THE UNFOLDING JOURNEY is a new blog written in association with Legacy Genealogy.

This blog is a blend of disciplines that reveal the rich texture of culture and history that surrounded your ancestors' lives, as well as your own. We will take you beyond just the names, dates, and places to give you the "back story" for the reasons your ancestors thought what they thought and did what they did. We invite you to also visit us at the Legacy Genealogy facebook page at http://facebook.com/legacygenealogy

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sailing On The Mayflower

Separatists, we now know them as Pilgrims, were part of the Puritan movement which was in conflict with the Anglican Church. These Separatists didn’t want to be just “in conflict” with the church - they simply wanted to “separate” themselves by leaving England altogether. 
This particular group wanted to sail to the northern coast of America (now New England) but was unable to get permission from the English Crown to do so.  Instead they planned to head out to the Virginia Colony with a map that had been supplied by Capt. John Smith. Their preferred destination was the mouth of the Hudson River, where New York City now exists. The Virginia Colony boundary extended this far north at the time.
Their investors arranged for two ships to carry the passengers; the 60 ton “Speedwell” that was purchased; and the 180 ton “Mayflower” that was leased. The Mayflower was a merchant ship and quite large for its day.
The Mayflower’s Master was Captain Christopher Jones. He was an experienced seaman who owned and piloted the ship on many voyages between France and England transporting wine. It carried three upright masts and a spirit mast on the bow. She was 90’ long and 26’ wide (the beam).
The expedition first left Southampton on August 5, 1620, aboard these two ships - the “Mayflower” and the “Speedwell.” The Speedwell was less than seaworthy and began to leak almost immediately. Both ships returned to port. A second attempt to embark was met with the same problem. They abandoned the Speedwell and consolidated almost everyone onto the Mayflower making conditions very cramped. Because of these delays, they were running a month behind schedule, and anxiety grew knowing that the Atlantic would be increasingly rougher as winter approached.
In order to finance their journey and repay their investors in England, the Separatists agreed to take non-Separatists with them. They referred to them as the “strangers” or “adventurers” but these strangers made up more than half of the passengers on board. Mayflower left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620, with 40 Separatists, 62 non-Separatists, and a crew of about 30.
William Bradford, later governor of the Plymouth Colony, recorded in his journal, “They put out to sea again with a prosperous word, which continued several days together, which was some encouragement unto them; yet according to the usual manner, many were afflicted with seasickness.”
After a week of clear weather, the ship ran into the violent Autumn storms expected by the crew. The storms lasted on and off for the next six weeks. The Mayflower struggled against the force of the Gulf Stream and westerly winds moving at a slow rate of two miles per hour.
“After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather, they encountered many times, crosswinds, and met many fierce storms, with which the ship was thoroughly shaken, and her upper works made very leaky; and one of the main beams amidships was downed and cracked, which put them in some fear that the ship could not be able to perform the voyage. . . They entered into serious consultation with the master and officers of the ship, to consider whether to return, rather than to cast themselves into desperate and inevitable peril.” (Bradford)
As the raging sea continued, the mainmast had buckled leaving the Mayflower in desperate peril. “and for the buckling of the main beam, there was a great iron screw that passengers brought out of Holland, which would raise the beam into its place; which was done.” (Bradford)
Returning the mainmast to its normal position and anchoring it into the lower deck was sufficient to keep the ship moving, as long as the sails were not raised so as to put too much pressure on the mast. Frequently during the storms the sails had to be drawn in (called “clewed up”) to keep the Mayflower from being blown off course - but it happened nonetheless.
Leaking on the main deck was another problem. Many of the passengers were given chisels and caulk and set to work patching leaks on the main deck. This was just above the deck on which the passengers were sleeping, so their motivation to repair the leaks was strong.
“So they committed themselves to the will of God, and resolved to proceed.” (Bradford)
When not working to patch the main deck, the passengers were confined below on the “tween deck” just below the main deck and above the cargo hold. One hundred of them packed in together along with two dogs. John Goodman, travelling without family, had brought his two dogs on board for the trip. One an English Mastif which was essentially a guard dog; the other an English Springer Spaniel, a hunting dog.
There was no privacy to speak of but occasionally a cloth or piece of canvas was raised between families. Chamber pots were used as toilets. If you were lucky enough to be assigned the duty of emptying these pots, at least you got to go up on deck for some fresh air.
The ship tossed and rocked in the heavy seas. Many passengers were thrown against the inside of the hull during the storms and injuries were considerable. They were treated by Samuel Fuller, the future colony’s doctor.
If the weather cleared a little, passengers were allowed to go up on the main deck for short periods, as long as they didn’t interfere with the crew. But for most, the time between storms was filled with boredom.
The ship’s “hold,” directly below the ‘tween deck where the passengers slept, stored all the food, tools, and furniture. The Mayflower was a fairly large merchant ship for its day. The hold could carry 180 large barrels for provisions. Passenger Christopher Martin had been responsible for purchasing all the provisions for the trip.
Meals were prepared in the “forecastle,” an area one deck above the sleeping quarters and toward the bow of the ship. Meals typically consisted of salted pork, beans, peas, and cheese. These were all foods that could be stored for the long journey in the barrels. The fresh water for drinking was carefully guarded. At night, the Ship’s Master Jones would go out on the Quarter Deck or Poop Deck, both located near the stern, to chart the position of the stars and the horizon to determine the ship’s position.
Three of the passengers were pregnant. Elizabeth Hopkins and Susanna White were each in their seventh month and it was possible that they could deliver during the journey. Mary Norris Allerton was only in her third month so her baby would be born in the New World.
The pregnancies must have been torturous with the pitch of the ship in the storms. Elizabeth Hopkins was the first to give birth seven weeks into the voyage; a boy named Oceanus, named for his birthplace. Oceanus’ father, Stephen Hopkins was the only passenger who had been to America before. He had made a voyage to the Jamestown Colony in 1609 (after being shipwrecked in the Bermudas for 10 months).
Two weeks later, Susanna White also gave birth to a boy while the Mayflower was anchored off Cape Cod. He was called Peregrine (meaning seeker or pilgrim).
Sadly, Mary Norris Allerton died in childbirth the following Spring, the baby did not survive. Little Oceanus Hopkins also died at Plymouth during that first hard winter.
Many passengers believed that their daughters would be too weak to withstand the rigors of the trip and most were left behind in England. Still, eleven girls made the journey. Humility Cooper was the youngest girl at age one. She was an orphan who travelled with her aunt and uncle, the Tilley’s. The oldest girl was Priscilla Mullins who was 17 years old. Except for herself, her entire family died during the first winter. Two years later she married John Alden. One boy, William Button, who was a servant died just three days before land was sighted. Most of the children on the Mayflower became orphans after the first winter.
John Howland was a strong, young indentured servant whose passage was paid for by John Carver, later the first Governor of the Plymouth Colony. He was actually more a steward for Mr. Carver, with whom he was related. Midway across the Atlantic, in a violent storm, John Howland fell overboard. He managed to grab hold of a topsail halyard line that was in the water trailing behind the ship. Howland was still well under the waves but managed to hold on and work his way to the surface. Luckily others on the Mayflower hauled him back up on board safely. It was lucky for America too. The Howland families’ descendents included five United States Presidents, a British Prime Minister, and nearly two dozen other very famous Americans.  
The last two weeks of the journey consisted of better weather. The Mayflower stopped at Newfoundland for supplies and fresh water.
On November 9th, 63 days into the journey, the crew spotted land. They were 220 miles north of the Hudson River; but since they had no way to calibrate their latitude and not knowing how far off course they had been driven by the storms, they headed southward along the Cape Cod coast. They didn’t realize how close they were to the mouth of the Charles River just a short distance to the north.
“After long beating at sea they fell with that land which is called Cape Cod: they were not a little joyful! After some deliberation amongst themselves and with the master of the ship, they resolved to sail southward to find someplace about Hudson’s river for their habitation. But after they sailed that course, they fell amongst dangerous shoals and roaring breakers, and resolved to bear up again for the Cape, and thought themselves happy to get out of those dangers.” (Bradford)
When they realized that they would land in an area to which they had no permission, tensions began to rise between the Separatists and the “strangers.” Two days after first seeing land, the passengers created a governing document that 41 “principal men” signed. This was the Mayflower Compact.
The Mayflower anchored off Cape Cod on November 11th. A small landing party, led by soldier Myles Standish, disembarked there to reconstruct the small boat carried on board the Mayflower called a “shallop” which had been transported in sections. This group of men sailed across the bay toward the mainland carrying John Smith’s 1614 map of the area. The map showed a smaller bay or inlet on the coast that he named Plimouth Bay. The party landed, explored a little, then gathered Juniper to be taken back to the ship and burned to “cleanse the air” on the Mayflower.
While anchored off the cape, two deaths occurred aboard ship. Dorothy, the wife of William Bradford, accidently fell overboard and drowned; and James Chilton, the oldest member of the party at age 64, died of seemingly of natural causes.
Two days later, Captain Jones brought the Mayflower over to Plymouth Bay. Other passengers were allowed ashore to refresh themselves, and women and teenage girls came ashore to do laundry.
The first months of the settlement at Plymouth were extremely difficult. Eight passengers died during the first 30 days, and only four of the adult women survived the first year. The first winter alone saw three-quarters of the women and half of the men perish, as well as one-third of the children. The legacy of these few passengers has had a monumental affect on the United States. Their descendants include eight U.S. Presidents and over four dozen of the most famous Americans in history. But that’s another story.

Davis, William, T. (ed), “Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, 1606-1646” (1908).
“Journal of the Beginnings and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plymouth in New England” (London, 1622)
Morrison, Samuel Eliot, “Builders of the Bay Colony” (1930).

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Health-Survival Paradox and Life Expectancy

Men are physically stronger than women and have fewer disabilities, but they also have a higher mortality rate (or lower life expectancy) than women, at every adult age.
Women just live longer around the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a large, rich country or a small, poor one. In Russia, women live 12 years longer than men on average; but in Bangladesh they only live two years longer, BUT it’s still longer. In the United States the spread is five years. For years demographers have been at a loss to say why. Academia calls it the “Male-Female Health-Survival Paradox”
Fundamental biological differences, such as hormones or disease patterns, play a part but much of the difference is caused by behavior. Men take greater risks. We aren’t talking about mountain climbing here, but in a man’s behavioral reluctance to seek medical attention when it is needed; either for injury or disease.
So what explains why women have gained the edge on life expectancy and men have fallen behind? Consider these phenomena.
1. Throughout most of human history, women lived shorter lives, suffering a higher mortality rate. In Europe about 600 years ago things began to change. Males began to experience a mortality rate that was higher than females.
2. Women began to marry at a later age which led to fewer pregnancies. Their earlier, higher mortality rates were chiefly a result of death in childbirth.
3. The access to food and rudimentary health care became more equal between the sexes.
4. Populations became more urbanized and inter-cultural trade increased. Men had always been more vulnerable to infections and parasites; and increased trade and migration negatively impacted them more than females.
5. With a higher concentration of men in new urban locations, the competition for mates caused males to increase their risk taking behavior. This is a phenomenon that exists among several primate species, not just man.
Historical and social stressors, environmental stressors, communicable diseases, increased risk taking behavior, even atmospheric changes, can force changes on an entire population, but men seem to be more vulnerable. Examples are:
Political stressors include regime changes, division or reunification of countries (the reuniting of Germany in the 1990’s, even though it was a good thing, caused widespread stress).
Famines, drought, severe heat, or any kind of deprivation is especially impactful on children (unrest in Africa is a prime example).
Migrations of large populations can be accompanied by long term stress (freed slaves leaving the South for northern cities after the Civil War).
Urban lifestyles can result in accumulated stress over time (smoking, drinking, narcotics, and even driving in traffic).
Stress during one’s earlier years has especially long lasting effects (prisoners of war, concentration and internment camp experiences, exposure to mass destruction scenarios such as natural disasters or atomic weapons).
Researchers have concluded that these stressors are having long lasting impacts on health and mortality. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” has pretty much been proven wrong.
The stressors referred to above have only a marginal correlation to mortality rates across the entire American society. Political changes are usually mild and slow. Famines and drought have been slight. People have not been confined in camps in the last 60 years (excluding criminal confinement). Exposure to mass destruction is remote (exceptions are occasional hurricanes, tornadoes). The urban stressors of alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics are only somewhat correlated to high mortality at the total population level (although they certainly are at the individual level).
There are two major categories of stressors that DO have a statistical correlation to widespread higher mortality rates. They are cultural pressures and poverty.
Cultural pressures: Heightened competitiveness and pressure to achieve.
These cultural stressors are more difficult to quantify because the theorized effects on mortality are just now being realized. But one example may be women’s entrance into a highly-pressurized labor market over the last two generations that is beginning to show the same negative effects on them that we have seen in males for some time.
Effects of poverty: Poverty is usually accompanied by a lack of access to health resources, substandard food and housing, and a higher incidence of disease.
The correlation between poverty and life expectancy in the U.S. may be easier to quantify. And that correlation also seems to be extending to geographic regions. Looking at the three separate geographic regions below, their mortality rates, and their poverty rates indicates a correlation between these factors.

(These 2000 statistics come from the Population Reference Bureau; www.prb.org)
Interestingly, the states with the highest and lowest life expectancies are not part of these regions at all. Life expectancy for men is highest in Hawaii (77.1) and lowest in the District of Columbia (68.5). Life expectancy for women is highest in Hawaii (82.5) and lowest in the D.C. (76.1). Also, the percent of population living in poverty was lowest in New Hampshire (6.5%) and highest in D.C., again (20.2%).
Some people may argue that this comparison is not valid - the regions are subjectively grouped, there may be age differences between the regions (affecting poverty), and recent migrations in and out may affect the numbers. But it’s hard to ignore these significant variations.
During the latter half of the 20th Century improvements in vaccines, refrigeration, water filtration, and other interventions have mediated the effects of stressors.
Public health interventions in the past primarily benefitted the poor most. In the future, experts see better medical care and disease prevention having a larger role. Unfortunately, these may not be available to all tiers of our society as there is an economic cost to their access.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Clear The Way" Irish Americans in the Civil War

There is no ethnic immigrant group more closely identified with the Civil War than the Irish Americans. More than 150,000 enlisted in the Union Army.
A large portion of the South was settled by Scottish-Irish immigrants earlier in the country’s history, but by the start of the war southern white populations were primarily native born. The practice of recognizing ethnic heritage was less important.
In the North, the centers of Irish immigration and settlement were New York and Boston. By the 1860 census over 1½ million Americans claimed to have been born in Ireland, most living in these northern cities. Life was difficult for Irish immigrants as they were frequently discriminated against. Out of hated and distrust of their Catholic heritage, the Irish were relegated to the lowest levels of employment, housing, and services.
As free black populations grew in northern cities and new immigrants from Europe arrived, the Irish found new competition for the few available jobs. Riots in New York City erupted in 1863. They were called the “Draft Riots” because many of the Irish objected to being drafted into an army that would be freeing even more blacks, who were seen as economic competitors. In spite of this, Irish Americans displayed extreme heroism on the battlefields of the Civil War.
Time and space do not allow a complete review of all Irish American individuals and groups participating in the war, so we have decided to focus on one - The “Irish Brigade”
One of the most famous military organizations in the war was the “Irish Brigade.” It was legendary for its gallantry in combat. The Federal Government was reluctant to organize ethnically-based brigades as it was counter to the idea of “Union.” But in the case of the Irish Brigade it served two purposes. It indirectly warned Britain (who was leaning toward supporting the Confederacy) that there could be repercussions in Ireland if Britain intervened in the American Civil War; and it solidified Irish support in the North with its large Catholic minority. The Irish Brigade also had its own paid Catholic chaplains which implied some social acceptance for Irish Catholics. The chaplains were known to give prior absolution for the sins of their men before an attack was begun.
The Irish Brigade lost over 4,000 men killed and wounded. This was more soldiers than ever belonged to the brigade at any one time. In its four year service in the Army of the Potomac, the brigade was comprised of three New York regiments, one from Massachusetts (Boston), and one from Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). Along with the U.S. Flag, each regiment of the Irish Brigade carried the green Irish Flag with the Gold Harp emblem into battle. Their famous war cry was “faugh a ballagh” meaning “Clear the Way.”
It was led into battle by Thomas Francis Meagher, a vocal advocate of Irish independence from Britain, who was tried and sentenced to death by the British in the Irish Rebellion of 1848. He escaped before being punished and came to America.
At the Battle of Antietam (1862), the Brigade had a 60% casualty rate at the “Bloody Lane.” At the Battle of Fredericksburg three months later, its fighting strength was reduced from more than 1,600 to 256 men by the devastating charges against Marye’s Heights. 
In a sad twist of fate, the Confederate Army had a predominately Irish regiment manning the top of the Marye’s Heights - Cobb’s Georgia Irish Regiment. These two Irish units, North and South, had many men from the same villages back in Ireland as well as common members in the Irish Brotherhood. They squared off against each other in bloody combat. This terrible event was emotionally depicted in the film “Gods and Generals.”
Even though continuing to serve with honor, and recruiting new men from New York and Boston, the Irish Brigade continued to be reduced in numbers by death and injury. But it remained intact until the war’s end. Eventually conditions did improve for the masses of Irish Americans in the large cities of the East Coast, and anti-Irish sentiment slowly disappeared.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Take a Ride on the Immigrant Train, advance token to the nearest Railroad, if you pass the Mississippi, collect the American Dream

Early On
The first immigrants settled where their ships landed (the frontier was a dangerous place). By the mid-19th Century, immigrants arriving on the east coast of the United States and Canada began to venture westward with everything they owned to the great plains of North America. The best time to arrive at the American coast was in May. This would allow the immigrants to journey to the interior lands during the summer months.
Fill the Land
After the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Lewis and Clark explorations (1805-1807), the U.S. Government began to realize how valuable the land west of the Mississippi was. There were millions of acres available for farming, timber, and mining. Jefferson quickly understood the opportunities as did Madison, Monroe, and Adams. But each man also knew there was a problem. Only a few thousand families migrated from the east coast each year; not nearly enough to develop this land to the fullest.
Over the next 35 years, Congress relaxed immigration laws to entice foreign immigration which. By 1850 immigration increased moderately but still tended to be bound to the sea coast. The problem shifted from one of a lack of people to one of no efficient and quick way to get those people to the west. 
After the nation’s preoccupation of the Civil War, addressing this problem intensified. A system of railroads had to be built regardless of the cost. The cost was in the range of $15,000 per mile (on level land) up to $50,000 per mile (in mountainous terrain). No railroad companies were eager to start construction without having some concessions from the government. The solution: the U.S. government gave over 155 million acres to the railroads and with the right to sell it for profit. No one was concerned that the land had already been promised to the Native Americans. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.
The Promises
The problem now shifted to the railroads. In order to sell as much of this land as possible, the railroads had to compete for immigrants. So they covered Europe with advertising promoting the American Dream of religious freedom, upward mobility, and cheap fertile land. So why did so many immigrants choose the U.S. and not countries closer to their homes? Well, there was genuine opportunity and freedom, too. But mostly it was good advertising. The Burlington Northern Railroad alone had over 850 agents roaming Europe selling the virtues of life in the United States.
“A Congressional report in the early 1870’s estimated that every foreign laborer landing on our shores was economically valued at $1,500. The report stated that in less than ten years, these people would add $4.8 billion to the wealth of the nation” (“Across America on an Emigrant Train”).
The plan was simple. After the first wave of immigrants settled in the west, they would write to relatives (and friends) still in Europe and have them follow in their footsteps. It worked so well that this pattern lasted into the early 20th Century.
Riding the Immigrant Train
“Immigrant Trains” (sometimes called Emigrant Trains) ran from the east coast port cities to the railroad’s “company-owned” lands in the west. Some were also operated to California as well.
Cost-conscious, long distance travelers utilized the immigrant trains because the fare from Omaha to San Francisco was only $33.20 (in 1870), and it was easier and safer than travelling overland in wagon trains.
In 1879, a young Scottish author-to-be, Robert Louis Stevenson, arrived in New York. He was headed to California to meet up with a young lady he had fallen in love with in France, Fanny Osbourne. He decided to travel across America as an immigrant. He kept a journal of his experiences which included his story of riding the “Immigrant Train” as a third class passenger. This later became a book entitled “Across The Plains” (the middle volume of his trilogy on his American travels).
Stevenson discovered that the equality he found so prevalent in America did not extend down to these third-class passengers. American attitudes toward immigrants ranged from hostile to patronizing. Stevenson described the native citizen’s view of immigrant’s as being “wild and strange denizens of another world.”
“It was about two in the afternoon on Friday that I found myself in front of the Emigrant House, with more than a hundred others, to be sorted and boxed for the journey. A white-haired official, with a stick under one arm, and a list in the other hand, stood apart in front of us, and called name after name in the tone of a command. At each name you would see a family gather up its brats and bundles and run for the hindmost of the three cars that stood awaiting us, and I soon concluded that this was to get set apart for the women and children. The second or central car, it turned out, was devoted to men travelling alone, and the third to the Chinese.
. . . an American railroad-car, that long, narrow wooden box, like a flat-roofed Noah’s ark, with a stove and a convenience, one at either end, a passage down the middle, and transverse benches upon either hand. Those (cars) destined for emigrants on the Union Pacific are only remarkable for their extreme plainness, nothing but wood entering in any part into their constitution, and for the usual inefficacy of the lamps, which often went out and shed but a dying glimmer even when they burned.” (R.L. Stevenson)
In cold weather, riders huddled around the stove in an attempt to stay warm. They sat uncomfortably in hot weather because windows often had to stay shut to keep out the dust.
 “The benches are too short for anything but a young child. Where there is scarce elbow-room for two to sit, there will not be space enough for one to lie. The (railroad) company’s servants have conceived a plan for the better accommodation of travelers. They prevail on every two to chum together. To each of the chums they sell a board and three square cushions stuffed with straw, and covered with thin cotton. The benches can be made to face each other in pairs, for the backs are reversible. On the approach of night the boards are laid from bench to bench, making a couch wide enough for two, and long enough for a man of middle height; and the chums lie downside by side upon the cushions. When the train is full, of course this plan is impossible.” (R.L. Stevenson) 
While food was available when the train would stop, there could be very long stretches between the stops. Many families ran short on food. To add to the immigrants’ fears, when the train pulled out of a station, the conductors frequently did not yell “all aboard,” so these third-class passengers had to pay close attention to their train, or be left behind.
Stevenson said, when near to his California destination, “Few people have praised God more happily than I did.” His journal stands today as an exceptional study of the complexity of class, race, and gender.
Later on, for wealthier families with possessions, there were box cars for farm equipment, furniture, etc. Cows and horses were carried in a stock car (one adult could ride for free if they took care of the animals). By the late 1880’s some of the railroads had improved immigrant train service, adding sleeping cars and direct express service with fewer stops.

Across The Plains,” Robert Louis Stevenson, published 1895. (the middle volume of his American travels trilogy, generally known as “The Amateur Emigrant,” written in 1879)

Across America on an Emigrant Train,” Jim Murphy, Clarion Books, 1993.

The Gilded Age,” Joel Shrock, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monkeying Around With The Truth

This July is the 86th anniversary of the beginning of what many people believe was the “Trial of the Century.” It was the Scopes “Monkey” Trail which was conducted in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. John Scopes, a high school biology teacher, was tried for violating Tennessee’s Butler Act which forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools. The violation was only a misdemeanor, but it drew the attention of the entire country. The trial was perceived as a monumental clash between fundamental creationism and modernist evolutionary theories.
Powerful individuals and groups lined up on opposite sides of the question. National media, including radio, swarmed into this small town to see the contest. Arguing for the prosecution was William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic candidate for President; and the defense was headed by the famed attorney, Clarence Darrow. Both men were supplemented by prestigious legal teams. After eleven days, the jury found Scopes guilty of the violation, but more importantly popular opinion in the country began to tip in favor of the evolutionary theory. But there’s more to the story, much more.
Thirty years later the trial was made into a stage play called “Inherit the Wind” and in 1960 it became a very famous and influential film with the same title. The film has been used in schools to represent the conflict between theocracy and science during the era of the 1920’s. But was the film historically correct or was it a semi-fictional story that compromised truth for emotional appeal? Don’t get us wrong, we love the movie, it’s still compelling a half century later. But there is a lingering feeling of uneasiness about the film’s premises.
Enter an amazing website “www.themonkeytrial.com
Here is a great site devoted to analyzing both the trial and the film side by side. It includes a scene-by-scene synopsis of the film that compares “statements either contained in or strongly implied by the movie” with “statements of a factual nature related to the actual trial.” They have also included 35 video clips from the film to illustrate. The authors of the website have done a thorough job comparing and contrasting movie hyperbole with historical fact.
Here are some examples:
1. Tennessee passed a statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution.
True, but the Butler Act supporters were equally against teaching the Bible in public schools, and felt it was unfair that only evolution could be taught. They believed they were “leveling the field.”
2. Biology textbooks in Tennessee supported the creation theory.
Actually, the textbooks in 1925 in Tennessee were 100% pro-evolution and had been for 20 years.
3. John Scopes was a victim of a fundamentalist witch hunt
No. The ACLU had been advertising in Tennessee for a teacher to act as a defendant in a trial to test the State’s law. Scopes cooperated willingly. Dayton town fathers on BOTH sides of the evolution issue encouraged Scopes to violate the law to “boost the economic prospects of their small town” by hosting a sensational trial.
And there are dozens of other examples sited. Most relate to the main participants in the trial (and film) such as William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, and H.L. Mencken; or to the courtroom proceedings themselves.
Check it out. We think you’ll enjoy it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight

In America, the Civil War is known for many “firsts.” This included the first draft of civilians to serve in the military. Both the Confederate (1862) and Union (1863) governments enacted draft laws which were intensely hated everywhere. The intention was to “encourage” volunteering but instead violent riots ensued, as in New York City. Even more hated than the drafts themselves was the unfair and discriminatory way they were administered. Men in richer families could escape service; those in poorer families usually could not. The slogan in the title above was popular at the time.
In 1863, my 2nd great grandfather was a young farmer in Ohio who had just started to cultivate his first farm. He was married and had a brand new baby. He was not against the war but was at a crossroads in his life and wanted to remain out of it.
When facing the Union draft in 1863, young men had a choice of three alternatives.
First, you could do nothing and risk being drafted. This wasn’t a bad choice if you lived in a small state as Federal quotas were based on population. Some states only had to raise one or two regiments; and states could set their own draft exemption rules. In Ohio, where my grandfather lived, the state was required to supply the Union Army with 17 new regiments, so this option was unattractive.
Second, you could just “disappear.” Go out west where no one would be looking for you, like Jeremiah Johnson. This was only attractive to men without families or property.
Third, you could buy your way out of the war. If you were lucky, you may be able to bribe an official with a drink and a little money, but this was a long shot. You could, however, still “opt out” of the war by paying a fee to the government. It was officially called a “commutation fee,” and it would cost you $300. That was a lot of money at a time when annual per capita income was about $500. This fee exempted you from the current year’s draft only.
If you thought the war would be over in a year, you would go in this direction. Some counties and larger towns actually raised local taxes with the purpose of using the revenue to pay commutation fees for their residents. Not a bad deal.
If you thought the war would go longer, you might hire a “substitute” to go in your place which would exempt you for the war’s duration. Hiring a substitute was more expense. It might cost you $500 - $1,000.
My great-great grandfather went with this option and paid $800 for his substitute. If your substitute deserted, however, not only were you out the money but you went back into the draft pool the next time around. My family records are incomplete about what exactly happened to his substitute after 1863, but since grandpa was back in the 1864 draft, I have to assume he hired a deserter.  
Was my ancestor’s decision a prudent one? Yes. In all likelihood, he would have gone to the western theater of war, as most Ohio regiments did. This would have been no picnic in 1863 though (Vicksburg, Stone’s River, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, etc). The end of the story is this. He joined the Ohio National Guard in 1864 and was stationed in Washington D.C. at one of the forts that protected the capital. He served a 100-day conscription and was home by harvest time.
Was my ancestor’s decision an admirable one? I must admit that there will be no value judgment on my part. I’m thankful he stayed alive. I owe my life to him - literally.