January 15,1777: Vermont Declares its Independence

Ho–all to the borders! Vermonters, come down,
With your breeches of deerskin and jackets of brown;
With your red woollen caps and your moccasins come,Rock Kent Equinox
To the gathering summons of trumpet and drum.

Come down with your rifles! Let gray wolf and fox
Howl on in the shade of their primitive rocks;
Let the bear feed securely from pig-pen and stall;
Here’s two-legged game for your powder and ball.

On our south came the Dutchmen, enveloped in grease;
And arming for battle while canting of peace;
On our east crafty Meshech has gathered his band
To hang up our leaders and eat up our land.

Ho–all to the rescue! For Satan shall work
No gain for his legions of Hampshire and York!
They claim our possessions–the pitiful knaves–
The tribute we pay shall be prisons and graves!

Let Clinton and Ten Broek with bribes in their hands,
Still seek to divide and parcel our lands;
We’ve coats for our traitors, whoever they are;
The warp is of feathers–the filling of tar:

Does the ‘old Bay State’ threaten? Does Congress complain?
Swarms Hampshire in arms on our borders again?
Bark the war dogs of Britain aloud on the lake–
Let ’em come; what they can they are welcome to take.

What seek they among us? The pride of our wealth
Is comfort, contentment, and labor, and health,
And lands which, as Freemen we only have trod,
Independent of all, save the mercies of God.

Yet we owe no allegiance, we bow to no throne,
Our ruler is law and the law is our own;
Our leaders themselves are our own fellow-men,
Who can handle the sword, or the scythe, or the pen.

Our wives are all true, and our daughters are fair,
With their blue eyes of smiles and their light flowing hair,
All brisk at their wheels till the dark even-fall,
Then blithe at the sleigh-ride the husking and ball!

We’ve sheep on the hillsides, we’ve cows on the plain,
And gay-tasselled corn-fields and rank-growing grain;
There are deer on the mountains, and wood-pigeons fly
From the crack of our muskets, like clouds on the sky.

And there’s fish in our streamlets and rivers which take
Their course from the hills to our broad bosomed lake;
Through rock-arched Winooski the salmon leaps free,
And the portly shad follows all fresh from the sea.

Like a sunbeam the pickerel glides through the pool,
And the spotted trout sleeps where the water is cool,
Or darts from his shelter of rock and of root,
At the beaver’s quick plunge, or the angler’s pursuit.

And ours are the mountains, which awfully rise,
Till they rest their green heads on the blue of the skies;
And ours are the forests unwasted, unshorn,
Save where the wild path of the tempest is torn.

And though savage and wild be this climate of ours,
And brief be our season of fruits and of flowers,
Far dearer the blast round our mountains which raves,
Than the sweet summer zephyr which breathes over slaves!

Hurrah for Vermont! For the land which we till
Must have sons to defend her from valley and hill;
Leave the harvest to rot on the fields where it grows,
And the reaping of wheat for the reaping of foes

From far Michiscom’s wild valley, to where
Poosoonsuck steals down from his wood-circled lair,
From Shocticook River to Lutterlock town
Ho–all to the rescue! Vermonters come down!

Come York or come Hampshire, come traitors or knaves,
If ye rule o’er our land ye shall rule o’er our graves;
Our vow is recorded–our banner unfurled,
In the name of Vermont we defy all the world!

– John Greenleaf Whittier

January 14, 1653: Fire Sweeps through Boston

According to Governor Winthrop, “It was a wonderful favor of God that the whole town was not consumed. Mr. Wilson’s house and goods, Mr. Sheaths house and goods and three young  children, Mr. Shrimptons house and goods,Boston Fire Men Mr. Sellicks house and goods, Mr. Blackleech house and goods. The others I have forgotten their names. It was the most dreadful! fire that I ever Saw by reason of the barrell of Gun Powder which they had in their houses which made men fearful to come near them The Lord sanctifie his hand to us all.”

The terrible conflagration raged along State and Washington Streets where Henry Shrimpton, a brazier, lived alongside Rev. John Wilson and David Sellick. Rob Woodmancye, the school teacher, watched helplessly as his house was pulled down to stop the progress of the fire.

Capt. Robert Keayne organized a response to the disaster which had brought the first loss of life from fire recorded in the colony.
At the town meeting held March 14th the selectmen passed the following laws:

It is ordered then that there shall be a ladder or ladders to every house within this town that shall reach to the ridge of the house, which every householder shall provide for his house.

It is Ordered that every house holder shall provide a pole of above 12 foot long, with a good large swab at the end of it, to reach the roof of his house to quench fire in case of such danger.

It is Ordered that the selectmen shall forthwith provide six good and long ladders for the Towne’s use, which shall hang at the outside of the meeting house, there to be ready in case of fire, these ladders to be branded with the town marke.

It is Ordered that whosoever shall take away any of these ladders, excepting in case of fire, shall forfit to the town Treasury twenty shillings.

It is Ordered that four good strong Iron crooks, with chains and ropes fitted to them, and these crooks fastened on a good strong pole be forewith provided by the selectmen, which shall hang at the side of the meeting house, there to be ready in case of fire.

It is Ordered that no house shall be pulled down in case of fire by any men, without the consent of the major part of the magistrates and commissioners and selectmen of this town that are present there at the same time of the fire; and that no person whose house shall be so pulled down within this towne shall have or recover any satisfaction by law for any house so pulled down.

William Franklin and neighbors about his house is granted liberty to make a cistern of 12 foot or greater, if they see cause, at the Pump which standeth in the high way near to the States Arms Tavern for to hold water for to be helpful in case of fire, unto the towne. He is to make it safe from any danger of children.

January 13, 1840: The Sinking of the Lexington

It was late in the evening and the paddlewheel steamship Lexington was halfway between New York City and Stonington, Connecticut when it caught fire. Flames broke out near the mast but quickly spread to a large load of Lexington Lithocotton bales, which caused a raging inferno that engulfed the entire ship. The passengers either burned to death, or were forced to jump into the frigid water.

By the time a rescue ship, the sloop Merchant, arrived the next morning, only four souls were found clinging to floating bales or other debris in the icy waters. Carl Follen, who had introduced the Christmas tree to New England, was dead, along with 143 other souls.

The devastating news hit the New York newspapers in graphic detail, but at the time newspapers were just words on paper with no illustrations.

However, a man named Nathaniel Currier was making lithographs in the city at the time, mostly of architectural plans and music manuscripts. The small printing jobs were not that profitable and so Currier also produced portrait prints and memorials of the dead. In 1835, he had produced a print depicting the collapse of the Planter’s Hotel, New Orleans, which became a huge seller.

When the Lexington sank Currier quickly made another disaster print which depicted the steamship burning in the Sound, while a smattering of passengers struggle to stay alive in the choppy water. Some are on floating debris, others not. A man in a top hat and tails is seen reaching out to save another woman.

The lithograph, entitled “Awful Configuration of the Steamboat Lexington in the Long Island Sound on Monday Evening, January 13. 1840, by which melancholy occurrence over One Hundred Persons Perished” was a resounding success.

The tragic lithograph set Currier’s career in motion. He was soon publishing his illustrations in the New York Sun, and when his bookkeeper James Ives joined him, “Currier & Ives” became the  most popular publisher of nostalgic prints in the country.

January 12, 1862: Fugitive Slave John Boston Writes to his Wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Boston

Upton Hill [Va.]  January the 12 1862Fugitive slaves

My Dear Wife   it is with grate joy I take this time to let you know Whare I am   i am now in Safety in the 14th Regiment of Brooklyn    this Day i can Adress you thank god as a free man    I had a little truble in giting away But as the lord led the Children of Isrel to the land of Canon So he led me to a land Whare fredom Will rain in spite Of earth and hell   Dear you must make your Self content i am free from al the Slavers Lash   and as you have chose the Wise plan Of Serving the lord i hope you Will pray Much and i Will try by the help of god To Serv him With all my hart   I am With a very nice man and have All that hart Can Wish But My Dear I Cant express my grate desire that i Have to See you   i trust the time Will Come When We Shal meet again   And if We dont met on earth We Will Meet in heven Whare Jesas ranes

Dear Elizabeth tell Mrs Own[ees] That i trust that She Will Continue Her kindness to you and that god Will Bless her on earth and Save her In grate eternity   My Acomplements To Mrs Owens and her Children    may They Prosper through life    I never Shall forgit her kindness to me   Dear Wife i must Close   rest yourself Contented i am free   i Want you to rite To me Soon as you Can Without Delay

Direct your letter to the 14th Reigment New york State malitia  Uptons Hill Virginea In Care of Mr Cranford Comary   Write my Dear Soon As you C

Your Affectionate Husban   Kiss Daniel For me
John Boston

Give my love to Father and Mother

January 11, 1770: Benjamin Franklin trades Rhubarb and talks Tofu with John Bartram

My ever dear Friend:

I received your kind letter of Nov. 29, with the parcel of seeds, for which I am greatly obliged to you. I cannot make you Ben Tofuadequate returns, in kind; but I send you, however, some of the true Rhubarb seed, which you desire. I had it from Mr. Inglish, who lately received a medal, of the Society of Arts, for propagating it.

I send, also, some green dry Pease, highly esteemed here as the best for making pease soup; and also some Chinese Garavances, with Father Navaretta’s account of the universal use of a cheese made of them, in China, which so excited my curiosity, that I caused inquiry to be made of Mr. Flint, who lived many years there, in what manner the cheese was made; and I send you his answer. I have since learnt, that some runnings of salt (I suppose rennet) is put into water when the meal is in it, to turn it to curds.

I think we have Garavances with us; but I know not whether they are the same with these, which actually came from China, and are what the Tau-fu is made of. They are said to be of great increase.

I shall inquire of Mr. Collinson for your Journal. I see that of East Florida is printed with Stork’s Account. My love to good Mrs. Bartram, and your children. With sincere esteem, I am ever, my dear friend, Yours affectionately,


January 8, 1835: The United States becomes Debt Free

Founding a nation is not cheap. The United States incurred more than $75 million fighting the Revolutionary War. From there, the national debt grew and then ballooned to $127 million as a result of the War of 1812.Andrew-Jackson-on-the-Twenty-Dollar-Bill

But after the war, the debt then started a steady 20-year decline. By January 1, 1833 the national debt stood at $7 million. Two years later, on January 1, 1835, under President Andrew Jackson, the debt, which he called “a national curse,” was just $33,733.

On January 8th of that year, Jackson proclaimed that the last installment of the national debt had just been paid. “The Payment of the Public Debt,” Jackson wrote in a toast at a party that also marked the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans “Let us commemorate it as an event that gives us increased power as a nation, and reflects luster on our federal Union, of whose justice, fidelity, and wisdom it is a glorious illustration.”

Andrew Jackson vetoed bills that appropriated money for infrastructure projects, thus quickening the pace that the country’s debt was retired by up to five years.

The country remained debt free for a short time as politicians argued over what to do with government surpluses, hatching schemes to divide the money up and give it to the states.

Financial panics made those discussions irrelevant. By January 1, 1836, the national debt had grown back to $37,000. A four-year depression starting in 1839 resulted in the debt growing to $20 million.

The debt was more than $2.6 billion by the end of the Civil War; almost $27 billion by the end of World War I, and almost $260 billion by the end of World War II. The debt reached $1 trillion in Ronald Reagan’s first term as president, and $5 trillion near the end of Bill Clinton’s first term.

It stands at over $18 trillion today.

January 7, 1784: David Landreth Opens First Garden Center in Philadelphia

In 1780, David Landreth and his family left England for Montreal, Canada where he intended to establish a seed business, but within four years, the harsh Canadian climate proved too hostile. He chose to relocate to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where people appeared to have more free time, as well as wealth and sophistication.

On January 7, 1784, he started his first garden center on High Street. He sold seeds to the City of Philadelphia andLandreths several nearby estates, and his reputation grew steadily. Soon he numbered George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Bonaparte among his customers. In 1798, he introduced the Zinnia into the United States from Mexico. In 1811, he introduced the first truly white potato. In 1820, he introduced the tomato, known then as The Love Apple, and later perfected the first variety of yellow tomato.

In 1826, the Company introduced a new kind of spinach, known as Bloomsdale Spinach, one of the favorites of gardeners even today. His son, David Landreth II, joined the firm in the early 1820s. Together with his father, David Landreth II founded the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 1828, which has sponsored the Philadelphia Flower Show, the oldest flower show in the country, for nearly 175 years.

David Landreth II imported many rare conifers and deciduous trees, including the giant rhododendron, kalmias and azaleas. During his long life, he introduced many new plants and shrubs, from all over the world and devoted much of his time to promoting the art and science of plant breeding. One of his greatest international adventures occurred in 1852 when, under his direction, Landreth’s prepared thousands of pounds of American vegetable seeds and put them in glass for Commodore Perry’s historic expedition to Japan.

When Commodore Perry returned to the United States, he brought to the Landreth Nurseries the first Japanese shrubs and plants ever to be imported into this country. In 1881, Burnet Landreth, the son of David Landreth II, supplied General Greeley of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition to the North Pole with a variety of seeds. The expedition was ill-fated, but in 1899 when Commodore Perry’s expedition rescued some of the Lady Franklin’s seeds, a mere 490 miles from the North Pole, they found that 50 percent of the radishes germinated after being in the Polar region for 16 years.

Today, the D. Landreth Seed Company is the fifth oldest corporation in America. Among its many historic claims is the fact that the company sold seed to every American president from George Washington to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

January 6, 1759: George Washington Marries Martha Dandridge Custis

He was a strapping young officer (over six foot two inches tall) who had grown up in a modestly prosperous Virginia plantation family. He had not been to college, but had been trained to be a surveyor, a profession in great demand at this time of continual westward expansion.washington marriage

In 1752 he received an appointment to a minor military position. Fighting alongside Royal forces during the French and Indian War, he earned a reputation for fairness, bravery, and immense personal courage, and rose to the rank of Colonel of the Virginia Regiment.

But he longed for more than just the military life. In March 1758, during an interlude in the fighting, he traveled to Williamsburg, where the colony’s leading men gathered for meetings of the House of Burgesses. There he heard news about a young widow, and he danced with her at a cotillion ball.

She was twenty-six years old, and quite attractive. She enjoyed riding horses, gardening, sewing, playing the spinet and dancing. She owned nearly 300 slaves and more than 17,500 acres of land. And she had a four year old son “Jacky” and a two year old daughter called “Patsy”.

The young Colonel set out to pay a visit to the widow’s plantation. He noted in his account records that he left very generous tips for her household slaves, and returned for another visit a week later, before he returned to his military post.

Within months of that first meeting he began renovating the 2000-acre estate located high above the Potomac River he had inherited from his half-brother. She placed an order for wedding finery from London, including brilliant purple silk slippers and a dress that was to be “grave but not Extravagent nor to be mourning,”

She must have believed that she had found someone she could trust as well as love. She didn’t need the money, and while many widows wrote premarital contracts that protected the assets they had from their previous marriage, she did not.  Having grown up in a large family, she loved children and hoped to have more.

At the end of 1758, Colonel George Washington resigned his military commission. On January 6, 1759, less than ten months after their initial meeting and less than eighteen months after her husband’s death, Martha Dandridge Custis married George Washington at her home in New Kent County.

Shortly thereafter, George, Martha, Jacky, and Patsy moved into the enlarged and remodeled Mount Vernon and began their adventure together…

January 5, 1806: Lewis and Clark dine on Whale Blubber

At 5 P. M. Willard and Wiser returned, they had not been lost as we apprehended.    they informed us that it was not untill the fifth day after leaving the Fort that they could find a convenient place for making salt; that they had at length established themselves on the coast about 15 Miles S. W. from this, near the lodge of some Killamuck families; that the Indians were very friendly and had given them a considerable quantity of the blubber of a whale which perished on the coast some distance S. E. of them; part of this blubber they brought with them, it was white & not unlike the fat of Lewis_and_Clark_Statue_Poark, tho’ the texture was more spongey and somewhat coarser. I had a part of it cooked and found it very pallitable and tender, it resembled the beaver or the dog in flavour.    it may appear somewhat extraordinary tho’ it is a fact that the flesh of the beaver and dog possess a very great affinity in point of flavour.

These lads also informed us that J. Fields, Bratton and Gibson (the Salt makers) had with their assistance erected a comfortable camp killed an Elk and several deer and secured a good stock of meat; they commenced the making of salt and found that they could obtain from 3 quarts to a gallon a day; they brought with them a specemine of the salt of about a gallon, we found it excellent, fine, strong, & white; 〈salt;〉 this was a great treat to myself and most of the party, having not had any since the 20th ultmo.; I say most of the party, for my friend Capt. Clark declares it to be a mear matter of indifference with him whether he uses it or not; for myself I must confess I felt a considerable inconvenience from the want of it; the want of bread I consider as trivial provided, I get fat meat, for as to the species of meat I am not very particular, the flesh of the dog the horse and the wolf, having from habit become equally formiliar with any other, and I have learned to think that if the chord be sufficiently strong, which binds the soul and boddy together, it does not so much matter about the materials which copose it.

Colter also returned this evening unsuccessfull from the chase, having been absent since the 1st Inst.—    Capt. Clark determined this evening to set out early tomorrow with two canoes and 12 men in quest of the whale, or at all events to purchase from the Indians a parcel of the blubber, for this purpose he prepared a small assortment of merchandize to take with him.

January 4, 1841: Kale (a slave on the Amistad) writes to John Quincy Adams

I want to write a letter to you because you love Mendi people, and you talk to the grand court. We want to tell you one thing. Jose Ruiz [one of the two surviving whites on the Amistad] say we born in Havana, he tell lie. We stay in HavanaKale 10 days and 10 nights. We stay no more. We all born in Mendi—we no understand the Spanish language. Mendi people been in America 17 moons. We talk American language a little, not very good. We write every day; we write plenty letters. We read most all time. We read all Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John, and plenty of little books. We love books very much.

We want you to ask the Court what we have done wrong. What for Americans keep us in prison. Some people say Mendi people crazy, Mendi people dolt, because we no talk American language. American people no talk Mendi language. American people crazy dolts? They tell bad things about Mendi people and we no understand. Some men say Mendi people very happy because they laugh and have plenty to eat. Mr. Pendelton [the jailer] come and Mendi people all look sorry because they think about Mendiland and friends we no see now. Mr. Pendelton say we feel anger and white men afraid of us. Then we no look sorry again. That’s why we laugh. But Mendi people feel bad. O, we can’t tell how bad. Some people say, Mendi people no have souls. Why we feel bad, we no have no souls? We want to be free very much.

John_Quincy_AdamsDear friend Mr. Adams, you have children, you have friends, you love them, you feel very sorry if Mendi people come and take all to Africa. We feel bad for our friends, and our friends all feel bad for us. Americans not take us in ship. We were on shore and Americans tell us slave ship catch us. They say we make you free. If they make us free they tell truth, if they not make us free they tell lie. If America give us free we glad, if they no give us free we sorry—we sorry for Mendi people little, we sorry for America people great deal because God punish liars.

We want you to tell court that Mendi people no want to go back to Havana, we no want to be killed. Dear friend, we want you to know how we feel. Mendi people think think, think. Nobody know. Teacher, he know, we tell him some. Mendi people have got souls. We think we know God punish us if we tell lie. We never tell lie; we speak the truth, What for Mendi people afraid? Because they have got souls. Cook say he kill, he eat Mendi people—we afraid—we kill cook. Then captain kill one man with knife, and cut Mendi people plenty. We never kill captain if he no kill us. If Court ask who bring Mendi people to America, we bring ourselves. Ceci hold the rudder.

All we want is make us free, not send us to Havana. Send us home. Give us Missionary. We tell Mendi people Americans spoke truth. We give them good tidings. We tell them there is one god. You must worship him. Make us free and we will bless you and all Mendi people will bless you, Dear friend Mr. Adams.

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