Pathways and Presidents
2012 Lincoln Highway Conference

I started toward Canton, Ohio, today. That’s where the 2012 Lincoln Highway Association National Conference begins on Monday. The conference actually gets rolling — literally — on Tuesday with the first bus tour but the opening banquet is on Monday evening and I’ve signed up for a pre-conference tour that launches from Niles, Ohio, at 9:15 Monday morning. Since that’s near the far corner of the state, I figured  I ought to leave home on Saturday morning. Two full days to drive across Ohio sounds about right don’t you think?

The journal for the trip, with the first day posted, is here. This blog entry may be used for comments and questions concerning the entire trip.

Book Review
Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More
Tracy Lawson

Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More coverIn 1990, Tracy Lawson’s parents gave her a stack of twenty-one photocopied pages as a Christmas present. Transcribed onto the typewritten pages was the journal of her third great-grandfather’s 1838 trip from a Cincinnati suburb to New York City. In 2012, Lawson is sharing those pages and the experiences they triggered, in Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More. The book is comprised of two sections. “Section I — 1838” contains the journal along with Lawson’s illuminating comments and notes. “Section II — 2003-2009” contains accounts of the author’s own trips along the route. Both sections are liberally illustrated with black and white photos and drawings.

The writer of the 1838 journal was Henry Rogers, who operated a successful mill in Mount Pleasant (now Mount Healthy), Ohio. Traveling with the 32 year old Henry were his wife and her parents. The miller was both literate and observant and he sets out to record “…all interesting subjects and things that come under my observation”. The journal provides a most interesting look at nineteenth century roadtripping. Henry recorded expenses and named names so we know, for example, that the group spent a night at Winchester’s hotel in Jefferson (now West Jefferson), Ohio and paid $2.50 for the privilege. That $2.50 covered bed and board for four people and two horses. Along the way, he records expenses for tolls, horseshoes, wagon tyres, and “face barbering”, etc..

The travelers picked up the National Road in Jefferson, Ohio, and followed it and its extensions to Hagerstown, Maryland. As a fan of the National Road, I enjoyed reading Henry’s descriptions and found his pre-bridge entry to Wheeling, Virginia, which required a ferry over each of the two Ohio River channels at costs of 25 and 37.5 cents, especially interesting. They passed through Brownsville, Pennsylvania, during construction of the first cast iron bridge in the United States. It doesn’t appear as if Henry realized that the bridge that would soon carry the National road over Dunlap’s Creek was the first of its kind but he described it as “splendid” while being forced to cross on an “..old narrow bridge that looked as though it would scarcely bear its own weight.” At Hagerstown, the group turned northeast and headed toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, then through Abbottstown and York to Lancaster. Roadies will recognize the Gettysburg to Lancaster route as the future path of the Lincoln Highway. From Lancaster, they continued northeast to Trenton, New Jersey, where they spent a little time and made a visit to Philadelphia before moving onto New York City.

The 1838 journal is accompanied by sidebars that explain unfamiliar terms or provide background for certain passages. The journal’s text is cross referenced to a set of end notes. A subsection titled “Expansions” contains short dissertations on subjects that were part of Henry Rogers’ world. These include mills, finances, politics, medicine, fashion, and more.

The author made three trips specifically to experience and research the route her great-great-great-grandparents had followed. Two were driving trips with her daughter and one was a solo fly-and-drive outing. These trips are covered in “Section II” with a blend of genealogy, personal discovery, and general history. It’s fun reading that mirrors Henry’s journal in the sense that both are straight forward reports of some relatively unscripted travel. Henry’s journal held my interest more but there is a good chance that this was because his travel was so much different from today’s. Lawson describes some of the places she stayed and ate much as Henry did and there is even an encounter with a less than savory character that is reminiscent of some of the “scoundrels and topers” encountered by Henry. But Ramada and Cracker Barrel don’t have the same zing as names like Sign of the Bear and Cross Keys Tavern.

Lawson does locate and visit several of the places mentioned in the journal including a few, such as Pennsylvania’s 7 Stars Inn, that are still operating. She also picked up some information at libraries and local historical societies though the trips were not as rich in field research as she had hoped. They were more successful, it seems, on a personal level. She was able to familiarize herself with the path her ancestors traveled and the world they lived in The mother-daughter time was, as the ads say, priceless.

That personal connection won’t be there for most readers of Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, but it is still an entertaining and informative look at a road trip back when thirty-one and a half cents fed a family of four and two horsepower was plenty.

There are some minor errors. Perhaps I’m just sensitized to this sort of thing but referring to US 36 as State Route 36 and saying the Madonna of the Trail Monuments were “erected … on US Route 40 and US Route 66” with no mention of the National Old Trails Road bothered me. Aside from increased knowledge of her own ancestors and the world of 1838, it seems Tracy Lawson gained some insight into heritage road trips. In the Epilogue she says “And if I were driving the National Road again, I would eat at all the restaurants that were once taverns Henry mentioned in his journal!” I hope she makes that happen.

Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, Tracy Lawson, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, April 2012, paperback, 9.1 x 7.1 inches, 156 pages, ISBN 978-1935778196

Old Fort and Young Chicken

That’s my sister and me in the lock-up at Fort Recovery sometime in the mid-1950s. From about age six to age ten or so, the site of the 18th century fort was my favorite “vacation” spot. During those years, a summer was not complete until I’d talked my parents into taking us to this far away and ancient attraction. In time I learned that the log structures were not the originals from 1794. Those were already long gone when a 1938 WPA project produced the one-third sized replica that was there on my first visit. The building we’re peering out of was part of the replacement constructed toward the end of my fascination. A worker at the museum thought 1957 or ’58. Eventually I even learned that this particular “far away” was something less than fifteen miles north on the very road we lived on. Figuring that out took me awhile since all other travels — school, shopping, relatives, Dad’s job — were in some other direction. I still greatly appreciate my parents taking me there even if the effort wasn’t quite as extreme as I once thought.

I mention this now because I stopped by the old fort today. I was near my childhood home for other reasons and there were some happenings at the fort centered around a new book titled Wabash 1791: St. Clair’s Defeat. Yesterday John Winkler, the book’s author, led a walk around the site for educators. Today he gave a pair of talks. I was there well ahead of the first talk at 3:00 but didn’t move to the lecture room until it was filled to overflowing. I did get a good seat for the slightly less crowded 4:00 presentation.

St. Clair’s Defeat, a.k.a., The Battle of the Wabash, occurred 220 years ago last Friday. On November 4, 1791, St. Clair’s 920 men were attacked at the future site of Fort Recovery by a slightly larger force of Miami, Shawnee, and Delaware Indians. The result was pretty much a massacre with 632 soldiers and all or nearly all of the approximately 200 camp followers killed. I’ve seen conflicting statements that the dead soldiers represented a quarter of the U.S. Army at that date and that the battle reduced the U.S. Army to around 300 men. I’m guessing that the discrepancy comes from varying counts of deserters and the sick. I picked up a copy of Winkler’s book so maybe I’ll find the accurate numbers there. Regardless of how much Army remained, much clearly didn’t. By several different measures, this battle was the worst defeat in United States history.

Just over two years later, troops under “Mad” Anthony Wayne began construction of what they would name Fort Recovery. It was completed in March of 1794 and in June of that year survived attack by what has been called the largest force of American Indians ever gathered east of the Mississippi. That was followed by Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers which was followed by the Treaty of Greenville which was followed by the state of Ohio.

When I did an Oddment page for the 2010 Fair at New Boston which included a reenactment of the Battle of Fallen Timbers, I discovered that a song existed about St Clair’s Defeat. A recording by Roger McQuinn, complete with lyrics, can be heard or downloaded here.

Anthony Wayne was my childhood hero. I imagine part of the reason was the “Mad” in his name but I was really impressed with that cocked hat. When I saw my first picture of a bare-headed “Mad” Anthony, the general came near to losing me as a fan. But I overcame the shock and stuck by my hero and still enjoy knowing that he and I ran up and down the same roads separated by just a couple of centuries.

Of course, sis and I did eventually get out of the frontier hoosegow but it happened again.

I was alerted to the Fort Recovery doings by a Ohio Historical Society newsletter. Just a couple of days prior, the Lincoln Highway Facebook group had a link to this article on Balyeat’s Coffee Shop in Van Wert, Ohio. I’ve eaten at Balyeat’s multiple times but have never had the “Young Fried Chicken” advertised on their wonderful neon sign. The Facebook post reminded me of that and, since Van Wert and Fort Recovery are only about thirty crow miles (or forty Subaru miles) apart, I decided to correct that gap in my experience. Today the chicken is baked rather than fried but I’m sure it’s still young.

I have now removed the forum that was added in 2010. I said I would do that in the very first entry of this blog but I saw no need to rush. Until this week, it has sat there idle exactly as it had for the seven preceding months. Every now and then some spammer would attempt to set up an account but they were few and far between. But this week there has been a mini-flurry (6) from folks with names like “Okkgeiwk” and “horrhyday” which prompted me to finally delete the thing.

NR to LH on the DH

Dixie Highway MarkerEven though it’s about 8:00 AM in Ohio, I’m counting this as my Sunday afternoon post because, as we all know, it’s 12 o’clock somewhere. I started a road trip yesterday and have that first day posted. If you’ve watched the website closely, you may have seen my plans to head east on Saturday in order to drive US-44 and US-22 back home. However I’ve decided that Provincetown just ain’t big enough for both me and Irene so I’m substituting a drive on the Dixie Highway’s eastern mainline. On the first day, I traveled from the National Road in Vandalia, Ohio, to a little beyond the Lincoln Highway in Beaverdam, Ohio.  I think I’ll reach the northern end in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and may even slip into Canada briefly. I’ve even thought of driving the western connector back through Indianapolis but I’m not 100% sure of any of that. The journal is here.

Not only will this satisfy my commitment for a Sunday post, it will satisfy my commitment to have at least one blog entry per road trip so there is a place to hang comments. Hang ’em here.