July 20 1801: The Giant Cheshire Cheese is Pressed

It was not an ordinary summer Monday in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.

The local Baptist preacher John Leland had just announced from his pulpit that every Republican milk cow in Cheshire was called upon to produce their milk for the day, and the good farmers of the town should deliver that milk to Elisha Brown’s cider mill. Great care was to be taken to keep the collection free from any Federalist impurities.Cheese a

And so every good Jeffersonian from the town hastened to the cider mill where the cream from nine hundred cows was passed to the most accomplished dairy women of the town who placed the curd within a giant cheese hoop which the local blacksmith had reinforced with iron bands, A giant screw slowly descended on the hoop to press the cheese and soon streams of foaming whey descended to the ground.

By the end of the day, a giant cheese was more than four feet in diameter, thirteen feet in circumference, and seventeen inches in height had been produced. Once cured, it weighed 1,235 pounds.
Elder Leland dedicated the giant cheese to  Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States of America, and Jefferson’s favorite motto was emblazoned in red on the side, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God”. A hymn was sung and the assemblage blessed and all returned to their homes.

That fall the great cheese made its journey to Washington from Massachusetts in a wagon drawn by six horses and bearing the label “The greatest cheese in America for the greatest man in America”.

The cheese arrived in Washington in time for New Year’s Day when the Cheshire folk presented President Jefferson with the giant cheese and assured him (even though the president was a slaveholder) that the cheese was produced “by the personal labor of Freedom Farmers, with the voluntary and cheerful aid of their wives and daughters, without the assistance of a single slave.”:

President Jefferson thanked the people of Cheshire saying “I shall ever esteem this occasion as one of the happiest in my history”.

The steward of the White House then began to cut the giant cheese. Great slices were served up with bread to the President, his Cabinet, and various diplomatic representatives.

The Cheshire cheese is said to have lingered in the executive mansion for 2 or 3 years, and was at times pulled out and displayed at Republican functions. Finally, it is said, its remnant was thrown into the Potomac.

July 19, 1869: John Muir spends his first summer in Yosemite

Watching the daybreak and sunrise. The pale rose and purple sky changing softly to daffodil yellow and white, sunbeams pouring through the passes between the peaks and over the Yosemite domes, making their edges burn; the silver firs in the middle ground catching the glow on their spiry tops, and our camp grove fills and thrills with theyosemite 1 glorious light. Everything awakening alert and joyful; the birds begin to stir and innumerable insect people. Deer quietly withdraw into leafy hiding-places in the chaparral; the dew vanishes, flowers spread their petals, every pulse beats high, every life cell rejoices, the very rocks seem to thrill with life. The whole landscape glows like a human face in a glory of enthusiasm, and the blue sky, pale around the horizon, bends peacefully down over all like one vast flower.

About noon, as usual, big bossy cumuli began to grow above the forest, and the rain storm pouring from them is the most imposing I have yet seen. The silvery zigzag lightning lances are longer than usual, and the thunder gloriously impressive, keen, crashing, intensely concentrated, speaking with such tremendous energy it would seem that an entire mountain is being shattered at every stroke, but probably only a few trees are being shattered, many of which I have seen on my walks hereabouts strewing the ground. At last the clear ringing strokes are succeeded by deep low tones that grow gradually fainter as they roll afar into the recesses of the echoing mountains, where they seem to be welcomed home…

How interesting to trace the history of a single raindrop! It is not long, geologically speaking, as we have seen, since the first raindrops fell on the newborn leafless Sierra landscapes. How different the lot of these falling now! Happy the showers that fall on so fair a wilderness, –scarce a single drop can fail to find a beautiful spot, –on the tops of the peaks, on the shining glacier pavements, on the great smooth domes, on forests and gardens and brushy moraines, plashing, glinting, pattering, laving.

Some go to the high snowy fountains to swell their well-saved stores; some into the lakes, washing the mountain windows, patting their smooth glassy levels, making dimples and bubbles and spray; some into the water-falls and cascades, as if eager to join in their dance and song and beat their foam yet finer; good luck and good work for the happy mountain raindrops, each one of them a high waterfall in itself, descending from the cliffs and hollows of the clouds to the cliffs and hollows of the rocks, out of the sky-thunder into the thunder of the falling rivers.

Some, falling on meadows and bogs, creep silently out of sight to the grass roots, hiding softly as in a nest, slipping, oozing hither, thither, seeking and finding their appointed work.

Some, descending through the spires of the woods, sift spray through the shining needles, whispering peace and good cheer to each one of them.

Some drops with happy aim glint on the sides of crystals, –quartz, hornblende, garnet, zircon, tourmaline, feldspar, –patter on grains of gold and heavy way-worn nuggets; some, with blunt plap-plap and low bass drumming, fall on the broad leaves of veratrum, saxifrage, cypripedium.

Some happy drops fall straight into the cups of flowers, kissing the lips of lilies…

July 18, 1863: The 54th Massachusetts Storms Fort Wagner

President Lincoln argued that the War was to preserve the Union, not to end slavery, but the news from Fort Sumter set off a rush by black men ready to march for freedom.Shaw Memorial

The marching wouldn’t be easy – federal law prohibited men of color from joining the army. Questions were raised – Wasn’t this a “white man’s” war? Would black troops prompt the Border States to secede?  Finally, after twenty months of struggle, the Emancipation Proclamation decreed that African-American men could join the armed services. The black men were ready to march.

Governor Andrew of Massachusetts issued the call for a regiment of black soldiers. Two weeks later more than 1,000 men, from Massachusetts and New York, Indiana and Ohio, from slave states and the Caribbean had volunteered to serve. Fathers and sons enlisted together; Charles and Lewis Douglass, sons of Frederick Douglass, joined.

The Governor appointed Robert Gould Shaw, a young white officer, in command. Shaw had dropped out of Harvard to join the Union Army and had been injured in battle at Antietam. He was 25 years old.

On May 28th 1863, as spectators lined the streets, the 54th Massachusetts presented its colors and paraded through Boston. The regiment then departed for the coast of South Carolina.

The 54th Regiment landed at Hilton Head on June 3. The next week, they took part in a destructive raid on a town in Georgia. Shaw was furious: his troops had come south to fight for freedom and justice, not to destroy undefended towns. He wrote to General Strong and asked that the 54th might lead the next Union charge on the battlefield.

On July 16, the regiment saw action on James Island, losing forty-five men.

On July 18, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts prepared to storm Fort Wagner which guarded the Port of Charleston. At dusk, Shaw gathered his men on a strip of sand outside Wagner’s walls. “I want you to prove yourselves,” he said. “The eyes of thousands will look on what you do tonight.”

As night fell, Shaw led his men over the walls of the fort. 1,700 Confederate soldiers waited inside, ready for battle. Two hundred and eighty one of the 600 charging soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. Shaw was shot in the chest leading the charge over the wall and died instantly.

The Confederates dumped the bodies in an unmarked trench and cabled Union leaders: “we have buried Shaw with his niggers.” Shaw’s parents replied that there could be “no holier place” to be buried than “surrounded by…brave and devoted soldiers.”

It took Augustus Saint-Gaudens 14 years to complete his memorial depicting Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. The soldiers march across a bronze frieze while an angel, holding an olive branch and a bouquet of poppies, floats above.

On Memorial Day 1897, the monument was unveiled on Boston Common, as 65 veterans of the 54th Regiment marched in to the same spot where they had marched off to war 34 years before, and laid a large wreath of Lilies of the Valley.

Saint-Gaudens watched, deeply moved:
“Many of them were bent and crippled, many with white heads, some with bouquets…  They seemed as if returning from the war, the troops of bronze marching in the opposite direction, the direction in which they had left for the front, and the young men there represented now showing these veterans the vigor and hope of youth. It was a consecration.”

July 15, 1904: First Buddhist Temple is established in US

When the Rev. Junjyo Izumida arrived in Los Angeles in 1904 it immediately became clear that there was a real need for a spiritual home for all the working-class Japanese who had recently begun immigrating to Los Angeles. Reverend Izumida also recognized that Jodo Shinshu Buddhism was open, not only to Japanese immigrants, but to all people in Los Angeles.Buddha

With his bilingual leadership skills he set about founding the first Buddhist Temple in the United States. The Temple was located on 4th Street in Little Tokyo and named the Rafu Bukkyokai (the Los Angeles Buddhist Mission). In 1911, the Temple moved to Boyle Heights, and it became a Higashi Honganji branch Temple in 1921.
In the following decade the Japanese population grew rapidly and Rev. Izumida drove around LA in a Model-T Ford, conducting howakais (Dharma gatherings) to bring the teachings beyond the Temple into the city’s neighborhoods, enlarging the Sangha. By 1930, with the Japanese population numbering 35,000, Higashi Honganji’s activities expanded to include Sunday School, day care, and a women’s association.

The Temple finances were hard hit during the Great Depression, but the Temple held together, and then during World War II, Reverend Izumida and his flock of Issei were sent to the concentration camp at Manzanar. Friends of the Temple safe guarded members’ possessions while they were forced out of their homes. Even from the camps, members still contributed, sending what funds they could to keep the Temple going, and continued to hold services at Manzanar to maintain the Buddhist traditions.

After the War the temple helped the community get back on its feet, serving as a hostel for members until they found their own homes and starting new activities such as sewing and cooking classes. The Junior YBA (Young Buddhist Association) grew; the Fujinkai (women’s association) was formalized; and the first carnival was held to raise funds for improvements to the temple building.
With the backdrop of the major social change movements in America during the 60’s and 70’s, scholarly developments laid the groundwork that would affect the future of Higashi Honganji. Major sutras and other historical texts from the Jodo Shinshu tradition were translated into English for the first time. Temple leaders planned retreats and lectures on the teachings of Shinran Shonin, incorporating English for those in the Sangha who had grown up in America, and Buddhism in all its forms found broader receptivity throughout the United States.

Today the Higashi Honganji Temple remains an open Sangha welcoming anyone who wishes to learn more about the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddhism.  It continues to serve as an active community center, where the Dharma displays its adaptability to different cultures and times, and invites all to Walk the Path of the Nembutsu.

July 14, 1912: Birth of Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was born in Oklahoma in 1912. He moved first to Texas, and then when the Dust Bowl set in, moved on to California. Around 1940 he moved to New York City and lived in various apartments about town. In December 1950, he signed a lease at the Beach Haven apartment complex near Coney Island, owned by Fred Trump (father of “The woody guthrie-portrait-640x418Donald”). The apartment complex was no great shakes (still isn’t) and the lease had a covenant which kept African-Americans out of the neighborhood.

Woody reworked his song “I Ain’t Got No Home” into this critique of his new home:

I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate
He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed that color line
Here at his Beach Haven family project

Beach Haven ain’t my home!
No, I just can’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain,
And my soul is badly bent!

Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam,
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

I’m calling out my welcome to you and your man both
Welcoming you here to Beach Haven
To love in any way you please and to have some kind of a decent place
To have your kids raised up in.
Beach Haven ain’t my home!
No, I just can’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain,
And my soul is badly bent!

Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam,
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

July 13 1832: Henry Schoolcraft discovers the Source of the Mississippi

We ascended the river in our canoes ten miles farther, to a little lake, (Usaw-way, or Perch lake,) about two miles long and half a mile broad; the river was very narrow and crooked, through a low, narrow meadow, and a little above this lake we left it; seeing that we had now traced this smaller branch of the Mississippi into the very swamps and meadows, from the drainage of which it takes its rise.Mississippi

From here we set off, over land, in a southwest direction, to reach Lac La Biche, represented as the source of the larger branch. Our canoes and baggage being very light, all was transported at one load, one man carrying the canoe, and the other the baggage of each of the party. In this way we made a portage of six miles in four hours, and struck the lake, the object of our search, near the end of its southeastern bay. The first mile of the portage was through a tamrack swamp, and the remainder, excepting a little lake of 300 yards diameter, was over pine ridges of the poorest character imaginable. The soil was almost pure sand, and the pine was stunted and mostly of the scrub species, (pinus banksianus,) which, hung as it was with lichens, and no other growth, not even a bush or shrub, mixed with it, presented a picture of landscape more dismal and gloomy than any other part of this miserably poor country that we had seen. Not a bird or animal, scarce even a fly, was to be seen in the whole distance of this portage, and it would seem that no kind of animal life was adapted to so gloomy a region.

From these hills, which were seldom more than two or three hundred feet high, we came suddenly down to the lake, and we embarked and passed nearly through it to an island, near its west end, where we remained one or two hours.

We were now sure that we had reached the true source of the great river, and a feeling of great satisfaction was manifested by all the party; Mr. Schoolcraft hoisted a flag on a high staff, on the island, and left it flying.

Lac La Biche is about seven miles long, and from one to three broad, but is of an irregular shape, conforming to the bases of pine hills, which, for a great part of its circumference, rise abruptly from its shore. It is deep, and very clear and cold, and seemed to be well stocked with fish. Its shores show some boulders of primitive rock, but no rock in place, and are generally skirted near the water with bushes. The island, the only one of the lake, and which I have called Schoolcraft island, is one hundred and fifty yards long, fifty yards broad, and twenty or thirty feet elevated in its highest part; a little rocky in boulders, and grown over with pine, spruce, wild cherry, and elm.

There can be no doubt but that this is the true source and fountain of the longest and largest branch of the Mississippi. All our information that we had been able to collect on the way, from traders and Indians, pointed to it as such; and our principal Indian guide, Yellow Head, who has proved to us his close intelligence of the country, represents the same. He has formerly hunted all around it, and says there is a little creek, too small for even our little canoes to ascend, emptying into the south bay of the lake, and having its source at the base of a chain of high hills, which we could see, not two miles off, and that this is the only stream of any description running into it. In fact, the whole country showed that there was no stream beyond, for the lake was shut in on all sides by pine hills, and the only opening through them was that by which it discharged itself. ….

We left Lac La Biche, from its northern bay, having coasted nearly its whole circumference, and found the Mississippi, at its very egress from the lake, a respectable stream; its channel being twenty feet broad and two feet deep, and current two miles per hour. Its course was northwest and soon ran through a chain of high pine hills, where the channel contracted very much, and numerous rapids occurred of very great fall over boulders of primitive rock; the river running, for the distance, in a deep ravine. We descended twenty-five miles, and encamped.

July 12, 1857: Henry David Thoreau turns Forty

I drink at every cooler spring in my walk these afternoons and love to eye the bottom there, with its pebbly caddis-cases, or its white worms, or perchance a luxurious frog cooling himself next my nose.henry-david-thoreau

Sometimes the farmer, foreseeing haying, has been prudent enough to sink a tub in one, which secures a clear deep space. It would be worth the while, methinks, to make a map of the town with all the good springs on it, indicating whether they were cool, perennial, copious, pleasantly located, etc. The farmer is wont to celebrate the virtues of some one on his own farm above all others. Some cool rills in the meadows should be remembered also, for some such in deep, cold, grassy meadows are as cold as springs. I have sometimes drank warm or foul water, not knowing such cold streams were at hand. By many a spring I know where to look for the dipper or glass which some mower has left. When a spring has been allowed to fill up, to be muddied by cattle, or, being exposed to the sun by cutting down the trees and bushes, to dry up, it affects me sadly, like an institution going to decay.

Sometimes I see, on one side the tub, – the tub overhung with various wild plants and flowers, its edge almost completely concealed even from the searching eye, – the white sand freshly cast up where the spring is bubbling in. Often I sit patiently by the spring I have cleaned out and deepened with my hands, and see the foul water rapidly dissipated like a curling vapor and giving place to the cool and clear. Sometimes I can look a yard or more into a crevice under a rock, toward the sources of a spring in a hillside, and see it come cool and copious with incessant murmuring down to the light. There are few more refreshing sights in hot weather.

July 11, 1804: Hamilton and Burr Duel in Weehawken

hamilton “Had I read Sterne more and Voltaire less, I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me.”          – Aaron Burr

“I never expect to see a perfect work from an imperfect man.”
– Alexander Hamilton

“The rule of my life is to make business a pleasure, and pleasure my business.”       – Aaron Burr

“As to Burr these things are admitted, and indeed cannot be denied, that he is a man of extreme and irregular ambition; that he is selfish to a degree which excludes all social affections, and that he is decidedly profligate.”                                   – Alexander Hamilton

“…when a lady does me the honor to name me the father of her child, I trust I shall always be too gallant to show myself ungrateful for the favor!”                                                       – Aaron Burr

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”   – Alexander Hamilton

“Law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained.” hamilton
– Aaron Burr

burr“A well-adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous.”                      – Alexander Hamilton

“In New York I am to be disenfranchised, and in New Jersey hanged. You will not…conclude that I have become disposed to submit tamely to the machinations of a banditti.”         – Aaron Burr

“The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and, however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true to fact. The people are turbulent and changing, they seldom judge or determine right. .”                    – Alexander Hamilton

“I learned in the Revolution, in the society of gentlemen, and I have since observed for myself, that a man who is guilty of intentional bad manners, is capable of crime.”                  – Aaron Burr

“Man is a reasoning, rather than reasonable, animal.”
– Alexander Hamilton

“Every man likes his own opinion best.”       – Aaron Burr

“I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me.”                          – Alexander Hamilton

(When asked if he expected to find salvation): “On that subject I am coy.”                         – Aaron Burr

July 8, 1663: King Charles II grants Religious Freedom to Rhode Island

Whereas, we have been informed, by the humble petition of … the purchasers and free inhabitants of our island, called Rhode Island, and the rest of the colony of Providence Plantations, in the Narragansett Bay, in New England, in America, that they, pursuing, with peaceable and loyal minds, their sober, serious, and religious intentions, of godly RIedifying themselves, and one another, in the holy Christian faith and worship, as they were persuaded; together with the gaining over and conversion of the poor ignorant Indian natives, in those parts of America, to the sincere profession and obedience of the same faith and worship, did, not only by the consent and good encouragement of our royal progenitors, transport themselves out of this kingdom of England into America, but also, since their arrival there, after their first settlement amongst other our subjects in those parts, for the avoiding of discord, and those many evils which were likely to ensue upon some of those our subjects not being able to bear, in these remote parts, their different apprehensions in religious concernments, and in pursuance of the aforesaid ends, did once again leave their desirable stations and habitations, and with excessive labor and travel, hazard and charge did transplant themselves into the midst of the Indian natives, who as we are informed, are the most potent princes and people of all that country where; by the good Providence of God, from whom the Plantations have taken their name, upon their labor and industry, they have not only been preserved to admiration, but have increased and prospered, and are seized and possessed, by purchase and consent of the said natives, to their full content, of such lands, islands, rivers, harbors and roads, as are very convenient, both for plantations, and also for building of ships, supply of pipe-staves, and other merchandize and which lies very commodious, in many respects, for commerce, and to accommodate our southern plantations, and may much advance the trade of this our realm, and greatly enlarge the territories thereof they having by near neighborhood to and friendly society with the great body of the Narragansett Indians, given them encouragement of their own accord, to subject themselves, their people and lands, unto us whereby, as is hoped, there may, in time, by the blessing of God upon their endeavors be laid a sure foundation of happiness to all America.

And whereas, in their humble address, they have freely declared, that it is much on their hearts (if they may be permitted) to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained, and that among our English subjects, with a full liberty in religious concernments and that true piety rightly grounded upon gospel principles, will give the best and greatest security to sovereignty, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to true loyalty. Now, know ye, that we, being willing to encourage the hopeful undertaking of our said loyal and loving subjects, and to secure them in the free exercise and enjoyment of all their civil and religious rights, appertaining to them, as our loving subjects and to preserve unto them that liberty, in the true Christian faith and worship of God, which they have sought with so much travail, and with peaceable minds, and loyal subjection to our royal progenitors and ourselves, to enjoy; and because some of the people and inhabitants of the same colony cannot, in their private opinions, conform to the public exercise of religion, according to the liturgy, forms and ceremonies of the Church of England, or take or subscribe the oaths and articles made and established in that behalf; and for that the same, by reason of the remote distances of those places, will (as we hope) be no breach of the unity and uniformity established in this nation:

Have therefore thought fit, and do hereby publish, grant, ordain and declare, that our royal will and pleasure is, that no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter shall be any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments.

– Charles the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith etc.

July 7, 1846: Commander John Sloat Annexes California


The central government of Mexico having commenced hostilities against the United States of America, by invading its Montereyterritory and attacking the troops of the United States stationed on the north side of the Rio Grande, and with a force of seven thousand men, under the command of General Arista, which army was totally destroyed and all their artillery, baggage, &c., captured on the 8th and 9th of May last, by a force of two thousand three hundred men, under the command of General Taylor, and the city of Matamoras taken and occupied by the forces of the United States; and the two nations being actually at war by this transaction, I shall hoist the standard of the United States at Monterey immediately, and shall carry it throughout California.

I declare to the inhabitants of California, that although I come in arms with a powerful force, I do not come among them as an enemy to California; on the contrary, I come as their best friend – as henceforward California will be a portion of the United States, and its peaceable inhabitants will enjoy the same rights and privileges they now enjoy; together with the privileges of choosing their own magistrates and other officers for the administration of justice among themselves, and the same protection will be extended to them as to any other State in the Union.

They will also enjoy a permanent government under which life, property and the constitutional right and lawful security to worship the Creator in the way most congenial to each one’s sense of duty will be secured, which unfortunately the central government of Mexico cannot afford them, destroyed as her resources are by internal factions and corrupt officers, who create constant revolutions to promote their own interests and to oppress the people.

Under the flag of the United States California will be free from all such troubles and expense, consequently the country will rapidly advance and improve both in agriculture and commerce; as of course the revenue laws will be the same in California as in all other parts of the United States, affording them all manufactures and produce of the United States, free of any duty, and all foreign goods at one quarter of the duty they now pay, a great increase in the value of real estate and the products of California may also be anticipated.

With the great interest and kind feelings I know the government and people of the United States possess towards the citizens of California, the country cannot but improve more rapidly than any other on the continent of America. Such of the inhabitants of California, whether natives or foreigners, as may not be disposed to accept the high privileges of citizenship, and to live peaceably under the government of the United States, will be allowed time to dispose of their property and to remove out of the country, if they choose, without any restriction, or remain in it, observing strict neutrality.

With full confidence in the honor and integrity of the inhabitants of the country, I invite the judges, alcaldes, and other civil officers, to retain their offices and to execute their functions as heretofore, that the public tranquility may not be disturbed; at least, until the government of the territory can be more definitely arranged.
All persons holding titles to real estate, or in quiet possession of lands under a color of right, shall have those titles and rights guarantied to them.

All churches, and the property they contain, in possession of the clergy of California, shall continue in the same rights and possessions they now enjoy.

All provisions and supplies of every kind, furnished by the inhabitants for the use of United States ships and soldiers, will be paid for at fair rates, and no private property will be taken for public use without just compensation at the moment.

Commander-in-chief of the United States Naval Forces in the Pacific Ocean. United States Flag-ship Savannah,
Harbor of Monterey, July 7, 1846.

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.