Nov/Dec 2012








November 1, 1751: On this date, one of America’s grand icons, The Liberty Bell, is ordered from the Whitechapel Foundry, England, by the Pennsylvania Assembly. Today we associate the Liberty Bell with the Declaration of Independence, but it was originally ordered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the chartering of the colony of Pennsylvania . Honoring Pennsylvania ’s traditional religious tolerance, the Biblical verse “PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF was cast into the bell. In fact, the verse found in Leviticus just preceding this is, “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year.” Sadly, this first bell was too brittle and soon cracked. It was recast in Philadelphia by John Pass and Charles Stow, but they didn’t get it right either, and it had to be cast a third time. Once installed in the Pennsylvania Statehouse (Independence Hall), the “Great Bell,” as it was then referred to, was rung for every excuse. In fact, in 1772 a petition was sent to the Assembly stating people were getting tired of listening to its booming E-flat ding-dong. Often July 4, 1776 is associated with the crack in the Liberty Bell, and, in fact, it was rung loud and long for the reading of the Declaration on July 8, 1776, but it did not crack that day. As a result, it had to be rescued for a while during the Revolution to prevent the British from melting it down. There is some confusion as to when the Liberty Bell really cracked. Usually the 1835 funeral of John Marshall, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is credited as the event, but the crack that rendered the bell unusable, and left it as it is seen today, occurred on Washington’s Birthday in 1846.

HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: Nov. 10, 1975: In a suddenly rising storm on Lake Superior, the largest iron ore transport ship to ply the Great Lakes , the SS Edmond Fitzgerald, mysteriously sinks with all 29 of her crew. The ship’s bell has since been recovered by divers, and replaced by a replica bell inscribed with the names of the dead. The following partial verses of The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald are by singer / songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they called Gitchigumi.

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

When the skies of November turn gloomy…

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

The captain wired he had water coming in

And the good ship and crew was in peril.

And later that night when his lights went out of sight

Came the wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

November 19, 1897: Some families seem to give more than their fair share to our nation. As virtually everyone knows, President Theodore Roosevelt was elected partly on his reputation as a soldier in the Spanish American War. All four of his sons served America too. On this date, his youngest son, Quentin, was born. Quentin Roosevelt lived to be 21 years old. He was a pilot in the 95th Aero Squadron when he was shot down behind enemy lines during World War I. His Newport 28 crashed near Chamery , France , and the Germans buried his body at the crash site. Pieces of his airplane were used to erect a cross over the grave. Later, when the Germans retreated, American troops found the grave and erected a wooden cross. Local French citizens eventually honored the ex-president’s son by constructing an elaborate marker. President Roosevelt’s oldest boy, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., served America both as a soldier in World War I, where he was wounded, and as a Brigadier General during the D-Day Invasion of World War II. Only a month after D-Day, Theodore Jr. died in France of a heart attack. The two middle boys, Kermit and Archibald, served both in World War I and World War II. Archibald was wounded in World War I, and Kermit died of health-related problems while serving as an intelligence officer in Alaska during World War II. It became a family tradition that the boys be buried where they fell. Theodore Jr. is buried in the American cemetery at Omaha Beach . Kermit is buried near Anchorage , Alaska . In the 1950’s the family requested that Quentin’s remains be moved. He now rests next to his older brother, Theodore Jr., at Omaha Beach . As a grieving father, President Roosevelt said of Quentin’s death, “It is very dreadful to see the young stricken down in their golden morning.

November 30, 1842: Often in the American West the isolation brought by great distances made the little things we take for granted difficult. An example can be found in the early trading village of Pueblo , Colorado . When George Simpson (24) and his girlfriend Juana (14) fell deeply in love, the nearest priest was at Taos , which was 170 miles away over snow-covered mountains. To be accepted into polite society they could not just live together. So the couple traveled down the Arkansas River to Bent’s Fort. There they found a man who had been a notary public back in Missouri and still possessed the seal to prove it. So, on this date, before witnesses and this once-was notary, George and Juana signed a statement expressing their desire to live together as man and wife. (Juana signed with an “X.”) The document was then properly signed by the witnesses, certified by the notary, and decorated with a stamped gold seal over a blue ribbon. This “marriage license” was displayed proudly in the Simpson home until two years and one baby girl later, when a Taos priest both married the couple and baptized the baby.


December 1, 1889: A very unusual situation brings British Colonial bridge construction on the Uganda Railway across the Tsavo River suddenly to an unscheduled stop. Panicking workers, mostly “coolies” from India , throw themselves in front of a train to stop it. Then, while the train engine huffs and puffs, they hurriedly toss their belongings aboard and crowd atop the cars to be taken from “the place of slaughter.” (The meaning of the word: “Tsavo”) Two great lions have nightly dragged a screaming victim from the thorn-bush walled camps to share a hideous meal within easy listening of terrified workers. Bones can be heard crunching. Now each lion has started picking a victim of his own, and each night two workers are dragged out to become meals. Large campfires, waved firebrands, shots fired into the dark, beating on pots and pans, and courageous but futile hunting efforts by Sahib Lt. Colonel J.H. Patterson, do nothing to deter the ravenous brutes. The natives call them shaitani: “the devils of the night.” To all concerned the man-eaters of Tsavo are certainly The Ghosts in the Darkness.

December 7, 1941: On the small Hawaiian island of Niihau, church services are about to begin in Puuawai, the island’s only village. Niihau is an island paradise yet untouched by electricity or any modern conveniences. Two airplanes suddenly sweep over the island, one of which is trailing black smoke. Although isolated from the world, many of the islanders recognize the planes’ Japanese insignias and some even realize that Pearl Harbor has probably been attacked. The smoking plane dives onto the island and bounces through a fence into some rocks near the house of Hawila Keleohano. Hawila courageously jumps on the wing, pulls open the canopy, jerks the pistol away from the dazed Japanese pilot, and takes him prisoner. For several days the islanders hold the pilot, but a scheduled boat fails to arrive. Finally, a Japanese houseboy named Harada joins the pilot to overcome the guard. They strip the machineguns from the plane and begin terrorizing the town looking for the pilot’s papers. Defenseless and frightened, the islanders flee into the jungle. However, one very large Hawaiian, Beni Kanahali, has had enough. Beni, along with his wife, jumps the pilot and while struggling for the gun is shot through the stomach, groin and thigh. Now Beni is really angry. He lifts the Japanese pilot high into the air and throwing him down, smashes his head against a stone wall. Looking on horrified, Harrada shoots himself. Thus ends the “Japanese invasion” of the Hawaiian Islands.

December 16, 1811: An area of the Mississippi River Valley including western Tennessee and eastern Missouri is violently shaken by the first of a series of mighty earthquakes – possibly the worst ever on the North American continent. Because the area is primarily uninhabited except for Native Americans, the quake’s real severity is difficult to determine. However, the excessive geologic changes that have been attributed to these New Madrid earthquakes, as they have since become known, indicate that they were much more devastating than even the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Tremors are felt from Canada to New Orleans , and church bells vibrate into ringing in places like Charleston , South Carolina . Since 1808, the great Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, has attempted to form a powerful confederacy of Native American tribes in the Ohio Valley. Each time he has talked to a village, he has handed out bundles of painted sticks to tribal leaders. Tecumseh has instructed them to dispose of a stick each day, and predicts that when the last stick is burned in the tribal fire there will come a great sign. The earthquake becomes the sign that seals his leadership. What is the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Christmas Day, 1881: By this date the southern buffalo herds have been decimated, their hides going to supply leather needs around the world. The northern herds, which also have steadily depleted, have been pushed into northern Montana . With the thicker hair produced by colder weather, the northern hides go to making “lap robes” for the covering of people’s lower bodies while riding in carriages and sleighs. The hunting must be done when the weather is clear. Dressing in layers against the bitter cold, the hide hunters even wrap their boots with gunnysacks - the smallest mistake in such low temperature can be fatal. On December 17, thinking of the coming holiday, a pair of hide hunters leave their sod shelter to not only take hides, but to also bring in Christmas dinner. Along with their heavy rifles and butcher knives, they pack an ax with which to cut out a roast. Shooting a young buffalo heifer, which is best for flavor, they work quickly skinning her out before she freezes. Using the ax, they chop through the huge backbone separating the section of hump between the 12th and 6th ribs. Then, using knife and ax, they cut both meat and rib to take the “saddle,” which is wrapped in the hide and transported home. Christmas morning, in the sheltered warmth of the Soddy, the thawed roast, is sawed in half through the length of the backbone and trimmed to fit two large cast iron ovens. Garlic, sautéed in bacon grease, along with salt and pepper are rubbed into the meat, and using a hot, aromatic fire built from split pine and cedar on top of each oven, the roasts are seared to hold in their juices. These hot fires burn out quickly, and then using closely managed coals both over and under the Dutch ovens, the roasts are slowly cooked to perfection. As it is in the civilization of town, Christmas dinner requires work and attention, but the results are worth the wait.


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