All I Know

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Month: March 2019

All About the Land

Early map of the 1700s.

In spite of the politicians and the press, wars are seldom fought for high ideals. Those advertised high principles and lofty ideals are incentives for the soldiers and the families who send the soldiers, but most wars are more often fought for economic reasons, to gain territory and power, or in retribution.

That may sound cynical but just think about it in terms of the wars you’ve known. I don’t want to get into a heated argument here, I just have some problems with wars in general, and in my genealogical studies, I’ve been reading about the Revolutionary War or the War for Independence.

The patriots who fought in the Revolutionary War, our ancestors, fought for independence from Britain, freedom from the oppressive taxes that England imposed, the ability to govern themselves and the land on which they lived. Lofty and admirable as those principles were, that war was also fought mostly because some of the prominent citizens of our country were unhappy that Britain was blocking their ability to claim and sell (at huge profits) the vast territories to the west of the settled lands of the 13 colonies.

For those of you who slept through jr. high American history, the 1700s were chaotic times in the Colonies. With Indians to the west of us and the Atlantic Ocean to the east of us, with more and more immigrants landing on our shores, owning and selling property became more and more profitable and desirable.

Some of the more well-known patriots, those men we call the “fathers” of our country early on began to look at acquiring ownership of large tracts of land to the west of the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason all were eager to acquire rights to property that lay in what we now know as Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. And they wanted those lands, not for the greater good…they intended to claim and own those lands for their personal gain.

One particular early land transaction in 1774 that sets the scene involved a man named Jacob Hite, an unapologetic land speculator in the Shenandoah Valley. Jacob’s father Jost Hite had made a great deal of money buying and selling land. Jacob aspired to build his own reputation and fortune in the same way.

Hite and a partner, Richard Pearis, conspired to acquire a large tract of land in the unsettled territories west of what is now South Carolina. This was Indian land, land the natives had hunted and lived in for centuries, but Hite and Pearis had a plan. Pearis had a son named George by a Cherokee Indian woman. Using the son’s standing with the Indians, the two men backed George to buy 150,000 acres of the Cherokee land which he then sold to his father and Hite.

It was a smart plan and should have worked to make the men rich. They would survey the land, divide it into smaller lots and sell it to settlers eager to move into the area and establish their own land holdings.

There was only one serious problem with the plan.

British officials had severe reservations about the wisdom of angering the Indians who had not been consulted or signed on to the sale of the land. The British were at that time on shaky ground as to their relations with the Indians who were attempting to form an anti-British confederation of several tribes.

In the interest of keeping the peace with the Indians, the British convinced a South Carolina court (which after all, ultimately answered to their British rulers) to void the deal.

This left Jacob Hite in severe financial jeopardy. As a land speculator, he had gambled heavily on the sale of these lands to acquire the funds to pay off debts which he now could not pay. In the domino effect often created by gambling and speculation, his creditors also had loans to pay off and at their insistence officials were ordered to seize personal property of Jacob Hite and auction off said property to raise the money to pay his debts.

Jacob was not happy about this solution to his money problems, and he vowed to stop any sale that took place. Gathering together some friends, Hite and a gang of armed men stormed the jail to take back his horses, slaves and other property. Unable to convince the jailor to turn over the keys or open the door, they chopped the door down with axes and then broke the lock on the stable door to retake his property.

Following the raid, Hite fled with his family and his belongings to the land he attempted to purchase in the Cherokee country.

Some of the perpetrators were subsequently arrested and charged with breach of the peace, but were acquitted due to sympathy by the locals for debtors who they felt were wrongly deprived of their personal property. British intervention in local business deals was an unpopular action and was already a factor in the increasing unrest in the colonies.

Following the failure of the legal system to punish Hite’s “gang,” heated verbal battles ensued as accusations flew back and forth between the sheriff, Adam Stephen, whose job it was to seize the property and Hite whose very livelihood depended on not losing his possessions.

Over the next few years Hite and Stephen carried on a bitter rivalry that involved letters in local newspapers and court cases, until in the fall of 1776 when a newspaper report stated: “…Mr. Jacob Hite, who lately removed from Berkeley county to the neighbourhood of the Cherokee country, with his family and a large parcel of negroes, were murdered at his own house by those savages, with most of his slaves, and his wife and children carried off prisoners; his son, who was in the Cherokee country, was likewise murdered.”

This incident was just one example of how important and life-altering ownership of the wilderness land to the west could be to individuals in Colonial America and how anger at the British style of government was simmering.

Next week, I’ll tell you how our patriotic forefathers were involved in similar schemes leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Angry

My happy place today, the Bartholomew Co. Library.

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t been around for a couple of weeks. I’ve been a little angry, for no reason that really matters or can be explained here, but I thought writing while angry might not be a good thing.

Today, though, I decided that NOT writing while angry was definitely a bad thing.

So here I am.

Have you ever noticed how when you are angry (or depressed or sad or anything but happy and oblivious) how little things just make it worse? Today I want to write about some of the little things.

Like cereal…I like breakfast food with fruit and/or other additives such as nuts and granola clusters. The cereal I poured out today was advertised as containing cranberries and almonds. I believe cranberries make everything better…I eat them in salads and for snacks. They’re not just for Thanksgiving anymore. Anyway, buying this cereal was a no-brainer. So, this morning I pour out my breakfast, and I find a total of two cranberries in my bowl.

Yep, made me a little angry.

And drivers. They make me angry. Why would a pickup truck pulling a rather long trailer pull out in front of me this morning when there was NO ONE behind me?

That made me angrier than if he had just pulled out because there was a decent space for him in a line of traffic.

Politicians almost always make me angry. Just hearing the names of some politicians or seeing their faces can make me angry. You can put any names here you want because I’m not saying who…just that some of them make me very angry.

People who hurt kids or animals or anyone or thing that is weaker make me very angry. Very angry.

Getting old makes me angry. This is supposed to be the prime of our lives because we’re smarter, not exactly richer, but more together financially, calmer, more respected. For the most part, I’m in a good place with my age, yet sometimes it’s hard to forget that being older means we may not get to enjoy all this “better” we worked for all our lives. That makes me angry.

This anger I’m feeling now isn’t about any of those things that I’ve talked about though. I can’t even tell you what it’s about, where it came from or why no one really noticed. Like a headache, I can’t point to the spot that’s causing the pain, it’s just there. Not all the time, but there.

And I realize talking about anger isn’t the way to cure it, so here are some of the things that make me happy:

Today I went to a little Amish (or Mennonite) deli in my old neighborhood and loaded up on meats and cheeses and home baked bread for a visit to my brother. That stuff may not be healthy for us, but it made me happy, and I think my brother will like it, too!

Tonight the Northern Lights may be visible as far south as central Indiana and I plan to go out and look for them which will remind me of the time my mom woke all of us kids up (on a school night, no less) so we could view the rare sight of Northern Lights in the southern Indiana sky. That memory alone makes me happy, but if I see the Lights…that will be icing on the cake.

And I’m writing this as I sit in my local library. It’s a neat building, the people who work here greet me by name and I’m surrounded by books and people who love books. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies where I can park myself with my laptop and just write. That makes me happy.

And one more thing that makes me happy, on the way home from the market I passed a farm where they have alpacas. I love alpacas, they always make me smile. They have such cute faces and every one is unique. Yes, I know they spit, but when you’re that cute, and people just annoy you…well, you know…I can relate!

Freestylin’

Declaration of Independence

I haven’t written for a while, and I have no excuse. Life happens. Since I don’t have anything prepared for this post, I’ll probably ramble…or, as I call it: freestyle.

The weather report for the next few days contains more cold and snow, but it’s March, so there is that. At this point, any nasty weather only sticks around for a couple of days. We even had sunshine a couple of days. I know it’s a sort of joke, but sitting in a restaurant a couple of days ago, the sun streaming in the window was reflecting off a laminated menu, and I heard a lady actually ask, “Where’s that bright light coming from?” I’m pretty sure she was serious!

This has also been one of the windiest winters that I can remember. The wind is something you can’t see, but it can wear you down mentally and emotionally…the roar of it surrounding your home as it tries to get in through windows and doors; the sound of twigs falling from trees all around, the quick gusts that try to slam every door you open and rip your coat, your scarf or hat from your body. The wind wears you down because you are always walking against it or being blown forward by it. And now it’s nearly March, traditionally the windiest month of the year. Oh, joy.

One of the things I have been doing this winter is reading a lot of history to help me understand what my ancestors were going through in the early days of our country. I’m currently going back and forth between two books, one about a major earthquake and one about the land speculators who were more or less responsible for the states of Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois.

I will not talk politics here. I don’t discuss politics with anyone because it is one of the least productive and most troublesome subjects that can ever come up between two or more people. I can’t convince anyone to think as I do and while I am always willing to listen to reason and “adjust” my opinions, I won’t do that based on one heated conversation, so what’s the point?

But I do have to say that my generation or the one before us or the one before that did not invent greed, deceit, prejudice or shifty, cunning trickery. I’m not saying any earlier politicians or other bad actors were worse than those I see operating now, but they were certainly as diligent and dedicated to the pursuit of profit and power as anyone you can name in the news today.

I’ve been very interested in the “why” of my ancestors moving westward. Not only that, but I’m interested in why they stopped where they did…and stayed. Once they arrived in Indiana in 1809 or so, for the most part, they never left. Of course, over the next couple of hundred years, some branched out into other directions. I have distant relatives to the south and west and even, probably, back east and north, but in the main, those who moved here stayed here.

That question is how I came to be reading a book called Forced Founders, subtitled Indians Debtors, Slaves & the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia by Woody Holton.

I’ll probably go into more detail later, but primarily, what we think of as the great American fight for our freedom, was as much about land ownership and profits as it was about the higher ideals of liberty and justice for all.

I’m not saying this is bad. One of the arguments of the Declaration of Independence was that we moved here and at great cost increased the value of this land…but that Great Britain was profiting more from that sacrifice than the people of America were.

All this research led me to search out and read the actual Declaration of Independence (it’s on the internet) with particular attention to why those early citizens of this new country thought they should separate from Great Britain and why they felt so strongly that they were prepared to die to accomplish it. I have to say, the list of grievances made against the overbearing King of Great Britain are striking in their relevance to current events.

I encourage you to look it up. It’s a fascinating read and that’s all I have to say about that!

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