Chillicothe, OH Sept. 21
We left the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts Tuesday morning. Our destination Tuesday night was Morgantown, WV. This part of the country was old hat for us; we lived in PA for 30 years and we drove the roads between Carlisle PA and towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts for years, visiting various family. Our biggest decision was which of many optional roads to take. We went with quick, basically driving the New York Thruway, then through northwestern New Jersey to Carlisle and over to Morgantown via I-70 and I-68. Generally scenic, generally busy with cars and trucks until western Maryland and into West Virginia. Fall colors have not really started yet; we had not expected them but timing is always uncertain.
I find town history interesting and would not mind taking more time to discover how specific towns began and evolved. We did not have time to really do that in Morgantown. We were struck by how the mountainous area has shaped the road network and guaranteed heavy traffic. One needs to build roads on the lower levels with a few connector routes that traverse the mountains. This forces everyone to use just several main roads; creating very busy roads in a town of only 30,000 people. The only businesses we noted were the University of West Virgina and medical centers. However, we were talking to a management person at Applebee’s Tuesday night and he mentioned that Morgantown is the home of Mylan Corporation, the maker of Epipen, that has been in the news lately with accusations of price-gouging.
Today, Wednesday we began with a tour of Friendship Hill National Historic Site in Point Marion, PA. This is just over the West Virginia border into Pennsylvania. Friendship Hill was the home of Albert Gallatin. Little known now, Gallatin was important in the post revolutionary time, serving as ambassador to France and England as well as a long time secretary of the treasury. In fact, when Louis and Clark discovered the three rivers that come together to form the Missouri, they named them after George Washington, James Madison, and Albert Gallatin. There are also towns and forests named after him.
Gallatin placed his home high on the bank above the Monongahela River. He had hoped to create a thriving community and industrial powerhouse there. It did not work although coal was mined in the area across the river from his home. However, the home became a pleasant retreat for the family among his many trips to Washington, New York, and Europe. After his death in the 1830s, the house was sold several times and eventually fell into disrepair. In the 1970s, an arsonist almost destroyed the home. Nowadays, it has been preserved and reconstructed.
Gallatin was orphaned early and raised by his grandmother in Geneva Switzerland. He left a fortune in Switzerland to explore liberty and freedom in United States. In the United States, he tried many professions such as surveying, teaching, land speculation, glass factory owner, and others. He got his start in politics in the early structuring of the Pennsylvania constitution and then as a state representative. Here, and in the United States Congress, his specialty was finance. He became a constant opponent of Alexander Hamilton, another early financial specialist in the US government.
The whiskey rebellion in 1794 was an attempt by western Pennsylvania settlers against a tax levied on whiskey that had been promoted by Alexander Hamilton. Gallatin’s diplomatic skills allowed him to defuse the situation and avoid a civil war.
In Congress, Gallatin led the fight for the selection of Jefferson as president over Aaron Burr. He then became the Secretary of the Treasury. He served in this position from 1801 to 1814, helping to reduce the debt accumulated during the Revolutionary War and paying for the Louisiana Purchase. Gallatin also served as American Minister to France for seven years, American ambassador to Great Britain for two years, and then retired to New York City. In New York City he helped found the University of the City of New York, and was an early president of the New York Historical Society. He also began the studies of American Indian languages which brought him the title of the father of American ethnology. We had not remembered any of this prior to our visit.
Our next stop on Wednesday was Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, Ohio. Today we took primarily back roads. The day was warm and clear and we drove up and down the mountains of West Virginia through Fairmount, Parkersburg, and Clarksburg which had numerous new buildings along the roads. As we entered into Ohio primarily on US 50, the hills started to lessen. We had not driven this stretch of southern Ohio previously. Chillicothe was a larger community than we expected, with paper manufacturing facilities and two correctional facilities.
Hopewell Culture became a NPS site in 1923 and preserves five separate sites that include numerous mounds and embankments from the Hopewell people who inhabited this area from about 2200 to 1500 years ago. The mounds and people predate the American Indians who were here when European settlers arrived. These mounds predate the mounds further west, at Effigy Mounds in Iowa, Ocmulgee in Georgia, and Cahokia Mounds in Illinois.
The mounds and embankments that encircle them are scattered over tens of miles. There is a symmetry in size between the mounds (circular and square) and placement between them and surrounding embankments. There are connections to solar and astronomical observations. Obviously exact information about this culture is not known. Best estimates are that the people lived in very small villages, one to three houses, and that they came together to construct the mounds. Massive organization would have been necessary for numerous small groups to combine efforts on tasks that involved massive earth moving operations, the construction of ceremonial buildings where the mounds stood, and the similarity of design size and layout across a broad geographic region.
The mounds were initially mapped and explored in 1846. THey were not preserved until the 1920s. By that time, farming and other land development had obliterated or leveled out most of the sites. Current earth imaging technology as well as archeological efforts have been combined with the 1846 survey to better understand the mounds. We walked around the Mound City Group area, which has two dozen mounds within an embankment.
Our lodging was at The Greenhouse Bed and Breakfast, a B & B that will be closing down in the next months. Tom and Dee Shumaker have been running this for 27 years. The home was built in 1894 and they have filled it with an amazing, eclectic assortment of collectibles. Egg measuring scales, toy planes, dishes, enamelware, dolls, pottery, etc. are found here. In the attic, they have 13 artificial Christmas trees and all go up at Christmas.
Ed and Chris