After a full afternoon at SunWatch, we did a drive by of the only house still in Dayton that belonged to the Wright Brothers, a treat after our recent visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk. The brothers, pioneers of powered flight, continued to live at their childhood home, 7 Hawthorne Street through most of their adulthood but at their sister’s urging ultimately made plans to build a grand home they named Hawthorne Hill at the corner of Salem Avenue and Harvard Boulevard in Dayton’s Oakwood neighborhood. Together they designed the mansion but Wilbur never got to live there for he died of typhoid fever in 1912 before the home’s completion in 1914. Ultimately it was home to Orville, his sister Katharine, and his father Bishop Milton Wright. It’s in the process of being restored to it’s appearance when the Wrights lived there and tours are available but that’s a treat we are saving for another time.
Eight hundred years ago a farming community of Woodlands peoples existed here at what is now called SunWatch in Dayton, Ohio. Sixty years ago this was a family farm, the owners of which knew nothing of the archeological trove beneath their fields. Then archeologists uncovered evidence of a planned community consisting of ceremonial buildings, residences, agricultural fields, food storage pits, burials, and even evidence of long distance trade. Today many of the buildings in the village once occupied by the Fort Ancient people have been reconstructed on their original foundations and illustrate much about day to day family activities as well as community and ceremonial life. We were fascinated with the museum which focuses especially on SunWatch as well as thrilled to be able to walk through the village and into the buildings, imagining life back then. One touching item was the skeleton of a pet dog excavated from a human burial site. A fascinating feature was that the shadow of the 40 foot cedar pole in the center of the village enters the doorway of the Solistice House on the morning of Winter Solistice but it enters the doorway of the Big House on April 29th and August 14th indicating the dates to plant corn, to celebrate the Green Corn ceremony known as Busk, and the harvest the corn which was the primary foodstuff for the about 250 people who lived here for approximately twenty years. According to archeologists, where these people went from here is unknown although likely their descendants may be counted among the peoples living here before the formation of the Northwest Territory by the newly established United States in the late 1700’s.
It’s been an incredible ten days. We arrived at Timbercrest, the official üCamp21 satellite location on Thursday prior to the official start of the annual gathering of nüCamp teardrop campers on Monday morning. From then through Saturday night and some fireworks, we enjoyed hanging out, in groups large and small, with all the folks that gather for this event. All week we were shuttling back and forth to Winklepleck Grove campground in Sugarcreek for official events and just to hang with friends, to eat amazing Amish food, to learn new things about our trailer and to share tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way. It was inspiring to hear Joe Mullet to tell his story and the history of nüCamp. It’s amazingly ponder the incredible friendships we’ve built year after year both from the nüCamp team and among the fellow users. The team did a great job of planning and implementing a fabulous event under Julie’s leadership. We’re already looking forward to üCamp22 and being in the midst of the incredible energy that happens at Winklepleck each year.
Our granddaughters have been studying dance each since they were about two years old. Now at ages 17 and 11 they are quite accomplished and it’s an incredible treat each time we get the opportunity to watch them perform. Today they and their fellow dancers are thrilled to be back on the stage in costumes with a live audience after last year’s virtual recital, thanks to a worldwide pandemic. We watched today’s performance is at Hoover High School in Canton with Dave & Amy. Its’ a Recital in Three Acts over the course of nine hours including two long intermissions. For the second two performances we secured seats at the front of the balcony and had a wonderfully unobstructed view of the stage. Each year we marvel at how they grow in grace and poise and delight in their skill. They each had multiple performances in several styles of dance. Riley was a part of a troupe that opened each act with a glittery performance that included a kick line. The two girls performed together in a beautiful ballet number. And Peyton did a solo tap number, to mention just a few. Besides watching them and their fellow students dance and enjoying the time we got to spend with Dave & Amy, we delighted in visiting with the girls for a few minutes after each session. Life is amazing.
In between the mid-afternoon and the evening recital performances Dave, Amy and the two of us wanted a bit of refreshment and at Amy’s suggestion the two of us indulged in some Adult Milkshakes at Pav’s Creamery in North Canton, Ohio. Son of Matuta and Double Irish Trouble more than hit the spot. We can highly recommend it for an occasional special treat.
Often our adventures are serendipitous, prompted by a road sign or something we have found in an app such as Yelp!, Clio, or Apple Maps, but this time it was planned before we left the house back in April. Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park is located on an island in the Ohio River near both Marietta, Ohio and Parkersburg, West Virginia. We were treated to the romance of a river passage to the island aboard the sternwheeler Island Belle and a horse drawn wagon tour of the plantation. Narration on both the boat and wagon rides placed the Blennerhassett family story in the context of American History and the cultural history of the island. Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett emigrated from Ireland to the newly opened Northwest Territory for both politcal and family reasons and chose to use inheritance money to purchase land on the island in part because it was part of the state of Virginia at the time. There they built a grand mansion completed in 1800 and used it as a base of operations for various business ventures, scientific pursuits, and entertaining on a grand scale. Many personages of historical note visited here but the most notorious was former Vice President Aaron Burr who enticed Blennerhassett to invest much of his fortune in 1805 into financing Burr’s scheme to create a new nation independent of the United States. Ultimately participation in the Burr Conspiracy was the undoing of Blennerhassett’s dreams and the house burned to the ground in 1811. This replica, built in 1992 is staffed with interpreters in period costume and gives visitors a peek into the lifestyle of the wealthy on the American frontier at the turn of the Nineteenth Century.
Included in our tickets package for the trip to Blennerhassett Island was also admission of the the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History. It’s part of the state park but actually located in downtown Parkersburg, West Virginia. We saved the museum for later in the day so we could tour the island in the relative cool of the morning. If we’d had the opportunity it would have been even better to have visited the museum one day and the island the next morning. The museum explores the cultural history of the area from the Native Americans to present. Some of our cousins might note some interesting surnames on the Chancellor Hotel Honor Roll. Roadside America notes that the Death Mask of Aaron Burr is in the museum collection. And Harman Blennerhassett’s telescope occupies a place of pride in the first floor gallery. Downstairs is the Stahl Collection, a fascinating later Nineteenth to early Twentieth Century collection of Native American artifacts collected by Professor Henry Stahl that even includes items from the Eighteenth Century occupation of what is now known as Blennerhassett Island but was occupied then by members of the Lenape/Delaware nation after being pushed out of their traditional territory by European settlers.
The visit to the museum was a nice conclusion to our stay at Blennerhassett RV Park in Belpre, Ohio, an opportunity for some family visiting, good eats, and some shopping as well as relaxing and the visit to learn about Blennerhassetts and the history of the area.
We have spent the last four nights in Pocahontas State Park near Chesterfield, Virginia west of Richmond at an electric/water site that we reserved online. It’s been a great stay. We’ve been close to some great interpretive sites to expand our understanding of various aspects of American history. Met some cool T@B campers, enjoyed our wooded campsite, taken some wonderful long walks, used the nearby and well appointed laundry room, shopped at the little camp store, chatted with some delightful camp hosts, and generally enjoyed the stay. We agree with the reviews that suggest that this is a great place. It’s got a nice mix of back-in and pull-through sites as well as a good number of first come spots besides the reservable sites. That said, we think the next time we visit the area that we will try to stay on the east side of Richmond and explore that area more thoroughly. Now we’re on to a national forest site for a quick overnight on our way to southern Ohio.
John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States was a bit of a political maverick. Although he originally aligned with President Jackson and the Democratic Party by 1840 he was on the Whig ticket with William Henry Harrison with the campaign slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” prevailing over the incumbent Democratic candidate, Martin Van Buren. Then just a month after the inauguration Harrison became the first US President to die in office setting off a political crisis. There was no constitutional provision for succession by the Vice President but Tyler quickly took the oath of office, moved into the White House, and assumed the responsibilities of president all the while being referred to by his detractors as “His Accidency.” As his term proceeded, it became apparent that he was neither Whig nor Democrat but politically independent to the extent that the Whig leaders threatened impeachment and a strong states rights advocate. During his presidency Tyler became the first president to be widowed during his term then the first president to marry while in office. Between his two wives, the second being thirty years his junior, Tyler fathered fifteen children. When he purchased this piece of property in Charles City, Virginia as a retirement home for himself and his family, he named it Sherwood Forest Plantation as a nod to his reputation as a political outlaw. Today it remains in the possession of his descendants, including his 91 year old grandson Harrison Ruffin Tyler who just last year lost his brother, 95 year old Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. Since the plantation is open for self-guided grounds tours, we wandered and pondered the life of an early president that although not well remembered did make impact on the history of the United States. And we just enjoyed the beauty of the longest frame house America, the lovely wooded grounds, and a peek into mid-Nineteenth Century life.
Back in September 1975 when we two were learning how to road trip serendipitously, the two of us stumbled upon Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. On that visit we particularly remember standing in the McLean House and viewing the parlor where General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac on April 9, 1865. We also remember looking out over the field where the the stacking of Confederate Arms took place three days later.
Today we returned after visiting Petersburg and Sailor’s Creek and the route of Lee’s Retreat. This time our focus was more on life in this part of rural Virginia in the 1860’s and upon Wilmer McLean owner of the house where the surrender occurred and his wartime business dealings. We walked the streets of this little hamlet where the circuit riding judge came once a month to hold court, visited a law office, and a general store. The courthouse is not presently open to the public but we did get to briefly visit the McLean house and it’s outbuildings. It’s still a quiet little place in which a monumental moment in American history transpired.