A Kentucky Schoolgirl – 1816

lincolnAll great legendary characters in history often become the subject of legends and lore.  I came across one particular story that I thought might make for a good letter from time, especially this month.

 From Kentucky in 1816

 My name is Hannah. I am just a young girl who lives in the Kentucky woods. One day, I was wandering around by myself and thinking when something strange came to me. You see, I was unhappy that afternoon because my school was closed since last year. There weren’t enough students for the school to stay open. I suppose I understand because there are less than 20 of us, hardly a fit number for the waste of a teacher’s salary.  It’s hard for me to explain, but I really miss the lessons I was learning in that school. I know we all belong in school and it was proven to me on one particular day.

You see,when I was out walking I came across some friends of mine. I saw two of my friends who should have been in school learning those lessons, but weren’t able to be there ‘cause the school was closed. They were both seven-year old boys, playing way too close to Knob Creek for their own good. Apparently, the boys spotted some partridge on the other side of the water and were excited by the idea of catching one of the birds for supper. Since heavy rain had flooded the creek, they moved a thin log across the water and begin to cross. I looked at them, shook my head and was about to call out a warning.

Then, I became so horribly afraid. One of the boys fell into the rushing water. I knew that neither one of them could swim well. So, I ran over to try and help. Before I reached them, however, the boy on dry land grabbed a pole, climbed back onto the log and dragged his drowning friend to safety. He shook his friend and rolled him on the ground until water was finally pushed out of his limp body. I was really scared for a moment. But the boys were more upset from their close call with the grim reaper. And they promised each other not to tell anyone for fear that their mothers might keep them apart.

It was such a quick moment with a happy ending. But something was tickling away at my mind like a pestering gnat.  As I left those silly boys alone, I wondered if anything about the future would be changed just because Austin Gollaher saved Abe Lincoln’s life on a ordinary afternoon.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into the past and will visit here for future postings. In the meantime, for more historical fact and fiction, please visit www.yoreamerica.com.  See you there.  Kathy Lonetto

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French Azilum 1794

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At times, we Americans have uncertain views of wealth, privilege and the line drawn between those who need a nation’s compassion or deserve its criticism. What would you think if you got the following letter from man alive in 1794 Pennsylvania?

“My name is Rufus. I’m a freight hauler in northern Pennsylvania. As a young man I fought for independence during the Revolutionary War. I was wounded at the battle of Brandywine and have a strong bitterness toward all members of the royal class. Now, I’ve been contracted to deliver supplies to Azilum, a settlement colonized by the nobility who cheated death during the French revolution.

 You see, as repayment for the contribution of French nobles during the American Revolution, a one-million acre site was set aside as a place of refuge for those who escaped the guillotine in France. In other words, since they helped us years ago, we’re going to help them now. The land the government gave them is fertile, bordered on three sides by the bends of the Susquehanna River.  Now, I know that these refugees all made a dangerous journey to America. They left everything behind except for a few possessions. However, they seem to be thriving now.

 Driving through Azilum, I noticed that almost 200 logs buildings were transformed into homes, shops, inns, schools, a church, theater and more. I took a peek into the shops and saw musical instruments, perfumes, wine and jewelry for sale along with farming tools, seed and many other goods.  I must admit that I was surprised to see noblemen working in the fields as if they were common men who appreciate the chore of tilling the soil. Near the center of town, workers were busy building a huge structure. One man told me that they are building a grand mansion from logs for their queen, Marie Antoinette. They’re all praying that she will be lucky enough to escape death.

 As I unloaded my wagon, I heard about parties or recitals planned for the evening.  I shook my head and frowned.  At the riverbank, I noticed some people dressed in silk suits and gowns. They were gathered for an afternoon picnic held on an island in the river. Musicians waited for boats that were rowed to the island by black slaves dressed in frills. Enough is enough. I know that the French nobles helped us win our independence, but the presence of these comfortable nobles makes me mad. I gritted my teeth and put my calloused hand on my waist where King George’s lead pierced my flesh. I want no royalty in my new nation. I can only hope that most of those nobelmen will leave their refuge in the wilderness once the trouble in France ends. But just then a funny thing happened. Just as my anger reached its peak, I heard the horrible wailing of two women who got word that their loved ones were killed by the guillotine. As they pulled their children into their arms and cried pitifully, I took my hand away from my scar. I suppose that the price of freedom and any change is often pain.  Pain for us.  Pain for them. So, I just delivered my goods, collected my pay and went back home to the land that I won.”

 Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into the past and will visit here for future postings. Also, FYI, a story in my collection, The GUIDE, is set in French Azilum. In the story AZILUM, the life of a young nobleman is saved by a mystical occurrence. You may also visit the museum in northern Pennsylvania devoted to this odd piece of our history. In the meantime, for more historical fact and fiction, please visit www.yoreamerica.com.  See you there.  Kathy Lonetto

A Sailor in 1809

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We Americans went to war over some clear issues as well as some cloudy ones. History still remains the judge and jury about what wars were just and beneficial to a nation and what only used to serve special interests. What would you think if you got the following letter from a man alive in 1809?

From the High Seas in 1809

“You can call me Tom. I’m a sailor, an American citizen and a veteran of the War for Independence. I always loved the sea, its passion and beauty and promise of adventure. I’ve seen my share of doldrums and huge waves and mighty wind and fearsome storms. It’s a dangerous life at times. But one day, there came another danger to me as a sailor.

You see, after we won our independence from Britain, our brand new nation was building a big fleet of merchant ships. And soon, I heard that the British sailors were lured over to American vessels in hoards. After all, who wouldn’t be? The pay was higher and the conditions on board were better than they’d found on English ships. Well, after a while the British merchant fleet suffered from a lack of men to sail her vessels. Then, something terrible happened. British Naval ships took on some of our merchant fleet.

One day, they started to board our ships and grab any of the crew who they thought to be British subjects. These poor souls didn’t even have the right to change their citizenship to America. They were bound and taken away and made to serve England. Trouble was, however, that they also took those of us who had become American citizens. It wasn’t easy to prove that you were an American instead of a British subject. After all, we looked the same and sounded the same.

And so, one day the British Naval ship came along side of my vessel. They pushed their way aboard and impressed me into serving a British ship. Can you imagine my horror? I was now serving the very people I’d fought so hard to gain independence from. Later, I learned that almost 5,000 men had been taken off American merchant ships in this manner. I thought we were close to another war with England in 1807. Back then, three American crewmen were killed aboard the Chesapeake after the British Leopard fired upon her off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. Well, we were close to war then, but the debate still raged on.

I was lucky. Eventually, I did manage to get my release after the British learned that I was truly an American. But war’s coming again, I tell you. I can feel the war coming once again.”
As we all know, the war of 1812 did come to our shores. Washington burned. Andy Jackson arose as a hero. We fought a final battle with England before we became great partners. No one dared to attack our new nation until recent times.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this edition and will visit here for future postings. In the meantime, for more historical fact and fiction, please visit http://www.YoreAmerica.com. See you there. Kathy Lonetto

A Chinese Worker of 1880

Immigration is as difficult an issue today as it has been since the Native Americans looked out across the ocean and noticed strange ships sailing toward their shore. So today, we’ll conjure the account of a man who also crossed an ocean to gain from and contribute to this experience known as America.

From Denver CO in 1882

My name is not important. Let me just say that I have been in America for over 30 years. I came here from China when the empire began to collapse. Back home, I was so poor and times were very desperate. So, the great Gold Rush and working on the railroads pulled me to California.

Back then, the men who owned the companies welcomed my labor with open arms. Even though I was paid much less than the white men, it was still better than the poverty and hunger of China. As it turns out, I was forced to work in a laundry because of my ill health. But there was much of a need for laundries and workers were sought. So, I was left alone for some time … left alone to work and live in peace among my fellow immigrants.

It did not take too long, however, for the white men to resent my people for doing labor so cheaply. Mines. Railroads. It did not matter. The owners wanted our cheap labor. The white workers hated us. To add to our troubles, many recent immigrants from Europe were also hated as they settled on the East Coast of America. When these immigrants came from the East to benefit from the gold rush, they saw an opportunity to step up in class by joining the others who hated the Chinese. In spite of such resentment, our communities flourished as long as we remained close to each other and did not mingle with others. Of course, this didn’t help our situation. We looked different, acted different from other men of America. They did not understand our food, the queues in our hair and our desire to work for such cheap pay.

By the 1870’s, marchers with large signs came to our community and shouted that they wanted us to go away. So, I took their advice and went away. I moved to a mining community in Denver, Colorado to work in a laundry and live among my people in a place called Hop Alley.

In October of 1880, there was a horrible incident against us. About 3,000 white people gathered into an angry mob. There were only eight policemen present who could not stop the rage of these people. The firemen hosed the crowd, but this made them angrier. Then, they set upon us. The mob destroyed our businesses, looted our homes, attacked and injured our people and set fire to our community. All was in ruins. The worst horror, however, was the fate of my friend. Look Young worked with me at the Sing Lee Laundry. He was grabbed by the mob and lynched. He was only 28 years old.

Finally, in 1882, the Congress of America passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which forbade any more Chinese people from immigrating to America. This seemed to quiet things down a bit. At times, I’m certain that Look Young’s mother and family wished that he had never come here. To work so hard and be so hated and die so young was a terrible thing. Will we ever become a true part of America?

And so, we all know the answer to his questions. Don’t we? And immigration is an issue that is still voted on, talked about, defined and redefined. But this is just one instant in history. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it and will visit here for future postings. In the meantine, for more historical fact and fiction, please visit http://www.yoreamerica.com/.  See you there.  Kathy Lonetto

The Grain Farmer of 1794

Why do some of us love history?  I guess we can view it smugly… after all, by now we have all the answers. We know who won the wars and elections and who climbed out of hardship to become powerful and famous enough to survive the ages. We see every failure and victory. We can look back and know with certainty who had the good ideas and whose ideas flopped. Also, by learning history we often get a sense of déjà vu. Let’s face it, history is about the human experience and we are just that … humans having experiences. By facing history … or putting a face on history … we tend to enjoy the experience even more fully. Of course, unless you happened upon this blog by pure accident, you know that the writing of historical fiction and cross genre fiction is my particular love. And so, I’d like to bring a “what if” kind of conversation to the net. It’s amazing just how much of a parallel can be drawn from some issue or event that happened long ago to what our fellow Americans are saying and doing and thinking today.

In today’s blog, I’m going to introduce you to Everett, a Pennsylvania farmer with some thoughts and questions that might be typical if we were all living during his times instead of our own.

From Pennsylvania in 1794.

I’m Everett. I’m a grain farmer in Pennsylvania. For years, I fought the British during the Revolutionary War. I even got wounded and walk with a bit of a limp. But I don’t mind. I suffered and fought just to free myself from the taxes of King George. Now, it seems that I’m fighting all over again.

It began back in 1791 when the Federal Government forced everyone to pay a tax on whiskey. Now whiskey just happens to be a produce that provides most of the income for us grain farmers. And I’m a grain farmer. Let’s just say that I see this tax as an unfair, unjust and pointless attack on my freedom to do business as I need. This tax has caused me some harm and will eventually wipe out my financial security. So, I was one of those who got together with my neighbors and refused to pay the tax. I’ll never forget the time when Federal agents came to collect from us. Well, we tarred and feathered them and sent the lot of them running away. I didn’t enjoy going that to those men. Spite of what others may say, I took no pleasure in it. In fact, I hate the Federalist Party and Alexander Hamilton for putting me in this position.

See, I was there in the spring of 1794 when warrants were issued for the distillers who refused to pay the tax. What did they think would happen? Warrants issued? Of course, this action led to rioting. And what a riot it was. The home of the regional tax inspector was burned. A Federal officer was killed. We all hoped we’d won and it would all go away. But it didn’t really go away. Now, it’s October and I hear that President Washington is sending about 15,000 militiamen to deal with us. Can you imagine? My old militia is coming after me. I don’t know what to do… what to think anymore.

As I stand here looking out at my peaceful farm, I wonder if I should keep up with my fight against the Federal Government. I believe my cause is right, but should I really risk my life or being sent to prison? Anyway, I have a feeling that there’s no turning back now. Nation’s no longer a bunch of far off colonies that have nothing to do with each other. No sir. Nation’s grown some during the last twenty years. I sort of know that this is the beginning of a federal involvement in our lives. And I have to ask myself if our brand new nation, the home I fought to create, will become stronger or more divided because of it.

And so, we all know the answer to his questions. Don’t we? It took many decades and much bloodshed to determine state rights and federal rule. And of course, taxation is an issue that is still voted on, talked about, defined and redefined. But this is just one instant in history. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it and will visit here for future postings. In the meantine, for more historical fact and fiction, please visit www.yoreamerica.com.  See you there.  Kathy Lonetto