Sunday, February 24, 2013

Your Links to History

Since my blog mainly focuses on social history - everyday life of America past - I believe my readers might be interested in what I have posted here: I decided to try something a little different this morning and pass along a few fascinating reads that you may (or may not) enjoy. Just click the link and get ready for smiles and maybe a tear or two...

~~~~~~~

You might think I was related to the Ackley family after reading the previous posting about the covered bridge built by an Ackley ancestor and now a second story involving the same family.
I can assure you that I am not related to them at all, though I have become friends with a descendent of the bridge builder.
The article I am linking this post to is such a wonderful family history story - one that any of us that does genealogy would love to have happen.
I think you'll enjoy it:
(click the link below)
Ackley Family Heirloom Found!!


Then there are words...yes words. Did you know that numerous U.S. Presidents have coined words that are now in the dictionary?
Yep, it's true:
Click HERE for that bit o' information.

~~~~~~~

Should we show our children this clip? Yeah...let's get them off their iphones and ipods for a few minutes and show them a thing or two here and help them understand what their lives would have been like 200 years ago:

~~~~~~~

Have you ever given any thought to the history of your local road?
Sounds silly, doesn't it?
But many of our expressways, avenues, streets, have quite a past. There is one road in particular here in Michigan that pretty much sums up 19th century mid-west travel - a road that still retains much of its historical charms even in the 21st century. It's called the U.S. 12 Heritage Trail, and history abounds all around you, even while driving in your car!
There are actually two links to this bit of Michigan history:
and

~~~~~~~

And for those of you who do not mind images updated by colorization, here is an interesting little article that brings the Civil War into the modern times without a reenactment (thanks to my cousin Hazel for this link!):
 
~~~~~~~

After watching the John Adams HBO series, which, though is not 100% accurate, is still one of the best films out there about our Founding fathers, I became interested in his daughter Nabby. Particularly of her dealing with breast cancer.
I found a very detailed account of what that poor woman went through upon finding a lump in her breast.
I must prepare the reader of this link - - if you are like me and put yourself heart, mind, and soul into historical situations, you may find this a very difficult and heart-wrenching read:
Click  HERE  for the original link to the essay written by Jim Olson on Nabby Adams.
I am also including Mr. Olson's essay here in this post, for I always fear links may end and then it could be lost:



Perhaps the disease had started out as a tiny dimple. On a man's chin it would have looked rugged and distinguished. On a woman's cheek it might have been called a "beauty mark." It was on her left breast and Abigail "Nabby" Adams wondered what it was. She had never noticed it before. Perhaps it was just another sign of age, an indicator that she was not a young woman anymore. Actually the dimple was not really the problem. Beneath the dimple, buried an inch below the skin, a small malignant tumor attached itself to surface tissues and drew them in, like a sinking ship pulling water down its own whirlpool. Nabby was forty-two years old.
At first she did not give it much thought, noticing it now and then when she bathed or dressed. Nor did she talk about it. She was a shy, somewhat withdrawn woman, quiet and cautious in her expressions, most comfortable with people who guarded their feelings. She blushed easily and rarely laughed out loud, allowing only a demure, half-smile to crease her face when she was amused. She had a pleasant disposition and a mellow temperament, both endearing to family and friends. Nabby was a striking woman, with long, red hair, a round face, deep-blue eyes, and a creamy, porcelain complexion. She commanded respect, not because of an aggressive personality but simply because of the quality of her mind and her unfailing dignity.
She was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1766. Her parents named her Abigail Adams, but they began calling her "Nabby" when she was still an infant. Nabby had an extraordinary childhood. Her father was John Adams, the future president of the United States, and her mother Abigail Adams, the most prominent woman in early American society. Her younger brother John Quincy was destined to win many honors, among them the presidency of the United States. From the time of her birth, Nabby's parents busied themselves with colonial politics, eventually playing leading roles in the American Revolution. They raised her on a steady diet of political talk about freedom, liberty, rights, despotism, and foreign policy. Nabby absorbed it all.
An only daughter, she enjoyed the special attentions of her father, who felt the need to protect and pamper her. Abigail doted on her, dressing her up in the latest fashions when she was little and counseling her when she was an adolescent. Their relationship evolved into a deep friendship. Nabby took it all in stride, never becoming spoiled or self-indulgent. She was even-handed, thick-skinned, and unafraid of responsibility.
In 1783, when Congress appointed her father as minister to England, Nabby was seventeen-years-old. The family took up residence in a house on Grosvener Square in London. Caught up in a whirlwind of social and political activity, they met King George III at court and other prominent politicians at parties and banquets common to the life of an ambassador. After a few months, Nabby became acquainted with William Smith, a thirty-year-old veteran of the Continental Army and secretary to the American legation in London. A dashing, handsome figure, Smith raced around London in a two-seated carriage, the eighteenth-century equivalent to a modern sports car. He was bold and impetuous, inspired by courage and limited by poor judgment. Because of his work with the U.S. legation, and his role as secretary to Minister John Adams, he saw a great deal of the Adams family, and Nabby fell secretly in love with him. Drawn to Nabby's beauty, grace, and intelligence, he soon felt the same way about her. They married in June 1786, after a courtship which John and Abigail Adams felt was too short. They accepted it, however, because "a soldier is always more expeditious in his courtships than other men."
But Colonel William Smith was a soldier without a war, a has-been at the age of thirty, and Nabby, an innocent victim of what her brother John Quincy called "fortune's treacherous game," faced a difficult life. Colonel Smith was not cruel. In fact, he always loved and cared for Nabby and their three children. With a stoicism that would have made the most devout Puritan proud, she accepted her fate and made a life for her family wherever Smith settled. The problem was that Smith never really settled down. He spent more money than he ever earned, and Nabby worried constantly about bills and the family reputation. Early in the new century, Smith tried his hand at real estate speculation, but he lost everything. In 1809, when Nabby first noticed the lump in her breast, they were living on the edge of the frontier, on a small farm along the Chenango River in western New York, where Smith spent his days behind a walking plow and a mule.
Nabby was a well-informed woman, and breast cancer was as much a dread disease in the early 1800s as it is today. No records exist describing her initial reaction to the lump, but it is safe to say that concern about the dimple flared into gut-twisting fear. Like so many women, then and today, she tried to ignore the lump, hoping that in the busy routines of running a small farm and household she would not have time to think about it. But cancer has a way of asserting itself, finally obliterating even the most elaborate denials. Nabby was no exception. The lump grew ominously, in spite of the efforts of local healers and their potions. She wrote home to John and Abigail Adams in February 1811 that her doctor had discovered "a cancer in my breast." As soon as they received the letter, the Adams wrote back urging her to come to Boston for medical advice.
In June 1811, with the lump visible to the naked eye, a desperate Nabby returned to Massachusetts, accompanied by her husband and daughter Caroline. As soon as she arrived in Quincy, she wrote to Benjamin Rush, describing her condition and seeking his advice. When Abigail Adams first looked at her daughter's breast, she found the condition "allarming." The large tumor distended the breast into a misshapen mass. John and Abigail took Nabby to see several physicians in Boston, and they were cautiously reassuring, telling her that the situation and her general health were "so good as not to threaten any present danger." They prescribed hemlock pills to "poison the disease."
Soon after those reassuring examinations, however, the family received an unsettling reply from Benjamin Rush. In her initial letter, Nabby told Rush that the tumor was large and growing, but that it was "movable"--not attached to the chest wall. Rush found the news encouraging, as would most cancer specialists today. Malignant tumors which are "movable" are better candidates for surgery, since it is more likely that the surgeon can get what is termed a "clean margin"--a border of non-cancerous tissue surrounding the tumor--reducing the odds that the cancer will recur or spread. Knowing that Nabby had already traveled from western New York to Boston to seek medical advice, Rush wrote to John and Abigail, telling them to break his news gently to Nabby:
I shall begin my letter by replying to your daughter's. I prefer giving my opinion and advice in her case in this way. You and Mrs. Adams may communicate it gradually and in such a manner as will be least apt to distress and alarm her.
After the experience of more than 50 years in cases similar to hers, I must protest against all local applications and internal medicines for relief. They now and then cure, but in 19 cases out of 20 in tumors in the breast they do harm or suspend the disease until it passes beyond that time in which the only radical remedy is ineffectual. This remedy is the knife. From her account of the moving state of the tumor, it is now in a proper situation for the operation. Should she wait till it suppurates or even inflames much, it may be too late... I repeat again, let there be no delay in flying to the knife. Her time of life calls for expedition in this business... I sincerely sympathize with her and with you and your dear Mrs. Adams in this family affliction, but it will be but for a few minutes if she submits to have it extirpated, and if not, it will probably be a source of distress and pain to you all for years to come. It shocks me to think of the consequences of procrastination.
Mastectomy was Nabby's only chance, but first the family had to convince William Smith, who was in an advanced state of denial. When he learned of Rush's recommendation, he reacted indignantly, heading for libraries to learn whatever he could about the disease and hoping to spare her the operation. He convinced himself for a while that perhaps the tumor would just go away, that it was not so bad. Nabby's mother had more faith in Rush and wrote to Smith: "If the operation is necessary as the Dr. states it to be, and as I fear it is, the sooner it is done the better provided Mrs. Smith can bring herself along, as I hope she will consent to it." She even asked her son-in-law to be with "Nabby through the painful tryal." Smith finally agreed. They scheduled the operation for October 8, 1811.
The day before the surgery, John Warren, Boston's most skilled surgeon, met with the family in Quincy. He gave Nabby a brief physical examination and told her what to expect. His description was nightmarishly terrifying, enough to make everybody reconsider the decision. But Rush's warning--"It shocks me to think of the consequences of procrastination in her case"--stuck in their minds. Nabby had no choice if she ever hoped to live to see her grandchildren.
The surgery took place in an upstairs bedroom of the Adams home in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was as bad as they had all feared. John Warren was assisted by his son Joseph, who was destined to become a leading physician in his own right, and several other physicians. Exact details of the operation are not available, but it was certainly typical of early nineteenth surgery. Warren's surgical instruments, lying in a wooden box on a table, were quite simple--a large fork with two, six-inch prongs sharpened to a needle point, a wooden-handled razor, and a pile of compress bandages. In the corner of the room a small oven, full of red-hot coals, heated a flat, thick, heavy iron spatula.
Nabby entered into the room as if dressed for a Sunday service. She was a proper woman and acted the part. The doctors were professionally attired in frock coats, with shirts and ties. Modesty demanded that Nabby unbutton only the top of her dress and slip it off her left shoulder, exposing the diseased breast but little else. She remained fully clothed. Since they knew nothing of bacteria in the early 1800s, there were no gloves or surgical masks, no need for Warren to scrub his hands or disinfect Nabby's chest before the operation or cover his own hair. Warren had her sit down and lean back in a reclining chair. He belted her waist, legs, feet, and right arm to the chair and had her raise her left arm above her head so that the pectoralis major muscle would push the breast up. A physician took Nabby's raised arm by the elbow and held it, while another stood behind her, pressing her shoulders and neck to the chair.
Warren then straddled Nabby's knees, leaned over her semi-reclined body, and went to work. He took the two-pronged fork and thrust it deep into the breast. With his left hand, he held onto the fork and raised up on it, lifting the breast from the chest wall. He reached over for the large razor and started slicing into the base of the breast, moving from the middle of her chest toward her left side. When the breast was completely severed, Warren lifted it away from Nabby's chest with the fork. But the tumor was larger and more widespread then he had anticipated. Hard knots of tumor could be felt in the lymph nodes under her left arm. He razored in there as well and pulled out nodes and tumor. Nabby grimaced and groaned, flinching and twisting in the chair, with blood staining her dress and Warren's shirt and pants. Her hair matted in sweat. Abigail, William, and Caroline turned away from the gruesome struggle. To stop the bleeding, Warren pulled a red-hot spatula from the oven and applied it several times to the wound, cauterizing the worst bleeding points. With each touch, steamy wisps of smoke hissed into the air and filled the room with the distinct smell of burning flesh. Warren then sutured the wounds, bandaged them, stepped back from Nabby, and mercifully told her that it was over. The whole procedure had taken less than twenty-five minutes, but it took more than an hour to dress the wounds. Abigail and Caroline then went to the surgical chair and helped Nabby pull her dress back over her left shoulder as modesty demanded. The four surgeons remained astonished that she had endured pain so stoically.
Nabby endured a long recovery. She did not suffer from post-surgical infections, but for months after the operation she was weak and feeble, barely able to get around. She kept her limp left arm resting in a sling. Going back to the wilds of western New York was out of the question, so she stayed in Quincy with her mother, hoping to regain strength. What sustained all of them during the ordeal was the faith that the operation had cured the cancer. Within two weeks of the surgery, Dr. Rush wrote John Adams congratulating him "in the happy issue of the operation performed upon Mrs. Smith's breast...her cure will be radical and durable. I consider her as rescued from a premature grave." Abigail wrote to a friend that although the operation had been a "furnace of affliction...what a blessing it was to have extirpated so terrible an enemy." In May 1812, seven months after the surgery, Nabby Smith felt well again. She returned home to the small farm along the Chenango River.
But she was not cured. Breast cancer patients whose tumors have already spread to the lymph nodes do not have good survival rates, even with modern surgery, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy. In Nabby's case, long before Warren performed the mastectomy, the cancer had already spread. Nabby suspected something was wrong within a few weeks of arriving home in New York. She began to complain of headaches and pain in her spine and abdomen. A local physician attributed the discomfort to rheumatism. The diagnosis relieved some of her anxiety, since she was already worried that the pain had something to do with cancer.
But it was not "the rhemuatism." That became quite clear in 1813 when she suffered a local recurrence of the tumors. When Warren amputated her breast and excised tissues from her axilla, he thought he had "gotten it all." But cancer is a cellular disease, and millions of invisible, microscopically-tiny malignant cancers were left behind. By the spring of 1813 some of them had grown into tumors of their own--visible in the scar where Nabby's breast had once been and on the skin as well. Her doctor in New York changed the diagnosis: the headaches and now excruciating body pains were not rheumatism. The cancer was back--everywhere.
She declined steadily in the late spring, finally telling her husband that she "wanted to die in her father's house." William Smith wrote John and Abigail in May that the cancer had returned and that Nabby wanted "to spend her state of convalescence within the vortex of your kindness and assiduities than elsewhere." The colonel was back in denial. Since the country was in the midst of the War of 1812, he told his in-laws he had to go to Washington, D.C. for a military appointment, and that he would return to Quincy as soon as Congress adjourned. John and Abigail prepared Nabby's room and waited for her arrival. The trip was unimaginably painful--more than three hundred miles in a carriage, over bumpy roads where each jolt stabbed into her. Nabby's son John drove the carriage. When they finally reached Quincy on July 26, she was suffering from grinding, constant pain. Her appearance shocked John and Abigail. She was gaunt and thin, wracked by a deep cough, and her eyes had a moist, rheumy look. She groaned and sometimes screamed with every movement. Huge, dark circles shadowed her cheeks, and a few minutes after she settled into bed, the smell of death fouled the air.
Nabby's pain was so unbearable, and misery so unmitigated, that Abigail slipped into a depression so deep she could not stand even to visit her room. It was John Adams who ministered to their dying daughter, feeding her, cleaning her and seeing to her personal needs, combing her hair and holding her hand. He tried to administer pain killers, but nothing seemed to help. Smith returned from Washington, and the deathwatch commenced. On August 9, Nabby's breathing became shallow and the passage of time between breaths lengthened. The family gathered around her bedside. She drew her last breath early in the afternoon.
A few days later, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams wrote: "Your Friend, my only Daughter, expired, Yesterday Morning in the Arms of Her Husband her Son, her Daughter, her Father and Mother, her Husbands two Sisters and two of her Nieces, in the 49th. Year of Age, 46 of which She was the healthiest and firmest of Us all: Since which, She has been a monument to Suffering and to Patience." Jefferson understood his friend's pain: "I know the depth of the affliction it has caused, and can sympathize with it the more sensibly, inasmuch as there is no degree of affliction produced by the loss of those dear to us, while experience has not taught me to estimate...time and silence are the only medicine, and these but assuage, they never can suppress, the deep drawn sigh which recollection for ever brings up, until recollection and life are extinguished together."
 


~~~~~~~
I hope you enjoyed this Links into History post.I realize it's not in the fashion of my usual postings, but there is some fascinating reading here.
See you next time - - - -





.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The 1832 Ackley Covered Bridge

"I pulled the coin from my pocket and handed it to the old guy who took the currency without a single word. I climbed back onto my perch in the driver’s seat of the carriage and snapped the reins. We moved forward with a jerk, and then entered the darkness of the covered bridge. The clatter made by the wheels and horse’s hooves banging on the uneven wooden floor boards was very loud indeed as it reverberated off the inside walls."
 (To my knowledge, Ackley Bridge was not a toll bridge - I just liked this description)
There are certain things in our nation's past that seem to have disappeared from history without any thought or notion or, in many cases, any recollection from people living here in the 21st century. Covered bridges are one such piece of Americana that has gone down that same route. Not that they are gone from our landscape - no sir! In fact, there are still over 700 of these vestiges from the past still standing proudly throughout the United States, most in their original locations. But those locations are usually off the beaten path...tucked in out-of-the-way corners of rural America.
The Ackley Covered Bridge still in its original location near West Finley, Pennsylvania in 1937
When such a bridge is discovered spanning a creek, stream, or river, however, the beauty can be absolutely breathtaking.
"At one time covered bridges were as much a part of any journey as are today's traffic signals." So says noted Americana historian Eric Sloane. And why wouldn't they be? Wood was plentiful and cheap, though the structures did require considerable maintenance.
Henry Ford knew the commonality of the covered bridges in the 19th century, and when the opportunity arose to have one placed in his ever-growing Greenfield Village open air museum, he didn't think twice.
Bridge builder Joshua Ackley
The bridge Mr. Ford became aware of spanned what was then known as Enlow's Fork of Wheeling Creek near West Finley, Pennsylvania, seven miles from the birthplace of William McGuffey - the man best known for writing the McGuffey Readers, one of our nation's earliest and most widely used school textbooks.  Replacing an earlier swinging (or "grapevine") bridge, the Ackley Covered Bridge was built in 1832 by Daniel and Joshua Ackley, from whose land the great oak timbers came, along with more than 100 other men of the community, most of whom were in their teens and early twenties. It was constructed as a community enterprise and pride was taken in the workmanship.
A number of these local folk at the time felt the bridge should have been constructed of hickory in honor of the then president, Andrew Jackson, known by his nickname, 'Old Hickory.' But after much discussion, that idea was abandoned probably due to the fact that hickory warped so easily and would more than likely deflect too much, so white oak was chosen in its place.
There were numerous articles in the local 
paper telling of the imminent razing 
of the bridge. 
It's what we call 'progress!'
The main reason for the wooden covering on these bridges was to protect its structure; unlike the bridge itself, the covering was inexpensive and easy to replace.
105 years after its construction it was a rotting, deteriorating vestige of the past, and was scheduled to be torn down to make way for a new modern replacement.
That this landmark was to be razed made headlines in the local papers. A newspaper article from April 2, 1937 reads (in part):  
"There is always a sensation of sadness and regret that overshadows us when we are apprised of the fact that one of our cherished landmarks, or some material structure that has been made dear to us, either by economic or social doings, or both, has the withering decree pronounced upon it, that it is no longer capable of serving a useful purpose and must be relegated into the field of oblivion.
Such is our feeling when we are awarded the information that the grand old historic bridge commonly known as "Ackley's Covered bridge" is to be removed and replaced with a modern structure.
You are respectfully requested to visit this bridge and view this massive but faded old servant and sentinel of the past. Please come soon for "The State Highway Department of Pennsylvania" is moving to replace this old, historic, and time-honored institution..."
An Ackley family reunion in 1937 - they came to say farewell to the this old, historic, and time-honored institution
And then shortly afterward, the paper had these headlines:
ACKLEY COVERED BRIDGE WILL BE PART OF FORD'S AMERICANA
One of this district's historic landmarks will be dismantled starting today, and will be taken to form a part of Henry Ford's historic exhibition.
The historic Ackley bridge has been purchased by Mrs. Elizabeth Lucille Evans, a descendant of the pioneer whose name it bears, and she has presented it to Henry Ford to be given a place of honor in his historic collection of historic American articles at his Greenfield Village at Dearborn, Michigan.
The Ackley Bridge was re-erected over a specially dug man-made pond in Greenfield Village, where today it is seen and appreciated by thousands of visitors each year.
Few covered bridges will ever find
a safer or more pleasant environment in 
which to spend their retirement years.
Yep.


By summer of 1938, it proudly stood over a man-made water way inside of Greenfield Village. The Ackley descendants, as well as numerous McGuffey descendants (for it has been felt that William McGuffey crossed this bridge), were at the dedication ceremony.

Roy Schumann was in charge of the bridge restoration project, and he said that, "There was about eight inches of snow on the ground and it was ten degrees below zero. We went ahead and started tearing (the bridge) down. It stayed cold all the time we were there which was one of the best things because when we dropped a roof board (on the water below), the ice was there to catch it. All we had to do was pick it off. We tore the whole thing down. I would say we were down there about three or four weeks.
The next morning (after completion and clean up) it rained, turned warmer, and took all the ice out of the river. If it had done that a week before, and that ice hadn't frozen, it would have taken the bridge and everything down the river. The timbers were numbered and went back to the place they originally came from. We had to dig all the stones out of the bank and bring (them) back with us here. We went down there the first part of December and came back the 23rd of December. It was just two nights before Christmas when we got back."
This history of this bridge is usually over-looked by most visitors, but there are stories to tell...
There are numerous stories associated with this wonderful piece of Americana. In one such story descendent Mrs. Evans tells of the danger involving Indians the builders toiled in while constructing the structure back in 1832: 
The builders of the bridge "were made the target of arrows and rifle balls fired from the hills that border the creek. They were fired by the Indians who still roved through the territory, some of whom resented this evidence of the white man's progress.
Since that time the bridge has been the central point for a community."
After reading the stories herein, I can no longer enter the bridge without thinking of them.
Another story was actually handwritten in letter form by William Plants and sent to Henry Ford in 1938. In part he writes: 
Waiting for the preacher?
"As I was born and raised near there (and) I left that country and came to Dakota in 1885, my only sister living lives near there, so in August of this year (after a 29 year separation) I went to see her and recalled so many things that we remembered.
"When (I) was a little boy I have crossed (the covered bridge) and fished in the Ackley Creek - Crick - near, and under it.
"One thing (might) be of interest to you in connection to the bridge, in about the year1879, when a lot of people in the hills of West Virginia - not far from this bridge, were very poor and not much schooling - there was a young man by the name of George Meris who made "lasses" (molasses) from sorghum cane, he fell in love and went a-sparkin' a young girl. He finally popped the question and wanted to get married. She said she had no dress except the old faded calico one she had on. He had .50 cents. They went to the little store and got calico enough for .35 cents to make a dress. And, dressed up in that they went up to the creek to this bridge, and so happened that the 'Circuit ridin' parson' came along. And they got married on this same Ackley Bridge you have. And he gave the preacher the .15 cents he had left of the 50 for his fee. THIS IS THE TRUTH."
If you look closely, you can see the train a-comin' in the distance.
To me, it's stories like these that just bring the Ackley Covered Bridge to life. This special piece of Americana is truly a highlight of my visits to Greenfield Village and I never tire of crossing it. In fact, my wife & kids and I, along with a few friends, even picnic 'neath a weeping willow that grows next to it. 
4th of July 2012: 
A picnic underneath a weeping willow while in the shadow of the bridge. Yes, we are dressed in 1860's clothing to add to our ambiance.
 I suppose, in our own way, we are adding to its history and stories, aren't we?


Click the arrow on the video below to hear the past - - - -
 
I must say, by the way, that I really enjoy hearing the sound of the horses hooves as they pound the wooden planks of the bridge upon crossing. It is a sound and vision from the past like no other, and this sensory gives one a wonderfully reflective moment.
All this from a wooden bridge that should have been torn down 80 years ago.
Thank God it wasn't, for it is one of the most picturesque areas of Greenfield Village.
The Ackley Covered Bridge truly is a vision of the past

I would like to take a moment to thank Mark Ackley, a direct descendant of the Ackley's that built this wonderful vestige of 19th century Americana, for providing the old original photos of the bridge and of the Ackley family.
Mark Ackley and I at the bridge his ancestors built.
Please click HERE to go to the Ackley Family website. There is some very important information about how the family is trying to save the historic homestead, which was built in 1840 by Joshua Ackley and once stood in easy sight of the bridge.

All color photos here were taken by me (or my wife) inside Greenfield Village.

To learn more about Michigan's covered bridges, click HERE