. He believes the spot was the site of a meteorite strike, and he thinks his find years earlier was just a part of a much larger object that hit and formed the steam hole.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hunting in the Scioto Valley: Tracing Utt and Waw-wil-a-way

 Nathaniel Massie

Without a doubt, skilled hunters were invaluable to those who groups who explored and founded settlements in Ohio. Of course, we have all heard tales of Indian fighter, Davy Crockett, who reportedly killed 105 bears in just one year on the frontier. And, of course, guide and tracker, Daniel Boone, is legendary for helping settle what is now Kentucky. He was also a professional hunter and would go on long trips where he would spend months in the wilderness with a small group of companions. On these hunts Boone had to avoid native hunting parties that viewed him as a trespasser.

Early hunters excelled at their craft in Scioto County. Residents should also know of the exploits of Henry Utt. Never heard of him? And, how about another skilled hunter near here who went by the name of Waw-wil-a-way? Let me introduce you. Here are the tales of two hunters – one white and one Native American – both having once lived in our beautiful Scioto River Valley

Henry Utt  

After the close of the Indian war, Henry Utt came to the Scioto Valley. He was one of the hunters employed by Nathaniel Massie in 1793 to assist in surveying the military district of Ohio. He was also with Duncan McArthur's surveying party. McArthur (1772-1839) later became the 11th governor of Ohio.

Utt was a Pennsylvania Dutchman by birth, and a man “of industrious and steady habits.” He assisted in surveying a large portion of the military lands lying between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers.

While in the employ of Massie, Utt located about 200 acres of the bottom lands just two miles above the mouth of Brush Creek. It is not precisely known when Utt built his cabin and moved onto his land there, but from tradition it must have been as early as 1796, as nothing confirms more of Massie's surveying after that time.

As one of the first settlers in the area, Utt offers a first-hand perspective of carving out a homestead in the frontier that would become Scioto County. He relates ...

It is fighting the Indians first to get possession of the country, then the wild beasts of the forest must be subdued before the country is in a fit condition for settlement. These involve dangers and difficulties that must be met and overcome or no settlement could be made. After that, it takes nearly a lifetime to clear the land, build houses, plant orchards, and otherwise improve the country to render it fit habitation for civilized man.”

Henry Utt told many exciting stories of his hunting years. One of the hunting stories Utt told was “of so singular a character that it must be on record” …

While he was in the service of Mr. Massie as a hunter, he was hunting on McCulloch's Creek (a tributary of Scioto Brush Creek) and near night he became tired and concluded to lie down and rest himself. It was warm weather, and not requiring any fire, he wrapped himself in his blanket and lay down by the side of a log where there were a good many dry leaves, and soon went to sleep.

He slept very soundly and did not wake up till the next morning. When he awoke, the first discovery he made was that he was completely covered up with dry leaves. He was a little alarmed at first, knowing some mischief was intended for him. He got out of his bed as quickly as he could and held his gun at a position to fire if an enemy should be near at hand.

He walked off cautiously and concealed himself behind a tree to see what developments would be made with regard to his careful night's lodging. He had not waited long before he aspied an old she panther with her litter of young ones approaching in a very stealthy manner the place where he had spent the night.

She crawled up within jumping distance and then gave a tremendous spring, and lit on the bed of leaves. No hurricane or whirlwind ever made leaves fly faster than they did there for a few moments. When she discovered her intended prey had escaped, she looked up quite bewildered and began snuffing the air to see in which way he might have gone.

Mr. Utt watched her movements and concluded it was time for him to do something. So, he drew a bead on the animal's head, and at the crack of his rifle, she fell over dead. He dispatched the young panthers, took off the skin of the old one, and returned to camp with the trophies of his victory.”

Chief Waw-wil-a-way

Although Henry Utt was not likely in the employ of Nathaniel Massie during a historic tragedy that occurred during the later days of the Ohio frontier, the hunting link to this story begs exploration.

Here is a brief summary of the murder of Chief Waw-wil-a-way, storied friend of the white man. Unlike many of his contemporaries, including Tecumseh, Waw-wil-a-way viewed the settlers as his allies, and he welcomed the pioneers to live peacefully alongside him, his wife and two sons at the mouth of Hardin Creek in Highland County. The chief was said to have helped Massie with many hunting parties over the years.

Violet Morgan of Greenfield, Ohio, related the following story in 1946:

“A report had been circulated (in the spring of 1803) by some white men that the

Indians, who had been adhering to the terms of the peace treaty of 1795, were rising to make a terrible surprise attack upon the settlers. When a messenger on horseback rode through from Chillicothe, bringing the word, settlers everywhere collected and fortified themselves.

“Shortly after this, the tomahawked and scalped body of Captain Herrod, a prominent settler living a few miles west of Chillicothe, was found by some hunters in the woods near the clearing of his home.

“Indians were blamed for the deed and feeling was bad. Investigation by Governor Tiffin revealed that the Indians had only peaceful intentions and the story of the intended uprising had been a hoax. Some thought that it had all been part of an unscrupulous plan by a white man who might have wished to supersede Captain Herrod in office in the State militia. At any rate, even today, Herrod's murder is as much a mystery as ever.

“While on his way, in 1803, to Old Town (Frankfort) on foot, where he and his sons were accustomed to exchange their peltries for powder, lead, and other supplies, Waw-wil-a-way was met by three white men on horseback, Wolfe, Williams, and Ferguson.

“The meeting was casual and friendly, Waw-wil-a-way shook hands with them cordially and asked about their health and their families.

“Wolf asked the chief if he would trade guns with him and the unsuspecting Indian, assenting, turned over his gun to him for examination. After stealthily removing the priming from the pan of Waw-wil-a-way's gun, Wolfe handed it back stating that he did not wish to trade.”
Wolfe and Williams made inquiry asking whether the Indians had commenced war. The chief said “no” and told them the Indians and white men were “now all one.” The chief also denied the Indians had killed Captain Herrod.

“The conversation ended in the friendly manner in which it began. Waw-wil-a-way again shook hands with the white men and they resumed their ways.

“The chief had gone only a few steps when Wolfe, raising his rifle, took aim at his back and fired. The ball passed through his body, but he did not fall.

“Although mortally wounded, Waw-wil-a-way turned upon his murderers. He raised his rifle and aimed it at Wolfe for the smoking gun revealed who had shot him. Wolfe jumped behind his horse. The scheme to remove the priming from Waw-wil-a-way's gun and render it useless had failed, for the cushion had been left on the tube.

“Then, the chief shot Williams, who fell dead from his frightened and plunging horse.

“Making a club of his gun, the Indian rushed upon Wolfe, and with one blow sent him prostrate to the earth. Wolfe regained his feet and attempted to seize Waw-wil-away by the tuft of hair on the top of his head. Instead he got hold of the shawl wound around Waw-wil-a-way's head. When he jerked the shawl to bring Waw-wil-away to the ground the shawl gave way, and Wolfe fell backwards.

"At this, Scott's History of Highland County says, 'the Indian drew his scalping knife and made a thrust at his antagonist, who seeing his danger, and throwing up his feet to ward it off, received the blade of the knife in his thigh. In the scuffle the handle brook off and left the entire blade in the wound.'

"Wolfe at the same time made a blow at the Indian with his knife, which entered his breast bone. Just at this critical juncture, Ferguson ran to Wolfe's assistance. The Indian then seized Wolfe's fallen gun and struck Ferguson a most fearful blow on the head and brought him to the earth, laying bare his skull from the crown to the ear. Here the sanguine conflict ended.

"During the entire encounter, Waw-wil-a-way never uttered a word. When the strife was over, his strength failed him rapidly from loss of blood, and his sight became dim. He cast one glance on his fallen foe.... turning, walked a short distance out into the grass, and sank upon his face amid the wild flowers."

“Waw-wil-a-way's death was the climax of a number of incidents that led to the last Indian Alarm in southern Ohio.”

Wolfe and Ferguson both survived. Indians and whites did not know what to expect. General McArthur and a detachment of men rode to hold council with the great chief Tecumseh, near Fort Greenville. Here, the white men were assured that the Indians held the terms of the peace treaty sacred. Tecumseh accompanied General McArthur to Chillicothe and made an eloguent speech in favor of peace; the settlers then returned to their homes their fears and alarm allayed.

In the meantime, several hundred Indians had collected at the forks of Lees Creek in Highland County, near Leesburg, Some of the chiefs went to the home of a Quaker settler, Nathaniel Pope, asking that a council be held. Pope sent for his Quaker neighbors, and they met with the chiefs under a spreading elm which stood by a spring on Pope's farm.

Violet Morgan concluded ...

“It was an Indian law that the nearest relatives of the murdered man had a right to kill the murderer whenever and wherever he could find him. Knowing this, Wolfe had fled to Kentucky. Here he employed an agent to act for him and a negotiation was entered into with the sons of Waw-wil-a-way. The agent, acting for Wolfe, agreed to give each son a horse, a new saddle and bridle, and a new rifle. Thereupon peace was made between Waw-wil-a-way's family and Wolfe.

“A great ceremony was made of this truce. In the presence of a large Gathering of Indians and whites at Old Town (Frankfort) the two sons of Waw-wil-a-way and Wolfe occupied the center of a hollow square. The horses, the new saddles and bridles, and the new rifles, were there too, ready to change hands.

“Solemnly raising their hands toward heaven, Waw-wil-a-way's sons relinquished their claim to the life of the murderer when they called upon the Great Spirit to accept the blood and life of Wolfe.

“The scene was so impressive that many were moved to tears. Waw-wil-a-way's sons took Wolfe by the hand, called him 'brother,' lighted the pipe of peace, and smoked with him.

“At the conclusion of the meeting the two Indians returned to their camp at the mouth of Hardin's Creek. Here they sat down beside Allen Crawford, a white settler, and his sons were were camping there on a hunting trip. This was the peaceful ending of the last Indian alarm in southern Ohio.”


Biographical Record of Macoupin County, Illinois. Richmond & Arnold. 1904.
James Keyes. Pioneers of Scioto County. 1880.
Violet Morgan. Folklore of Highland Co., Ohio. 1946.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nell Bumgarner -- Natural Musings From the Lucasville Woods

Nell 1898

What, oh what, has come to pass? No wonder our world is in such a sorry state. Children, and even grownups, stare blankly when I ask – in earnest and really wanting to know – “Are the deer-tongues in bloom? Maybe a grownup might seem more comprehanding after rephrasing of the question. “Have you noticed any dog-toothed violets blooming yet?” Not a violet at all, “trout-lilly in proper parlance. Yet where can I find one single person who cares? Once queen of the sciences, botany has been exiled to the status of castaway.”

--Nell Bumgarner in Lucasville Lore (1995), compiled and edited by Dr. Robert Emerson French and published by Laura Rachel Bumgarner Franks

This passage speaks to me. I remember visiting Nell Yeager Bumgarner one day with some members of the Valley Class of 1988, who were taping a human interest piece as an assignment of their 100th Valley graduating class. She told us one of her greatest concerns was that young people did not have a good knowledge of the flora and fauna in their own woods. She spoke about how her father, Benjamin Yeager, used to hike with her and point out the name and significance of nearly every plant and animal they saw.

At the time, I nodded my head in agreement and didn't give the idea much thought; however, I have considered many, many times since how important those words of Nell Bumgarner really were. What vast botanical knowledge lies essentially untapped by the average person – all within a short distance of his or her home. With the perspective of her many years (Nell was born in 1895.), she understood the significance of the loss. Nell loved nature and so often wrote of her experiences with an eye toward the natural world.

Long Ago Path

Little old path of the long ago.
I never knew then I could love you so
As, tired and sleepy, with brown feet I pad,
Pad, pad, padded in the wake of my dad.

Long ago path, it wandered at will
Through the New Graveyard and the Old, on the hill
Past the truck patch Dad loved and tended to –
On, and on, and on then, to the bottom-land low.

Along you, Dear Path, Dad pointed to me
Something rare at each turn,
Either bir, flower, or tree,
Some marvel of sky, or the meadow lark's call,
Or the wisp of red creeper in trees towering tall.

Sometimes long and weary I found you then;
It seemed that I'd never get back home again;
But always, next time, for my bonnet I'd dart
And be waiting when Daddy was ready to start.

Little Old Path of the long ago years,
I can see you yet through the welling tears;
My head droops low and my heart grows sad
For you, blessed with memories of Dear Old Dad.

Nell wrote this poem in 1983 in memory of trips she used to make with her dad to “The Bottoms,” across the “Old Scioto River Bed” to where her brothers tended the crops. She recalled, “Dad husbanded, awaiting the good food Mom had packed into a big split basket – green beans cooked in an old iron pot, potatoes boiled whole and browned in bacon grease to a crispy brown, apple sauce with a touch of nutmeg, pickles, and all the rest.”

The knowledge Nell acquired was so valuable, yet the bonding she experienced was, perhaps, the greatest gift of all. Later in life she treasured this kinship with nature and held trips to the woods as among the most wonderful times of her life.

Here is a poem Nell began as a school girl and finished in 1984. This poem is based on memories about her and her husband Guy's annual trek to their beloved "McCullick Creek" (actually, McCullough) out past McDermott, near Arion). To them, it was a magical place with “green water, huge rocks, banks of partridge berry, pines, and towering hemlocks strugh with tiny brown cones on their branches.” Every year they returned to gather Christmas greens and Wintergreen (mountain tea). Nell also said that “the partridge berries hold their bright red glow in a terrarium for months.”

The Pinewood

I love to roam in the Pinewood
Where the wild arbutus blooms
And the lofty arches of treetops
Sculpt many vaulted rooms.

I love to roam in the Pinewood
Where the air is balmy and sweet;
Filtered sunshine plays in the needles
That lie at the old trees' feet.

The fallen log that we sit on
Harbors moss so rich and deep
Cradling tiny red flowerlets
In a privacy they'd fain keep.

Among all of nature's melodies
There's none so dear to me
As the sound of the wind in the treetops,
The song of the Old Pine Tree.

Nell could tell you of beautiful sights such as Deer-tongue with “thickish, pointed, dull-green leaves splotched with brown like the tongue of the deer.” She spoke of “Rue A-nem-on-ee, a “modest little princesses of the wood with flowers pink or white on wire-like stems.” She knew baby blue-eyes, the “churndashers that dotted pasture fields.” She recognized wild violets, “more delicate and sweeter than regular violets,” and Johnny-jump-ups “whose heads she 'fought' with, hooking each head around the neck of the other then jerking the stems.” Nell spoke of trilliums, baby iris, and Dutchman's britches.

                                   Dutchman's Britches

                 Deer Tongue
                           Johnny Jump-Up

 Baby Blue Eyes


Rue Anemone


Nell's knowledge was endless. She loved greens. She could tell you about crow-foot root that she harvested “with her Case knife and took home to cook with bacon.” And, she would say, “Don't forget about the 'queen of all greens,' Shawnee (squaw lettuce).” Nell loved the sound of the steady “cuh-shake” – of the “cool, fresh greens dropping into her basket.” She harvested morels and poke (“only when green and tender”) which she cooked with bacon, vinegar, and chopped onions.

How much better our lives would be if we followed Nell's advice and took it upon ourselves to commune with our own environment. Nothing compares with the uncommon beauty there. Indeed, we are fortunate to live in a place with an endless store of natural wonder, and as stewards of this bountiful land, we should share the treasures of our fields and forests with our loved ones. It is our duty to provide a kind, human understanding that imparts true folk wisdom.

I agree with Nell – it is far past time that we too should ask, “Is there one single person who cares?” So few appreciate the natural world that sustains their existence – a world that offers solace from the rat race of modern life. Blinded by materialism, we neglect to understand the significance of the bounty there. 

Guy and Nell on Their Honeymoon

Nell is gone, but her memories provide us with vital lessons handed down from a time when life was so much more dependent upon self-reliance and a thorough knowledge of the natural world. We sorely lack this exposure. As she said, there is, indeed, “something new at each turn” on those “little old paths. Most of the same trees, plants, and wildlife are still there in our backwoods … still there, waiting for someone to notice … still there, waiting for someone who cares.

With acknowledgment to our Creator for the Scioto Valley, farms and homesteads scattered among our hollows and hills, creeks and sandy bottoms, the tapestry of greening fields, for wonderful friends and neighbors, and memories enduring. Thanks be to God for a glimpse of this sampling of Eden.”

--Nell Bumgarner, September 27, 1994

Nell 1912